ミランダ (大丈夫) (faded_lace) wrote,
ミランダ (大丈夫)
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Ukoku Essay!

Priest Ukoku Sanzo
An Essay


Intro
This is by no means intended to be an entirely complete nor conclusive study of the behaviour and character of Ukoku Sanzo, but rather, some helpful insights based on the way I personally read his character. Seeing as he is, in my personal opinion, one of Minekura's more enigmatic and difficult to understand characters, I hope this analysis of his personality and traits is useful or at least somewhat intuitive. This has no distinct thesis and isn't intended to convince you of anything. It is simply trying to discern some of Ukoku's reasons, motives, and truths about his character.

For my sanity's sake and because this is in no way shape or form a complete and formal study, the evidence in this essay is greatly drawn from books three, four, and nine of Saiyuki Reload, heavily from the Burial Arc prologue, epiloge, and chapter one and the Sunspot Mini-Arc, though it does focus on other areas as well. Because of restrictions in access to materials, this essay does not go heavily into detail in the areas covered in Gensoumaden Saiyuki, such as the topics of the audience's first knowledge of Ukoku, Nii's chess game, and Kami-sama. If you have not been warned, this essay contains spoilers for the Gensoumaden Saiyuki and Saiyuki Reload series all the way up through volume nine! For the sake of the fact that audiences have not read anywhere past what has been released in America, one segment, Varahal, has been omitted from this essay and may appear annexed to another essay of the like if I get access to more materials and feel like it later, or may appear on its own later.

My final disclaimer has to do with the fact that I am not, indeed, fluent in Japanese and therefore this essay is based largely on the English translations available to me, foremostly the "official" Tokyopop translation and in some cases the translations made available through a livejournal community. The quotes and language in this essay are quoted from the official translation and my analysis, as such, is based on the translation. If there is any gap between the translation and the original, I am unaware, and my analysis may, as a result, be off. Please be aware and forgiving of this.

That all being said, my analysis here is highly based on the context of facial expressions and the way Minekura-sensei has chosen to lay out and tone her manga pages. If you would rather read this essay with the books in hand, feel free to do so. I try to reference chapters, but, as with most manga, page numbers are really not useful. I apologize for the trouble. Also, many of the arguements and analyses in this essay are circular in nature and thus, it is very difficult to order them in such a way that they do not reference something that is explained later in the essay. Please be patient with me, I'm doing my best with organization! And, last but not least, please, enjoy my humble essay!

I. Kenyuu
Though, chronologically speaking, Kenyuu is Ukoku's first and possibly original form, Kenyuu is indeed the last incarnation of Ukoku that we as the audience encounter. At first, Kenyuu shows many similarities to the identity of Nii Jianyi - his interest in things of the pornographic nature, his crude jokes, his utter and sincere lack of direction are all reminiscent of the brief incounters with Nii to which the audience is privvy. But unlike Nii, the product of years of decision and practice, Kenyuu is raw, unprocessed: he has no masks and knows what he wants. Through Kenyuu, we are able to discern at least a core base of Ukoku's desires in life, because Kenyuu has no reason to hide them. When Koumyou asks why Kenyuu is studying Buddhism, Kenyuu replies that he wants to become a Sanzo because he "heard how hard it is to pull that off." He constantly needs to be challenged, he is bored of everything. Later, after his first attack on Goudai Sanzo, when Koumyou visits him in his retaining cell, Kenyuu admits that if he's "not in an eat or be eaten situation, [he doesn't] feel alive." Kenyuu is the absolute base for Ukoku Sanzo - he has no ulterior motives, no veils and facades. He isn't talented or accomplished in the art of manipulation, he doesn't know how to make his games interesting. He desires to be challenged, however possible.

It is absolutely noteworthy that Kenyuu never shows signs violent outbusts towards authority figures until after he has spoken with Koumyou Sanzo. While it is true that we cannot say this for certain because we meet Kenyuu, for all intents and purposes, in medias res of his Buddhist training, judging from the reaction to the first outburst we see, he has not, indeed attempted anything of the sort before. After all, when Kenyuu is first mentioned, Goudai speaks of his lack of dedication with exasperation, rather than warning Koumyou to be wary of his violent tendancies, and when the is locked away in the retaining cell, it seems as if it was not an offense that would have happened in the past and taken lightly enough that he might be allowed to try it again. When Kenyuu appears on the field where Goudai is, everyone is shocked to discover that he is out of the holding cell, a sign that he would not have been let out in the near future without sufferring consequences, idicating that such a thing had not happened before.

