When you lose people that occupy a certain existential space in your life, the initial grief and pain slice through every barrier you’ve built up around your heart. They burrow deep within it and knot themselves up. Frantically, you (as a typical twenty-first century person) try to rebuild those barriers and cover things up as fast as possible because confronting those feelings is really, really hard. Once you have, to a greater or lesser degree, accomplished this “second burial,” you then try to restore a sense of balance and normalcy to your life. You try to cope.
Maybe you’re good at it; maybe not. Either way those feelings will eventually make themselves known in all kinds of ways. Maybe it’s situational; maybe your personality just changes full stop. The effects differ from person to person. The sort of loss I’m speaking of will effect areas of your life that seem quite unrelated to it. Whether the effect is positive or negative depends on the stage of grief you are in.
Uchoten Kazoku is the story of the Shimogamo brothers. It is set two years after their father unexpectedly dies, so we miss all the drama of the initial system shock. We aren’t privy to that first tidal wave of grief. Instead, the show places us at the point in the lives of the Shimogamo family at which they are expected to be “over it,” yet they are still picking up the pieces.
The show resonates with me so strongly because of its realistic depiction of the three eldest brothers attempting to cope in such drastically different ways. Yaichiro throws himself into politics. Ostensibly, this is for the sake of his family and also to make his father proud, but I’m not sure how much he is really thinking of his father here. He actively resents two of his younger brothers to boot. Yajiro simply refuses to move on from the tragedy. Racked with guilt and shame, he exiles himself (as a frog) to the bottom of a well. And then there’s Yasaburo, who seems to lack motivation. Sure, he works hard to maintain relationships with his family and friends, and this counts for a lot; however, in other important ways, he appears rather aimless and existentially adrift.
The series allows the siblings to grow and to begin the healing process, but, it lets each of the three begin the process of acceptance on their own terms, for their own reasons. Uchoten isn’t proclaiming that there is a singular cure-all or blueprint for the grieving process. And, it is this individualization of the process that I appreciate.