Posted on 19 December 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Nurarihyon no Mago

I really was not pleased with the first season of Nurarihyon no Mago. It started off decently, and then it went on… and on… and on… and eventually it forgot to actually deliver. As a shounen jump adaptation, its source material had plenty of time to carefully build up its story, and this show actually ended up dragging that out even more. That definitely was not fun.

In any case, the second season looked promising: the pesky build-up was over: we now know the major characters, and it’s finally time to get to the meat of this series. So of course this show dives into multiple training arcs that are dedicated to making the characters stronger. Do you see the problem with this franchise?

However, I have to give this sequel credit: it is much, much better than the first season. Studio Deen put completely different staff members on it, and they fit this kind of story much better. The direction in particular is excellent and delivers some impressive characterization. The graphics also got a significant upgrade: just about everything looks better here. The animation is more detailed, but in particular the art and camera angles are much more detailed and imaginative, to the point of actually turning this series into a show with a ton of eye candy (this show also has one of the best character designers out there, and with this season, you can finally see why).

The storyline for the sequel is also far from as flimsy as the first season was. It’s deeply rooted in the past of many of the important characters, and it actually means something to the cast. It’s much easier to sympathize with both the main characters and the villains (also rejoice: Rikuo’s annoying classmates are much more bearable and play a far less prominent role, to the point of actually vanishing for most of the airtime). So if only it didn’t break up its pacing so often.

Yeah, most series have an average arc-length of around five episodes. This arc lasts a whopping 24 of them. That’s just way too long, and by far its most nasty habit is that Rikuo just randomly gets pulled out of the action, in order to train, get stronger and acquire a new power. These training arcs are way too bloody long, and really prevents this show from getting going until near the end of the show. But at that point, it really takes off, and delivers a solid semi-ending. It doesn’t wrap everything up, but the emotional closure is really well done there.

Is it worth it to sit through 48 episodes of this thing though? Nah. All I can say is: it will get better. But the problem with shounen jump adaptations is that they just have way too much time to waste. The currently airing Hunter X Hunter is the first in a long while to actually avoid this flaw. I’m giving it a solid rating for its execution, but that’s only because I don’t include the first season in it, which you unfortunately need to have seen in order to get what’s going on here. Go for this if you’re really bored.

Storytelling: 7/10 – Takes way too bloody long to get to its point and breaks up its flow too much with training arcs. Otherwise very solid, though.
Characters: 8/10 – This arc finally is dedicated to the characters, and gets some good things out of them.
Production-Values: 9/10 – A surprising amount of eye candy in this show.
Setting: 8/10 – There has gone quite a bit of attention to youkai lore into this series.

Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi
Pandora Hearts

Posted on with categories: Nurarihyon no Mago

Bah, the creators couldn’t go through with it. In this episode, Nue is defeated… and retreats, along with the other evil youkai around him. It’s a shame: this would have been a great point to just close off this series.

But this also settles it: for me, this series has ended right now. The thing is: Abe no Seimei retreated in order to recover. This will take about 1 year. So yeah, we’re going to do the bloody cycle all over again, and train for a full year to get stronger in order to be able to fight him again. I do not have patience for that. Even if there will be a third season, I’m not going to watch this. This is just right for a conclusion, I don’t want to watch this drag out any longer. This shows that even with a director who really fits this series, there’s only so much you can do with this kind of source material.

And besides, this episode was really good apart from the retreat. With this, this show at least left a good taste behind, rather than what happened last year. The fight against Nue was the action packed climax I had been expected, and Rikuo came with a very good way to defeat him: just use the power of all of his comrades at the same time. Things got even better in the second half, in which a dream sequence reunited all three generations of the Nura-clan. That kind of closure, I can live with.

Also was this really Studio Deen? I mean, the animation throughout this entire episode was really good here. The camera angles were just excellent, the use of colours was really good, and especially the sparring match between the three Nura-commanders was quite nicely animated.

After this though, I really do hope that Studio Deen will get back to what they were good at. They once were the studio that might be bad at animating, but made up for it by picking up a lot of shoujo and seinen, daring and original premises and deliver a lot of bold and new storytelling ideas. The last show that had that was Giant Killing, and even that show came after a long drought. Nurarihyon no Mago was nice, but it wasn’t why I became a fan of them. It’s such a shame to see talent go wasted like this, especially after how Gonzo is showing that you CAN crawl back up from these depths.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 11 December 2011 with categories: Nurarihyon no Mago

So, this seems to be heading into an anime original ending? Let me say the following: as someone who didn’t read the manga, I didn’t notice this. In a way, I do agree with the decision to end at this point: this show should not be allowed to drag on any longer. I’ve heard that the next arc will be even longer than this one. There’s no way that I’m going to watch that. This will be good closure, if it indeed is handled well.

