Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Nura Rise of the Yokai Clan Review

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It’s time to look at an action manga that I hadn’t heard of before I started it, but it’s evidently more popular than I realized. It’s always good to meet an action title that is pretty high tier while also being fun. In many ways, this series reminds me of Bleach. It has its weaknesses, but manages to be a fun ride.

The world is filled with humans and yokai. The humans are unaware of these beings aside from a group of yokai hunters. The Yokai essentially own the world as each group has a territory. Some yokai are evil and some are good. The series revolves around the Nura clan, of which Rikuo is the rising leader. His grand father runs the organization for a little while, but Nura (Rikuo) quickly embraces his role as the leader. Rikuo’s job is to stabilize the region and keep his demon group at the head of the pack. They like to scare humans and have fun, but in peaceful ways. There are many yokai who want to hurt the humans so Rikuo’s group has to keep them in check. Rikuo is only 1/4 yokai though, which can cause him issues. He becomes a yokai during the night and stays human by day.

The first main arc deals with Haggoromo as she bands together a group of villains to take over the world. Their master plan actually involves giving birth to an incredibly powerful demon, but they are destroying dozens of earthlings along the way. Nura naturally can’t let this stand so his group gets ready to work. Unfortunately, his minions have their doubts since Nura is part human and his abilities are far below that of Hagoromo’s, but a little training can go a long way!

Seimei is lose on the world and that is the plot for the last arc. Interestingly, the author decided to throw in a bunch of new villains as well. So, aside from the Seimei plot, we have some villains who want to revive Sanmoto and decide to cause havok in the streets. They challenge the heroes to a game. The villains will try to destroy as many people as they can and the heroes have to destroy them to prevent the casualties. The game of cat and mouse will certainly have high stakes! Still, the heroes can’t be distracted from their true objective…stopping Seimei!

Since this series is of a decent length, we have a very colorful character cast. I’ll quickly discuss most of them and then write about the series as a whole. Let’s start off with the main character as that makes sense. Rikuo is the main character and he’s certainly one of the better leads that I’ve seen in a while. By day, he starts out as a timid protagonist who is in a little over his head when it comes to leading the large demon group. Luckily, he slowly starts to believe in himself and by the end he has come to accept his demon blood. This way, he can fight during the day or night, but in the daytime he will still be a lot weaker. He was a fun character, but his night time version is naturally the real deal. The difference between them is a lot like Yugi and Yami Yugi. The night time version is simply more intense and he’s the true fighter of the two.

Night Rikuo’s abilities are second to none and he continues to prove himself as he goes up against many incredibly powerful fighters. Towards the end of the series, Rikuo unlocks his attack mode, which was a great transformation. He was already very self confident and sure of his abilities, but now he was even more open about this. His transformation into an Ichigo/Kirito character was complete and he went on the offensive more instead of strategizing and waiting for an opening. With his speed, it makes sense to press on the attack as often as possible. Rikuo is one of those main characters who doesn’t come along very often so you always want to really remember his appearances while you can. He’s simply hard to top!

Tsurara is one of Rikuo’s main allies and she is always by his side to protect him from Rikuo’s many enemies. She has mastery over ice and this has helped her against many fighters. Unfortunately, her abilities do not increase very often so she is outmatched against the later enemies, but Tsurara still does her best to help out when Rikuo is in a pinch. Unfortunately, she has a subplot where she likes Rikuo, which does make her distracted at times, but luckily the series has Rikuo keep her in the friend zone. It’s always good to have allies, but Rikuo can’t afford to be distracted anymore than that.
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Yura is one of the main supporting characters who is not part of Rikuo’s group. She is with the Onmyoji group, who are humans that fight off the yokai. As such, she is wary of the yokai even though she gets along with the heroes. She develops from a relatively weak heroine to one of the strongest heroes in the series. Yura was a likable character to be sure and from the three heroines she is in second. She can be a little too distrustful of the yokai at times, but they are Yokai after all.

