Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (S1)

Author: SoTa_PoP

 

*Intro* Da-Da-Da!!! Welcome to a SoTa PoP Review! It’s late October right now, and Halloween’s around the corner. A time where dreams meet reality, and our scariest stories are given life once again; reminding us of all the spooks that once went bump in the night. But what if they never left, only organized and blended in?

Meet Nura: Rise of the Yokai. A coming of age story about Rikuo Nura, a 1/4 yokai and third heir to the powerful Nura Clan, that controls 72 clans of over 10,000 demons. He’s a normal boy with normal dreams, living in a giant mansion with his fellow demons and family. He wants to keep his identity as part Yokai hidden, but his grandfather, Supreme Commander of the Yokai, wants him to succeed him soon. He’s getting old, and with retirement around the corner, it’s time Rikuo came to terms with his yokai blood, and help the clan move forward.

But what is forward to a clan of Yokai in the modern era?

That’s the question our protagonist faces as he discovers what it means to be a Yokai coexisting with humans.

Driven by a desire to protect his friends, and the Yokai, Rikuo Nura faces challenge both from within, and without, as he tries to balance his life, and his duties as a Yokai Heir, while trying to keep his Yokai blood a secret from his friends.

The show’s pacing in this regard is smooth as silk, as the human cast get pushed into going on Yokai adventures over and over again, in search of evidence of Yokai's existence; instigating events that tie our cast together, keeping the pacing all in one place, much to our MC’s dismay.

This is often lead by the president of the Paranormal Patrol, Kiyotsugu, classmate and friend to our MC. He isn’t directly fleshed out, but you make assumptions. He’s a rich kid with too much free time. It’s a running gag in the show that he’s the only human to never directly encounter the Yokai, even though he’s the only one who truly wants to meet them.

The rest of the human cast, Maki Saori, Shima Jirou, Natsumi Torli, and Kana Ienaga, follow him in pretty much all of his antics, unwillingly most of the time. Besides Kana, the love interest to our MC, their only real purpose in this show is to be taken hostage or waste air time with pointless scenes of tension building, more to set the mood of ‘danger is everywhere!’ rather then there being any real danger. Luckily, there’s still one more human cast who joins them on their adventures, Yura Keikain, an onmoyji from a noted family with considerable skill in casting Shikigami, who gives some meaning to the human’s air time by including her involvement through them. She assists Kiyotsugu in his expeditions, using his information network to aid her in finding and eliminating local Yokai. She’s an intricate part of the story. When compared to our MC whose in the middle of Yokai and Human worlds, she’s very much similar, but where the MC is closer on the Yokai side of things, she’s closer to the humans.

The Yokai who follow our MC often find themselves in tricky positions thanks to them also having to hide who they are, while simultaneously protecting their Master and his friends. It leads to some pretty funny moments, and great for creating comedic relief after long moments of tension. But you can tell the Yokai themselves don’t find it all that funny, and that just adds to the hilarity.

The two Yokai assigned as body guards to our MC, Tsurara Oikawa, and Aotabou, are the closest among the Yokai to Rikuo, their bond akin to something like childhood friends. They support him fully in everything, giving everything up to the day he proves himself worthy as the Third Heir. There are numerous others, but they’re given very little attention in season 1, and it’s a crying shame. Used as convenient back-up whenever the MC needs it, they only ever offer expositions or push action scenes to their conclusions.

The heart of this show isn’t the human vs yokai, or the casts growth, as it is with most anime. We enjoy watching our characters grow on screen, and it’s definitely here in this show as well, our MC will go from basically a troubled 13 year old kid, to a confident 13 year old kid, but it’s the political intrigue of the Yokai that really turns the lightbulb known as Nura into a fluorescent beauty, much like feudal Japan, they’re separated by borders and blood from each other, united only by oaths of fealty. Most of which were pledges taken hundreds of years ago to an aging old man.

It’s this aspect of the show that really brings you into the Yokai world, almost as if they had a world on top of our own. Which may as well be the case, they have their own businesses, corporations, and interests, and the connection you can make to the similarities between the Yokai and Humans really hits home how the Yokai have adapted to fit in.

But where it stumbles is the Shojo aspect of itself, though it does a great job developing the characters whose life will be in jeopardy when the time comes, it doesn’t have much choreography to back it. Creating very short and lackluster battle scenes. This is uncharacteristic of Shojo shows, and will lead to many people with preconceived notions to drop the show.

The Yokai are beautiful. Their designs range from flowery, to adorable, to creepy, and the dynamic personalities of the Yokai go to further embellish there looks, creating a unique atmosphere the show thrives on; they’re all incredibly well detailed, especially considering how flat the human designs are, with small eyes and unattractive features, making there one-dimensional personalities more apparent.

The exception is the romantic interest, Kana. Unlike the rest of the human cast, her design obviously had more thought put into it, probably to contrast her from the other humans and lift her value in the show. As the show progresses, they’ll single her out, being interested in our MC in his yokai form, without knowing who he really is, and slowly integrate her into the Yokai side, building upon her relationship with the MC.

If you enjoyed Inuyasha, you’re going to love this show. They have a lot in common, both shows have a half demon as MC whose son of a great ruling Yokai, they both prefer to deal with dramatics rather then action, building a plot and characters rather then sprinkling your screen with sparkles and lights.

And they both have an amazing soundtrack. Nura’s soundtrack does it’s job well in setting the mood, often playing deep orchestra pieces fitting for the Yokai and darker moments. Then lifting the mood back up again with quirky up beat pieces. The OP’s are great, especially the second one, sporting a catchy j-pop/rap

And though the music may not be Air Gears, it is good in it’s own right, deserving of attention.

Considering that this is a 2010 show that was most likely dubbed a year or two later the dub voice acting is spectacular. Especially, Tsurara Oikawa, voiced by Cassandra Lee Morris. The only obnoxious voice belongs to Kiyotsugu, but he’s an obnoxious character to begin with, so it may of been intentional.

Between a setting that keeps on giving, a large cast of fun, interesting characters, and a great sound track, why aren’t you checking this out for yourself? It’s worth the golden 3 episode rule, but if you can make it to 5, you’ll really get to see what the show will offer later on.

Story: 8.5
Characters: 8
Voice Acting: 8
Music: 8
Enjoyment: 9
Over-all: a flat 8

The show is better than average, only suffering because it’s genre tag puts more expectation on action, rather then drama. If you haven’t checked this show out, It comes with a SoTa PoP seal of approval.