Rating: 4/5 – A Unique Way to tell a Fairly Common (to Anime) Story.
The anime/manga world is full to the brim with stories of high school-aged boys who have a secret destiny waiting just around the corner. From Bleach to Reborn, the shelves are well-stocked with tales of young men reluctantly accepting their role in the larger world around them. Because of this, the tropes can become fairly commonplace and might possibly bore any longtime anime fan.
Rikuo, the aforementioned boy in conflict, wants to simply live a normal life, but he’s a Yokai (demon) and is the perceived heir to the throne of leading the Yokai clan, or his faction of it. He doesn’t want the job, however. He just wants to be a normal middle schooler, and deal with the awkwardness of just growing up, falling in love, and passing his classes. Of course, the likeliness of this actually happening is pretty much zero.
What Makes It Worth Watching?
I’ve seen/read enough stories of this type that I’ll own up to not being over enthused about watching this one. I’m also happy to report that it pretty much knocked my preconceptions out of the water and kept me riveted through the entire 13-episode series on the two discs in this set. The animation is top-notch, particularly with the character designs on the many different types of yokai who populate Rikuo’s world. It was a real treat, during some of the big group shots, to pause the show and look at all the different monsters running around in the background.
Even great animation and artwork won’t save a lackluster story, but Nura delivers on that front as well. Rikuo has a strong cast of characters surrounding him. First, there are his schoolmates, generally your typical schoolmate chums but with one particular slant: they’re forming an “Anti-Yokai League” to first confirm their existence, then work to wipe them out. And they definitely suspect Rikuo knows more than he’s letting on about their existence. Next, there’s the Yokai themselves, who share a roof with Rikuo and his clan, and want him to take the mantle of leadership. The elation they feel when they believe he’s done this results in a party scene that had me grinning ear to ear. I can only imagine that it must have been a bear to animate but so much fun to plan out.
And of course there are the villains, rival clans who don’t have the semi-benevolent streak that Rikuo’s particular group has. While Rikuo’s group won’t shy away from a fight, they are not out to prey on regular humans the way other clans are. For the longest time there’s been a truce between all these clans…a truce that’s about to end.
As mentioned before, a lot of anime deals with treading on familiar ground, and telling a very similar story. The trick is in how the story is told, and with what kind of characters. I liked Rikuo, and I think new viewers will as well. He knows there’s a hidden demon-lord within him, and while he’s reluctant to let him out, he will when the situation calls for it, and with very little angst or hesitation, particularly if it’s to save one of his friends in peril. This first volume set offers enough of an intro to viewers that they’ll likely know whether or not they want to continue on with future stories, or perhaps jump over to the manga releases. Ultimately, it’s one of the freshest ways I’ve seen this story re-hashed in some time.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – firstname.lastname@example.org
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