My only complaint about this episode was that Abe no Seimei is a very stereotypical villain with one-sided motives. Still, it’s not a case where all hope is lost. This episode was very solid in how it delivered the background of the girl who would once become Hagoromo Gitsune. That was actually a great closure for her story.

The pacing here was fine as well (and hey: people actually bother to distract the main enemy while giving others the chance to talk). A lot of stuff happened in this episode, which is a really major difference to how this show once was with its endless stream of build-up.

Now, for the anime original ending, this series needs to remember the largest flaw of these kinds of endings: the fact that they nearly always tend to play it too safe. That’s the big issue with nearly every single one of them, in one way or the other. I’ll hold my breath for this one, but at the same time: I can actually see an ending being possible here. Much more than usual.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 5 December 2011 with categories: Nurarihyon no Mago

Seriously, this is the best I’ve seen Studio Deen in since Giant Killing ended. For the first time in one year and two months (which is a really long time for a studio that releases so many series), I’ve been impressed by these guys again on a series. It is about bloody time.

Obviously Hunter X Hunter is the best shounen at the moment, but still: after being disappointed by Ao no Exorcist, the first Nurarihyon no Mago series, Sket Dance, Toriko, Bakuman’s first season, Sacred Seven and Tegami Bachi Reverse, it feels very good to see a shounen actually end well. This conclusion was what a conclusion should be. Not just “let’s just kick the bad guy’s ass and get things over with”. Have things happen at the same time. Put things at stake. Nue’s resurrection worked really well for that. It’s just such a damn shame that we had to wait forty bloody five episodes for that to happen.

I can see the intentions of Nurarihyon no Mago: a shounen series about leading an army. Most shounen leads really are a hundred years too early to be leading an actual army, so it definitely has potential. But then make it about actually leading an army. This show dabbled way too often in things that just did not batter in the long run. The anime is at fault, but the story of the manga also did not help: the introduction still was way too long. Because of that, there is no way that I’m going to recommend this series. But now that I’ve gotten so far, it’s at least very gratifying that my patience is finally being rewarded.

Nue’s resurrection in particular was a great way to spice this arc up. As the red thread connecting everything for the villains: there are a lot of different parties, but it’s this desire for Nue (or Abe no Seimei that connects all of them together, with his mother, Hagoromo Gitsune at the center). Her end here was pretty good with the revelation of how the body that she used to inhabit was pretty much used. The constant flashbacks to the part where Rikuo’s father was killed also paid off here, with the revelation of how things really went. A surprisingly good example of the use of repetition.

Also, the animation at the part where the Skull died. Good stuff there.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 28 November 2011 with categories: Nurarihyon no Mago

What a difference compared to the climax of the first season this is. Back then, this was the point at which everything collapsed in a slew of dull fights after dull fights. This however is much more dynamic. There are a lot of things happening at the same time, and there is a lot of meaning put into all of the fights beyond just “bad guy evil, kill him”.

In particular the resurrection of Nue, or Abe no Seimei was well pulled off here, as a giant fetus floating in the sky. On top of that, there is the irony of Hagoromo Gitsune probably not being the one who killed Nura’s father, but it was some sort of doing from her human part. Beyond that there are a lot of different parties involved that all have some sort of agenda. That’s what makes this finale work. In the first season everyone pretty much melted together. Nobody stood apart.

And on top of that the execution also was a lot less solid back then. Again Studio Deen aren’t the best animators, and one of the hardest things to animate is a battle between small armies. With clever camera work and arc though, a lot of movement was created here. Thumbs up.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 25 November 2011 with categories: Nurarihyon no Mago

Oh heck, Persona is dropped. I know that everyone keeps going on about being faithful and all, but this should not be taken to the extreme, where a show is trying to be so faithful and sacrifices being enjoyable and interesting for it in the process.

The next question was though: what series should I replace this with? Kimi to Boku? Nah, that series is 50% good drama and 50% pure annoyance. Bakuman? No, that one has turned into a cheesy soap opera lately. Squid Girl? Again no, because it’s clear that it has run out of jokes. Guilty Crown? Hell no, because of how abysmal the male lead is. That only left two other options, but after watching this episode I figured to choose this one above Horizon.

Hell, Nurarihyon no Mago is a very flawed series. Its pacing is way too damn slow, but now that it has finally gotten to the point where everything’s coming together, I might as well follow it till the end. I mean, it’s about bloody time.

