A sequel to an underrated series actually stands out quite well as an excellent action series of the supernatural sort, because it manages to combine back-story that was hinted at in the first season, but now we get to see how everything became as it were, and the future development of Rikuo is going well and strong…
What They Say :
Rikuo Nura lives in Ukiyoe Town and looks like your typical junior high student. But unlike his classmates, he lives in an old, Japanese-style house full of yokai that serve him. Unbeknownst to many, Rikuo is the grandson of Nurarihyon, who is the leader of all yokai. Rikuo is regarded as the Third Heir of the Nura Clan, but he has yet to officially take his seat.
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.
There were no extras on this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I reviewed the first season of Nura just over a year ago, and whilst it was an action series, it caught my eye with some very colourful characters and unique designs, and the idea of clans of yokai fighting against each other, with a part human/yokai as a potential head of the family. Add the humour of fighting into everyday society and it was a nice, switch your brain off show. The second season seems to start off the same, but then we get the flashback of Rikuo’s grandfather, how Rikuo came to be, the villain from the past returns and Rikou having to choose his destiny – suddenly whilst the elements of humour are still there, there is a lot more in terms of plot and character development which may set this actually a much higher standard than I expected.
We immediately get a flashback of Rikuo’s father getting killed, and him then growing up under his grandfather’s tutelage, which leads to his grandfather announcing that his part human grandchild will be the heir to the Yokai Clan, which causes dissention in the ranks, but leads to Rikuo’s first time transforming into his yokai form. A standard flashback episode but it does lead up to a lot of back-story on Nurarihyon, Rikuo’s grandfather so it sets the tone quite well.
Back in the present time, Rikuo’s friend/potential love interest Yura’s two brothers arrive in town and like Yura are trained omyouji, who attacks a few of the Yokai clan members. It does lead to an inevitable moment when Yura discovers that Rikou is part yokai when her brothers fight him, with the mindset that all yokai are evil, yet when Rikou eventually does get the advantage, his blade he uses only works on yokai, which leads the family to have a slight change of heart, at least leaving him be for the time being, with Yura now in the knowledge which by the end of the arc, sets up some interesting questions.
The most interesting part of the release however is learning of Nurarihiyon’s past, the potential killer of Rikou’s father, and we learn about Rikou’s descendants properly. The woman’s name is Yoihime, set when the Yokai clan were coming into power, but you can see where Rikou gets his ‘all must be the same’ attitude as Nurarihiyon is quite a rogue to say the least – free admits he is interested in a human woman with a happy ‘does what he pleases’ attitude…but at the same time it is this energy which gets followers on his side. Yoihime on the other hand was a sheltered princess due to her healing powers and her father using that to his advantage. Nurarihiyon actually manages to sneak in, practically kidnap her to show her the outside world, but we get our true villains of the peace, the Kyoto yokai, or specifically their leader, a demon woman named Hagoromo Gitsune, who is seeking the livers of all princesses for her own energy especially as she is pregnant. It leads to Yoihimes’ capture as despite the misgivings of humans with yokai, Nurarihiyon assembles the troops to save her. It leads to a big battle, with working out how to beat Hagoromo, and it does as you can guess work in the clans’ favour, but with the possibility in the present day Hagoromo has returned, it returns to the present with Rikou now looking to embrace his yokai side and train so he can be powerful enough to face her return.
He has to learn how to embrace and become his ‘Nurarihiyon’ side, and he does that by training in Kyoto where Yura has also gone to train in her onmyoji ways at a village named Tono – here, he discovers his ‘fear’ ability, which is what differentiate all yokai in terms of their powers – in his case, the ability to mask his presence, able to repel many enemies. However, the plan of the Hagoromo group is to break the seals of various clans’ temples and take out skilled onmyoji, Rikou decides to bring his clan with him, realizing he will need all the help he can get. He does get some unexpected aid albeit unknowingly, when Yura returns to help out many of her fellow onmyoji in the temple seals along with her brothers, as attacked by an old ‘friend’ in Akifusa. However Yura showcases she has also become stronger with the only member of her clan to do a technique known as Hagun, allowing her to amplify her spirit energy and cause incredible damage, but she is unable to control it perfectly.
