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Ushio to Tora – 01

OP Sequence

OP: 「混ぜるな危険」 (Mazeru na Kiken) by (Kinniku Shoujo Tai)

「うしおとらとであうの縁」 (Ushi o Tora to Deau no en)

“The Fateful Meeting of Ushio & Tora”

That was a journey back in time, in more ways than one.

You’d be forgiven if you thought the premise for Ushio and Tora sounded like a cross between Inuyasha and Nurarihyon no Mago, but the fact is that Fujita Kazuhiro’s manga predates them both by a wide margin (it ran in Shounen Sunday from 1990 to 1996). It was a work both extremely popular and influential – it won the Shogakukan Award for shounen in 1992, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the elements of this series that show up in later work don’t do so coincidentally. In it’s day, Ushio to Tora was a big deal.

That said, I sincerely doubt that and list of properties likeliest to be adapted in 2015 would not have included Ushio and Tora. It had an OVA in 1993, but that’s it – and the name hasn’t exactly been on everyone’s lips since the start of the 21st Century. We do sometimes get adaptations that seem inexplicable, and sometimes they even succeed commercially – I’m not expecting the latter here, but who knows – and for both die-hard fans and the author himself (as well as bloggers like me) this show’s announcement was something of a lottery win.

It’s clear that MAPPA has decided to go full-bore old-school in adapting Ushio & Tora. When their parent studio adapted Kiseijuu, they kept the essence of the story while modestly updating the art and thematics. We may yet see a cell phone or Xbox crop up here, but the art at the very least is thoroughly loyal to the source material (and the age that birthed it). The series is going to run for three cours (with a break after the second), and Fujita-sensei is involved in the series planning. He’s expressed his desire to see the final arcs adapted, even if it means skipping some detail on the way – so expect to see an ending in-line with the manga’s when the show ends its run in Winter 2016.

The byline for this show is MAPPA, but the staff list looks like a Madhouse 20th reunion. It’s peppered with industry veterans like director Nishimura Satoshi (Hajime no Ippo, Trigun) and writer Inoue Toshiki. Many Madhouse staff through the Hunter X Hunter era are on-hand. In short, the genetics are unmistakable, and it’s evident in every frame of the premiere. Many shows try to do old-school, but UshiTora walks the walk – the character designs, the art, the music (both background and themes), and even the acting wouldn’t seem out of place in 1995. Anime veterans know that the medium was very different then, and I don’t know how well today’s audience is going to respond to a show so decidedly out-of-fashion in looks and tone. But it sure does take me back, in a good way.

The premise is classic (again, its familiarity a testament to how influential it was). Ushio Aotsuki (Hatanaka Tasuku) is the son of Fugen’in Temple, where he frequently brawls with his priest father Shigure (Fujiwara Keiji). Their relationship is vintage shounen, complete with a lot of shouting, punching and kicking – though the son giving as good as he gets is slightly unusual. Shigure beats his temple’s 500-year history fighting demons into his head, but clearly leaves out a few key details.Ushio is more concerned with art than demons (or sports, though he excels at them). Ushio has two female friends – tomboy Nakamura Asako (the very busy Komatsu Mikaku) and demure Inoue Mayuko (Yasuno Kiyono). Asako is openly tsundere for Ushio – Mayuko’s feelings are more opaque.

Things kick into high gear when Shigure goes off on a “training” trip to taste every delicacy from the Sea of Japan, and Usho finds a hidden trap door in the temple’s storage shed. Hidden in the cellar underneath is a demon (Koyama Rikiya) pinned to the wall by the Beast Spear – a cursed weapon Ushio’s father has told him about but never shown him. Only a human can remove it, which the demon suggests in no uncertain terms Ushio do – but his sales technique (“First, I’ll devour you”) could use some work. Ushio doesn’t fall for that, but when the release of the demon’s 500 years of pent-up miasma draws a huge flock of lesser demons into the vicinity, threatening Mayuko and Asako, Ushio and the demon – who he gives the name of “Tora” for obvious reasons – have no choice but to come to an uncomfortable arrangement.

Ushio and Tora wastes no time in jumping into its story, but to call the first episode the tip of the iceberg is a massive understatement – this is a massive story, with a complex mythology and vast stable of memorable characters. For me, this episode worked almost perfectly – there’s a bit of a whiplash effect at being jerked back in time stylistically, but once that wears off you realize the execution is absolutely spot-on. Fujuiwara and Koyama are just a taster of the cast of seiyuu legends who’ll be involved and they don’t disappoint, but Hatanaka is an interesting choice as Ushio – he’s a young relative unknown, though he sounds like the love child of Satoshi Hino and Kakihara Tetsuya. Ushio and Tora hinges on the relationship between the title characters, and I think Hatanaka and Koyma can pull it off. I certainly recognize this show isn’t going to suit everyone’s tastes, but if you like this style (which I certainly do) or are simply looking for a shounen refreshingly different from the current fashion, you could hardly do better.

ED Sequence

ED: (HERO) by (Sonar Pocket)

July 6, 2015 at 12:01 am
28 comments »
  • July 6, 2015 at 1:45 amstarqo

    I just looked up the lead guy, and it turns out, he voiced the main character of Yugioh Zexal, who also had a tsundere childhood friend voiced by Mikako Komatsu.

