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Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan Season 1 Part 1 UK Anime DVD Review

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Nura Rise Of The Yokai Clan Collection 1 UK DVD
Nura Rise Of The Yokai Clan Collection 1 UK DVD
Didn’t think would like this too much when I read the plot, but for some reason despite being rather stupid at times, this was surprisingly enjoyable, a likeable and understandable lead male and a lot of imagination was brought to the table to make this a rather pleasant surprise.

What They Say :
Rikuo Nura, is 3 parts human and a quarter Demon, lives in a house of spirits with his grandfather, The current clan head of the Nura youkai. Rikou is set to be the next clan head, despite the fact he dislikes his demon side. He soon come to terms with his demon blood and decides to take his position as young master of the Nura house. However there are those who will certainly not allow it to be easy.

Audio/Video
Set in English Dolby Surround Sound in both stereo and mono, Japanese in standard 2.0 stereo, I was very impressed with the sound quality when it came to the English dub track – I had to reduce the volume a lot more than my standard set because it really shines through in both languages, even the Japanese track I had to reduce my standard volume. No issues with transition between audio and subtitles, whilst the video quality is also superb, supremely colourful and really is a wonder to watch (fullscreen effect) as one of the best shows visually as well with no issues with slowdown or pausing as audio wise I’ve seen in this regard. Quality.

Menu:
A 3 disc release, each of the menus has one of the main characters on the right hand side (Disc 1 Yuki-Onna, Disc 2 Gyuki, Disc 3 Night-Version Rikuo) each in a similar colourful menu format, with the selections on the top. It’s a little confusing as the selections are Play All, Episode Selection and Set Up(no extras) but it seems like the Play All option is almost not highlighted as seems to fade alongside the other two options being more colourful. In terms of use, no issues in terms of navigating, selecting and using, whether on the main menu screen or from the show itself, but nothing spectacular or eye-catching.

Extras:
There were no extras for this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan was another series I went into blind, and looking at the plot synopsis and initial look of the show I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it. It seems very typical of standard shounen jump series which I’ve seen a dime a dozen. Watching it however showcases that whilst it’s certainly not a series that screams to the top of the pile, it’s much more in depth than I expected, and the characters are a lot more interesting and fun than I would have given after a first glance.

The main character is a 12 year old boy named Rikuo, who has a quarter Yokai blood in him and is the intended third hair of the Nura Clan, a group of yokai(demons) who he is the grandson of the current head Nurarihyon. The clash comes early as Rikuo only wants to be a regular human, hanging out with friends, have romance issues, but he always gets involved with yokai no matter what, either from his yokai searching friends, or just from his own weird extended ‘family’. Whilst the first couple of episodes expose this issue, wondering about the future of the household, it also showcases that Rikou potential is infinite, as a few times in flashback scenes, we see him as a yokai in an adult form, handsome, strong and confident. It’s very split personality ish but as the episodes develop, he begins remembering more about transforming and this slowly affects his personality as well as he debates whether he should actually become the 3rd heir considering how many clans are after him as the Nura clan is a big deal in yokai terms.

The other characters are gradually introduced(human and yokai friends) and given more personality as well – in episode 3 we get the introduction of Yura, an onmyoji priestess who can sense the presence of Yokai, as well as the token romance interest in Kana, who whilst seems a bit of a tag along friend does have her own issues later on in the series both with a focus episode on a dream that she has about a yokai devouring her on her 13th birthday, and the fact she cares for Rikou, but is also attracted to his night form, not knowing the two are the same. This also brings in a few funny moments with one of Rikuo’s bodyguard yokai friends, a female yokai named Yukionna, but given the name of Tsurara when she joins them at school which leads to some amusing tension with Rikuo’s male friends combined with some implied jealousy between Kana and Tsurara at times.

The main juice of the series though is Rikou developing his powers and his concerns over wanting to just be a normal kid combined with his responsibilities over being the heir. When Yura and Kana are captured in one episode, he is able to transform to his night form, a rather bishounen swordsman with incredible skill, kind words but also biting words, who will protect and trust his friends, and dispatch his enemies. The first main arc involves a member of his own clan Gyuki, who sees Rikou’s wishy washy nature in becoming the 3rd heir as an insult to the Yokai clan and brings in members of his own clan to try and dispose him. So during a school field trip, Rikou has to make a lot of choices about growing up, protecting his friends, and a choice between responsibility and fun. Rikou becomes so badass in various scenes (when he saves Tsurara who was supposed to be protecting him) is a highlight every time.