This does lead to my only major issue with the arc is the fact a lot of the new characters and villains, are not very memorable and quite forgettable, with the only two being Hagoromo, and the main general Hakuzozu, who fights with honour against Rikou that the fact even when he loses, Rikou doesn’t kill him and instead would prefer him to switch sides. A lot of the battles, despite the stellar animation and fight scenes, are quite forgettable due to the lack of the interesting characters, as the clans and spirit warriors haven’t been given any true back-story whilst the focus is on them, and not Rikou or Yura for example who have had time and back-story. Yuras’ brothers for example are very one-dimensional apart from one moment when it seems they at least give Rikou a chance, but outside of that, they are just there to give Yura some issues whilst make them look like badasses, yet they aren’t interesting enough with what they do have for it to work. It does however lead to some potential interest with the Yura clan working together with Rikou and company though.
Despite the above, the battle sequences as mentioned are well animated and there is a lot of creativity with the villains (the giant skull for example) – Rikou has to fight through wave after wave of them as well, and it hints there is a definite Yura/Rikou team up in the future. There is even some comedy moments with one of my favourite characters from the first season Yuki-Onna who obviously like Rikou and harbors some jealousy towards Yura, and am glad they haven’t forgot about the Yokai clan that Rikou is in charge of, as there are plenty of amusing moments from the yokai involved.
The main strength of the arc is the establishment of a true villain in Hagoromo Gitsune. I must admit when I first saw the scene of her literally sucking up the liver from a woman’s throat as her eyes dilute and she dies, even though we don’t see the blood or the chewing, it did actually scare me a little – the fact she is obviously eating them for her own energy and for her child’s, and then returns after defeat to take out Nurarihiyon’s descendant, she is a legitimate threat and definitely brings the fear out for you and the protagonists. Again, her minions not as interesting but there is still half a series to develop that. The real plus of this arc is seeing Nurarihiyon as a young man, and then his romance with Yoihime, who I wish we could have seen more of their romance because a princess not only been sheltered and not see the outside world, but to be thrust in the world of yokai, we sadly didn’t get much in terms of her reactions, because that would have been definitely fun to watch. I guess you can say the whole romance plot was pretty rushed (Nurarihiyon in the space of an episode and a half basically goes from ‘kidnapping’ her to asking her to marry him) as well, but it does appear they need to focus on the present with Rikou so it isn’t as badly timed as it could have been. The back-story is still interesting, seeing that the villain may be the spirit that killed Rikou’s father, and what role Yura has in this is going to be interesting at least.
The animation and music is great, and the combination of drawing and CGI works quite well – the flashbacks are well needed in terms of both Rikou and Nurarihiyons’ back-story, and the fact Yura knows means some potential conflict (she narrates episode 13 which was a recap episode, a disappointment to end the DVD set) means there are a lot of questions to be asked. However it finished at the perfect time, and despite the lack of interesting characters on the villains side on the whole, the main villain has been built and showcased well, and Rikou’s training as well showcases whilst he is learning, there is more he must do, and I am sure the show can take care of that quite well.
Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan continues to be much more than a guilty pleasure for me – it is turning into a legitimate good series with the addition of Rikou and his grandfathers’ past, the potential for revenge, a villain from the past coming for revenge in the future – whilst Rikou may also be seeking for revenge. Add to that the love interest now knowing his secret, the potential team up and power ups they have, it is shaping up to be an interesting finale. Whilst some of the plots are rushed and the villains’ generals aren’t very memorable despite the usual good designs, it is a minor hindrance to a pretty good series. So far, so recommended – and perhaps more so than the first season now we are getting into the main story.
Content Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: March 10th, 2014
Running Time: 325 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.