ANIME & MANGA - Review
17:00 - 24th August 2014, by David West

Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan

It all hits the fan for Rikuo of the Nura Clan and his Night Parade of 100 Demons at the outset of the final instalment of the second season. The demon Tsuchigumo has been released from 400 years of captivity and he’s just spoiling for a fight – so he sets about maliciously mopping the floor with Rikuo before taking one of the clan hostage. As if that wasn’t enough trouble, Hagoromo Gitsune and her legion of Kyoto yokai are busily proceeding with preparations for the ritual to reincarnate the all-powerful Abe no Seimei.

Change is in the air throughout the second season of Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan. Rikuo’s human friends are pushed even further onto the side lines of the plot and the comedy they provided in the first season is replaced by a much grimmer tone as the rival yokai clans go to war. The appearance of Tsuchigumo and his viscous trouncing of Rikuo sets up a staple plot mechanism in shonen anime as the hero has to undertake a vigorous training regime under a harsh tutor in order to master a new technique to use against a seemingly unstoppable foe. This is the bread and butter of shows like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, but it actually feels refreshing here, as one of the weaknesses of the first season was that Rikuo was so powerful in his yokai form that he just had to transform and his enemies fell like dominoes. This time around he participates in long, difficult battles against opponents who force him past his limits. There are still moments of shonen cliché – ‘Accept who you are and become stronger for it’ is the life lesson Rikuo has to learn before his rematch with Tsuchigumo.

The level of violence is much higher than in the past, with plenty of blood flowing in the battles and severed limbs sailing across the screen. It’s all a far cry from the scenes in season one where Rikuo’s biggest problem was hiding his yokai family from his nosy school friends. Compare that to an increasingly unhinged Kubinashi going on a yokai killing spree, and you know you’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

The best of the action scenes are the battles against Tsuchigumo and the fight against gothic lolita villainess Hagoromo Gitsune. The downside to this is that the series peaks before the last episode, as the final opponent is left unvanquished in an obvious set up for a sequel. In the manner of shonen action shows since time immemorial, combatants announce the names of their special techniques, although not all of these seem designed to strike fear into the hearts of brave men – Kejoro has a special move called ‘Dishevelled Hair’ which sounds like more of an inconvenience when you’ve got a hot date than a threat to life and limb.

The visual palette is suitably dark and the animation makes good use of the contrast between light and shadow to create mood and atmosphere. Spooky stuff.

Viewers who were drawn to Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan by the cheerful humour of season one may feel out of place in this new, horror-dominated landscape, but with an almost constant stream of freakish creatures doing battle, the series will satisfy action fans. Frankly, Rikuo’s human friends were always the least interesting part of the show anyway.
SCORE: 4/5
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