Gyuki himself is actually a very sympathetic villain, hell, calling him a villain is actually tough, more misinformed antagonist – episode 8 reveals his past as a human and how he becomes berserk when some yokai kill his mother, and causing him to kill others – changing his name and identity. It leads to a story that he is defeated by Nurarihyon and how he became a part of the family, which leads to Rikuo having a good think about his stance on being the heir, which actually leads to a trial like scene where despite Gyuki’s warriors trying to kill Rikou and his fellow yokai and his human friends, he actually sees it as a way of being part of the clan and forgives him. It’s a strange way of showcasing growing up but it actually works, and I was really impressed that Rikou was not really your stereotypical male lead – the romance aspect is played down, he actually does mature a lot and he does have issues of being both a young boy and being part demon. It’s actually really refreshing and made me like Rikou a lot more than I was expecting.

I can’t say it’s amazing however – it is really silly at times. Rikou’s comic relief male friends whilst amusing just seem to be there for the process of yokai searching and whilst it does give Rikou more things to ponder about, considering the variety of yokai in Rikou’s family they could easily be unnecessary. Also, as imaginative and creative as the yokai are in the Nura clan, with the exception of Nurarihyon (who is epically badass in an episode when some yokai assassin try to kill him, he even makes himself seem like a weak old man when Yura helps him in a fight) and Tsurara, very few of them are actually used on the good guys side, you get some imaginative ones like the bird yokai and the rat ones on both sides, but as they aren’t really in it that much it’s hard to appreciate the creativity in the yokai creations. And to be honest, the real gel of the series is the main character which is Rikou, and he is really good as a character, but most of the developments he learns through himself. Much of the side cast, whilst fun, aren’t really used in terms of usefulness with him. Tsurara is almost like a clumsy yokai who seems to be more of a romance interest rather than a bodyguard, Yura is probably the best other character as she has delusions of thinking she is weaker whilst also staging potential conflict as a yokai slayer if she finds out about Rikou’s family, but even she is subdued and even has to be rescued more often than not. Kana’s one main episode seems to simply be as a jealous girl, and even stranger that she quickly seems to forget her crush on Rikou once she sees his night form, but once Tsurara is back in the picture, she’s back to being jealous. It’s a shame because there is so much potential for many of the characters, that whilst Rikou is doing a good job holding the series, it would be much better if some of these characters worked more with him.

It does end with a cliffhanger as Rikou finally accepts his role as the 3rd heir, which also means that the Nura Clan now gets even more trouble as a potential thorn in other clans. We are introduced to the character Tamazuki, who is the leader of a rebel clan and behind all the attacks after the Gyuki arc – it prepares you for the final episode of the arc…which turns out to be a recap episode. Oh well…

Despite that, it does actually leave you in suspense as you wonder what is going to happen. The best word I can give this show is ‘potential’. It is decent at least and very fun, but with the amount of designs and characters it has, this could easily be so much more. With 13 more episodes to go, they’ve got time for this new arc and hopefully the hints with characters like Yura and Gyuki suggest they can develop these well combined with the day/night versions of Rikou, the potential is all there to see, and this series definitely could be much better than I certainly expected.

Summary:
Nura is not quite a guilty pleasure because it is potentially a legit chance of being a really good series. The designs are great, the animation is lush, the colours eye-catching and the plot itself isn’t half bad. Rikou is an intelligent and likeable lead, the side cast whilst not fully developed have a lot of potential along with the stream of yokai, and whilst a lot of the times the show is quite daft, there is a lot of seriousness and back-story at times (Gyuki certainly surprised me) and whilst some episodes are far weaker, the overall potential is there to see to make this series from a decent one to a good one, to a great one. Definitely worth a shot.

Features:
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: April 8th, 2013
Running Time: 325 minutes
Price: £21.50
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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