Anime Reporter leaves the night-light on before delving into Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan- Demon Capital Part 1 (episodes 1-13).
Moving on after the events of the original series (reviewed here), Demon Capital spends a lot of time looking to the past and setting the stage for a much darker tale unfolding just after the Nura clan’s hard-earned victory in defending their territory.
Much of the stage-setting takes place about 400 years before the main story arc, detailing Rikuo’s grandfather’s youthful exploits and his ascension to Lord of Pandemonium. These episodes covering Nurarihyon’s rise to power focus on what is essentially a more confident and ambitious version of Rikuo’s yokai form and one which is much more interesting to watch than Rikuo, the actual protagonist. When one of Nurarihyon’s first great foes returns much more powerful after the centuries, Rikuo and his night parade of one hundred demons are put to the test on a drastic new level.
Having accepted his heritage in the past series, and boasting considerable raw power, Rikuo’s yokai presence is certainly a force in the demonic world. That said, he’s going to be playing with the big kids now as he moves towards Kyoto, the Demon Capital. The events of the first series saw the Nura clan clash with another clan in decline. Now, it’s Rikuo’s time to rise up against a force that has been building against his grandfather for literally ages, gathering a fiercesome army in the wake of its destruction.
The viewer’s experiences of the yokai world also undergo significant growth when Nura ‘s abilities are called into question and his grandfather sends him away to a different clan for some tough love training and his powers develop to new levels of darkness.
It’s not just the yokai who benefit from an upgrade in this story arc. The onmyoji, the yokai hunting clans, which we saw last series in the form of Rikuo’s classmate Yura are given a lot more attention. Early in the series, we see the appearance of her older brother, a powerful practitioner in addition to being a cunning liar, who sees through Rikuo with little difficulty. The ongoing plot of Rikuo trying to hide his yokai self is put on the shelf and the real business of an all-out war brewing soon shifts into focus. The mythology and history utilised so well before is expanded into a fiendish fairy tale that moves past the portrayal of most yokai as mischievous scamps. In this arc, most yokai seem to have a habit of harvesting human livers to increase their power and the younger the human, the better.
The darker sides to yokai and onmyoji alike are given their places, though the theme of crime families (or Yakuza) is left entirely intact, with wars across centuries being likened to grudges between rivals across 20 or 30 years for a human.
While the world and the different groups are expanded upon and to great effect, it really should be noted that individual character growth grinds to a halt with the exception of Rikuo’s demonic abilities. Anyone hoping to learn a little bit more about some of the supporting Nura members is likely to be disappointed.
Suiting the darker tone of the series, the animation has taken on a new style with darker shades and thicker lines giving new weight to the characters and their actions. Rikuo spends less time in his human form and the action plays out much faster as a result. His training gives him some new abilities which make combat much more interesting as well as being damned cool to watch in action. Mercifully, the tediously expositional narration at the beginning and end of each episode is absent, letting the show speak for itself, which it manages to do well.
In many ways, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan- Demon Capital Part 1 feels like the real show is just beginning and it leaves behind some of the less gripping aspects of the story in favour of something with more teeth. While more character development would be nice, there’s only so much you can ask from a series about Yakuza demons.
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan- Demon Capital Part 1 is available on DVD in the UK and Ireland now from Manga Entertainment. For more info, check out the Manga UK twitter page and stay with us here at Anime Reporter for more news and reviews.
Darker Themes: 8
World building: 8
78% – “Packs a Punch” – Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan: Demon Capital takes the foundation from the first series and trims away the excess (as well as some of the heart) for a series which feels all the grittier and more demonic for it. Whether this is a positive or negative change, is up to each viewer.