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Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan – Demon Capital Collection 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Nura Demon Capital 1The peace established after the Nura Clan’s victory over the rebellious Shikoku yokai faction in the first season is wiped clean from the face of both the human and yokai worlds in Ukiyoe Town after the arrival of two strangers looking for Yura the Onmyoji. The name said strangers so ominously drop as their reason for showing up, Hagoromo-Gitsune, leads Yura away by the leash of her responsibilities to Kyoto, where Rikuo will shortly follow since that same name also resurrects memories of his father. But first, Rikuo must train and further flesh out his Night Parade of 100 Demons.

What They Say:
NURA: Rise of the Yokai Clan continues with this action-packed season based on the hit Shonen Jump manga. Peace has returned to the Nura Clan following their victory against the Shikoku yokai, but things do not stay quiet for long. Ryuji Keikain, brother of Yura the Onmyoji, arrives in Ukiyoe Town bringing dire news: Hagoromo-Gitsune, the great yokai who was once stopped by Supreme Commander Nurarihyon, has returned! The Third Heir Rikuo Nura must now travel across Japan to gain new powers and allies in order to face down his most powerful enemy!

The Review:
Audio:
Both the English and Japanese tracks are presented in Stereo 2.0. Sounded great through headphones and speakers alike.

Video:
While the series was originally broadcast from July through December in 2011, the first half of the Blu-ray release of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan – Demon Capital seems to suffer from some noticeable grading during fades and scenes with stark bright/dark contrasts. Luckily, this flaw is not ubiquitous and only serves as an irksome, stubbornly sporadic hiccup. This collection comprises 13 episodes, with episodes 1–8 on the first disc and episodes 7–13 (plus special features) on the second disc.

Packaging:
The standard BD keep case has single-sided graphic insert and two hubs for as any discs. Front cover art features Night Rikou in a red and black kimono and Yuki Onna (Nura Clan) in usual attire holding sake saucers. Back cover features Itaku as well as several scenes from the episodes contained within the set as well as all the usual disc information.

Menu:
Unlike those of the previous sets, the menu screens for this set breaks the silence with a very minimalistic drum beat and only subtle, if any, animation. A static shot of an interior room is offered as background for disc 1, while disc 2 features an empty street scene with softly pulsing lights. Navigation options for Disc 1 are Play All, Scene Selection, and Set Up. Disc 2 adds Extras. All selections are accomplished onscreen via pop-up menus rather than navigation to another screen.

Extras:
Art Gallery ups the ante (slightly) from previous releases by including not only Production Art and Key Art selections but a shot of the Japanese poster, Japanese booklet covers, and commercial bumpers (eye catches). Unfortunately, Key Art has all of four frames. Likewise, Production Art, while still beautiful, is very limited in quantity compared to previous offerings. Japanese Trailers cover Nura, Tono, and Kyoto Clan versions, and Okage presents a series of chuckle-able shorts. Unlike previous sets, Viz Media previews encompass much more than the Neon Alley promo. (Be prepared to Naruto, Nura, and Bleach your heart out.)

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the Supreme Commander back at the Nura compound, the series wisely shifts its focus from using the stress of internal clan politics to define Rikuo’s dualistic nature and allegiances to using a personal grudge to grow Rikuo as an individual and yokai leader. The previous season deals with (and resolves) Rikuo coming to terms with his blood’s balance, while this season is more about others coming to accept Rikuo for who and what he is through his actions.

As a wonderfully plotted bit of transition between seasons, the first episode starts off with a flashback to the announcement of Rikuo’s nomination as the Third Heir as well as the circumstances under which Rikuo first transforms into his yokai form. This summarized origin story stems from the recollection of his change in guardianship after his father’s murder, which just so happens to synch up to the present with the arrival of two onmyoji (Yura’s brother and childhood friend) who reveal a new yokai threat: the resurrected Hagoromo-Gitsune is advancing on Kyoto.

Lady Hagoromo-Gitsune leads a notoriously powerful group of yokai, known for devouring human livers, as they try to take back the capital of Kyoto, from which they’ve been sealed out for some 400 years by Hidemoto (the 13th Heir), an onmyoji. Several of the 8 seals maintained at key temples and castles to prevent a yokai invasion have already fallen in quick succession. Yura is called back to Kyoto to help her fellow onmyoji by her brother and friend, and Rikuo starts to train and gather his own forces (pledged or otherwise aligned) to avenge his father and help his friends.

Aside from theme, this season distinguishes itself from the previous one via structure. Flashbacks lasting an entire episode or two periodically punctuate the main story to flesh out characters or world history or both. Because of when these historical interruptions occur and because they are often stand-alone episodes, the flashbacks do not detract from the pre-established, relaxed sense of development purveyed by the series thus far. Instead, each self-contained flashback has its own pace and helps contribute to the dramatic tension and depth of the larger story, which advances seemingly unhindered. The sense of completeness, instead of breaking up the main story more often to tell but fractions of moments, also helps propel an already enthralling tale.

