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Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read
Nura Rise Of The Yokai Clan Collection 2
Nura Rise Of The Yokai Clan Collection 2

The Nura Clan, headed by Rikuo in the absence of his grandfather (the Nurarihyon or Supreme Commander), is under attack. The group known as the Seven Phantom Travelers, associated with the 88 Demons of Shikoku, vows to collect more fear than the Nura Clan from the humans in Ukiyoe Town by any means necessary and will not spare any of their members in the process. Supreme Commander’s absence means Rikuo must prove himself worthy of his inherited title by doing more than offering an oath of dedication this time around; he must lead his clan into battle and on towards victory. Will he be capable of garnering the trust of and unifying the clan to wield its members’ wildly disparate strengths as well-honed weapon?

What They Say:
THE NURA CLAN faces a new threat: the 88 Demons of Shikoku, led by Inugamigyobu-Tanuki Tamazuki! Tamazuki sets his plan in motion to weaken the Nura Clan by targeting their key source of power—the local deities of Ukiyoe Town. In the absence of Supreme Commander Nurarihyon, Rikuo’s resolve to become the Third Heir is put to the test, as he must unite the clan to face Tamazuki and his malicious weapon the Devil’s Blade!

The Review:
Audio:
Language options available for your listening pleasure include English and Japanese; English subtitles are available for each. Both are presented via a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track.

Video:
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan finished up its broadcast in December 2010. Given the recent release date, it should be no surprise that the series lends itself well to widescreen HD display. No production flaws were noted during the viewing of either disc. As I previously reviewed the DVD release of the first set, I will say the difference between that and this BD release is notable. Colors, especially in twilight/dusk, seem richer, and characters’ movements seem more fluid.

Packaging:
The standard Blu-Ray keep case showcases a single-sided slip depicting Night Rikuo and Inugamigyobu-Tanuki Tamazuki for the front cover. Various scenes and a couple yokai from the Nura Clan adorn the back along with all the BD information. Disc One (episodes 14–20) features black line art of Night Rikuo against a white background, while Disc Two (episodes 21–26) features Kana Ienaga in white line art on purple background.

Menu:
Disc 1 features a static picture of Rikuo in yokai form in front of a full moon with some sakura petals floating softly by in complete silence. Disc 2 features Rikuo in yokai and human form crossing blades with each other in a strong defensive stance amidst similar scenery. The only available options are for jumping right into the series, episode selection, and set up. Selecting episodes, set up choices, and extras is accomplished via a popup list instead of having to switch to a separate screen.

Extras:
Production Art (color and black-and-white) sections are lovely and, in some cases, show artistic progression. There’s the standard Clean Opening for those who want screen caps without credits in them or a pure viewing experience, and there’s also the original trailer. The included VIZ Media previews consist of the same, albeit impressively dramatic, Neon Alley promo that plays when the disc is inserted into the BD player. All extras are only accessible on Disc Two.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Picking off where the last collection left off, Rikuo simultaneously faces two opponents: the growing divide in his own clan, split as to whether or not Rikuo has the moxie or power to lead effectively, and the encroaching Seven Phantom Travelers who represent a rival yōkai clan from Shikoku. Unlike the previous episodes, however, Rikuo has made up his mind: no yōkai of the Nura Clan left behind … and no human either. He wants to protect everyone from everything, but as past events as well as those which occur within the span of these episodes prove, it isn’t possible to get what you want 100% of the time.

Having an enemy literally at the gate (and sometimes within it) makes just about every moment of these episodes, almost without reprieve, feel urgent. Ironically, it is the anxiety of those who comprise the majority of the Nura Clan, made aware of the dire situation by way of an intrusive and shocking attack on innocents, which gives this series the impetus it needs to make a statement about how knowledge of and faith in self conquers the fear of the unknown. After all, Nurarihyon is missing, and the clan is so segmented that even making minor repairs to the main gate seems an impossible task for supernatural beings.

Luckily and despite this fractured mentality, the antagonists surmise the Nura Clan as at least formidable due to their long history. And since “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” holds true, Rikuo’s questionable claim to his title of Third Heir, because of the Shikoku-based yōkai encroachment, at least has the benefit of the doubt from his clan in an “at least they’re not mutinying … yet” kind of way. Patience wears thin, however, as Rikuo fails to stop attack after attack on the Nura Clan and the local deities from which it borrows its strength.