So then, Kenyuu, though breaking petty rules and generally being a pest, has been relatively law biding until he speaks with Koumyou - most notably, until Koumyou calls him "a very boring human being." Judging by the nature of the conversation and the expressions Kenyuu wears, as well as the way the panels are laid out, this is the first thing Koumyou says which really gets through to Kenyuu. How he takes this accusation, of course, is up for speculation, but it seems safe to assume that he may have equated it to advice - if your life is constantly boring, challenge yourself. With Koumyou's, in Kenyuu's mind, sanction, he attacks Goudai for the first time. It is also noteworthy that Kenyuu may have killed Goudai then and there in his fit if Koumyou had not restrained him.

After another talk with Koumyou, which will be discussed later, Kenyuu goes on to murder not only five of his classmates, but Goudai Sanzo himself. It is safe to assume that he was driven to such after he thought on his conversation with Koumyou in the cell. It is only after this murdering spree, covered in blood and smiling twistedly at Koumyou, does Kenyuu begin to cry. I would hold that the tears (the only ones we see Ukoku shed, ever) symbolize the transformation, the loss of innocence. Kenyuu is no longer a bored troublemaker, he is something altogether new, and he is now Ukoku Sanzo.

So then, what does this all suggest? Kenyuu, in and of himself, does not appear to be inherantly evil. He has, to the audience's knowledge, never broken a law or harmed another human being. He is bored and therefore makes trouble to amuse himself, but is not bad. However, when he meets Koumyou Sanzo, his potential for malice seems to be drawn out, whether purposefully or not, and in the brief series of events which are played out in chapter one of Burial Arc, he begins transforming into the Ukoku who appears in the present day storyline of Gensoumaden Saiyuki.

II. Koumyou Sanzo
It is, of course, apparent that Koumyou Sanzo plays an integral part in the formation of Ukoku Sanzo. On the obvious layer, he named Ukoku and made him a Sanzo priest - what Kenyuu has stated that he wanted earlier. Upon a closer look, it becomes apparent that his words were very likely the driving force behind Kenyuu's murder of Goudai Sanzo - after all, he quotes Koumyou before he does the deed. Koumyou's role in the entire first chapter of burial is dubious and very worthy of further study, but, for the purposes of this essay, only Koumyou's intent towards Ukoku and the nature of their relationship will be looked at.

On the subject of Koumyou's intent in his interactions with Kenyuu, there appear to be four choices: that he was entirely oblivious to the situation at hand, that he wished to chance Kenyuu for the "better" or to be "good," that he he no real intent, but was speaking what he honestly felt to be true, or that he knew very well the direction in which Kenyuu would go and was interested to watch it play out. The former two options can fairly easily be ruled out; Kenyuu addresses the first when he is locked in his holding cell, saying, "I can't tell if you're brilliant or retarded." True, Koumyou often comes off a bit senile and strange, but I think most would agree that he is always very aware of what he doing. The second option also seems unrealistic; Koumyou never says anything to reprimand Kenyuu for his actions, even if he does question his thought processes. In fact, morals never seem to come into the question for Koumyou, and, perhaps entirely or at least somewhat as a result, they appear not to for Kenyuu and his later incarnations, either.

So then, was Koumyou witting or not of the monster he was creating? I would hold that, yes, he was at least somewhat aware, because from the moment he met Kenyuu, he was captivated by something about him. In their first conversation, he compares him, not in looks, but in some other aspect, to Kouryuu, which, coming from Koumyou, is a large compliment. He takes interest in Kenyuu, and seems almost to have some sort of investment in him, or, at least, some fascination that he wants to see play out. In his responses to Kenyuu's musings about hsi life, it seems reasonable to assume that Koumyou understands Kenyuu on some level. Though I'm not going to attempt to psychoanalyze Koumyou in this essay (because as of right now, to me, he's entirely an enigma), but I will note that Koumyou seems to have some fascination, some investment in Kenyuu. He displays the desire for Kenyuu to stay alive twice: once when he refuses to kill him and once when Kenyuu has murdered Goudai. His comment when Goudai has been killed, "Well, you've once again failed to die," seems almost as if this was the outcome he was expecting; it lacks any extreme emotion or alarm or anything of the sort, despite the mass murder he has just witnessed. Koumyou seems complacent, perhaps as if this was his expected outcome. Though, as with everything with Koumyou, it is hard to say, I would argue that he knew at least somewhat what he was doing and did not care.

