I had high hopes for Shonen Jump’s latest series, Nura, Rise of the Yokai Clan. Unfortunately, things don’t always go like you want them to. Find out why after the jump!
Written and Illustrated by Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media’s Shonen Jump line
Age Rating: T for Teen
Price: US $9.99, CAN $12.99,
ISBN: Vol. 1 – 1421538911
One of the things I dislike most about reading, to an extent, is the ways in which certain experiences disappoint you. For example, when I started reading Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, and I finished the first novel, Storm Front, I was certain that the entire series was going to be completely gangbusters. For the most part, it is, but some of the volumes certainly aren’t what I would call great. In the same way, I expected Nura, Rise of the Yokai Clan to be a pretty fun shonen book. The series was making waves in Japan, constantly hitting the BookScan results, and was made into an anime, so I had a certain amount of expectation for the opening volume. To be certain, Nura, as a first volume, is pretty mediocre. A lot of that has to do with its unimpressively slow start.
This is not necessarily always a bad thing. Some stories need a slower opening. One Piece does not hit its stride until the ninth volume, and Cross Game needed a good three volumes to get warmed up. Still, there is something to be said about the way these two series are structured. In Cross Game, the first three volumes set up a complicated cast of characters and give us one hell of a backstory. In One Piece, it is not as though the first volume is not interesting; the series just offers a great deal more in later volumes than in the first nine. Books like Alive: The Final Evolution and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan need a book to get you introduced to the idea of the rest of the series – just, unlike Nura, the introduction is interesting.
Only one thing is true about shonen manga, it is this; the main character has to be interesting enough to continue reading about, and I think that’s half of the problem here. Nura, Rise of the Yokai Clan meets this criterion only half of the time: the main character, Rikuo, is an absolute bore, and his second half, the future commander of the Nura clan is a powerful and enigmatic specter. In a normal shonen manga, this would be what we call the sidekick/main pairing, except in this case Nura has the perfect sidekick to stick with the perfect lead, but unfortunately they cannot exist together on the same page. Together, they make up a mess of a lead. Rikuo is both not that fun to read most of the time, and the times when he transforms, he is fairly… unspectacular. His yokai form is not very flashy, (generally he just kills things or drinks sake) nor does his transformation give us any really useful information.
The yokai of the series spice things up a bit, but really, if you’ve read any manga about yokai, you’ve seen this all before. The imps are ugly, the kappa are bald, and besides a few bad eggs, the yokai are more tricky in nature than demonic. Rikuo’s love interest is a diversion from the dull writing, but she’s not really a commanding presence on the page, and the exorcist who intervenes in the last half of the book is a pretty flimsy character.
The art of the series is also fairly uninteresting. I like the designs of the characters and the yokai, but the illustrating and use of screen tone is haphazard, and sometimes what is supposed to be an action-packed sword, blood, and guts-fest turns out to be a grungy ink-smear. Shading throughout the first volume is also fairly poor.
Certainly Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is not the worst shonen book I have ever read, but it does not impress me. I am not certain whether or not I am inclined to keep reading right now – I might let this percolate for a while longer before reading it in earnest.