That tale is one of self-discovery—primarily as a warrior but also as a leader—via vengeance and vigilance. It’s not how, as some characters will claim, Rikuo steps out from behind the protective reach of his guardians but rather how he acknowledges his own weaknesses that make his development so delicious. In Rikuo, there is the shadow of wisdom, of knowing one’s own limitations before going into battle as well as the humility which comes from a knowledge and acceptance of history. Simultaneously, there are still bits of the brash child he is as well as an almost endearing arrogance about how he carries himself when trying to persuade others. These dynamics shape a leader, and so, leveraging their influence, Rikuo adds to his Night Parade by charm and deed.

As a lovely surprise and quite a nice touch regarding structure, Yura’s development parallels Rikuo’s path. Both fledgling fighters, who exhibit great promise but have yet to begin to tap into their full potential, begin training at roughly the same time, come to master their distinctive powers (maybe a little too easily), and win over allies through their capabilities both on and off the battlefield of fear. Heck, Rikuo and Yura even share a common antagonist.

There were only one or two yokai in the first season which could be considered creepy, but Lady Hagoromo-Gitsune, the main antagonist for this season, is downright scary. This fox in maiden’s (schoolgirl) form exudes a calm, cold, and confident vibe every second she’s on screen, whether it’s a sneer at the camera, a careful cut of freshly prepared liver, or the joie de vivre with which she advances a bloodthirsty pack of yokai towards Koyto. “Oops, I accidentally killed him myself,” is one of my favorite lines, because it portrays her absolute indifference towards life so well given the context of the scene. She’s also capable of touching artifacts that yokai cannot, which aids if not totally enables, her group’s march. So there’s something about her that reflects another theme: that of not being one thing.

While the effect of the unknown complement which comprises Lady Hagoromo-Gitsune is clear, her composition is not. This stands in contrast to Rikuo, of whom the composition is known but the benefits thereof are not. There’s also an onmyoji, Yura’s teacher in fact, who wields a demonic blade and fuses with it to take down a greater threat than could be dealt with as onmyoji alone. All this blurring of lines contributes to characters looking at personalities and actions rather than appearance. This affects Rikuo on many levels through these twelve episodes and points to the relevancy behind his blood ratio.

Conversely, another thing worth noting is how this installment of the series employs characters as types of yokai as opposed to associating a type of yokai with a singular character. Thus when Rikuo travels to Tono Village to train, he encounters another (differently drawn) Yuki Onna, another kappa, etc. There’s only one Gashadokuro, though, but it’s AMAZING … if only a little goofy. Despite or maybe because of the contrast of some needless CG face shots and ludicrous voice acting, the animation of the gigantic skeleton crawling through the gate in one scene sent shivers up my spine. Speaking of animating yokai, I’d be remiss to not mention episode 7.

Those hoping to see Awashima in the buff will be disappointed; the materials provided to VIZ Media by the Japanese licensor were those of the original Japanese broadcast version (source). So, um, if you’ll pardon the vulgar pun: tough titties. If it helps, at least the steam used to censor Awashima’s naughty bits is tastefully and seamlessly blended into the hot springs environment. Instead of focusing on what’s not there, though, take the time to notice some of the attention to detail in depicting the yokai extras (non-main characters) this season. Same goes for wood grains and textures in buildings in select scenes. Whether it was an increased budget or more dedicated direction, viewers should be very grateful to Studio Deen.

Other things for which gratitude should be given: the refreshing lack of The Kiyojuji Paranormal Partrol, a little bit of playful embarrassment about the dine-and-dash nature of the Nurarihyon (which becomes pertinent later), and, aside from all I’ve gushed about already, did I mention the refreshing lack of The Kiyojuji Paranormal Partrol? Also, the OP animation and song, Hoshi no Arika by LM.C, is my favorite of any season of the series thus far.

In Summary:
If you’ve been watching Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan up until this point, there’s definitely no reason to stop. The series continues to groom Rikuo as the heir apparent, and all that effort forms a solid, believable base for his behavior and actions in these episodes. Due to the steady pace set by the first season, Demon Capital can also take advantage of flashbacks to deepen relationships, be they familial, romantic, or professional, as well as leverage pauses to increase dramatic tension without detracting from an enthralling viewing experience. The series has done an excellent job defining a world unseen within a world that resembles our own and continues to do so with even more detailed yokai and more fully realized characters. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan ~ Demon Capital ~ is currently streaming over at vizanime.com if you, like me, cannot wait to see what happens in Kyoto!

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery, Omake, Japanese Trailers, Clean Opening

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

Released By: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 28th, 2014
MSRP: $54.97
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 40” LED 1080P HDTV, Panasonic Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080P, Sony 5.1 home theater system.

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