Home > Anime, Manga and Games, Reviews > DVD Review: Nura – Rise of The Yokai Clan Season 1 Part 1

DVD Review: Nura – Rise of The Yokai Clan Season 1 Part 1

Based on the manga by Hiroshi Shibashi

Nura coverJapan is reputedly one of the most haunted countries in the world and the TV anime Nura – Rise of the Yokai clan makes use of a wide selection of demons (yokai) from Japanese folklore and places them in modern day Tokyo.

Life can be tough for most humans but spare a thought for good-natured twelve-year-old Rikuo Nura who has to deal with being a quarter demon. Rikuo may seem like a normal schoolboy but he lives amongst yokai who belong to the Nura clan which is led by his grandfather, the Supreme Commander of the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. With Rikuo’s thirteenth birthday approaching, the age of maturity for yokai, he must either take leadership of the Nura clan and lead the Night Parade or reject his yokai heritage. Such a responsibility weighs heavily on Rikuo’s shoulders and he would rather forget about all that and live life as a normal human.

Rikuo fits in well at school with a loyal group of friends such as Kiyotsugu, a boy so yokai-obsessed he sets up the Kiyojūji Paranormal Investigation Patrol to hunt down yokai, and Kana, a girl Nura has a crush on, but things get a little dicey when Yura Keikan, a transfer student from Kyoto, arrives. She is an onmyoji in training who wields magic and makes a living destroying yokai. Her ability to detect yokai gets her into Kiyotsugu’s yokai hunting club but for some odd reason both Kiyotsugu and Yura seem unable to detect the fact that two of Rikuo’s stranger friends, Tsurara and Ao, are actually his yokai body-guards Yuki-Onna and Aotabō, yokai who transform into human form and accompany him everywhere.

Nura – Rise of The Yokai Clan Season 1 Part 1

Courtesy of Manga Entertainment

Clan politics cannot be forgotten as the question of Rikuo’s accession to the leadership of the Nura clan troubles everybody in his household and doubts over his abilities cause factional differences in the wider yokai world. Rival clans emerge willing to stop at nothing to remove Rikuo and take over the territory of the Nura clan. As Rikuo gets dragged along on Kiyotsugu’s paranormal investigation patrols threats begin to emerge and when a field-trip to a hot springs on Mount Nejireme turns out to be a trap it places the lives of Rikuo and his friends in danger. This is when a power awakens inside of him thanks to his demon blood and he is able to switch between forms changing from a relatively harmless schoolboy to his ancestor Nurarihyon, a legendary yokai and past leader of the Night Parade but since he is only a quarter demon he can only maintain his form for a quarter of the day. Will Rikuo take responsibility for the Nura clan and save his friends?

This anime was adapted from Hiroshi Shiibashi’s manga by Studio DEEN in 2011 and it ran for twenty-six episodes. This is the first part of a two-set collection released by Manga Entertainment and it covers episodes one to thirteen with the thirteenth episode being a recap of earlier events.

What immediately grabs attention is the way that the anime manages to meld cute school-based hijinks with snippets of Japan’s mythology and some of its most famous supernatural creatures.

Nura – Rise of The Yokai Clan Season 1 Part 1

Courtesy of Manga Entertainment

My first impressions were mixed since the incongruousness of horror and typical school-based anime clichés stood out a lot. During the opening episodes there are things that feel a little contrived and elements of great weight are abruptly handled like the impact Kana faces after actually seeing yokai. The dialogue is also a little too on the nose. At one point in the first episode, just before Rikuo races off to school, he shakes off the important question of the clan leadership issue by crying, “I want to live my life as a normal human. I made up my mind a long time ago. See ya!”

Things smooth out as the series goes on and the pace really picks up and by episode five and the first major trial Rikuo faces in the battle on Nejireme I was totally involved.

