Even after Houichi had been sufficiently warned about the Chishio, a mushi that can turn a mother’s bodily fluid into milk among other things, he seemingly intends to keep on working himself into exhaustion: “I’m no longer an infant who needs protecting.” The irony in this statement is that a true parent’s work never ends. A good parent would never say, “He’s old enough now. I no longer have to be concerned for his well-being.” While it is true that as a child matures into an adult, you can afford to worry about them less and less, but I don’t think any decent parent would ever sit idly by and watch their own children work themselves to death. Even worse, Houichi would be leaving an entire family behind. As a result, I believe Houichi eventually takes the Mushi purge, but at his father’s urging. I believe that in the end, Houichi’s father continues to protect his own son, regardless of how old Houichi has become. He’s protected his son before from the harsh truth behind his wife’s death, and he’ll protect Houchi now from potentially leaving his children fatherless.
In the episode’s epilogue, we see that the family’s once bountiful fields are no longer lush with vegetation. In the past, rice paddies would fill up the valley, a testament to Houichi’s relentless work ethic. It isn’t impossible to grow rice in the winter, but you need flooded paddies to get the job done. With constant snowfall, growing rice seems to be out of the question. Even so, however, we’ve seen Houichi cultivate other leafy vegetables. This is most evident in a scene in which he and his wife try to encourage one of their sons to finish everything on his plate. Nevertheless, all of that is gone now. Instead, the entire family toils away together in the fields to gather nothing more than a few earthy radishes. Nevertheless, “the valley still echoes with laughter and joy.” According to Ginko, the Chishio would eventually leave its host once he or she has collapsed from exhaustion. If Houichi had truly and stubbornly continued to work himself to death, I doubt we would see him enjoy an idyllic family life years after he had been warned.
But why then doesn’t the episode just outright tell us that Houichi had taken the Mushi purge? I think this is the result of the farmer’s pride being on the line. When Ginko tries to warn him that his actions are being influenced by a Mushi, Houichi seems offended. After all, it’s not the Mushi that wants a good life for his wife and children. Rather, he’s the one with the will and drive to toil in the fields day and night for his family. Well, Houichi isn’t wrong. There’s no doubt that he’s being a good father and a capable provider. Nevertheless, there’s no shame in accepting the reality that he may have gotten a lot of help from an outside source. No one’s discrediting Houichi’s work. They simply want to look out for his health. In front of Ginko — and at his lowest point as well — I believe Houichi clings onto the one thing that he can take pride in: he can sacrifice for his children the same way his mother had sacrifice her life for him. He apologizes for dishonoring his mother’s memory, but in a twisted way, he might think that he’s making amends.
After all, it isn’t easy for anyone to learn what Houichi has learned. He essentially drank his mother’s blood as breast milk in order to become who he is today. Why shouldn’t then turn around and pay the price of his own blood to provide for his children? He’d be atoning for his sins. Houichi’s father may not blame him for his mother’s death, and neither would we. But in a moment of weakness, one can only imagine what Houichi is truly feeling on the inside. But the price is too high to pay. As I’ve said before, he’d be leaving behind not only his wife and father, but four children as well. Not only that, he has to take seriously what Ginko had warned: the Chishio would try to seek out another infant to inhabit. Not only would Houichi’s newborn daughter be at risk, but his wife as well. The “curse” would plague the family forever until someone decides to break the cycle. In the distance, Houichi’s father gazes out at his son’s work and reflects: “Chiyo, he’s become a good father.” Perhaps he eventually manages to convince his son to swallow his pride, and thus the Mushi purge as well.
On a less serious note, can you imagine what it must be like to have all of your bodily fluids replaced with milk? Holy hell, the smell must be rank unless Houichi’s mother constantly bathed herself numerous times a day. But I’m just joking. I’m sure her sweat and natural body oils didn’t become breast milk as well. Anyway, to wrap this post up, I think this episode serves as a nice contrast to the one before it. In last week’s episode, we saw how destructive bad parenting can be. This week, we learn that good parenting is a lifelong job.