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Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Volume 1


Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Volume 1

written and illustrated by Hiroshi Shiibashi

Rikuo Nura's dad died when he was a young boy, but he does not feel the loss so acutely because he has been raised by such a large family. There is one little wrinkle, however: The Nura Clan are yokai! Yokai are supernatural beings straight out of Japanese mythological tradition, but in the present age it's not as if Rikuo can just tell his classmates about, say, his latest game of hide and seek with the Yuki-Onna (Snow Woman). Talk about embarrassment. Worse still, it turns out that his Grandpa Nurarihyon is a yokai boss, and Rikuo himself is one-fourth yokai.

In this volume, Rikuo discovers his yokai heritage, and the rest of the Clan discovers that being one-fourth yokai means that Rikuo can become a leader worth following precisely one-fourth of the time. The other three-fourths of his life he is just an ordinary schoolboy who is intent upon denying his destiny as the future head of the Nura Clan. Unfortunately, he soon discovers upon starting middle school that his friends are arguably more obsessed with yokai than he is…and that it will be awfully hard indefinitely hiding the truth from his friends.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is creator Hiroshi Shiibashi's first major work. He got his start in the manga business as one of Hirohiko Araki's assistants. The stylistic influence of the master upon the one-time apprentice is palatable, and Nura shares a measure of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's quirky yet charismatic artistic detail. This, combined with the classic Shonen Jump fantasy-action formula, has produced a surefire hit worthy of the likes of other SJ blockbusters Naruto and One Piece. The animated adaptation, also available in English, will only further cement its popularity.

Some shounen manga ease into their creative rhythm gradually, with the first few volumes fumbling about trying to find that sweet spot halfway between durable momentum and renewable suspense. This is not one of those titles. Nura hits the ground at an all-out sprint, and all of the most important tropes are in place before the end of the first volume. The effect is as admirable from the standpoint of a critic as it is engrossing from the standpoint of a casual manga reader.

Thus, Nura's translation/adaptation was a bit of a surprise. Most Shonen Jump titles published by Viz Media seem to have been adapted with the widest possible audience in mind. This manga, however, reads as if it has been written by fans, for fans. For example, there is a reference to "the sakura tree in our yard," and the Japanese word sakura in this context means "cherry," as in "cherry tree." There is no conceivable reason why this word should not be translated, save that many manga fans are already familiar with the word in Japanese. The jury is still out as to whether hailing the fans so brazenly is a winning strategy, but there is not the slightest doubt that this manga is sure to accumulate legions of fans. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Casey Brienza on October 18, 2011

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Volume 1
written and illustrated by Hiroshi Shiibashi

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2011
  • Genres: Manga
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
  • ISBN-10: 1421538911
  • ISBN-13: 9781421538914