Note that Koumyou named Ukoku, not Goudai. Koumyou chose Ukoku to be the next Sanzo. Koumyou is the one who, in a sense, created the monster that is Ukoku as we know him now.

As to the nature of Koumyou and Ukoku's relationship, it seems as if Koumyou is the one person to whom Ukoku is actually attached, the person about whom he actually cares. He goes out of his way to see Koumyou, not to play with him as he does with his other toys (who will be mentioned later) but to play alongside or against him. Koumyou may very well be the one person he considers his equal. Though the relationship is not given much screen time, and thus we have very little textual evidence, Koumyou appears to be Ukoku's father in some sense of the word, as well as his lover. His creator and his equal. In a sense, Koumyou is Ukoku's entire family in one unit and it is arguable that Ukoku even was upset by his passing. In chapter 43 ("Even a Worm 30") he throws about the fact of Koumyou's death to torture Sanzo, claiming his death was "of his own volition" and telling Sanzo that Koumyou "died for [him]." These lines, when taken into account with Ukoku's facial expression and the scene as a whole, seem almost spiteful; he seems to be blaming Sanzo for Koumyou's death, an act which he would only need if he cared. Though Ukoku's feelings towards Sanzo will be explored in depth later, this fact seems enough to prove that Ukoku did indeed care about Koumyou.

III. The "Crying Raven," and Raven Imagery, Part One
It seems natural to Koumyou, at the end of Burial chapter one, to name Kenyuu "Ukoku," spelled with the kanji for "crying raven," but the choice does seem worthy of questioning. The crying part, perhaps, can make sense in that, when he commited the murder in order to become a Sanzo, Kenyuu was crying, by why raven? Ravens are not known for their outstanding intelligence, nor does Ukoku, besides in his black hair, bear any particular resemblence to a raven. However, the tie in may perhaps be in both Ukoku's and ravens' benefiting from others' demise. Ravens, for the most part, are known for feeding on carcasses of other animals, and Ukoku achieved his position through the death of his predecessor. In addition, to both the raven and Ukoku, nothing in sacred, in the sense that, just as Ukoku doesn't see anything as inappropriate and isn't constrained by any rules of social norms, ravens feed on carcasses, which is considered socially unacceptable.

It is noteworthy that according to Minekura's official 2007 character bios, Nii (Ukoku) considers himself bisexual, that ravens are omnimvores, and that, in the manga, Ukoku uses "eat" as a most probably sexual metaphor on more than one occassion, as is discussed below.

IV. The Use of "Swallowing Up" and "Being Eaten"
On more than one occassion, Koumyou and Ukoku speak of "being eaten" or "getting swallowed." These are used, as far as I know, exclusively between the two and generally in reference to one another. The term is first used between the two in Burial chapter one, in which Kenyuu talks about how all he's concerned with is eating others' corpses to get by (a direct reference to his raven-like nature), to which Koumyou respondes, "so you can eventually be eaten yourself?" This seems to perturb Kenyuu, and when he breaks out of the holding cell and comes to find Goudai and Koumyou, he replied to the latter, "You may be right. I'm waiting for someone to eat me." When said to Koumyou in this manner, I offer two interperetations of the phrase. One is the more obvious, "eat me" means "defeat me" or "kill me"-- Kenyuu says he only feels alive when he's in a situation where he is either going to "eat or be eaten," and, obviously, the more interesting option to his bored mind would be the situation in which he lost, because that has never happened before. The second option, because the comment is directed towards Koumyou, is a more abstract line of the same-- "to be eaten" may be "to be understood." After all, Koumyou is the first person Kenyuu feels understands him and his situation, and to understand is really to have the upper hand, hence the threat of "eating." But Kenyuu wants to be eaten, and the way he talks about it solely to Koumyou leads one to believe that it might have more to do with the actual understanding of him that Koumyou has rather than any physical triumph.

