At a first glance, Studio Deen’s Nurarihyon no Mago is exactly as the titles says: the story of Nurarihyon’s grandson. When the whole shows has passed, though, we can see that in reality, it is a story filled with mythology and legends and it can even teach us something if we’re interested. It does have its flaws, naturally, but as a whole this is a very enjoyable mythological anime with a hint of romance.
You should read with caution as I do spoil a lot.
Although the English title of the show is “Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan”, I am still not able to grasp the meaning of this “rise” thing in this title and will therefore use the original Japanese name for the show. Sorry if it bothers you, my dear readers, but I don’t understand how could this show be about a “rise” when the Nura clan has had its greatest moments before the days of the grandson.
Anyway, the story revolves around the 12-year-old (13 as the story advances) Rikuo Nura. He is the son of Rihan Nura and the grandson of Nuraryhyon – the greatest of the clan, who had once been able to unite a horde of monsters under his power. Rikuo’s life is not an easy one as his mother is a human being who cannot understand youkai enough and help her son with his monster-issues when he has them. On the other hand, his grandfather is a great leader and a famous, fearsome being whose name makes even the worst of enemies’s heart skip a beat from fear.
Nura’s father is dead. He has been even greater than his grandfather, but has died young as a result of a curse placed on the Nura clan by the Haguromo-Gitsune. This curse is also the reason why every next child in the clan has less and less youkai blood in its veins. One side of the curse is that the members of the Nura clan cannot have children with other youkai. As a whole, she has cursed the entire clan to die out one way or another.
Thus, the young Rikuo, a boy who lives an ordinary human life during the day, going to school with his friends and even participating in a youkai investigating squad (a silly group of students who are mostly scared of the abnormalities than interested in them)! During the night, initially when needed and afterwards when called for, he turns into the new Nurarihyon – an extremely strong, but still ignorant about most things youkai. Mind you, both sides of this young Rikuo are human protectors and he would always try to save people if he can.
As I have finished telling most of the story, the main line of the show, I can now start dismembering it and saying all I have to say about it.
As a creature that comes to the human world first in folklore and mythology, I myself am very interested in others as me and every anime or manga that depicts them. I was very happy to watch Nurarihyon no Mago for this purpose. For explaining the show, though, we will need a short mythology lesson. You can skip it if you’d like…
This said, I can return to criticising…
Having to turn folklore into a documentation of a sort is always a tricky thing. There will always be something that is not right according to some people. Well, some of us should learn (yes, I include myself here) that folklore varies and changes with the different areas and stories might even rename the main character while they travel from one side of the country to another.
Nurarihyon no Mago, the anime is definitely a good adaptation of Hiroshi Shiibashi’s manga. It has the drama and doesn’t ruin a thing. It’s one of these adaptations that would more likely make a person want to read the manga than never see a thing related to it again.
On the other hand, the story itself has some flaws – first of all, and mainly, there is an absolute lack of decisions in this anime. I am not comparing to a manga, novel or the original creator’s thoughts here. Rikuo never actually makes a choice – he knows that he has to do something, in the anime – it’s never explained why. He just does things and there is a certain lack of excitement that is needed when someone decides to suddenly challenge the worst enemy that he could possibly think of.
Graphically speaking, there is hardly anything bad I can say about it. Though, I should note that the main characters (and even the reoccurring secondary ones) are a bit too pretty and it might irritate some of us (I sort of am annoyed with it). Bishounen Nura clan and even most of the youkai (bi-seinen in some cases) sort of make things not as folkloric as they should have been, but this is a critic for the original creator, too.
As a favourite character, I would have to name the Gyuuki. He’s always teaching the young Nyrarihyon the Third and trying to let the Sandaime actually get things himself, without having everything on a silver plate… sometimes he even overdoes things, but that’s what a boar-like monster should be at the end of the day!
Another thing that amused me was the idea of having a sleazy, slippery youkai such as the Nurarihyon a leader of a Hyakki Yagyō (百鬼夜行; lit. “Night Parade of One Hundred Demons”). I am quite displeased with the fact that Nura Rikuo’s (the Sandaime Nurarihyon) horde was collected mostly by his father and grandfather and he didn’t need to find and convince them himself. On top of that, he got one single new member himself – a samurai who was supposed to be guarding the heirs to his late master’s clan for eternity and just gave up when Rikuo’s night form asked him.
As a whole, though, I loved the show. It’s not something that would stay with me until the rest of my life or even for the next few decades, but as a whole it’s a really pleasant depiction of legends and an enjoyable shounen anime. I am definitely reading the manga because of it.
Images: (C) 椎橋寛／集英社・奴良魔京