Theme: Friends & Family
In actual Japanese mythology, Nurarihyon is a “youkai” (妖怪) believed to be an old man with a gourd-shaped head residing in Wakayama Prefecture. We might think of youkai as spirits, though “demons” is not really much of a stretch. However, as youkai can include humans who were reborn after death as youkai, spirit kind of works.
Anyway, in this manga/ anime, Nurarihyon was a much different looking guy in his younger days. Nurarihyon no Mago (Nurarihyon’s Grandchild) is about, well, his grandson, with his son – the second leader of the Nura Gang (Nura-gumi – no seriously, the Yakuza call their gangs -gumi, which is -kumi at the end of a compound) of youkai. Nurarihyon expected his grandson to fill his father’s shoes.
There’s a little problem with that, though.
You see, Nurarihyon himself married a human, and his son married a human, so Rikuo, our hero, is a 13 year old bespectacled (that is, wearing glasses) boy who thinks of himself as a normal human and aspires to that life. He lives with the youkai at his family estate normally, and they are like a big, extended family to him, but on the surface, he doesn’t have a smidgen of power, nor any inclination to lead at all.
On the surface, that is.
In times of peril, his youkai blood will awaken, and Rikuo looks like he does in the image above: a katana-wielding, long-haired complete badass with massive confidence and great calm, a fine leader of youkai, but fully conscious of his human form and his human priorities, like protecting the friends he cares about from high school.
At the beginning of the anime – and my understanding is, this is not the same as in the manga – this is not reciprocal, and human Rikuo doesn’t realize he has that kind of power. This doesn’t last; he becomes aware as he is forced into dangers and must sink or swim or see those he cares for, suffer or perish. Well, we can’t have that, can we?
A Vast Cast Of Oddballs
One of the characters I like in particular is the young Yuki Onna, “Snow Woman” (another famous youkai). She apparently isn’t the first; there was an older and more mature-looking one in a flashback featuring Nurarihyon himself. This Yuki Onna disguises herself so that she can go to school with Rikuo, or “waka” (Young Master), as one of his designated bodyguards/ protectors. Her main power is blowing snow and ice; her powers activate on their own when she is emotionally distressed or not concentrating, such as when Rikuo gets a cold. (You’re not supposed to put an iced-over “hot cloth” on his forehead, Yuki!!)
She’s one of the potential “love interests” in this show. Put simply, it’s very obvious she likes Rikuo, and is overprotective to a fault, and not quite mature enough to pull it off well. But therein lies her essential cuteness.
This show features a lot of characters, many youkai, others not, such as a transfer student on-myouji (yin/ yang practitioner; mystic/ spiritualist) who, besides a childhood friend, round out the “potential love interest” trio.
A Fine Show
Production values are high, and most importantly, the show is just a really good ride. It’s not over the top with fan service, it has some actual good action in it, it has a likable hero with an even more likable alter-ego (a guy I can actually get up and cheer for), and it has a lot of rich Japanese feel to it, both modern and older.
I strongly recommend this show to a broad audience.