Later, in the epiloge of the Burial Arc, Koumyou mentions that Ukoku has been compared to the night sky, and Koumyou to the moon, a metaphor which will be discussed later. Ukoku then turns to Koumyou and says, "Which one of us gets swallowed by the other?" Again, judging from his facial expression and context, this seems to be a sort of challenge, another suggestion that he views Koumyou as his equal. It becomes a formal challenge when Koumyou grins and replies, "Perhaps we should make a bet." It seems that the talk of eating and swallowing is somewhat of an indicator of the nature of Koumyou and Ukoku's relationship; that they view one another as equals, and that perhaps there is always some sort of challenge edge to it.

Of course, out of context, and even in context, both "eating" and "swallowing" may very well be assumed to be sexual metaphors, as well. Though there are very few canon pairings in Saiyuki, it is a well known fact that Minekura writes most things in a homosexual vein and that she makes almost everything subtextual. Though neither truth nor lie, I would hold that these lines double as sexual metaphors, besides being about competitiveness.

V. The Moon and the Night Sky, Part One
"When we went to Chang'an together when you became a Sanzo, the witness priest, Jikaku, felt the need to comment."

"Comment?"

"He compared the two of us to the dark of the night and the moon."


The question, of course is why? Why the moon and the night sky? Instead of going in depth, however, Ukoku goes on to propose the challenge discussed in the previous section. What is obvious, however, is that however, offhand the comment is in the context of the story, Minekura sets it up very deliberately. So why the moon and the night sky?

My guess is that it is because they are equals and they are at odds. Were it to be the moon and the sun, the sun is obviously stronger, because the moon only reflects its light. Were it the moon and the stars, again, the stars produce their own light. The sun obviously is victorious against darkness, and the earth itself cannot work because it is dependent on the sun. But the moon, trying to light the night and yet without its own light to give off, and the darkness, trying to blot out the moon but without the power to do so, are at odds, if you think about them in a figurative, competitive sort of sense like the one in which Minekura sets the metaphor up.

Not only that, but the moon and the night sky are both appropriate in that they both have to do with night, and therefore the unknown, enigma. Koumyou is the moon in that he outwardly seems "good;" he does the "right" thing the majority of the time, such as taking in small orphaned children and keeping Kenyuu from strangling Goudai in Kenyuu's first violent outburst, but, really, it becomes apparent that he, like Ukoku, either lacks a sense of or doesn't care to discern "right" from "wrong" in the context of his actions. On the other hand, outwardly, Ukoku seems "evil," seems to do things because they are "wrong," but really, the audience is given a sense that he just doesn't care, he does what pleases him, be it "good" or "bad." Similarly, the moon outwardly seems bright, but really, it is dull and has none of its own natural light, and the night, though dark and frightening, is simply the absense of sunlight. As will be discussed later, in Ukoku and Koumyou's situations, "light" and "dark" are often used as metaphors for "good" and "bad" or "moral" and "immoral," and, taking such into mind, the comparison on Koumyou to the moon and Ukoku to the night sky makes sense.

VI. Light versus Dark
"I saw the light today. But you probably wouldn't understand."

"...Sheesh! All these people chasing after the light. Like brainless insects."


As mentioned previously, light is generally associated with "good" and "morality" and dark with "bad" and "immorality," and Minekura seems to continue this accepted archetype in her writings, such as Ukoku's comment in the Epilogue of Burial that he may "turn to ash" in the sunlight. In this conversation with Kougaiji, it becomes abundantly clear exactly how Ukoku feels about morality. Those who follow the rules of "right and wrong" don't have the minda of their own--like he does--to play the game. Especially since moral ambiguity is an ongoing theme throughout Saiyuki in general, this statement really shows a brief insight into th inner workings of Ukoku's mind: he doesn't care about what he does. He does what he likes, whether it be "right" or "wrong," without letting morality affect his decision.

