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January 24, 2011

Bento Bako Weekly: Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan

Title: Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan
Author: Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2008 by Shueisha in Japan, February 1, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Supernatural, action, comedy

Rikuo Nura is the grandson of Nurarihyon, the Lord of Pandemonium, and Supreme Commander of the Nura Clan Syndicate yokai clan. Rikuo, however, has a human mother and grandmother, making him only one-quarter yokai. Raised in a house full of yokai, Rikuo grew up believing yokai were cool and powerful. He was being raised to become The Third, the next Supreme Commander. Rikuo was thrilled with his situation, until one day at school, his classmates began to tease him. They claimed that yokai were petty cowards and losers, not cool at all, and not only that, they didn’t exist at all! Shocked, Rikuo’s emotions exploded at a clan meeting meant to name him as the successor, and declared he didn’t want to be an evil yokai and get teased at school. But when a plot to assassinate him put his classmates in danger, Rikuo transformed into a powerful yokai to save them. Rikuo declared that he would take on the role of Supreme Commander, and the Nura Clan became¬†ecstatic…until Rikuo suddenly passed out and reverted to his human form. Since he is only one-quarter yokai, he can’t remain in his yokai form very long. About four years pass, and Rikuo is living the life of a normal schoolboy. He hasn’t transformed since that fateful night, and the fate of the Clan’s leadership is shaky. His classmates, having seen something amazing that night of the accident, now believe in yokai. So now, instead of trying to convince his friends yokai are real, he must prevent his friends from discovering his secret so he can continue to live as an “upstanding citizen.” It becomes more difficult when Kiyotsugu, the boy who was most vocal about the nonexistence of yokai in the past, decides to form a paranormal club to seek out the¬†awe inspiring yokai who once saved him. It becomes even more difficult when an onmyoji (an exorcist) named Keikain shows up at school and also joins the club. As the home of many yokai, Keikain has been drawn to the town of Ukiyoe, ready to rid it of the evil spirits that live there. Meanwhile, Rikuo’s family and friends, and enemies, begin to pressure him to take up his mantle (or, in the case of his enemies, die so it goes to someone else). In particular, his childhood friend Zen, a bird yokai and leader of the Zen Group; and a group of rat yokai, who take some drastic measures to get Rikuo’s attention.

This one was a surprisingly fun read. It’s silly enough to get you laughing out loud, but not so much that you can’t take the situations in the story seriously. There are factions out to kill Rikuo, after all. It does have some disjointedness about it, like the four-year time jump that ignores four years of events. It’s almost as if Rikuo saved his friends one night, then woke up the next day four years in the future, and everything had changed. Obviously it wouldn’t make sense to actually panel out those four years, where nothing happens. But as far as character mindsets, it’s like only 24 hours have passed. Speaking of the characters, they’re all great. Nurarihyon is an old trickster, whose best trick is skipping out on bills at restaurants. Rikuo’s attendants Yuki-Onna and Aotabo are practically glued to his side; when Rikuo was a child, they were often the target of his pranks, and now they masquerade as classmates to keep an eye on him. Yuki-Onna’s cover is solid enough (though she causes some jealousy in a particular friend of Rikuo’s), but Aotabo becomes the fearsome leader of a biker gang. Zen is short tempered and overly dramatic, fiercely loyal, and fiercely open with his feelings. Kana, terrified of the supernatural, is Rikuo’s best friend (and possible romantic interest; she seems to have a thing for him), and thankfully oblivious to his true identity. The onmyoji, Keikain, is highly suspicious of Rikuo’s old house, and it’s all the boy can do to keep his secret and his yokai family safe.

A young Rikuo, excited by his future as Supreme Commander, in Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan vol. 1.

There are plenty of yokai around, from evil child devouring yokai, to simple pranksters. The Nura Clan members who live with Rikuo are loyal to him despite his lineage, or rather because of it. They don’t care if he’s part human, as he still has the blood of the Supreme Commander in him; even that little bit is enough for them to follow him. When Rikuo transforms, they throw great, drunken parties to celebrate. However, because Rikuo is also human, and lives as a human, he wants the clan to stop terrorizing humans. Yokai are meant to bring “The Fear” to humans, so Rikuo’s insistence that they stop attacking humans doesn’t sit right with some of the other clan leaders. However, as the Nura Syndicate General Counsel Mokugyo-Daruma points out, “The Fear” has multiple meanings. Evil doing, giant things, threats, authority, the unknown…these are all aspects of “The Fear.” Being a yokai also means evoking awe and reverence, which Rikuo excels at in his yokai form. If only he could maintain the form long enough to show the clan heads his power, but the transformation never lasts long, and in fact, Rikuo doesn’t remember what happens during these transformations. It’s like he’s a completely different person, like he’s literally transforming into someone else. This powerful persona seems to sleep inside of Rikuo, only awakening at times of great need (like when he wants to protect someone dear to him). His yokai form is certainly aware of things that occur while he’s dormant, and there’s evidence that Rikuo knows another presence is inside of him.

Shiibashi is great at creating all sorts of different yokai, and the comedic elements are displayed well. However, the art is a bit sloppy now and then (and there’s not much in the way of background art). For beautifully drawn spirits, Yuki Midorikawa’s Natsume’s book of Friends is the way to go. The art in Nura isn’t as sharp as it could be, though it works with the silly nature of the book. The story is interesting, though nothing really new, so it will be the way it’s handled that will make it stand out. So far, it’s entertaining, which is certainly important. It’s paced well over all, and this volume sets up a lot of future obstacles for Rikuo and company. The anime can be watched on Viz Anime, each episode streamed shortly after its Japanese premier.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_Kris

Review copy provided by Viz Media.

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  1. […] Lives (Anime Maki) Anna on Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy (Manga Report) Kristin on vol. 1 of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (Comic Attack) Rob McMonigal on vols. 2 and 3 of One Piece (Panel Patter) Erica Friedman on vol. 3 […]



  2. […] [Volume 1 review.] […]



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