Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 25

By Hiroshi Shiibashi. Released in Japan as “Nurarihyon No Mago” by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

We’ve come to the final volume of this Shonen Jump series, and as it turns out I had not done a full review of it since the very first. That first review is sort of retroactively hilarious, talking about what was mostly a high school comedy about Rikuo trying to hide his yokai heritage from his friends while dealing with a minor love triangle. Now here we are at the end, and I don’t think we’ve had a volume that wasn’t basically either a giant battle or preparations for a giant battle since around the early teens. When you have a hero that can transform into a handsome badass, and a large cast filled with eccentric but fascinating supernatural creatures, no one cares about your human childhood friend. Sorry, Kana.


But of course the tradeoff is that, while I’ve basically enjoyed myself throughout the series, there’s been very little to talk about with each individual volume, hence why I’ve kept my comments to the Bookshelf Briefs. Even here, the first half of the book is basically the climax of the final battle, which is as you’d expect – the villain is convinced he’s won, but with the help of all his yokai companion, as well as a reformed villain or two, our hero pulls it out despite risking death (as does his grandfather, who actually meets his wife in “heaven” before returning as his time is not yet over). With everything won, we return to the (somewhat beat up) clan house, where a giant party proceeds to end the volume. Well, except for several side-stories to pad it out to a proper length – by the end of the series, Nura was running in ‘Jump Next’, a side-magazine, which allowed it to have its 80-page finales but also hinted it was being put out to pasture.

And it’s for the best, really, as I’m not sure how much more Nura had to give. It’s always been one of those series that was good but not great, and you can’t see the ‘Final Volume!’ at the back cover without thinking “Oh good”. As ever with Jump series, we’d had an escalating scale of villains, but with the last one basically being a creation of absolute evil, there’s nowhere else to go after that. As for the romance, it was the typical non-romance you get in Jump titles like these. There’s enough tease to keep Tsurara fans happy, and it’s implied Rikuo returns her feelings, but nothing really happens. In a world where we recently saw Naruto trying to pair people up and fail so miserably (I actually do like Naruto/Hinata, but there’s no denying that rushed ‘epilogue’ was pretty miserable), and where Bleach fans await the end of their series with dread and prepared outrage, this seems quite satisfying.

The cover shows us three generations of Nuras, which is good as honestly in black and white I can’t tell them apart, and they’re all smiling and showing off their badass poses. It’s a good cover for a series that has never been amazing or addictive, but more solid and dependable. I enjoyed reading you, Nura. Now… GET OUT!

Halloween Briefs

So, due to power outage, these aren’t on the regular Manga bookshelf site with last week’s briefs, and the MMF is actually long over. So just pretend this is still relevant.

The Manga Movable Feast dealt with horror, but most of the titles I’m about to talk about fall more under the realm of ‘supernatural’. They’re shonen and shoujo titles that deal with friendship, romance, etc., but happen to feature monsters, demons, or yokai in some way. This is, of course, not to say that they don’t all have the ability to scare in some way.

The one with the least horrific content here is likely Kamisama Kiss 5, which continues to be about a young girl who finds herself the god of a local shrine, and her vaguely romantic relationship with her familiar, sexy fox creature Tomoe. This particular volume in fact, is about removing the terror – no one goes to the shrine due to its reputation, so Nanami decides to hold a festival to entice people to notice the shrine is no longer run-down and creepy. There is a mysterious chapter where Nanami thinks that Tomoe has abandoned her and the shrine (which looks like a pit again), but it turns out to be a trick, and the majority of the volume is devoted to showing Nanami as plucky and never-say-die, and Tomoe as being aloof yet caring. The supernatural mostly is a spice here.

Much more scary, or at least with a vague tinge of unease hanging around it, is Natsume’s Book of Friends 9. The series is about a young man with the ability to see and control yokai thanks to his grandmother, and his attempts to balance out a normal school and family life with his desire to help free (and to a certain degree befriend) the yokai in his book. The stories tend to be drenched in yokai lore, and sometimes need a footnote or two, but generally dealing with monsters tends to be universal. We all know when a monster demands something or else she will do harm, and then gets what she wants, harm is going to happen anyway. There’s less school antics here and more of Natsume working with his own familiar, Nyanko-sensei. Who, thank goodness, is not a sexy fox creature. Things can get scary here, but this series gives more of a feeling of melancholy than terror.

Nura also deals with yokai, and is a Shonen Jump manga, so is not concerned so much with cute romance or finding friends as it is with awesome fights. Rikuo is still having issues with his leadership skills, and a lot of this volume continues to deal with the takeover of the town by a rival gang of yakuza… um, yokai. This volume in particular is very good at contrasting Rikuo’s caring and accepting nature, even of those who can’t stand him, with that of Tamazuki, who callously destroys his closest allies with a cruel word and a wave of his hand. It’s the difference between ruling by loyalty and ruling by fear, and this being a Jump manga, we know what will eventually win out. There are several good scary moments here, but I’d read it more for the Friendship, Training, and Victory myself. (Also, the Rikuo/Tsurara shiptease is really getting hammered on here.)

Lastly, there’s Vampire Knight 13, which despite the presence of vampires and demon hunters, is not so much horror in this volume as the political intrigue that it’s excelled in ever since Yuki came into her heritage. I’ll be honest, I think I preferred Yuki in the earlier volumes – despite trying to balance being prudent with becoming her own person, she still comes off as awfully passive here. There are a few scattered bits of action, and a scene or two of blood and gore (tastefully and sexily done, of course – this is LaLa Magazine, after all), but this is horror in the same way that Wilkie Collins was horror – romantic suspense horror with twists and turns and fitting into society turning out to be far more important than the number of people you kill. Normally I enjoy it, but I admit I found this volume a bit boring.

So, to sum up, it’s November 5th. Happy Halloween! Dress as Guy Fawkes!

Bookshelf Briefs pointer

For those who read my reviews by category (like me), I have reviews of Blue Exorcist 3, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan 4 and Kamisama Kiss 4 in this week’s Bookshelf Briefs.