VII. Muichimotsu
The concept of Muichimotsu, or "holding nothing" is obviously central to Saiyuki. It is Sanzo's favourite mantra and catchphrase, almost, which is rather ironic, considering how much he does indeed care for his companions (another subject for another essay...) Rather than Sanzo, the person who most embodies the idea of Muichimotsu is Ukoku. After all, it seems, Ukoku does what suits him, whether moral or not. In his killing of Goudai Sanzo, he almost reenacts the famous "if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him," line, and in his blatant disreguard for life in his toying with people such as Kami-sama truly shows that he is "bound by nothing." In chapter 44 ("Even a Worm 31"), he asks Sanzo, "would you, who recites that teaching to this day, honestly be able to abandon everything?" He uses Sanzo attachment to frighten him in a patronizing, sneering way; he considers himself better than Sanzo for truly holding nothing.

It is notworthy that in his blaming Sanzo for killing Koumyou, Ukoku is technically not "holding nothing." I do not believe he realizes this in himself.

VII. Nii Jianyi
Nii Jianyi is the first incarnation of Ukoku Sanzo that we as the audience meet, and, in fact, we are not meant to know that Nii is Ukoku until volume 9 of Gensoumaden Saiyuki. Though they are one and the same, and, by definition, share the same motives, Nii has a bit of a different persona than Ukoku which Ukoku puts on for the sake of his false identity.

After all, Nii/Ukoku is (are?) the union of Western science and Eastern magic which are so taboo together. Nii in himself is the scientific side; he is curious and wants to play with things, to see how they turn out. Considering he earns his first Ph.D. at seventeen, he certainly is a qualified scientist, and his natural curiosity makes sense and fits with Ukoku's disregard for morality. Nii, however, unlike Ukoku, has no responsibilities or bounds to hold him back, no personal ties or grudges; in a sense, he truly embodies Muichimotsu except for that he still is Ukoku. Nii is "pleasure" to Ukoku's "business;" note that, whenever he leaves Houtou castle to deal with something he feels needs dealing with, something to do with the Sanzo-ikkou, especially, he changes from Nii back into Ukoku. Nii does whatever the hell he feels like for fun; he plays chess and plays with science and plays with Kougaiji and plays with everyone's head. However, when "duty" calls, he changes back into Ukoku.

IX. The Raven in the Sun and the Rabbit in the Moon
Connected to the moon imagery with Koumyou as well as the raven imagery in accordance with Ukoku is the metaphor of linking Koumyou and Ukoku to the Japanese legends of the Rabbit in the Moon and the Raven in the Sun. This metaphor is not really fleshed out at all until the Sunspot, and not even there is it entirely apparent. Ukoku explains to a young Hazel that ravens, on the Eastern Continent, are not stigmatized like they are in the West, because they live in the black spots on the sun. Hazel then asks, "What about the rabbit," to which Ukoku responds, "He's on the moon." This seems to make little to no sense in context until one reflects back to Ukoku and Koumyou's previous associations. Though they're separate, Ukoku is associated with the raven, and Koumyou with the moon. So, in this new metaphor, Koumyou is dubbed the rabbit to Ukoku's raven. This, in one very sudden moment, clarifies the bunny doll which is Nii's signature item. The bunny doll is to represent Koumyou, the one person Ukoku has ever cared for, in a sickly touching sort of sentiment. To make the metaphor more complete, Nii keeps his sutra inside of the bunny doll, the sutra that Koumyou saw to it that he got. The revalation of Koumyou being the rabbit in Sunspot, though somewhat unrelated to the Sunspot arc itself, clears up a lot of Nii's love for bunny-things.

Worthy of note is that the first page of Burial chapter one displays an image of ravens eating a rabbit's carcass. This harkens back to the "eating" and "swallowing" remaks from before...

X. Binary Oppositions
It has become obvious that Ukoku and Koumyou are locked up in quite a few binary oppositions. Raven v. Rabbit, Night Sky v. Moon, Dark v. Light... it seems that they are always placed facing one another. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I hold that it emphasizes their equality, but Ukoku also offers another answer.

When, in Sunspot, Hazel asks about the difference between humans and youkai, Ukoku responds, "Sometimes, it's precisely because things are complete opposites that they exist with only a paper thin difference between them. For example, did you know that rabbits and crows are two sides of the same coin?" By this logic, he and Koumyou are the same, in the end, despite, or perhaps, because they are different. It's true, he and Koumyou take very different paths; Koumyou chooses that of "good" in which he acts the part of Sanzo and helps and orphaned boy, whereas Ukoku chooses "bad," in which he helps revive Gyumoah, but in the end, both are doing what pleases them, independent of the morality of the situations.