And don’t get me wrong, the new director for the second season fits this series much, much better. Junji Nishimura needs to be put on original series. That’s where this guy really shines. The new guy meanwhile has done a really good job on directing this thing, but with the source material being like it is, there is very little you can do about it. This is the problem with just about any shounen jump series: they all take bloody ages to get to where they want to be. Who the hell found it a good idea to include two whole training arcs in the same arc? These two arcs were by far the biggest flaw of this second season. They completely broke up the flow and took bloody ages to actually finish.

However, now that that’s all done, we can finally get to what we’ve been looking forward to for nearly five months now: Nura and his army taking on Hagoromo Gitsune and her army. And now that we finally got to this point, this episode did deliver here. This episode in particular had some great youkai design, and actually moved quickly, as what you’d expect from an all out war.

The atmosphere also really worked here, plus the art direction has improved massively in this new season. I mean, this series had Mariko Oka (the character designer of Jigoku Shoujo and Ghost Hound), and yet the first season made the character designs all look bland. This season is different: Mariko Oka took the greatly diverse designs from the manga, turned all of them into very vastly different anime character designs, and finally the animators with their crispness managed to show how much care went into all of these designs.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 27 December 2010 with categories: Nurarihyon no Mago

I didn’t know that there was supposed to be a 26th episode of Nurarihyon no Mago, but it turns out to be a recap. A nicely cut recap that actually shows the core of the past arc, but a recap nonetheless. There was no new content and no hook for the second season.

Whether I’m going to blog the second season depends entirely on the season it airs in: if there aren’t many great series I’ll cover it, if there are however many awesome series then I’m going to prioritize those. I just have one major request for the creators: just pick what you want to focus on. Either go for a completely original arc, or just faithfully adapt this thing. You can’t do both at the same time.

Oh, and small Rikuo with an adult voice… it’s still creepy after watching it a second time.
Rating: – (Disappointing)

Posted on 21 December 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Nurarihyon no Mago

You know these really long shounen fighting series, of which people say “yeah, it starts bland but after 30 or so episodes it gets really good”. That’s this show; at least according to the many people who have read the Nurarihyon no Mago manga. And yes, it has only 25 episodes.

Nurarihyon no Mago does have a fairly intriguing premise, chockful of the Japanese Shinto culture. It’s pretty solid in the way that it builds up its main characters, side characters, setting and premise. A lot of episodes of this series go into background, fleshing out the different characters, so much even that building up is pretty much the only thing it does. In order to see it pay off, we’re going to have to wait for the second season and because of that I can’t really recommend this season standalone because 25 episodes is a long time to sit through.

The different story arcs throughout this series aren’t bad; they’re just unremarkable. The main problem is that Rikuo (the main character)’s grown up form is just too powerful, taking away the tension of all of the fights he’s in. It establishes a lot of character background, but never really uses it, and that’s my main problem with this series: there is hardly anything that keeps your attention. The biggest culprit is the second half of this series: a lot of build-up there goes into Rikuo’s classmates, who in the end turn out to have no purpose whatsoever in the main story of that arc, leaving the really imporant characters of that arc way too underdeveloped.

Compare that to Letter Bee’s first season: that too went on for really long, yet at least that one delivered some great standalone stories, and kept viewers on a hook with a terrific cliff-hanger towards its second season. Nurarihyon no Mago has none of that. If I hadn’t heard the praises that the manga readers give to the chapters that follow the point where the series ends, I might even have dropped this show.

Storytelling: 6/10 – It’s an entire series of build-up. That’s not good storytelling!
Characters: 8/10 – A solid cast with likable characters. Nothing special, though.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Great character and youkai designs, animation that’s nothing special.
Setting: 8/10 – Again, an interesting background for the second series to work with. It will, right?

Letter Bee
The Law of Ueki
Hikaru no Go

Posted on with categories: Nurarihyon no Mago

Meh, this ending was bland. Nothing really caught my attention, it left absolutely no hook for the second season, and the conclusion itself was lacking. Rikuo just battles and uses his awesome powers to easily win. At the end, he gets stopped by Tamazuki’s father who begs him to forgive his son. Rikuo smiles and agrees. The rest of the episode completely ignores all of the youkai that got killed in the process. Very smooth there. At the end of this episode, Yura actually sees Youkai at Rikuo’s mansion, but doesn’t react in the slightest. Overall, this first season is going to leave a pretty bad taste for me.

In the end, this really was the wrong director on the wrong series. Junji Nishimura needs original series: that’s where he’s brilliant. He used his liberties nicely on True Tears, but he restricted himself too much on Nurarihyon way too much. He should have either picked an original story or following the manga, because trying to go for both turned out to be fatal here. Instead, Studio Deen should have gone for people like Hiroshi Watanabe, Toshifumi Kawase, Toshiyuki Kato (though he seems to have gone to David Production in the meantime) or Sayama Kiyoko, who are great at adapting things (sure, things may have instead gotten cut here and there, but it would have been better than dragging on for way too long like this series did).

