Manga Review - Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Vol. 1

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, although released in February, has been a sleeper favourite of mine. Partially for its fun and easy to read story but also because it is about Yokai (妖怪)! Yokai are Japanese spirits/monsters/ghouls that can be as terrifying as a giant red-skinned monster or as confounding as a one-eyed umbrella.

Knowledge of Yokai has slowly permeated the Western world with the release of "Yokai Attack!" by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt, "The Great Yokai War" by Taskashi Miike and, of course, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan written and illustrated by Hiroshi Shiibashi.

"While the day belongs to humans, the night belongs to yokai, 
supernatural creatures that thrive on human fear. Caught between these worlds is Rikuo Nura. He's three-quarters human, but his grandfather is none other than Nurarihyon, the supreme commander of the Nura clan, a powerful yokai consortium. So, Rikuo is an ordinary teenager three quarters of the time, until his yokai blood awakens. Then Rikuo transforms into the future leader of the Nura clan, leading a hundred demons."

Raised by the top-dog of the Yokai clan, Rikuo Nura struggles to accept his yokai heritage. All he wants is to be "normal", the heir to a throne that he wants nothing to do with. On this level, Nura preaches acceptance. Not only for those who are different but also for those who feel different themselves. It shows that even the Grandson of the Supreme Yokai Commander is a normal kid who wants nothing more than to fit in. This is a sentiment that just about everyone can relate to on some level. 

As far as the story goes, it is very difficult to judge the entire series based upon a single volume. In a way, it is somewhat reminiscent of the timeless classic "Ge Ge Ge No Kitaro", a title which made its debut back in 1959. This first volume feels a little "paint by numbers" but generally speaking, many shonen series do. The first issue is the one that grabs the readers attention and affirms the status quo. In this instance it shows us that Rikuo Nura is a frustrated young kid with incredible untapped powers who is kept on a reasonably short leash by his Grandfather. He is bound for greatness and we see glimmers of an overwhelming potential, a taste of things to come.

The first couple of chapters do well to introduce our main characters and a host of different yokai. I hope that this continues through later volumes because, in all honesty, the mention of yokai was the selling point for me. Each supernatural entity is completely fleshed out both physically and characteristically. In fact, I actually feel that some of the secondary characters receive a little too much attention. At the end of volume one I felt as though I knew others better than I knew Rikuo Nura himself. That said, volume 2 bucks this trend and gives us a much better insight into the young man himself. Towards the end of this first volume we see our hero in a much more identifiable and horrifying setting, school. It will be interesting to see how the elements of political intrigue play out between rival factions and consumate ne'er-do-well's. 

The art throughout is of a higher standard than your general shonen fare with a cast of characters which is as diverse as it is frightening. Shiibashi-sensei has done a great job of utilising backgrounds to give a distinct feel to each setting. Although you don't sense it at the time and it may not be instantly prevalent, in hindsight you find that each locale is rich with distinctiveness. It is this kind of thoughtfulness that I appreciate from a manga-ka, especially when writing a shonen series that could have just been dismissed as a Kekkaishi rip-off.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is certainly its own beast and is shaping up to be a great deal of fun. I would recommend this for fans of yokai and also for parents of kids who might feel out of place. There is a great underlying message of acceptance and understanding that helps to elevate Nura from another in a string of boys books to something with a lot of potential. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Madman release the anime series which coincides.

The first four volumes of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan are available from Madman now. Volume 5 is available for preorder for release in November.

1 comments :

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22 October 2011 at 17:44 comment-delete

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