Title: Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan
Author: Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 4 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2008 by Shueisha in Japan, August 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Supernatural, action, comedy
Rikuo Nura is part human, part yokai, and the heir to the Nura Clan. Unfortunately, he can only turn into his yokai form at night, and by day is a relatively powerless human high school student. Due to his prominent human lineage, many yokai do not think he is fit to rule the Nura Clan, and other clans have begun to encroach on Nura Clan turf. So far, Rikuo and the Nura Clan have managed to rebuff these troublesome clans, and rather easily, but a clan from Shikoku has arrived with the intent of wiping out not only Rikuo, but his grandfather, the current Supreme Commander, and the entire Nura Clan. Their first big move was to attack the Supreme Commander himself, but unfortunately Rikuo’s classmate and onmyoji (exorcist) Yura Keikain was nearby. Thinking Nurarihyon to be an ordinary, weak old man, she insisted on trying to protect him, so the Supreme Commander managed to keep his secret, protected Yura, and allowed her to believe she rescued him. Back at school the following day, Rikuo is accosted by the leader of the Shikoku yokai, Gyobu Tamazuki, who declares that he will take over the town. This puts the Nura Clan on high alert, especially when yokai start attacking people indiscriminately all over town. They’re also sent into a panic when they realize the Supreme Commander is no where to be found, but just as some of the high ranking yokai try to take control of the situation, Rikuo steps up and takes his rightful place as the clan’s underboss, marking the first time he’s taken full control over the clan on his own. If Tamazuki and his clan were looking for trouble, they immediately land themselves in it, when one of the first humans they target is a friend of Rikuo’s. Torii, whose grandmother has been ill, takes 1,000 origami paper cranes to an old neglected shrine to Lord Senba, where the plans to ask the deity there to heal her grandmother. Unfortunately, Lord Senba has weakened due to neglect, and an evil yokai working for Tamazuki named Lord Sodemogi has come to take his place. Sodemogi grabs his victim’s sleeve, and when they turn around to see who is there, he curses them to death. Before he can cause too much damage, Kurotabo of the Nura Clan arrives and easily dispatches him. Even so, it might be too late for Torii, unless an old, weak tochigami (which is like, a shrine god, I think) can muster up the power to save her. Rikuo is, of course, furious, and concerned for his friends, but rather than hide away at home and regroup, he goes back to school, which allows for his guards to protect not only him, but his classmates. Tamazuki hasn’t given up, of course, and Inugami is the next yokai to attempt to take down Rikuo. Infuriated that a yokai is easily hiding among and even becoming friends with humans, Inugami’s hate-fueled grudge grows exponentially during a school assembly as he witnesses Rikuo’s popularity among his human classmates. A massive battle breaks out in the darkness of the school’s auditorium, as Rikuo and his guards do their best to protect the students and defeat the powerful and enormous true form of Inugami.
There’s not a lot to be thoughtful about in Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. There’s nothing here to really tickle your brain; it’s not a complicated or particularly thought provoking story. It is, however, very entertaining and a real joy to read. There’s nothing deep or philosophical here, though that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t have any depth. There’s a lot going on, and there’s a lot being set up. Rikuo has basically overcome his anxiety about becoming the next clan leader, and he’s pretty much accepted his duality, which is a far cry from the first volume or two where he entirely ignored the yokai within. I’m a little sad that this happened so quickly, though; I wish it had gone on a bit longer. However, now he’s having more trouble hiding his yokai side from his friends, especially when several of them are actively seeking out his yokai form. He also has a lot of work to do to convince his clan that they can provide terror while also protecting humans. Certainly other clans don’t have the same views, which is clear by the way they have been rather violently terrorizing (and flat out killing) the area’s human population. There are some within Rikuo’s clan that don’t really agree, either, but he’s managed to placate many of them already simply by exhibiting his power. Though…he really seems to be terrorizing other yokai more than humans (which is sort of the point of yokai in general). This makes me wonder if the entire series will just be Rikuo and the Nura Clan fighting off other clans who want control of their territory. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but some plot variety would be nice. But if or when they stop coming, or if there’s ever a lull, what is the clan going to do? Rikuo is adamant that no one directly harms humans, and certainly there’s plenty of terrorizing that can be done without physically harming anyone, but we haven’t seen much of that in the series yet. Nura is really a decent read, and it’s not a bad treat for the eyes, either, but I’m both concerned and interested in how the story will progress.
