In more ways than one, watching the first two episodes of Ushio and Tora is kind of like going back to 1993. After all, this is one of the seminal shonen works that have influenced all action shonens ever since; the amount of battle shonens that don’t borrow at least a little bit from this series can be counted on one hand. But, it’s been almost 20 years since it ended. Can it still stand out and connect with me? Does it have enough substance to stand the test of time?
It starts of well enough with an amusing comedic sequence involving Ushio’s dad rambling about bakemonos and temples. It reeks of the 90s; that fast-paced slapstick comedy of back then that phased out of favor somewhere around the early 00s or so.
On the other hand, there are things here that show that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Ushio already has two cute chicks pining after him, thereby establishing the foundation for thousands of shitty harem series to come. Yes, I know that harem series were a thing way before Ushio and Tora even existed, but outright harem series were rare. Like Parasyte taught us, harems were more like a putrid fluid bubbling under the surface that sometimes leaked from the cracks and/or caused air to form under the floor tiles, leaving a wide gaping hole in the floor. But enough of my house maintenance antics.
This being a MAPPA show it does contain quite a lot of sequences that can only be described as a series of heavy metal album covers. After he gets the Beast Spear that was all over the promotional materials, Ushio grows what can only be described as a head of hair that puts the New York Dolls to shame and a particularly striking murderfaced gaze before he fucks some bakemonos up in visually striking action sequences that wouldn’t be too out of place in GARO: The Animation.
And speaking of action sequences, they are actually quite interesting so far. Partly because they are quite liberally seasoned with horror overtones. It’s stuff like getting turned to stone and being consumed at the height of one’s fear (I swear I saw that in one of the GARO tokus) or Ushio’s house being swarmed by otherworldly centipedes (which actually made me a bit queasy but I’m a huge pussy around centipedes).
The best part, however, is the incredible amounts of amusing banter and bickering between our two titular leads. It may not come accross as terribly original these days, probably, but it is pretty well-written. Tora’s insistence that he only sticks around Ushio because he wants to revenge-eat him and Ushio’s responses to Tora’s… err… culinary interests never failed to amuse me. I can see from now on that they’ll grow to be geniune friends and all since y’know, old-fashioned shonen, but execution is key.
Let me conclude this first impression by saying that, and yes I know this is weird, but I find that Tora is extremely adorable. His voice comes off to me less like “terrifying immortal bakemono feared by thousands of people” and more like “that one guy that’s a total bro and you love hanging out with”. Must be the voice.
I’ll cover this series because of reasons beyond my understanding that have nothing to do with me being a major fanboy of MAPPA. Nope, no bias here sirs.