At the start of this show, I really praised it, but at the end, my opinion of it really has dropped. It’s pretty much an entire season with nothing but build-up that it never really uses. That’s my big problem with these long shounen series: they may have good parts, but they also have these seemingly endless strings of unremarkable episodes. And I mean, the target audience for these kinds of series is teenaged boys. How do these kids have the patience to sit through that?

At this point, that second season really needs to prove that these past 25 episodes have been worth it. At this point though, I’m pretty pissed at this series.
Rating: — (Lacking)

Posted on 14 December 2010 with categories: Nurarihyon no Mago

As the penultimate episode, this episode convinced me: next week is going to be a really bad point for this series to end. Out of all of the reviews that I’m going to write this month, Nurarihyon no Mago’s will likely be the most difficult one, because while it isn’t exactly a bad series, I also see no way to recommend it in this state. I didn’t really get anything out of these past 24 episodes.

The anime creators really made some crucial mistakes here. The extra time for Rikuo’s classmates was actually very good at first sight. They took what could have been the single most annoying characters of the series, fleshed them out and made them enjoyable. The main problem however is that this series completely failed in terms of building up.

This series spends a lot of time focusing on all kinds of different backstories, creating characters, most notably Gyuki and Rikuo and his classmates. The rest of the cast however is completely ignored, not fleshed out at all and therefore feels as flat as a pancake, not to mention that this finale has ignored just about all of the fleshed out ones. Tamazuki is a horrible villain: we know his backstory, but what do we know about him as a person? He’s evil and wants power; that’s all. We know a lot about small Rikuo now, but how much exactly have we gotten to know big Rikuo? This guy still is this guy who just comes and kills evil youkai. The rest of the cast is the same: beyond their basic personalities, they’re all just the same static people over and over again.

Now, as for this episode: it was a bit of a weird point to suddenly reveal that Rikuo’s classmates have once before been saved the child version of large Rikuo (who sounded really strange with the same voice actor, by the way), but my main issue here lied with the way it tried to wrap up everything, because it exactly illustrates how it completely failed at building up something. In the end, Tamazuki does what most generic villains do and kills off all of his subordinates in order to gain power. The only thing that Rikuo and the other youkai manage to retort this with is that you can’t control people with fear, but with respect. In the end, it’s all come down to these cheesy and shallow morals, after 24 episodes of airtime. I really expected better from this. Both from the anime creators and from the original story. I mean, someone tell me that the manga was more than just “let’s all beat the stereotypically evil Tamazuki here”.
Rating: – (Disappointing)


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  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:46 AM)
    @Kaiser: so far it’s good. I’ve been hearing the buzz but I wished someone had nodged me to watch it sooner.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:42 AM)
    You’ve reminded me Bam that I’d been meaning to pick up ash vs the evil dead sometime.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:39 AM)
    @Kaiser: the remake was still pretty entertaining, but it lost the silly comedy edge the series was known for. I still think that the 2nd film had the most unique and prominent voice of its own, and all of that is present in the new series’ pilot. If anything Raimi cranked it up a couples of notches here and there.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:35 AM)
    There was a mean spirited feel to the remake I found pretty appealling.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:27 AM)
    @Kaiser: the original Evil Dead was playing the horror genre straight, but it had a strata of slap-stick that was partially unintended. With Evil Dead 2 he doubled down on the strange horror/comedy dynamic and it became fantastic. Army of Darkness was very entertaining, but it strayed very far from the series’ roots. The remake was only produced by Raimi, while he got back on the writer/director chair for the pilot of the new series, and proved that he still got it sharp as ever.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:19 AM)
    Then again I believe Raimi was fairly involved with the remake.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:18 AM)
    The remake as far as remakes go should have been worse but it worked much better than I would have thought and I say this as someone who hates reboots/remakes.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 04:16 AM)
    @Bam: I’ve only partially seen the first evil dead but I don’t think its aged well, the second one I’ve seen and its hugely entertaining later on but its army of darkness that was the most enjoyable of the three for me.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Dec 1. 2015 03:47 AM)
    Wow Ash Vs the Evil Dead 01 was a blast; I really should’ve gotten into this sooner. I was smiling thru most of it, either because it was funny or slap-stick gory, or because it was a blast to see that Sam Raimi still got it. I guess the only time that Evil Dead works is when he’s involved. Seeing Bruce Campbell again with the chainsaw was a treat which I didn’t know I needed in my life.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Monday, Nov 30. 2015 10:31 PM)
    I’m trying not to get my hopes up however, given that it wouldn’t be surprising if he gave us another filler chapter like he did with that pointless flashback.

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