Kano is another one of the heroines and I got her mixed up with the other two quite a bit during the beginning of the series. They just look very similar, but the artist did a good job of differentiating them as the series went on. Kano is not quite as interesting as the other two characters because she never gets to contribute to the story. I don’t believe that she had any important moments in the series and the author didn’t know what to do with her. She was simply another friend to add to the yokai watch group. Giving her some spells or power would have been cool.

Rikuo had some other friends as well, but they didn’t really contribute to the plot. Technically, they helped out as one of the friends tried to prove Rikuo’s innocence to the world. Still, the author seemed to have just added them for the pre arc so that we could learn about Rikuo and then they were ditched. It doesn’t help that the one shot stories involving them were never that great and none of the friends were very likable. At most, they were passable, not bad characters, but not good ones either. Thanks to their small role, it shouldn’t matter to the reader too much unless one really dislikes them.

Nurarihyon is Rikuo’s grandfather and he gets a lot of hype for being the clan’s ultimate leader back in the day. His skills were incredible and it’s heavily implied that Rikuo has still not surpassed him. This is essentially confirmed during the very ending as Nurarihyon is quickly able to revert back to his prime for a few minutes. In that time, he effortlessly defeats one of the big enemies and almost gets to fight the main villain before his transformation expired. We don’t get to see him in his prime a lot, but at least the leader backed up his hype this way. Finally, we had an old man who was actually pretty decent in a manga. Typically the author tries to make that kind of character unlikable.

Rihan is Rikuo’s father and he couldn’t get outshined by his two relatives right? Rihan is extremely powerful as well although I think it’s safe to say that he has been surpassed. He had a rather tragic and sudden ending because he simply didn’t see the blow coming. Nonetheless, he was still a very powerful figure back in his day and he helped the Nura Clan to reach levels of honor and greatness that lasted a very long time. He was a likable character even if he slacked off a lot. Rihan could have held his own series quite well since his adventures were fun, but his flirting tendencies made him a lot less enjoyable than Rikuo.

Aotabo is the power hitter of the group. Unlike most Shonen series, some of the characters are tough from start to finish without any real power ups. That’s certainly very impressive even though it also means that a lot of plot hax will present itself when necessary. Aotabo just forgot about his true powers until he needed them. He’s a nice guy and certainly means well. While Aotabo may not have the “cool” factor that most of my favorite characters have, he makes up for it with his heroics. Aotabo is a very loyal comrade who you would want to have by your side.

Typically, Aotabo’s partner was Kurotabo. Kurotabo has a plot twist involving his origin, but it wasn’t too iffy and it certainly didn’t change the fact that Kurotabo is a good hero. I was never too impressed with him, but his technique of summoning unlimited blades is very handy. He believes in being very stoic and honorable, which are always good qualities in a fighter. As one of Rikuo’s main subordinates, Kurotbao is naturally one of the stronger warriors. He’s another class act.

Finally, we have Kubinashi of the main squad. He uses strings to fight and his head floats above his body instead of being on it. He dances around the line between villain and hero for a while, but he ultimately decides to stay on the light side. I’m glad that he made the right decision, but he still isn’t my favorite hero. His abilities are certainly very lethal. I am glad that he doesn’t back down against the other group of Yokai that arrive with Rikuo once the hero’s training was complete. Those guys were certainly very full of themselves even though they proved to be a little weaker (debatable I suppose) than the main guys.

Zen helps Rikuo get the others to trust him early on. Zen sees himself as one of Rikuo’s closest allies and really tries to help him out during dangerous times. Unfortunately, he is quite weak so there’s not always a lot that he can do. Still, he’s a nice guy. Rikuo also has a group of friends who like to go outside to look for Yokai. They are essentially filler as they never help to make a true difference, but every hero needs some friends right? They certainly could have been worse although it’s safe to say that I never really liked any of the friends.

