The 90s were a simpler time, a better time, a time where all that mattered were Tamagotchis and Nirvana albums. It was a great time in the Manga industry too! The decade ended with the beginning of many hit Shonen series like Naruto, One Piece and Hunter X Hunter, but it was also kicked off by a few that have unfortunately been lost in time…until now.
A young boy and a demon spirit, Ushio And Tora tells the tale of the coming together of two mighty souls for the greater good. Ushio is a young man living with his elderly father, a semi-retired priest, in a combined house and temple. Tora is an ageless tiger-like demon that has been trapped in the temple’s basement for 500 years. Despite the many times Ushio’s father tells him about the demon-slaying spear hidden away in the house, he tells him not of the demon it currently has pinned to a wall in the hidden basement…not that Ushio would believe him anyway.
Ushio goes for a bit of a wander and discovers the basement this demon now calls home. It wakes up to the first human it has seen in 500 years and threatens him before asking to remove the spear from it’s body, setting it free to once again wreak havoc like it did a lifetime ago. Ushio refuses, but there’s something supernatural stirring about, and it isn’t the hulking mass of tiger-demon in the basement.
Ushio does the usual; he heads to school, he chats with friends, he plays a bit of soccer, but he can’t stop thinking about that demon. Obviously. Heading home, he continues to ponder his predicament until two of his classmates turn up in search of a notebook he borrowed but never returned. He then begins to see things…scary things, things that’d make any of us drop to our knees in paralysing distress. Not Ushio though, he’s got an idea.
Rushing down to the basement, he begs the demon for his help. There are evil spirits floating around now that he’s awake and Ushio knows he’s the only one that can help stop them. Ushio removes the spear and sets the demon free, trusting that he will not go back on his word to help exercise these other spirits. He does…but only until the spear reveals its true form and scares the demon into complying.
The two make haste and destroy the disgusting fish/insect demons, Ushio all the while using the power of the spear to keep the newly named Tora in check. It’s now up to the both of then to take down any Yokai that wishes to cause harm to human kind and I’ve got a feeling Tora doesn’t mind as much as he makes out he does.
Ushio And Tora is as amazingly Shonen as it gets, but in a single episode it had me hooked. In fact, I was interrupted midway through the episode and waiting to get the chance to sit and watch the rest of it almost killed me! That’s a pretty damn good first impression, I’d say, but it only gets better from there. Much, much better!
The episode starts off strong, not with an action sequence or anything as instantly bad-arse as that, but with a hilariously slapstick conversation between Ushio and his dad that continues throughout the episode while our protagonist interacts with other characters including a particularly frightful demon living in the family’s basement.
The episode then kicks into overdrive as a true threat rears it’s fishy head and Ushio has to unleash this demon just to help him. Though this high-octane action sequence was short…it was so damn sweet! The episode as a whole featured some fantastic visuals that came in the form of a Hajime No Ippo-esque art style and some incredibly smooth animation pieces but nothing was more impressive than the battle that ended the episode. Not to mention it had an amazingly fitting soundtrack that spanned a couple genres, all of which worked to highten that level of pure 90s wonder.
Ushio And Tora hit me surprisingly hard seeing as I had barely an idea of what this series was actually about. It was recommended to me by Luke Halliday and, as I tend to do, I blindly followed his word and was hit with this amazing Shonen title. Ushio And Tora is pretty simple in regards to it’s story but it takes many classic Shonen tropes and pulls them off in a simplistic but effective manner that opens your eyes to the sub-genre and makes you understand that sometimes something basic but well-executed can be just as engaging and enjoyable as something overly complicated.
Ushio And Tora is simple fun, and it also comes from the early 90s which means a lot of what you’ll see has been done hundreds of times since then but you’ll give it a pass seeing as it was probably one of the first series’ to do it. It’s a series that panders to me current Anime needs; it’s Shonen, it features heavy supernatural elements, it’s funny and, as of right now, it’s just simple. That’s really all I’m in the mood for at this point in time, and I got that with Ushio And Tora.
Ushio And Tora is now streaming on Crunchyroll so head there to watch it now!