Title: Grand Guignol Orchestra
Author: Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 4 (of 5…nooooooo), $9.99
Vintage: 2010 by Hakusensha in Japan, September 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Supernatural horror, drama, zombies
At the end of volume 3, Duke Rhodonite was assassinated, and Lucille’s and his orchestra were immediately blamed for his murder. The unofficial Grand Orchestra is now on the run, wanted by the Crown, and doing their best to stay hidden. Unfortunately, while stopping to rest in a small town, Kohaku is recognized by a childhood friend. We are then treated to the story of Kohaku, which at last rounds out the histories of our main cast. His past isn’t as tragic as Gwindel’s (you know, with that whole using his own daughter as a guignol sculpture subject thing), but it’s no less dark and unfortunate. While touring with his father as a child prodigy violinist, Kohaku met the spoiled daughter of the local lord who wanted to possess his specially made violin. When he refused, she unleashed some caged guignols, who ended up killing his father. Kohaku was taken in by a local man, but his desire for revenge caused him to join up with an extremist revolutionary group. While he did manage to get his revenge, in a fashion, he was inadvertently infected by the guignol virus. Eventually discovered by Lucille, he was brought to the palace and experimented on, which saved his life and gave him his current powers. Even as his past calls out to him, once again another member of Lucille’s orchestra returns to the fold, as they all realize that their place is at Lucille’s side. It’s fortunate that they’re so dedicated to him, because he’s about to lead them on their most dangerous journey yet – right into the heart of the guignol mystery. Their first task is to sneak into the Le Sénat palace and find traces of the Black Oratorio’s existence. As Lucille and Gwindel make their way inside, Eles wonders off and accidentally finds herself right in the exact wrong place she should be – a personal chamber of one of the members of Le Sénat, Lord Richter (oops). Lucille’s plan doesn’t go exactly as planned either, however, as he and Gwindel find themselves caught by the three other Le Sénat members. In exchange for Eles’s life, Chancellor Meerschaum commands Lucille to travel to the extremely dangerous Gulvaria Wilds, an area filled with guignols that is said to be the origin point of the virus. Gwindel and Lucille get quite the surprise while there, but they do manage to locate the Black Oratorio. Unfortunately, while Le Sénat claimed they wanted the book to take down the Queen and stop her genocidal insanity, the many years of extended life have caused Meerschaum to snap, and all she wants is eternal youth, making her no better than the Queen they claimed they were trying to stop. The others, specifically Richter, realize that perhaps their time on the planet is over, and that they should turn over the fate of the world to the youths who will inherit it. With the Black Oratorio now in hand, Lucille and the others head towards the Queen’s palace. The Queen, however, knows that her brother is up to something, and with the whispering words of Cook in her ear, begins to lose the last bits of her sanity and lashes out at her people. Lucille, not wanting harm to befall Eles, the glue that has held them all together, and the one person who represents salvation for the rest of them, insists that she stay behind while he, Gwindel, and Kohaku go to face the Queen. Upset and feeling abandoned, little Eles does the unthinkable, perhaps ruining any chance Lucille may have had at beating or saving his sister Cordie. Spinel, assigned to watch over Eles, has some ideas of her own, though the sudden appearance of the blood lusting Berthier may turn quite a few tables.
Another excellent volume from Kaori Yuki. This is the penultimate volume of this series, and it’s clear things are heading for a major showdown. There’s just a few more secrets to unravel, a few more misunderstanding to clear up, and then the conclusion…and who knows what that will be! I can see many possibilities playing out, many of them not leading to happy endings, and most including at least a couple of deaths. The Black Oratorio holds the power of salvation or destruction, for the one who knows how to read it. We learn a little bit more about Lucille’s past in this volume, specifically the time he and Cordie discovered the source of the guignol virus, but perhaps most importantly, we learn the secret of their own creation. Lucille and Cordie, along with a host of others, are some sort of clones of the original Queen, and are meant to be here replacements. Nearly all of them died, however, and as far as Lucille knows, he and Cordie are the only surviving children. He learns in this volume, however, that his assumption might not be accurate. There are some nice moments with Eles this volume, who has continually served as a spot of pure bright light, illuminating the darkness of her companions’ souls. She is not cursed like they are, but her life is still marked by tragedy. However, there is a goodness in her that manages to bring a little joy into the lives of Lucille, Gwindel, and Kohaku that they didn’t have before. Her unshakable faith in them, despite some truly horrible actions in their pasts, continually pulls them back from the abyss. Certainly they are each using Eles in their own way, but it’s clear they value her and want to keep her safe from all harm. Lucille refuses to take her with them to the palace, worried that if they all die, no one will be left to protect Eles, and Lucille can’t bear for the young girl to die. This doesn’t take Eles’s feelings into account, however, and she is very hurt, thinking that they no longer need her. With the way things are going, they may need her before the end, and wish she had come along. When faced with utter insanity, it helps to have a voice of reason to pull you back to reality, which is a role Eles has already filled on more than one occasion. I’m really looking forward to this series’ conclusion, though I am quite saddened the next volume will be the last. However, that means Yuki is working on a new series by now, which means more awesome stories to read in the future.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.