First Look: Ushio and Tora

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Alternative titles: Ushio to Tora
Manga Adaptation by MAPPA.
Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Premise

Ushio’s father often speaks of a ‘Beast Spear’, a powerful weapon which was once used to seal away a great demon. Ushio had always thought this story was nonsense, until he stumbled upon it in his basement, along with the demon it was sealing.

Euri’s verdict: Super Form Needs More Hair

I might come back to eat my own words, but I think this is going to shape up to be a blend between Yu Yu Hakusho and Naruto, and that’s fine by me. Tora shares a lot of similarities to Kurama, the vicious nine-tailed fox that is sealed within Naruto. Tora, a tiger-like demon with a talent for killing humans, needed to be sealed away after many failed attempts on his life. On top of that, both of these characters are forced against their will into cooperating with a human. Sure, we there aren’t many parallels that can be drawn between the protagonists, but I think this is a good thing. Ushio and Tora doesn’t have the traumatic childhood to hitch up a potentially interesting relationship between man and demon, and we’re already seeing some comedy, too.

It’s easy to say Ushio and Tora has similarities with Yu Yu Hakusho given the supernatural themes, special powers and demons, but I think there’s more to it than that. Yosuke was unwillingly thrown into his role as a spirit detective, just like Ushio has unwillingly become a bodyguard with a demon he needs to keep under control. Ushio, Tora and the two girls we see in this episode seem to form a close group, and hopefully this will further shake things up, and set this aside from recent shounen efforts.

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A lot of comparisons, that’s for sure, but I feel like this is a good sign of things to come. This opening episode did a lot to set the scene and introduce characters, but the key to the success of Ushio and Tora will come down to the dynamic between the two titular characters. There also needs to be some real threats coming at these two; scenarios that test more than their brute strength while also keeping up the childish jokes and begrudging cooperation. This is likely to come in the form of story arcs, which seems like a certainty given the numerous characters shown in the opening sequence, but so long as it’s there to keep up the tension between Ushio and Tora, we should be in for a treat. It’s what was missing from most of Assassination Classroom, something that didn’t show up right until the end, and also happened to be the highlight of the series.

Ushio and Tora is showing great promise. It’s deliberately emulating that 90s anime vibe and doing a decent job at it, from the style of the art to the Masaaki Endoh-sounding opening music. As I mentioned before, it’s going to be make or break based on Tora and Ushio’s relationship, so here’s to hoping this adaptation of a 25 year old manga can pull it out of the bag.

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Iro’s verdict: Kickin’ It Old School

Everything about Ushio and Tora screams that it was made 20 years ago, and I’m just fine with that. Things like Ushio’s tsundere not-girlfriend and the sudden shifts to a comedic style bring me back to the days of early Fullmetal Alchemist and, as everyone else is saying, Yu Yu Hakusho. The reluctant partnership is a tried and true plot set-up, and though it remains to be seen (well, to those of us not familiar with the series, anyway) whether Ushio and Tora’s relationship can carry the show, I’m willing to stick around for the ride.

Marlin’s verdict: Good Old Shounen Action

I think everyone is pretty justified in seeing the Yu Yu Hakusho vibes from this. Especially in the beginning, its mix of gory fighting and cartoonish slapstick scenes were a pretty good way of letting us know just what kind of show this was going to be.. Considering this also stars a delinquent and his tsundere life partner, it’s easier to say how dissimilar it is than mark all the tropes that must have pervaded the manga scene at the time. That said, anything that can be compared favorably to YYH is nothing to sneeze at, and Ushio and Tora really nails the feeling of a classic 90s anime. Even though most of the action doesn’t really come until the very end of the episode, it was enough just to remember times gone by, when men used ridiculous weapons to fight demons in the most badass and gruesome ways possible.
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Gee’s verdict: The 90s are Back and it’s Pretty Rad

Having absolutely no familiarity with the original manga at all, I had no clue what I was getting into. Demons, random cuts to comedy, and questionable parenting are all here to remind you that this is an anime based on a very old property. Thankfully, as a guy raised on 90s-era anime, Ushio and Tora is bringing the kind of flair I haven’t really seen since Nobunagun. That said, the rather unimpressive animation was especially noticeable during the fight scenes. Hopefully this isn’t an indicator of the future quality of this show’s production values, but not even having the budget to make your first episode visually impressive is worrisome. Still, Ushio and Tora is carrying itself with a kind of style and personality that I can wholly get down with.

Hot Bonus! First Look: Ushio and Tora (1992)

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Euri’s verdict: Same As Above, With More Gore

I figured it’d be interesting to check out the existing Ushio and Tora anime shortly after the first episode of the reboot, just to see how it holds up. It was a ten-episode OVA series made in 1992, and you can certainly tell at a glance. The art has that gorgeous nineties look to it, the audio is full of dramatic drum beats, and they somehow manage to throw in a few explosions to boot. The first episode of the OVA is more or less identical to the first episode of the new series, save for a few insignificant changes. For example, Ushio’s dad leaves without notice in the OVA, were as he tells Ushio about going on a trip at the beginning of the new series. Ushio also tries to help the girls fend off the demons temporarily before deciding to pull out the spear in the OVA, instead of taking Tora’s word for it that there was nothing else he could possibly do. There are some location changes too, as we don’t see Ushio’s school in the OVA, and instead get to see the restaurant owned by Asako’s parents.

It feels bad to say it, but I actually prefer the 1992 version. Don’t get me wrong, they are both perfectly fine and with few faults, but there’s something to be said about anime from the 90s. This adaptation screams Yu Yu Hakusho even more that the new series does, and it isn’t helped by Ushio’s voice actor being the same guy who voiced Yusuke. Oh, and there was also a slight helping of gore in the opening, which accompanies more details about the fight between Tora and the swordsman, which resulted in Tora being sealed in the first place. It’ll be interesting to see if the gratuitous violence continues into the main series, or whether it was a one-off for episode one.

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Rocking a hairstyle straight from the 90s

2 thoughts on “First Look: Ushio and Tora

    • Oh for sure, I didn’t mean to say one beat the other to these themes, more pointing out the similarities because a lot of people hold YuYu Hakusho in high regard and probably haven’t heard of Ushio and Tora 🙂

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