It is worthy of note that Ukoku wears black robes and Koumyou wears white robes.

XI. Kouryuu
The first time Kenyuu and Koumyou speak, Koumyou compares Kenyuu to Kouryuu, and this is the first time Kenyuu hears of Kouryuu. It is clear in the Prologue of Burial, however, that Ukoku begins to hear a lot of Kouryuu, because when he hears someone talking to Koumyou, Ukoku asks, "Was that the infamous Kouryuu?" Apparently, considering his use of "infamous," Ukoku is less than fond of Kouryuu, and the most sensical reason why would be simply the amount of time Kouryuu gets to spend with Koumyou. After all, Koumyou is the only person who matters to Ukoku, and Ukoku likes getting what he wants. Though he might not say it overtly, it seems that Ukoku is jealous, to some extent, of Kouryuu. As mentioned earlier, in chapter 43, ("Even a Worm 30"), he tells Sanzo, "Koumyou died for you," while wearing a disturbing frown and attacking Sanzo, as if he holds Sanzo (Kouryuu) responsible for Koumyou's death. It seems as if Ukoku really had a lot more spite for Kouryuu than he ever let Koumyou know.

XII. Hazel Grouse
Ukoku's first meeting of Hazel Grouse is detailed in the Sunspot Arc at the beginning of Volume 9, between chapters 41 and 42. For all intents and purposes, Ukoku changed Hazel's life and made him a relevent character to the storyline of Saiyuki. There are a few important points about Ukoku which we can discern from his relationship with Hazel.

The first words Ukoku says to Hazel are, "What pretty blue eyes. Like an angel from a fresco. What's your name, little angel?" Hazel notes that "the way that he talks is kinda... creepy," and it seems almost as if, in a different situation, this line might be a pickup line. So then, is Ukoku a pedophile, creeping on the twelve year old Hazel? Perhaps, I will not deny that Ukoku has a propensity for picking up children (after Hazel comes Kami-sama), but perhaps he has an uterior motive. Later, when Hazel's master, Bishop Filbert, is speaking to Ukoku about Hazel, Ukoku asks him, "You really care about him, don't you?" to which Filbert answers "Of course I do." Ukoku then visualizes Koumyou saying, "Of course I do," and then states, "I'm jealous," which is perhaps a direct reference to his jealousy of Koumyou's attentions to Kouryuu, rather than himself. It is because of this jealousy that Ukoku attaches himself to Hazel and does his best to win Hazel's affections-- because to him, Hazel symbolizes Kouryuu to Filbert, and in an attempt to get back at the late Koumyou and Kouryuu, he wants to steal Hazel away from Filbert. He uses Hazel's inferiority complex to worm his way into his heart, and, for the most part, succeeds. In chapter 42 ("Even a Worm 29") Hazel ponders if he'd followed his master's directions, instead of Ukoku's, "would things be different now?" When Gat inquired, he continues, "I was too young, to make decent decisions. I was desperate, wantin' power, wantin' everything. So I was attracted, despite myself. More'n my master, I found myself gettin' pulled in by the words of that raven."

That brings us to another matter-- Ukoku's persuasive powers. In chapter one of Burial, Goudai Sanzo remarks that Ukoku is "very sociable and friendly, so he's popular with most of the others. But... [he] can tell, everything he does is calculated. It's all fiction." However, the first time we see Ukoku's manipulative powers in work is when he's interacting with Hazel. Using cute party tricks such as making a flower grow and wilt and teaching Hazel about the east, as well as practically reeking of the thing Hazel wants most, the power to kill monsters, Ukoku wins Hazel over almost completely. Ukoku has the power to determine what it is that will make someone like him and then to act in such a way, while still being entirely natural, so that that person will fall entirely for him. They seems to be toys for him, such as Kougaiji is his "toy" and "a pawn in his game" in the end of Gensoumaden up until chapter 13 ("Against Stream"), and he uses them for his own purposes. Hazel notes that "he oozes into my heart and sticks there. The things he says are like a black stain," and later adds, "It was black. Like a small hole eaten away by a bug. I'm sure that's where the light started to rot away." Ukoku's night sky, apparently, seems to have the ability to eat others up, as well.

