Bickering Friends vs. Monsters and Demons
more than 20 years, then MAPPA ( Maruyama Animation Produce Project Association) and Studio VOLN created this 39-episode broadcast series.
Ushio and Tora feels curiously prescient. With his square nose and spiky hair, Ushio looks like Ippo Makunouchi, the nerd-turned-featherweight boxing champion in Fighting Spirit. Ushio’s slugfests with his dismissive father resemble Ichigo Kurosaki’s fights with his nutty dad in Bleach. Although supernatural fox spirits are common in Japanese folk tales, and ancient, nine-tailed ones command singular powers, the monstrous Hakumen no Mono will remind viewers of the terrible multi-tailed demons in Naruto.
The opening, with Ushio freeing Tora, anticipates the original OVA Tenchi Muyo!, when Tenchi Masaki frees Ryoko, the demon entombed in his family’s shrine. It’s even closer to Rumiko Takahashi’s smash hit Inu-Yasha, which debuted in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 1996: In the long-running manga and broadcast series, Kagome Higurashi, a normal 15-year-old girl, falls down a dry well on the grounds of her family’s shrine — and finds herself in the Warring States period (c. 14671603), 50 years after her ancestress Kikyo transfixed the half-human/half dog-demon Inu-Yasha to a tree with a magic arrow.
Despite their endless bickering, Ushio and Tora emerge as very likable characters, and this new version of their adventures looks considerably better than the cheaply animated OVA. As Neil Simon proved in The Odd Couple, friends who don’t get along are more fun than friends who do.