Gyuki mentors Nura for a little while. He doesn’t have much in the way of super abilities, but his fear is very powerful, which allows him to stand his ground against any opponent. He gives Rikuo a hard time, but he never gets too exaggerated in his training methods and stands by as a loyal ally in all of Rikuo’s fights. I respect his abilities and he was a good mentor. Finally, we got a mentor who didn’t act like Jiraiya or Master Roshi for a change. I definitely give Gyuki kudos for that. The guy never got to fight all that much, but he still left an impression.
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Itaku is one of the yokai that Rikuo brought back after his training. There are other members of the team, but most of them don’t get any real development anyway so I didn’t feel the need to include them. One of the members had her own fight where she faced her fears in a maze and managed to win. Beyond that, it was Itaku’s show. His personality is that he’s a very strong warrior who bows to no one. He considers himself to be stronger than Rikuo for a while and even at the end of the series he tries to take on some of the strongest villains. He is powerful and his fear is certainly real, (Offensively of course. He’s not afraid of the villains) but sometimes his boasts could be a bit much. He is good, but Rikuo is undoubtedly better. Itaku was certainly Rikuo’s rival and while he is no Sasuke, he’s still a good ally to have.

Hidemoto is an onmyoji from the olden days. He is revered as the strongest one of all time and he certainly lives up to this as he manages to keep his spirit alive for decades. Hidemoto is crucial in the final battles of the series and he gives the heroes a lot of advice. He’s a very quirky character, but not in an annoying way and you certainly can’t say that he doesn’t have personality. Moreover, he treats the whole situation like a game, which is a nice change of pace from the other characters at times. It is too bad that he couldn’t physically show up, but that may have made him a little too overpowered. As it is, he served as a nice mentor figure.

Tamazuki was one of the first villains of the series. I barely even mentioned him, but he ended up having a large role in the climax. That was surprising, but maybe he was fairly popular back in the day. He isn’t very skilled as he lost to a pre arc Rikuo, but as the Shonen system works, he grew much stronger. His illusion abilities are his bets bet to winning a match, but when he loses control, he can also dish out a lot of damage physically. He’s the kind of character who could have definitely become a fan favorite had he appeared more. As it stands, I did like him more once he returned to the series.

Hagoromo had one of the more tragic stories as she is really not allowed to have a happy ending. In her first life, she is betrayed. In the next one, she is mind controlled into betraying her father. Then she finally gains her freedom back and sees the light, only to be confronted by a villain who is more powerful than her. She is certainly a likable character and one of the better villains, but if would have been cool if she could have beaten the final boss on her own. It would have been quite the twist! Hagoromo was a fun character to have in the series and she seemed to be a very nice person before her world turned upside down. It would be hard to surpass her as the best villain and there is only one antagonist who I like more than her in this series. Without Hagoromo as the end boss, the big arc would have been less exciting.

Tsuchigumo was my favorite villain in the series and it is easy to see why once you start reading the manga. He is like Zaraki and many of my other favorite characters. He loves to fight and always believes in a fair fight. Tsuchigumo doesn’t care about what is really going on, he just wants a piece of the action so he fights both villains and heroes. While he is immensely powerful, Tsuchigumo is surpassed as the series goes on, but he never backs away. He ends his role heroically and he was my favorite villain by a long shot. I always like this “Hungry for honorable battle” kind of villain and I am glad that Shonen Jump continues to use the trope for a character.

Seimei is the ultimate villain and his powers are leagues ahead of the other opponents. He has the classic scene of snapping Rikuo’s sword in half with ease and he can fly. This guy looked incredibly powerful when he first appeared. He may not have been quite as impressive when he returned, but his power level was still high. His mistake was hiding out for a while, which let Rikuo power up a lot. By the time Seimei had returned, the heroes were ready. I don’t actually like him and Seimei proves himself to be a very untrustworthy fellow. He is a villain so it comes with the territory, but he certainly could have been more likable. Ah well, at least he had a really good design, which stood out. You could easily mistake him for a DBZ villain and Seimei has the feats to back it up.

Encho is one of the random villains who entered the fray towards the end of the series. He can use his voice to make tales come true, but he is not much of a fighter. Encho is one of those villains who doesn’t have much of an overall plan as he just wants to watch the world burn. Certainly a generic figure in the grand scheme of things. Sanmoto was the leader of the group and he was treated as a big shot. I can safely say that he did not live up to the hype though. Sanmoto’s true form is huge and not very maneuverable. It didn’t take a whole lot to ultimately stop him. Seimei really outshined this guy.
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Raiden is the only member of the villain group who was actually likable. Unlike Sanmoto’s other men, Raiden didn’t rely on cheap tricks in order to win. He attacked Rikuo head on and gave the hero quite a fight. If Rikuo hadn’t unlocked his new form, it likely would have been game over for him. Raiden was a very impressive fighter and he was one of the best villains in the series. The Raiden name is still being held up quite well.