A revelation regarding the latter and the opportunities thereby provided incrementally bolster support for Rikuo in subsequent episodes as he comes to the rescue of key Nura Clan members. Ultimately, Rikuo manages to secure a solid inner circle and, by extension (as well as some clever planning), the backing of the entire clan and then some via the formation of his own Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. (Take THAT, Grandpa!)

Where’s Grandpa (Nurarihyon)? What’s grandpa? He’s traveling the countryside with an anthropomorphized bit of fermented beans – a journey that lends to back story regarding the antagonists as well as the humor which alleviates the more tense moments. When Grandpa’s not available for such duties, levity is brought to the forefront by the interspersed activities of the Kiyojuji Paranormal Patrol, whose members are basically locked into a perpetual slumber party under the guise of a yōkai training camp at the Nura compound via the insistence of Rikuo (for their own protection).

While this lends to some decent chuckles and throwaway gags and mildly advances the plot regarding the growing friction between factions of the Nura Clan (by distinguishing the disgruntled), the situation fails to ignite the gasoline-drenched powder keg present. What’s worse is that the situation that reaps so much attention, that Rikuo spends so much time as a human and values his human friends so, is completely glossed over once the story starts rolling. There are several instances, after all, in which Rikuo dedicates his all to saving his human friends while constantly dismissing the pleas of his yōkai minions. But plot alone isn’t what moves this series.

It’s a relief that, in something as straightforward as a shonen title, plot progression isn’t always spelled out. Overheard banter furthers notions already in place to deepen the atmosphere of discontent. A decapitated jizo statue, a decimated shrine, and other visual cues reinforce theories posed previously (whether that episode of a few before). It’s unfortunate, however, that episodes which incorporate more panned stills stand out all the more painfully and in almost distracting contrast to those with more detailed and engaging fight scenes.

In dialog-heavy scenes, for instance, characters will often only be animated while talking and seldom even blink otherwise. It’s distractingly comical to watch a main character stare blankly in one direction until spoken to, then turn their head to answer, and then turn back to their previous pose. …and don’t get me started on the outright horrible and gratuitous use of CG for the sakura trees, the reoccurring train, or random people. It is the battles betwixt clan members, as well as the back stories and motives they provide and feed off of, that are the key to and provide the bulk of the pacing. As such, it is also only fair those scenes got the bulk of the budget.

Comprising the final battle, the last three episodes provide closure for confrontations from previous grudge matches betwixt members of the rival clans: water type vs same, crone vs. courtesan, etc. Due to the constant action, every character is dynamic. Even little touches like Rikuo moving out of the way of dueling factions whilst advancing with a death stare towards his opponent are crucial to evoke the reality of the scene. Other episodes go by quickly due to the same balance of solid storytelling as mentioned in the review of the first set, but these last few episodes seem to be over within seconds. Even outside of the denouement, any scene involving action is, as to be expected, quite gripping and even (at times) creepy…specifically any scene with Inugami as a flying wolf head. Even Rikuo’s “Fear of Nurarihyon” comes across astoundingly well given the simple stuttered animation of a shadow or even more minimalistic dramatic posture and stare.

In Summary:
While I’m not generally a fan of shonen titles, I find this an increasingly fun watch. The character designs, being based on yōkai, are interesting and way outside the norm. The action scenes are engaging and sometimes even legitimately creepy. The love triangle is an appropriately disposable distraction used for comedic relief, of which all instances are used sparingly and to great effect. The animation is not top-notch but gets it right where and when it’s needed. And perhaps the most convincing praise I can heap upon this title is that while I was legitimately content with leaving the series after half a season with my last review, I now eagerly await more!

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Langugae, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Color Production Art, Production Art, Clean opening, Trailer

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: VIZ Media
Release Date: August 20, 2013
MSRP: $54.97
Running Time: ~305 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 40” LED 1080p HDTV, Panasonic Blu-ray player, Sony 5.1 home theater system.

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