The newest entry in Shonen Jump’s boyish fantasy line, Hiroshi Shiibashi’s Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (Viz Media) has an opening nearly as ungainly as its title. Centered on Rikuo Nura, who we first meet as a third grader, the series charts the early adventures of a boy who is one quarter demon as he tries to straddle the human and yokai world.
Raised by his full-blooded yokai grandfather, who is supreme commander of the Nura Clan, young Rikuo initially is enthralled by the idea of becoming a part of the supernatural world. His love for his grandparent blinds him to the fact that yokai — supernatural creatures who thrive on fear — are many times more irritating nuisances than they are all-powerful beings. Grandpa Nurarihyon’s idea of “yokai magic,” we’re shown in the opening chapter, is just as likely to involve a dine-and-dash as it is any more scarifying acts. While there are more truly fearsome yokai out in the world, the majority of them appear to be more goofily grotesque than frightening, like manga versions of a Basil Wolverton cartoon. At times, especially in the initial episodes, the crowded panels of yokai frequently threaten to distract us from our hero.
The first volume divides its focus between the yokai-crammed home where Rikuo is being raised and his time in a human school setting, though through much of the first volume, at least, the latter segments prove less focused and interesting. The two worlds collide when Gagoze, one of the nastier yokai out there, attacks a school bus in the hopes of killing Rikuo before he can take over for his grandfather. The assault rouses our hero’s one-quarter-yokai blood, transforming him into a tall, longhaired sword-wielding warrior for short bursts of time. Though his subjects by and large all look monstrous, transformed Rikuo doesn’t, perhaps because of his quarter human heritage.