Director Junji Nishimura has worked on a variety of historical and fantasy action titles like Soul Hunter, and the shounen adventure fantasy Samurai Deeper Kyou, and his experience shows in the ease with which combat and character development. The emotions felt by the characters are universal and are painted in the broadest of brush-strokes. It is likeable, accessible and it is fun seeing how horror is mixed with everyday things like moments when Rikuo and his friends go to a hot spring and Rikuo has to juggle things like having friends in his house (really a haunted mansion).

Nura – Rise of The Yokai Clan Season 1 Part 1

Courtesy of Manga Entertainment

Yokai roam everywhere and the episodes take place in a number of environments, from the bright lights of Tokyo to the shadowy depths of a haunted forest gaining dark influence as the sun sets. Backgrounds can range from the bland to the beautiful. The highlights are the scenes that take place in the older, more natural parts of Japan like temples and old-fashioned houses which are highly detailed while forests are a collection of gorgeous colours from the deepest of reds to yellows and have an impressionistic feel which add to the atmosphere. The only real weakness in the visuals is in the needless use of clunky looking CGI cutaways. What cannot be faulted are the creative character design and the voice acting.

The anime begins with a pre-title sequence where an array of yokai are seen in a scroll painting depicting them in a traditional and fearsome way but the designs in the actual show run from the cute and funny to the unnerving and absolutely downright ghastly. Rikuo’s loyal friends include Tengu Karasu, a crow who is usually in a flap over Rikuo’s behaviour, Yuki-Onna, a cute schoolgirl with a penchant for freezing things and a love of ice cubes over make-up. Rikuo’s enemies range from giant spiders to humanoid demons that morph into beasts to a surprisingly horrific mirror demon with a high-pitched voice who pursues Kana.

Nura – Rise of The Yokai Clan Season 1 Part 1

Courtesy of Manga Entertainment

The humans are also well designed, very likeable in their familiarity while avoiding being bland. Kiyotsugu with his manic grin and bright eyes is just the right side of crazily obsessed to be amusing while Kana really grows as a character from a bland damsel into a complicated love-interest towards the end. Yura is a real highlight from start to finish as a conflicted onmyoji. Initially she is a refined, cool and calculating type but avoids being too cold by showing uncertainty as well as strength in equal measures. Our main hero, Rikuo, is constantly positive and his open and innocent face radiates goodness and is a likeable protagonist in his ecency. When he transforms he takes the form of a tall, handsome cold as ice samurai type that can make a girl’s heart swoon and signals a fight is on. The most interesting character comes in the form of Lord Gyuki, advisor to Rikuo’s grandfather, the most complex character on the screen and with a back story that is tragic and dark and invites the anime to indulge in a real slice of gorgeous mythology that speaks of old Japan and shows how well the show can mix ideas.

Overall the anime is a simple and enjoyable affair which manages to create a fun story mixing ancient Japanese legends with the everyday life of a school boy. The early episodes feel like build up but by the fifth episode, with the stage and actors set up, the anime became much more confident and the action was getting more intense it seems like things will get even more exciting just in time for the next part of the set.

Nura – Rise of The Yokai Clan Season 1 Part 1

Courtesy of Manga Entertainment

Details:

Label: Manga Entertainment (Kaze UK Sub Licence)

Release date: 8th April 2013

Certificate: 15

Running time:  325 Minutes

Genre: Anime/Action /Supernatural/Shounen

Director: Junji Nishimura

Author profile:

Genki Jason  is a writer who actually works in a museum. After graduating in Creative and Professional Writing from the University of Glamorgan he started studying Japanese part time at Cardiff University. Ever since he was a child he has had a love of anime and Japanese/East Asian films and culture became a cinephile in high school after watching Chungking Express and Battle Royale. . He writes for Anime UK News as a journalist and on his blog. You can also follow him on Twitter @filmnohito.

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  1. April 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Great review – I’m really looking forward to seeing this!

    Like

  1. March 2, 2014 at 3:51 pm
  2. March 2, 2014 at 4:15 pm

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