Please don’t feed the demon!
What They Say
Ushio always ignored his father’s crazy tales about the temple where they live. All that talk of restless souls and vicious monsters are nothing more than stories, right? However, Ushio quickly rethinks his position when he discovers a locked basement with an actual demon pinned to the wall by a spear! The tiger-striped demon threatens to eat Ushio if he doesn’t free him, so Ushio naturally chooses to ignore him. However, when the demon’s presence starts to attract others, Ushio is forced to remove the spear to save himself. To make a bad situation even worse, freeing the demon, Tora, also bonds Ushio to the cursed Beast Spear, sending him on a journey where unspeakable dangers await. The battle is only beginning for these unlikely partners in the all-new USHIO & TORA!
Ushio & Tora has a lot better audio quality than many DVDs I have watched. Since this is a high production series with 39 episodes, more effort obviously went into making sure this series was worth buying.
While not Blu-ray, the video is still pretty decent for this series. Perhaps it’s because this is one of the newer series. There are some issues with the line quality of the artwork not being very sharp, but the rendering itself is still pretty good. I think because this series uses a lot of still frames and only animates scenes in layers, it makes the anime easier to render in a higher quality.
The all-black casing features cover art that is predominantly black and red. In the center of a swirling inferno, Ushio stands with his arm raised, finger pointing to the sky, while he holds the Beast Spear behind his back with the blade angled down. Tora, his yokai partner, is in the background at the top. The title is above Ushio. Meanwhile, the back is split into three parts. The top part is white and gray with the blurb and Ushio holding the spear, the middle is red and has screenshots from the series, while the black bottom has the video information in white text.
While the background design doesn’t changer from disc to disc, featuring the same flaming background with the same menu selection on the right, the character on the left is different depending on the disc. Ushio, Tora, and their friends are all featured on the menu at least once.
This has a surprising amount of features. Clean openings and endings, Japanese promo videos, and Sentai trailers. Since this spans across 8 discs, several discs will have a new clean OP and ED because the songs and video changes every 12 or so episodes.
Content: (Please note that this portion of the review may contain spoilers):
Ushio & Tora is probably the most conflicting series I have ever watched. The story starts off with typical high schooler, Ushio, arguing with his pops, who leaves to go on a vacation immediately after lecturing Ushio about the ancient Beast Spear that their family has protected for generations. Ushio then meets the demon Tora, who has been locked away underneath his grandfather’s basement. Tora cannot leave the basement thanks to the spear stuck inside of him. Surprise surprise. The spear pinning him to the wall is the Beast Spear. He tries to convince Ushio to pull out, but he isn’t successful—at first.
He eventually succeeds when Ushio’s two friends are attacked by strange yokai that look like floating fish… kinda. Anyway, Tora promises to help Ushio get rid of the yokai if he removes the spear, which Ushio does, but then Tora attacks and tries to eat him—only to be fended off by the spear, which has transformed Ushio into a long-haired anime protagonist. This scene was very tropey. Given that most shounen anime heroes grow really long hair when they become powerful badasses, it felt like they were going for a Yu Yu Hakusho or DBZ theme. This doesn’t detract from the series, but it was something worth noting.
The relationship between Ushio and Tora is easily the highlight of this series, as they go from hating each other’s guts (Tora wants to eat Ushio but can’t because of the spear, and Ushio doesn’t trust Tora because he’s a demon) to becoming trusted comrades in battle. Like most shounen anime, the friendship between these two takes a long time to develop. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it barely developed at all until the very end, though I think that’s mostly because the dynamics between them only change slightly every few episodes. With each arc of the series, the two continue growing closer as comrades, which ultimately culminates at the very end into a very typical shounen brotherly bond.
This series has a convoluted plot with a number of twists that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. Moments like the episode where Ushio and Tora went back in time to discover how the Beast Spear was made worked very well within the context of the story, but the super big plot reveal toward the end that finally shows us Tora’s past did not, especially because so much of the previous content directly contradicts what we learn. While I feel the series did an overall good job with their twists and reveals, there was still a lot that could be improved upon.
While the relationship between Ushio and Tora is one that I can appreciate, the half-assed romance is not. With a sort of but not really harem subplot between Ushio and several other girls, the romance feels like this strange aside where they wanted to have a romantic plot line, but they simply couldn’t be bothered. What’s more, not only did the romantic harem subplot never really get its feet off the ground, but out of all the girls chosen, the one they go with is the most antagonistic toward Ushio. He and Asako are always fighting, always arguing. I don’t know why anime directors think having the MC and his love interest constantly bicker like children is romantic, but to me, it was just annoying. It’s even more annoying because aside from feeling incredibly forced, nothing really happens in the end. In fact, the romance was so inconclusive that I’m not sure why they bothered wasting screen time to develop what little of it they had.
Another big issue I have is the lack of development with Ushio. He never really changes. While this is a very standard shounen trope (Naruto and Fairy Tail have similar characters who never seem to mature), a lot of the mainstream shounen anime at least allow their characters to grow stronger. Naruto learns his jutsu. Natsu gains new attacks through the power of friendship. Goku gets a new level of God Mode Super Saiyan. It never really felt like Ushio became stronger until the very end of the series—and by then I didn’t care as much. What’s more, Ushio cries a lot. I don’t mind that, but every time something happens, he becomes overly dramatic and sad. After so many episodes of something happening that causes Ushio to burst into tears, I became pretty desensitized to the story in general, to the point where watching Jei Me throw herself into a forge and sacrifice herself had literally no effect on me.
If there’s one thing to be said for this series, it’s that it has a very shounen feel. Naruto, Yu Yu Hakusho, One Piece, Bleach… this anime feels like a shorter version of those, which is cool, and it certainly holds a similar appeal to all those anime. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. The good is that it hits the sweet spots that people who love shounen anime enjoy. The bad is that only someone who loves shounen anime will really appreciate this. A lot of the “darker” aspects of this story are too dramatic, thus making them feel less mature and more like teenage angst.
Ushio & Tora is a really mixed bag for me, which I think is due to growing older. While some tropes of shounen anime present in this series appealed to me, there were other tropes that did not. I wasn’t a big fan of how every situation was overly dramatized and ended with Ushio bawling his eyes out because “that’s so sad!” At the same time, I do like Ushio’s characterization in general. I just feel like he should have matured a little as the series progressed. As a final aside, this is definitely a series that shounen fans will enjoy. It’s not over 100 episodes, but it’s longer than the standard 12, so you have more content to watch. It has a solid and conclusive ending as well, which is more than I can say for a lot of standard 12 episode anime.
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Running Time: 975 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i
Aspect Ratio: 16×9 Anamorphic
55″ Class AQUOS HD Series LED TV LC-55LE643U, Xbox 360 DVD player