Kidomaru was one of the higher ups in Seimei’s organization. While he appeared to be a normal human, his abilities were very impressive. It was surprising that he never got more development as it seemed like he was going to be an important figure before he was written out of the action. He was a decent villain although, very two dimensional. Who knows, maybe it was for the best that he stayed a background character. It is a role, which works for some characters.

Mamiru is one of the onmyoji and his role was always that of a very minor supporting character. He can certainly fight as he has thunder abilities, but he never got to do anything that was too important. He is another character that the author just seemed to forget as time went by. He seems like he would have ended up as a fairly heroic character had he gotten more development. Mamiru was usually likable when he was on screen. Unlike Mamiru, Ryuji was a major supporting character in this series and he was a fun hero to watch. He strongly dislikes Yokai, but he grudgingly works with Rikuo and the others once the stakes continue to rise. He has good reasons for disliking them, but I was glad to see that he was reasonable about that. Ryuji is actually not very powerful so all of his fights revolve around strategies and simply outsmarting his opponents. It can be a bit much when he is fighting a very strong opponent, but his water attacks are no joke. This was definitely my kind of character and he almost could have been thought of as Rikuo’s rival if that angle had been played up a little more.

That was a lot of characters eh? The series made it to a little over 20 volumes so the cast was of a fairly good number by the end. By and large, I’d say that the series did a good job with them. There was a good amount of likable heroes and villains in the series, which is always important. Rise of The Yokai Clan did have some issues with where it wanted to go in terms of the story and plot, but I’ll mention that a little more in a second. First, I want to compare it to a certain all star title.

The series has a lot of similarities to Bleach. Rikuo is like Ichigo and the actual vibe of the manga carries that serious, yet intense vibe that Bleach had. The art is very different though. While Bleach’s art is serene and calm, Nura’s can get rather heavy with the ink. It gets to the point where you will sometimes be unsure of exactly what just happened. You will just know that it must have been something epic! This is particularly the case when the battle involves Rikuo in one of his super forms. The author really wants to show how intense the battle is. You’ll likely remember that Ichigo also gets a lot of those moments over in Bleach if you have read that title. Tsuchigumo is really similar to Zaraki and there are more similarities as you read the series. That’s a good thing as you should always model yourself after the best if you are planning to draw on some inspiration. Of course, there’s another reason for why Rikuo gets so many great shots in the series.

The heroes all fight using their fear to entrap the opponent. Fear is naturally associated with darkness and shadow so it makes sense that it would look that way when the fighting gets started. The fear battling is a pretty nice twist. It’s also another way to say “Aura” as it works just like the ki in DBZ, but it’s still a nice way to put it. There certainly aren’t many series that can say that they’ve tried this approach. It works quite well alongside the yokai theme. Since fear is essentially your power level, it’s a way to power scale the various enemies. Don’t worry about a lack of feats though because we definitely get a lot of those. One villain is able to destroy Kyoto with a single swing and he was not yet at full power.
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As the series is about yokai/demons, it can be a little dark at times. Not too dark as it’s still Shonen, but the series tries to incorporate horror elements whenever possible. I’m certainly more inclined to enjoy the action segments, but I suppose that this makes sure the audience gets to stay on its toes. There’s also a decent amount of comedy involved as well to keep you from crumbling when the long action parts draw near. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many people who would want to read a series about nonstop action even though that sounds epic.

That being said, this is what I was talking about when I said that the manga lost its sense of direction at times. It will go from a really epic sequence of fights to a lot of one shot horror/comedy stories that just feel like filler. It’s the kind of series where you will actually feel like you are just reading side stories even though they are part of the main adventure. It’s like if the Pre Arc of Naruto occurred after volume 10 or so. That can throw you off your rhythm a little and I’m convinced that the author was stalling for time or simply forgot what happen.

