This is the long awaited sequel to the best-selling comic novel Uchōten kazoku (The Eccentric Family), set in modern-day Kyoto and centering on the rivalry between two clans of tanuki raccoon dogs, which in Japanese folklore are endowed with the ability to transform themselves into anything, animate or inanimate, they wish. Also playing a prominent role are tengu—figures of legend who have humanoid bodies but with wings on their backs and very long noses protruding from their fierce red faces—whom the tanuki look up to as their mentors. Humans likewise hold the tengu in high regard, but their primary interest in tanuki is as the featured ingredient in a hot-pot feast. The three-way push and pull between tanuki, tengu, and humans forms the backbone of this ongoing saga.
The four brothers of the leading Shimogamo tanuki family grew up under the tutelage of the tengu Yakushibō, a.k.a. Akadama, who once held great sway in tengu society but is now retired. The volume opens with the return home of Yakushibō’s son and heir from Great Britain, where he has acquired the pretensions of a gentleman. A century ago, father and son had battled for three days and three nights over a woman, and when the father prevailed, the son had fled abroad. With the son’s return, tanuki society is thrown into confusion as to who is going to be Yakushibō’s successor—his tengu son, or the human woman he has more recently been grooming to be a tengu, Benten. Yasaburō Shimogamo, the third of the four brothers and the hero of the tale, strives to maintain cordial relationships with all three principals as he waits to see how the question will be settled.
Meanwhile, the contest begun in the previous volume for the coveted title of Nise’emon, designating the supreme leader of tanuki society, continues between the Shimogamo clan and the Ebisugawa clan. Although Sōun Ebisugawa went into hiding following those events, he is tracked down by Yasaburō and the others and executed. On the day of his funeral, his son Goichirō, who has been away studying to become a monk, returns home. Being a tanuki of great virtue, Goichirō wastes no time in making overtures to the Shimogamo brothers to settle their differences amicably, and it appears that Yaichirō, the firstborn, will be named the next Nise’emon. But as in the previous installment, the plot thickens as the end of the year and the meeting to select the next Nise’emon draw near. Goichirō turns out to be the still-living Sōun in disguise, who plots once again to grab the Nise’emon title for himself by abducting the four Shimogamo brothers and offering them up for the Friday Club’s customary tanuki hot-pot feast. Amid great confusion, Yasaburō’s heroics lead to Sōun becoming trapped within a painting of hell. And Yakushibō’s son and Benten have a showdown in which the former prevails.
With a growing cast of endearing characters and written in a breezy anime-ready style, this highly entertaining work of fiction might be described as the very embodiment of kawaii cuteness in Japanese pop culture. A forthcoming third installment, Tengu taisen (The Great Tengu War), is announced at the end of the volume.