Previously, Ren challenged his father, En, when he returned home only to be easily defeated and imprisoned. Yoh and his friends to traveled to China and rescue him. As Horohoro and Ryu took on the Gohukuseitai Jiangxi (En's elite re-animated corpses), Yoh freed his friend and Jun. While Ren was initially hesitant to involve his friends in his personal struggle, Yoh managed to convince him that everything will work out.
Throughout, Ren's character has grown quite a lot as noted in my review. How much more will it grow in this episode?
This episode adapts Chapters 73 - 76 from the manga. The main events include Jun & Pailong taking out the last elite Jiangxi, Ren & friends fighting Tao En, and the aftermath.
As Yoh and Ren return to the first floor only to see Horohoro and Ryu defeated by the last Gohukuseitai. Manta, who has been observing the fight, identifies the corpse warrior as Shamon, Li Pailong's teacher, due to their similar movements. It turns out that En captured Shamon's soul against his will and stuffed him in a "younger" body. Jun and Pailong intervene and the latter easily defeats Shamon as he knows his master's moves.
Pailong takes out Shamon (Gohukuseitai).
The entire gang move up the estate and eventually run into En. Ryu and Horohoro take out En's arms, but they easily regrow before En pummels both shamans. Pailong nails a good kick to En's head, but En just throws him at a wall. Ren's attacks aren't working and when he seemingly lands a huge blow, En's body splits into multiple parts that can act independently. One of his fists attack Ren before Yoh intercepts it and gets knocked out.
Ren, Yoh, and others about to fight En.
It all seems hopeless as Ren is the last man standing. En admonishes his weakness and lack of conviction, but Ren retorts that it is because of his weakness that has made him strong. His friends manage to get back on their feet, surprising En. When he tries to punch Ren, his fist ends up phasing through. It turns out the entire time, En's body was not real. It is an Oversoul and because En's spirit wavered, the fake body lost its corporeal quality.
En's punch phases through Ren.
The real En is revealed and with the spirits of his ancestors going back 2000 years, he summons the Great Tao Dragon. However, Ren, who is now confident on his own convictions, defeats the dragon with one Bason Golden Punch. En wants to keep the fight going despite already spending tremendous amounts of furyoku, but Ren's mother, Tao Ran, and grandfather, Tao Ching, put a stop to it.
The real Tao En wearing an armor of mortuary tablets and accompanied by spirits of his ancestors.
Ren about to face off against the ugliest dragon I've ever seen.
The Tao family treats the gang to dinner before Ching explains how En and his narrow-mindedness lost against his son's stronger convictions. The next morning, Ren leaves home though his family was hoping he would stay a bit longer. As Ren rides off with his horse, his father follows his son and gives him their heirloom sword, the Bâo-Lèi Sword.
Nearly panel-for-panel, this episode matches the manga with decent fidelity. However, it was a step down from the previous episode for various reasons.
While the action and animation were serviceable, the character models sometimes vary which breaks the sense of consistency. It's a bit strange because up to this point, Bridge studio tends to a good job keeping all characters on-model. This may just be a temporary hiccup, so I'm not worried about later episodes.
There was also an annoyance I had at one point during the Tao En fight where Ren's attack blew En's Oversoul body into pieces. There was a shot where En's head would float around as he talked, but his lips didn't move one bit. I found that inconsistency a bit distracting and annoying.
I think the episode needs to working on the timing. For instance, I felt that the Pailong vs. Shamon (Gohukuseitai) fight went by too fast. Pailong's entrance was pretty badass, but the fight felt too abrupt and as a result, the attacks didn't pack as much weight as they should have. The battle against Tao En was fine, but the post-battle scenes went by too quickly. I wished that the episode spent more time with Tao Ching's monologue and reflection on the Tao family's dynamics. Unfortunately, it lasted for less than a minute even though it was a pivotal step forward for Ren's character.
I was also very disappointed at the missed opportunity to go into nostalgia lane. When I reviewed Episode 5, I praised it for reusing an old soundtrack from the original 2001 anime, "Oversoul", when Yoh performed his first Oversoul. I expected this episode to play "Brave Heart" as another respectful nod to the past, but it didn't happen. Such a shame as I think the song is pretty hype.
Overall, it's not a bad episode per se, but it felt unpolished and missed a lot of opportunities.