I have little to no analysis about this, but the fact that he calls Hazel "little angel" while systematically corrupting him just goes to show Ukoku's sick sense of humour...

It is a fact the Minekura named Hazel Grouse after the bird, bonasa bonasia, whose common name is the hazel grouse, to fit along with Ukoku's raven. The hazel grouse's natural predators are large birds of prey... in essence, hazel grouses may very well be eaten by ravens, another tie in to the eating as a sexual metaphor... However, in this sense, eating really is a form of dominence, whereas Koumyou is placed in all the metaphors as an equal to Ukoku, Hazel is distinctly placed beneath him, an interesting comparison...

XIII. Raven Imagery, Part Two
Ukoku is associated with ravens again by Hazel, who comments that he hates ravens because of the negative stigma attached to them in his Western culture. He explains that "people say they were painted black 'cause they broke God's commandments." He explains that, because they eat garbage and perch on graves, they are considered bad luck. Though Ukoku doesn't, per se, eat garbage (unless you call Twinkies garbage... which some people do...), he does have a propensity towards causing death, and one might say he brings bad luck in the sense that he ruins people's lives without the person necessarily knowning it (after all, bad luck is when bad things happen to someone seemingly without a cause, thus leading them to blame fortune, in most cases). In addition, in the Sunspot arc, the ravens are the "monster" accprding to Ukoku, and, early in the chapter, Filbert comments, "for a second, I couldn't tell which one of 'em was the monster," refering to the enemy and Ukoku. This is rather revealing of Ukoku's character.

XVI. The God Inside
When Hazel mentions the breaking of commandments, Ukoku asks why it's a crime to violate a commandment, to which Hazel has no answer besides "that's just the way things've gotta be." Ukoku replies, "Says who?" This is another testament to his lack of morals or desire to comply with any set of laws or social decrees. Further evidence is found when Filbert asks Ukoku if he has a God "here," pointing to his chest, and Ukoku laughs, replying he does not anymore. If he did ever have a conscience, it seems that Koumyou must have destroyed it years ago when he drove Ukoku to violence.

XV. The Moon and the Night Sky, Part Two
When they place their bet in the Epilogue of Burial, Ukoku asks of Koumyou, "What are the stakes?" to which Koumyou replies, "The next rising sun." With this declaration is displayed the silhouettes of the Sanzo-ikkou, tying into Sanzo's position as "the sun" (this subject may also be discussed in a later essay expanding on the topid of Ukoku). While Koumyou loves and wants to protect Sanzo, Ukoku hates and wants to hurt Sanzo, making it a sensical stake for the bet. The last page of burial (this is possibly the most important in this whole essay, so please, if you don't look at anything else, look at this page) displays Nii sitting on a porch, his bunny doll, his Koumyou stand-in, sitting on the railing beside him. In the distance, the waxing half-moon shines over them. Nii says, "We're not backing down, not you and not me. You know why. You're still there," and then then narration finishes, "This is all a story the moon watches alone."

In essence, this sums up everything that has made Ukoku who he is today, and the majority of it is Koumyou. More than anything, this emphasizes that Koumyou is the lasting impression on Ukoku, Koumyou is the one who has driven him to antagonize Genjyou Sanzo, Koumyou is the basis of the toy he converses with on a regular basis. And, obviously, he feels, the bet has not been won. Though Ukoku has outlived Koumyou, they're still competing. Even in death, Ukoku still considers Koumyou his equal.

Closing
In writing this, I think I myself learned a lot about Ukoku... he's one of Minekura's more complex characters, moreso than any of the Sanzo-ikkou, even. I hope I get to study him some more in the future, if I have the free time... he really is very fascinating!

I apologize that this may not be the most coherent or comprehensive essay... and I hope there will be another one in the nearish future! Thank you so much for reading, and please, please comment with your commentary! I want to know what you think... analysis is best when everyone shares their ideas, right? Thanks again for reading, and please tune in next time~
Tags: meta is fun!
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