Ushio to Tora – 04

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While the success of Ushio & Tora isn’t at all surprising, it’s certainly gratifying.

I said a couple of days ago that Gangsta was the best new series of the season, but the thing is, Ushio to Tora is so flawlessly executed that it’s hard to make the case against it.  In a sense, one could almost look at this as a comparison of seinen vs. shounen, even at the risk of coming off a bit snobbish.  Gangsta is a quintessential seinen adaptation from a great seinen studio that would have seemed at home airing 20 years ago; UshiTora is a quintessential shounen adaptation from a team of shounen legends that would have seemed at home airing 20 years ago.

Each of these shows epitomizes what’s best about their demographic.  Maybe the additional subtlety and layering of the one elevates it above the other – as I mentioned while reviewing Hunter X Hunter (many of whose staff and cast work on Ushio and Tora) that was really a seinen dressed in shounen attire, the best of both worlds, effectively unique in offering the depth and poetry of a great seinen while deconstructing shounen tropes and traditions.  But against any but that ridiculously high standard, Ushio and Tora stands as a great shounen, and this as an unassailable shounen adaptation.

The thing about UshiTora is, it’s just so damn much fun.  This is the summer show that leaves me wanting the next episode to begin as soon as the current one ends, because its energy is so infectious and it’s so beautifully executed.  And we’re really just scratching the surface here, with the plot barely starting to unravel and a laundry list of great seiyuu poised to join the series in coming weeks (including Hisoka, Gon, Chrollo and Knov among others) and the relationships only now beginning to take shape.

An important one of those begins to form with this week’s story, which starts like a classic episode of Doctor Who (or maybe the cult sci-fi film hit Five Million Years to Earth).  A road crew is digging up a giant rock called the “Keystone“, much to the dismay of a local Ojii-san, who warns them they’re messing with things meant to be undisturbed.  Turns out the Keystone is a remnant of an incident in the Meiji Era, when a local shaman named Hizaki Mikado (Orikasa Fumiko) sealed a group of youkai called the Hitouban (a Chinese demon that’s effectively a giant floating head) that had been terrorizing the local populace.  Released, the Hitouban munch on the road crew and then head off in search of revenge against their jailer, Hizaki Mikado (not realzing of course that as a weak human, she’d be long dead).

Another classic setup just like last week, no question about it – and again, it’s the brilliant execution that makes this episode a gem.  I really love the interplay between Ushio and Tora here – the former accuses the latter of the crime, and we see that Tora does have a certain honor to him (he’s willing to eat humans, but doesn’t care to be called a liar).  The furious Tora then heads off to the city to build his strength by dining on the locals, only to be mystified and dismayed by the trappings of the modern world like cars, glass, wristwatches and perfume (“Why are there so many people?!” indeed).  This is really funny stuff, with a great performance put in by Koyama Rikiya.

The hook here is that Hizaki Mikado looks just like Mayuko, who may or may not be her reincarnation.  But before the Hitouban stumble across her in town, Tora does – and he’s smitten by the fact that she’s a deliciously natural girl who disdains makeup and jewelry.  This is a fortunate circumstance for Mayuko, despite his stated intentions to dine on her – is Tora merely protecting his lunch from rival youkai who’d eat it first?  Is Nyanko-sensei?  Well, who knows – but whatever the reason, Tora does battle with the Hitouban (who include Menthuthuyoupi himself, Tachiki Fumihiko), and with a little assist from Ushio the youkai are destroyed and Tora has to settle for a fast food burger for lunch.

It’s hard to do justice to all that in words – I think you had to be there.  It may sound like pretty standard shounen, but the commitment and sincerity here is so infectious that it makes Ushio & Tora mighty hard to resist.  I like the developing character relationships very much, and it’s nice to see Mayuko becoming more involved – I think she’s an extremely likeable girl, and I sense that she and Tora are going to share a certain bond that grows from the events of this episode.  It’s all just grist for the mill, more reasons why I can’t wait for the next episode to start.  And any series that can leave you with that feeling is in pretty good shape.

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  1. U

    Waiting for the summer check-in. It has become my tradition to start the season only after it

  2. H

    Expect nothing less from the director of Ippo!

  3. s

    One thing that I'm asking out of curiousity here – considering that the anime obviously won't adapt the entire manga, but you're enjoying things so far – do you intend to read the manga stories that won't be be adapted as the anime airs (or afterwards)? I started reading it recently since I couldn't wait, and have to admit that there are quite a few stories that probably won't make it but are still pretty fun.

  4. Certainly not while it's airing, for obvious reasons. I might do so after, as time permits.

  5. e

    Funny you mention the Quatermass movie… as browsing BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas and related pages the other day I ended up on this . I think Tora would agree they smell the same.

    The psychic Meiji era lady might be Mayuko's reincarnation or possibly even a (forgotten?) blood relative/ancestor. It just does not seems casual she pops up right after we got the origin story of Ushio's family and the bloodline/powers/mission tied to the samurai with the demon spear last week. Speculah: Mayuko has latent psychic powers of her own possibly – one clue: in the ED we see Ushio&Co. included the spear as colour coded sentai squad-style XD. If the two girls who are each other's foil are gonna partecipate in demonic battles Mayuko being a pink ranger of the spiritual variety makes sense -.
    Not so much speculah: Mayuko and Tora are so going to become chummy. He definitely has a thing for her delicious natural beauty after all :p. And she gave him super special*food. Food is love, people.
    *see point 3) below

    Fun bits for me, Tora's reaction to the trappings of modern civilization included of course:
    1 – Ushio is too tough for demons to handle, both literally and figuratively… ditto on his clothes. They don't made them that good anymore.
    2 – Clothes II (related): that leather bag of hers must be of excelent quality to survive the ordeal including traction and friction against warped metal rods :,D
    3 – She clutched and protected that hamburger bag in the face of mortal perils and even if that meant basically no use of both her arms while running for her life. Must have been awesome Japanese burgers… truthfully the best ones I've tried were at a MOS Burgers shop (hence Japanese franchising) in Singapore so she might be on to something 😀
    4 – last but not least, the toilet ambush in the beginning was mean. MEAN.

  6. m

    Each episode raises its dramatic and epic scale, I still loved episode 3 more but this one is so comically on-point (kudos to Tora).
    Coincidences aside, when bad things happen, the two girls (or either one) are always involved. SHOUNEN, sigh, you always need a damsel in distress.
    Though I like how Ushio is a practical hero than a needless Marty Stu. His first concerns were always for his two girl friends before thinking of saving the world.

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