By “dehumanizing” maybe it is better to call it “tanuki-fying.”
Here’s a thought experiment. Rewatch Uchouten Kazoku. Whenever you see a human-form tanuki, try to imagine it as tanuki-form instead.
What does this do? When Yasaburo looks longingly at Benten (maybe at the ED, maybe when they’re walking in the moonlight, whenever), the meaning becomes obvious.
When Yashiro looks at Benten behind his brother’s back and takes her doughnut, what does it look like?
Is this why Soichiro can’t stay in shape? Or rather, doesn’t that explain why, in a thematic sense?
The family of tanuki take shapes from humans to live in this society, but they cannot betray who they are, their blood so to speak–as tanuki, as fools, as whatever. When mom was living with her rescuer, she looked at him with those eyes, and it says everything universal that has to be said. It’s this message that goes beyond the bounds of what makes them tanuki or human or tengu. It’s like Yasaburo’s filial piety-like devotion to Akadama-sensei, even if he is not one of them, although now we’re treading on iffy grounds since I have no clue what tengu and tanuki are suppose to do with each other. It’s like when 8Ken has to eat to love (and to live). And you thought I was joking (entirely)?
Another concern I have in parallel with this is that unless we are mindful of the whole “blood” connection and in regards to what a tanuki is, it’s not entirely obvious that this layer of the story exists. Especially from western eyes, it’s too easy to forget that these human-looking things do not have minds and hearts of humans, although they too carry admirable qualities. In other words, think Natsume Yuujinchou. I mean, a tengu is a youkai. I’m not sure what qualifies for a transforming tanuki though. Maybe this is just a man-animal-supernatural sort of a sandwich. But we cannot subject Yasaburo and his family to the same standards as we subject other human beings in the same context. Or rather, this is how we can tell when the story is trying to make a point.
For example, Yasaburo loves humans. Think about it–he is the single visible tanuki that has extensive interaction with humans, within the story. The only other character that comes close to him is Mom, whose backstory explains why she does what she does. What does this say about Yasaburo? What does this say about Benten?
PS. It’s like “blood of the fool” in the way I draw out overarching themes across different shows that I watched recently. You know what they say about the human cognitive ability of pattern-seeking and forming.