  • July 6, 2015 at 1:56 amBROOKLYN otaku

    the vibes…….LOVE IT!

  • July 6, 2015 at 5:26 amAmiluhur

    Damn, that was really funny, the funniest premiere of summer so far. From the beast Youkai comically begging to be unsealed, Ushio comically brawling with his Dad, he got mistaken for touching a girl’s chest, to hilarious chase scene when the beast youkai got chickened out and ran for his life from spear-wielding Ushio. This episode was a laugh riot from start to finish.

  • July 6, 2015 at 7:28 amjames

    Flawless premiere. Almost every aspect of the story screamed instant classic, not to mention the art was fluid as hell.

  • July 6, 2015 at 7:39 amzztop

    As Enzo said, the biggest concern is whether outright using the original manga art without modifications might hurt the show, given how most people are used to the softer aesthetic of today’s anime. The negatives have ranged from “rough and raw” to “downright ugly”.

  • July 6, 2015 at 7:40 amLord Friendzone

    • July 6, 2015 at 3:54 pmChika

      >Very 90′s in a good way. Reminds me of my childhood watching Inuyasha.

      …InuYasha came out in 2000…

  • July 6, 2015 at 8:35 amTrident

    Karakuri Circus adaptation next please, MAPPA.

  • July 6, 2015 at 9:16 amWorldwideDepp

    Ozuma – Aired in 2012 and is nearly the same timeline or even older. So Ushio to Tora is in the same boots as this “Ranma” anime

  • July 6, 2015 at 9:18 amWorldwideDepp

    @Ushio to Tora

    This Anime is “old school” fun. They also use not these New Age animations and stuff.
    Btw, the Background music when they are playing soccer…

    Do some old C64 freak knows it? “Outrun” music little bit modified :)
    Link to compare :) (I got you Background music-sensei)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEl7JuAI0nM

  • July 6, 2015 at 1:03 pmNaYa

    I am so excited to see this series see the light again. I really loved it back in the days!
    I really hope the later episodes don’t suffer from censorship because things get quite serious and brutal very fast.

  • July 6, 2015 at 1:57 pmvinnie

    I grew up reading this manga and all i can tell you is that my nostalgic-o-meter has been broken…

  • July 6, 2015 at 4:19 pmdaikama

    I don’t have any real nostalgia for the series (though I have read the manga). It is what is is – pure “old-school” shounen, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just depends on one’s tastes. I thought the anime did an admirable job with adapting the source material. Really did keep the same feel of the original work while adding the appropriate visual and auditory elements to “bring the story to life”.

    I’m not a huge pure shounen fan these days, yet there was something about this episode which captivated me a bit. Definitely in for another one.

    • July 7, 2015 at 1:19 pmHunter-Wolf

      It’s just good shonen, which is quite rare these days XD

  • July 6, 2015 at 4:35 pmgrayne

    i have read a bit of the manga – good classic shounen. art style bit old but story is pretty decent.

    be warned tho – it’s quite episodic (‘monster of the week’ kind of thing) at least at the beginning

    • July 7, 2015 at 8:38 amleokiko

      Except the author said they will cut down useless content to adapt the main villain’s story.

  • July 6, 2015 at 4:52 pmKanye

    Hakumen is one of the best villains of all time! One of the best villains of all time!

  • July 6, 2015 at 6:32 pmstarss

    Is anyone alarmed that so much of this season is based on stories that are really old?

    • July 6, 2015 at 7:23 pmsealouse

      It’s probably because Kiseijuu did so well.

    • July 6, 2015 at 9:20 pmguardian enzo

      Where they get good stories from doesn’t matter to me, as long as they get them. And I’m not worried about there not being enough good newer stories to adapt – the problem is production committees are mostly ignoring them. If I didn’t know it already, living in Japan has taught me that even if you feel anime is in creative decline (and I understand that’s a subjective opinion) manga is thriving and bursting with terrific titles.

    • July 6, 2015 at 10:08 pm.Mero

      Indeed, it doesn’t matter to me.
      Plus side is that we have the possibility for closure :P instead of having to wait 2 more years for the Source material to have enough for a sequel without having to go anime original.

      First ep did a good job for me :) Nostalgic feeling indeed, expectations where met. I just really enjoy watching series with older art styles (when done right)

    • July 6, 2015 at 11:47 pmTassadar

      I am more alarmed by the fact that this summer season seams AWESOME!

  • July 7, 2015 at 12:21 amShinwinds

    The comedy gold. that’s the most fitting sentence for this anime. I’m in.

  • July 7, 2015 at 9:21 amShinn Agami

    If Calvin and Hobbes was made by a Japanese Mangaka, this would be it, lol.

  • July 7, 2015 at 9:33 pmRS456

    Old is Gold.

  • July 8, 2015 at 11:29 pmLaughingMan

    Meh. I’m bored already. One and done.

  • July 10, 2015 at 12:50 pmWorldwideDepp

    Ep 02:

    Show Spoiler ▼

  • July 15, 2015 at 5:12 amChaosAvian

    Man, I love this old school style! Now, if only Devilman could get a modern adaptation then I will be sated. I had a feeling old school gems would be re-animated when they first announced Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Back then, anime was just so raw and bare when people pretty much did what they wanted. (I mean c’mon Rapeman of all things got animated back then! xD)