After the first big arc with Hagoromo, Seimei escaped with his henchmen. The heroes head off to recruit more fighters and get stronger, but then a new villain group comes in to waste some time. Aside from one member, I didn’t like any of these new villains and they felt like a distraction. Seimei finally showed up with his group of villains, but they almost literally come out of nowhere. It gives us another chance for some epic fight scenes, but the arc between them was simply odd. The game of “tag” was definitely unique though and it’s where we got Rikuo’s new form so I’ll give it props for that.

The middle arc also deserves major kudos for most of the fights taking place within a city. Also, not just any city, but a modern/urban one so there were many tall buildings. That’s still my favorite environment for a fight and they are extremely rare in any manga. So, it was certainly a lot of fun to see and that was the highlight of the arc in the middle. Seriously, try to count on one hand how many times you’ve seen a big fight take place in a city area that had large buildings. It’s tougher than you may think! (Also, it doesn’t count if the fight is down to Earth like a simple hand to hand fight or a gun battle. I’m talking Superman level threats here!)

The series can definitely remind you of Gamaran a little in the sense that it can get very violent at times. I’d say that it is certainly more intense than Bleach, but still not as over the top as Gamaran. Luckily, it is mostly relegated to the combatants aside from a few scenes where spectators get involved. One of the most unfortunate stories involved a demon who trapped a lot of people in a dream world where they were stuck for many years. That’s certainly a skippable one as it was filler and doesn’t add anything to the story. One of the main villains also needed to eat a lot of livers to get her strength up, which could certainly be gruesome. It’s a dark action to be sure, but the series typically doesn’t dwell on these moments.

Luckily, we still get a lot of great action scenes that don’t rely on such tactics. The yokai can survive many lethal blows, which is why it can get a little violent, but typically not in any unfortunate ways. Nura’s battles are the ones that you will want to focus on as they are always close range encounters. A lot of the other main characters use ranged attacks, but there are other close combat fighters to be found. Hand to hand or sword to sword is my favorite kind of fight, but the versatility can be really fun as well. The sheer speed at which the characters are fighting is amazing and using fear to dictate how the battle goes is certainly a smart way to go about it.

You’ll be glad to know that there isn’t much fanservice here either. We get one of those generic hot spring scenes, which are always a little dicey, but at least it isn’t a regular occurence. The main villain also spends a decent amount of time with nothing on as she goes into a purification place to prepare for her offspring of destruction. The series is careful not to actually cross the line and show anything, but this would certainly count in the fanservice department. It may seem like a little more than “not much” but remember that this is from the full 21 volumes. There was certainly some around, but it was really rare and the series never gets bogged down by it.

As you can tell from my paragraph on the main character, the series has some similarities to Yugioh. Unlike Yugioh, they aren’t completely different people, but it was hinted at early on. Rikuo’s night form is able to talk with the day one and you would think that they are different based on how they act. It seems like they simply are the same person, but the demon blood represents the night form while the day acts as Rikuo. By the end of the series, they have essentially come to terms with each other and both forms are capable of engaging in combat. It’s the same guy, but with a split personality. I wouldn’t have minded if they had ended up splitting by the end, but that would have been a little sad for the day version since he wouldn’t have been very important to the series anymore.
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Overall, Nura ended up being one of the best manga series that I have finished in a while. It did stumble into some issues which kept it from being a 9, but an 8 is still more than respectable. This guy could certainly hold his own against other Shonen Jump All Stars. He’s not quite ready to defeat Ichigo quite yet, but with his various super forms, most of the other heroes would be fair game for him. The art was solid and we had a good group of characters. Naturally, the fight scenes were incredible as well. You really couldn’t ask for a more complete manga and I would certainly be open to a sequel at some point. If you’re looking for a solid action series and don’t mind some violence (Around Bleach level or slightly higher, but nothing too graphic) then this is definitely the title for you. Get ready for a solid adventure and one where you can finally root for the Yokai instead of the humans. (Although there are heroic humans as well.)

Overall 8/10

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