- Character development
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (Season 1 Part 1)
Season 1 Part 1 available NOW
I was given Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan by Joey (from The Nerd Cabinet). We were sent a review copy from MangaUK (thank you very much). I want to be exposed to many different types of Anime; I wasn’t going to skip a chance to give my honest opinions on a newer series. It wouldn’t be something I’d usually watch. However, I’m happy that I did. Although not perfect it is a fantastic series. I admire the artwork and audio in Nura as much as the story to be honest. There’s something unique about the artwork and audio (explained further down) that makes it stand out from other Anime. The story, although a little contradictory, feels different enough to earn its own praise and kept me hooked from start to finish. Nura is something different but is it worth watching over other Anime?
This Anime series is all about a species called Yokai. They’re creatures/ beings/ entities (whatever you want to call them) that evoke fear. Rarely do you hear about lone Yokai; they’re usually members of one of the many clans. The main clan being: Nura. The Nura clan are the most respected Yokai clan of them all. They help other, weaker clans and are the central, highest ranking clan of them all. Yokai used to be weaker as a whole until the Nura clan re-established things. I found the clans based system a little confusing to begin with. However, once watching all the episodes, it became very clear. Having clans gave this Anime series a family feel. Members of the same clan would put their life on the line for each other. Members of associate clans will do the same. This is great because it connects at a human level; one loves their family unconditionally. They could go so many places with this fact in the second part of series one – it could be the reason for deaths, it could be a good turning point (if the clans disband), etc.
The protagonist is called Rikuo. He is a human (more or less) that lives with the Yokai clan Nura. From early on we discover he is to be the Third Heir of the Nura clan. This means he will lead: The Night of Hundred Demons. I think that is where all the Nura clan are full Yokai and ready to fight other clans. They will be the dominating power. As Rikuo is mainly human, yet lives with Yokai, it is hard for him to have friends over. In one episode such an event arises and it becomes very tense, yet funny at the same time. This reflects the age rating of 12 (or 15 in the UK). Nura has a brutal, fighting side to it but also a down to earth, human, funny side to it. I am glad this series wasn’t scared to show some blood, and have a serious side, but it stayed fresh by going back to a happy, jokey side. It was this transition that kept me interested.
The respect and loyalty the Nura clan’s Yokai members have for Rikuo is endearing. He is one-fourth Yokai. This means he can only turn at night and even then, can’t control when. His turning is a little like Jekyll and Hyde; he doesn’t turn insane, rather serious. One moment he is barely able to defend himself, another he is this all powerful being that has a ghost like element. I found the parts where Rikuo turned very exciting and it felt like a completely different show. Again, this kept my attention and gave the show a refreshed feel. There are some very amusing moments relating to protection for their master: Rikuo. Once again, keeping the balance of humour and seriousness.
All in all the entire story is intriguing and there is a lot I haven’t mentioned in this section, at fear of spoiling it for you. The world created is realistic with the added entity of Yokai – some humans know of Yokai, some go hunting for them (as young kids in real life would try to hunt ghosts), and others don’t have a clue. If the show followed an average student, in the school, then it would be a down to earth, extremely realistic world. There are no exaggerated females – so the show keeps its integrity – and the characters, even though they’re Yoaki, still have human qualities that we can relate to.
The only downside to the story is it may feel a little cliché to others. I believe there are many Anime shows with the establishment of clans and ghosts (Bleach – Soul Society and Hollows). For this reason it isn’t as exciting as other Anime I have seen (Eden of the East). Another big misunderstanding is that Yoaki are meant to ‘inspire fear’ yet they protect humans from ‘evil’ clans. They either don’t make it clear enough or fail to stick to their story. If Yokai are meant to be evil then why does the Nura clan defend against Yokai that try to kill humans? What are they meant to be evil towards? The last episode of this part was a let-down too. It repeats the story of a previous episode. Now this is fine for some who may have missed the point of the previous episodes. However, I was up to scratch and no new light was shed. Due to reviewing only the first part, this has to be a negative point. It may be vital in the second part though.
Artwork and Audio
The Artwork is less traditional than some Anime. The scenery is less ancient looking and most of the people have natural hair (not crazy, unachievable hair) and wider eyes – opposed to tall. I like the new look of Nura; it is colourful and looks very desirable. If I was an artist, drawing Anime, I’d go for this type of look. The artwork does more than make everything look fantastic – it expresses the emotions of the characters more. When Rikuo has to dodge questions about his family being Yokai, drops of sweat literally start rolling down his face. If he is in a tight spot you can really tell that he feels extremely awkward. It made the funnier parts even more hilarious and I applaud the artists for making the artwork one of the best things about Nura.
The voice acting is great, like usual. I have yet to find an Anime with bad Japanese voice acting. This has got to be because, as an English person, I find the accent, tone, and words of Japanese fascinating. The English dub is still exaggerated although it isn’t too bad and the translation is great. I’ve started watching Bleach – Series One – recently and that was much worse, in English dub terms, than Nura. The words had been completely changed and the voices were terrible. Nura is watchable in English; that says a lot considering almost every other Anime I’ve seen was terrible in this aspect (with the exception of Pokemon, Dragonball, and Spirited Away). There is an audio addition, that is subtle but effective, in the ability to hear characters’ thoughts (and their heartbeat at moments). This is great because it doesn’t dumb anything down to the audience by thinking out loud.
The music of Nura is also one of the best things. It is very classical based with mainly guitar, violin, and piano being used – during the episodes. Beforehand and afterwards the songs are more pop orientated. Even so I still find them enjoyable to listen to. Even the menu music is entertaining. There are a few signature themes that caught my attention. One is when Rikuo turns into his Yokai form. It sounds similar to Kill Bill’s music; suits a samurai quite well and sounds kind of western. Another is a violin based theme that plays quite frequently in conversations (it reminded me of the music in Harry Potter at times). Lastly, another is quite cheerful and reminded me of Finding Nemo – its focus is a soft guitar theme. The music of Nura aids scenes perfectly. In the first episode there is an eerie piano plying, whilst students inspect a warehouse for Yokai, and I felt on edge. When battles start, string instruments play with addition of a choir – this made battles more intense.
The artwork and audio of Nura make it more unique than its story. However, the clan based system and having the protagonist find himself is relatable (family life and coming of age). The humorous side of Nura doesn’t conflict with the seriousness. This allows it to be suitable for an older audience. Integrity is kept with only one female having a big bust (there’s bound to be someone, right?). I thoroughly enjoyed Part One of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan and will look forward to reviewing the second half. I wonder if the series will take a more serious or more comical turn.