This pile of shounen is never ending! So let’s knock another two out of the heap today. The second volume of the super natural action comedy Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, and the fourth volume of sorcerer battle manga Hyde & Closer.
Title: Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan
Author: Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 2 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2008 by Shueisha in Japan, April 5, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, supernatural, comedy
Rikuo Nura is the grandson of the current Supreme Commander of the Nura yokai clan. It is up to Rikuo to become the Third Supreme Commander and rule the yokai clans. Unfortunately, Rikuo is three-quarters human, and is unable to maintain his true demon form for very long. In fact, he can only take that form at night, and so far it’s only happened under extreme circumstances. Because he is unable to transform at will, many of the heads of the other clans worry for the future of the Nura, and several have been plotting to get rid of Rikuo. One of these groups is the Kyuso clan, a group of demonic rats, who have kidnapped two of Rikuo’s classmates and blackmailed him with their lives. Rikuo must renounce his claim as Supreme Commander to all the clans. As Rikuo prepares to send such a letter to the clans, upset with the yokai he sees as evil creatures, the head of the Bakeneko branch implores Rikuo to act, claiming that not all yokai are as rotten as the Kyuso rats. As Rikuo desperately cries out that he’s incapable of doing anything to help, the demon within him awakens and once again takes over. Rikuo once again leads the Night Parade to rescue his friends. They are easily dispatched, and the onmyoji Yura is able to witness the incredible power of the Supreme Commander. The next day, as Rikuo lies in bed with a fever from over exertion, the clan heads hold a meeting to discuss who may have been manipulating the Kyuso clan, and to once again argue about Rikuo’s ability to become the Supreme Commander. Jealousy begins to stir when Rikuo’s classmates pay him a visit, and Kana witnesses the familiarity between Rikuo and his aide Yuki-Onna (who has been posing as a classmate to keep an eye on Rikuo). At Kiyotsugu’s insistence, the “Kiyojuji Paranormal Patrol” goes on a trip to Mt. Nejireme to study yokai. Unfortunately, Mt. Nejireme is home to the Gyuki clan, known for attacking travelers on the mountain. Lucky for Rikuo and his friends, word has gotten back to Karasu-tengu about their destination, and he and his sons set out to make sure their master is safe. The group is split up and attacked by Gozumaru and Mezumaru, with Mezumaru attacking the girls back at Kiyotsugu’s vacation home, and Gozumaru attacking Yuki-Onna in the forest. Fortunately, the girls have Yura to protect them, though it’s clear she won’t be able to outlast the massive yokai. In the forest, Rikuo comes to Yuki-Onna’s rescue, and shows some impressive skills even in his human form. Things get really heated when Rikuo tracks down the yokai responsible for the attacks, but we’ll have to wait for volume 3 for the conclusion of that battle.
Another entertaining volume from Shiibashi. Previously, it was unclear whether or not Rikuo was aware of his other form, but he seems to become aware, and even show some resignation late in this volume. With fourteen volumes out right now, personally I think it’s a bit early for that turn of plot, but we’ll see how it plays out. The humor this volume comes from Kana and Yuki-Onna. Yuk-Onna is being her normal, master-worshiping self, but Kana sees it as Yuki-Onna putting the moves on Rikuo. Kana’s feelings are becoming more evident as she watches, flabbergasted, Yuki-Onna serving her master like she has always done. This will certainly be an amusing plot line. Less desirable, at least to a female reader, is the extensive outdoor spa scene, in which Yura and two female classmates bathe naked at night, and then must escape from/fight the yokai in nothing but a towel. It’s rather silly, it’s clearly pandering to the series’ male audience, and it goes on for about twenty-two pages. The inner struggles of the Nura clan aren’t what I’d categorize as “intrigue,” since there’s really not much mystery to it, but that doesn’t make it uninteresting. They all have their own motives, and certainly Gyuki’s motives have some interesting substance. Definitely looking forward to more volumes of Nura.
Title: Hyde & Closer
Author: Haro Aso
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volume 4 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2008 by Shogakukan in Japan, April 12, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, comedy, fantasy
Shunpei Closer is not exactly hero material. He has low self-esteem and can’t manage to excel at anything. So, why, then, is he mysteriously attacked by a powerful sorcerer? Well, it turns out that Shunpei is the grandson of the famous King of Sorcerers, Alsyd Closer, and a rumor has been spreading around that a sorcerer can gain the power of Closer by defeating Shunpei and eating his heart. Fortunately, Shunpei is not alone. To protect his grandson, Alsyd sent a magical doll, a teddy bear imbibed with his own powers named Hyde, to tutor Shunpei in the ways of magic. Shunpei has been training and fighting off sorcerers, but also making friends and gaining more confidence in himself. Now friends with fellow sorcerers Shindo and Pacwa, and his classmate Tatsumi, Shunpei finds himself gaining another new friend after he defeats the sorcerer Ana. As Shunpei and his friends go about their normal lives, studying for exams at school, Shunpei comes across two large men trying to kidnap a little girl, and he rescues her. The girl, Kanna, is a foul-mouthed, adorable little orphan child who lives in a church filled with other orphans, on land desired by a mysterious man who will stop at nothing to acquire it. When Shunpei and Tatsumi arrive at the church with Kanna, they are surprised when a tough-looking sorcerer suddenly attacks Shunpei. The immensely strong Kazan fights with a metal automaton named Desmond at his side. Desmond is able to shoot out springs that can attach to machines and control them. Just as things are looking bad for Shunpei and Hyde, the fight suddenly stops, and Kazan realizes it was all a misunderstanding. The land shark trying to attain the land they live on is also a sorcerer, and Kazan mistook Shunpei for this person. Shunpei and the surprisingly kindly Kazan become fast friends, so when the sorcerer Abumiya arrives to fight Kazan for the land, Shunpei arrives to help the battered Sorcerer and protect the children. After the battle, Shunpei confesses that Abumiya was after him all along, and tells Kazan about the rumor started by the “Watcher in the Window.” Kazan happily agrees to lend his aid to Shunpei’s battle. Shunpei’s going to need his help sooner than later, because when he arrives at school the next day, he finds it in chaos. The buildings are exploding, everything is on fire, and the students are running and screaming for dear life. A bizarre looking doll with several pairs of scissors for hands is attacking everyone and everything. But when Shunpei arrives to protect his friends, a window appears in midair, and Shunpei is face to face with the “Watcher in the Window.” The shadowy figure reveals the true reason Alsyd has been missing all these years, and the reason why he started the rumor about Shunpei’s heart. He wants to draw Alsyd out so he can gain access to an extremely powerful curse item, capable of destroying the world. As Shunpei’s resolve strengthens, Hyde steps in and unleashes his full powers to stop the “Watcher in the Window.”
For something I thought was going to be awful, Hyde & Closer is actually fairly entertaining. It’s not something I would feel remorse about not continuing, however, as I didn’t grow attached to the story or the characters. If it was more of a magic oriented manga rather than yet another battle manga, I might be more interested. But for something that is about battling sorcerers, there’s remarkably little that could be considered of a magical nature. At least not magic of a high fantasy sort. In fact, the actual sorcerers in the manga don’t do much at all. The dolls do the majority of the work, at least from what I’ve seen in this volume, while the sorcerers provide some support. Really only Kazan seems to fight his own battles with his bare hands (literally, I might add). The art is sharp, though the style is nothing unique for its genre. It’s usually pretty easy to follow the battles, which is nice, except for a few scattered panels. There’s not a lot of depth in the overall story, though each of the characters is unique and has a solid background.
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Review copies provided by Viz Media.