Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
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Nurarihyon no Mago

A Manga Review

by McCamy Taylor

Yes, this is a manga review. I know that the anime version of this series is licensed by Viz Media (under the title of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan . However, I like the manga better than the animation. Too bad it won’t be coming to the U.S. any time soon, even though it is one of the most popular series in Shonen Jump in Japan.

The title may be part of the problem. If your manga is named “Bleach” or “One Piece” or even “Naruto” American readers can get their tongues around it. But how do you  say Nurarihyon no Mago? How embarassing it would be to go into your local bookstore and ask for it by the wrong name!

I may not be able to say it, but I know what it  means. “Nurarihyon’s Granchild.” Nurarihyon is the godfather of a yokai/yakuza family. His specialty is the “eat and run”.  If this sounds like a joke, it is. But it isn’t, too. Grandpa has mastered the art of masking his presence so that he can get the drop on his opponents, natural and supernatural.

 His grandson, Rikuo, is only one quarter yokai, which is Japanese for demon or monster. By day, he is an annoying  spectacled little do gooder in middle school. By night, he is a seriously kick ass yokai, whose specialty is defending his clan from other yokai with the aid of a demon killing sword.

Viz Media may not want me to tell you this (since I am sure that they plan to license the manga if the series is successful) but I am going to tell you anyway, because I am a writer and I believe in reading the source material before watching the film adaptation. Nurarihyon no Mago can be read online, in a translated form at any one of a number of Internet sites. And the scanlations are beautiful! The cleaners really know their job. The black ink is black. That is important, because the black and white classical Japanese inspired art in this series just keeps getting better.  And the story gets better, too. In the first few volumes, way too much attention is paid to human Rikuo and his silly little middle school friends. As time goes on, the focus becomes the yokai who are involved in a major war much like a mob war. You have the “good mob”, Rikuo’s family which wants to get along with mortals. And then you have the “bad mob” which wants to wipe humans from the face of the earth.

Did I mention the beautiful art? Except for its tongue twister title, this one has everything needed to be a success in the U.S. Classical Japanese themes, great art, cool anti-hero, engaging side characters (villains as well as heroes) with lots of backstory. Exactly what does it take to turn a human being into a “monster”?  What about the onmyouji, traditional Japanese exorcists who are supposed to hate all yokai equally?  And most important of all, which girl will Rikuo chose, the “girl next door”, Kana, the onmyougi, Yura or the ice yokai, Yuki-onna?

 One potential problem may be the rating. The story starts out strictly G for all audiences, but later, there is occassional nudity (that is necessary for the plot) and extreme violence (that is necessary for the plot). But there is not enough nudity or violence for the publisher to aim the story at an “adult” audience, like Gantz . Maybe they could strike a compromise call it OT for “older teens”.

© 2010 McCamy Taylor

McCamy Taylor is the long fiction editor for Aphelion Webzine.

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