Ed Fonseca is the brave soul commandeering edythemighty.com, otakuexperience.com, and a range of other one-man enterprises on the internet, as well as a frequent contributor on the iPhone-themed website touchmyapps.com. A native of Puerto Rico living in the Cajun heartland of New Orleans, he spends his days watching new anime and saying “I saw it done better in an anime 10 years ago!” You can find him on twitter as edythemighty.
Ushio and Tora is one of those 90s shounen anime that follows the formula set forth by shows like Tenchi Muyo and Inuyasha – a member of a family with priests and priestesses who unleash a powerful demon presence that soon becomes the main character’s companion. Airing almost a decade before the other two, Ushio and Tora is a collection of 10 episodes of bad shounen clichés in a time where these clichés were being defined.
At one point, Ushio and Tora earned its creator several awards for the series, and even had a videogame adaptation on the SNES platform, which today looks and feels its age. Though it probably won’t be getting an updated flash version like many Inuyasha games such as the one on Adult Swim’s website, it’s still in the history books as proof of Ushio and Tora’s initial popularity, but subsequent fade into semi-obscurity and cult status.
Ushio and Tora tells the tale of young highschooler Ushio, who lives in a shrine with his immediate family, which includes his priest grandfather. Not unlike Tenchi Muyo, his grandfather tells Ushio stories of a demon named Tora, trapped in a room on the shrine’s premises, held there by the power of a mystic spear once wielded by the demon hunter who beat Tora. After Ushio unseals Tora, he finds that the demon’s presence attracts other demons, which soon become a danger to Ushio’s family and friends. Ushio agrees to free Tora after the demon agrees to help him, and Ushio wields the mystical spear, which grants him great demon slaying powers.
Throughout the course of the anime, Ushio and Tora build a rather tenuous but all the more friendly relationship as Tora becomes accustomed to humans and the new world he has awoken to. Throughout the series we see Tora learning to cope with all the wonders of the modern world, which results in some very funny scenes, as the old demon has to battle the evils of the now, including metal demons, human women too smelly to eat, and more and more strange things. These scenes easily remind anyone of Inuyasha’s adventures in Kagome’s time, where his super sensitive nose and hearing cause him troubles as well adjusting to all the pollution in Kagome’s time. In the end, we walk away knowing: It’s hard out there for a demon nowadays.
These interactions Tora has with his new environment and the people around him are one of my favorite parts of the anime, as they show a very adorable, lost, but ultimately dangerous and wild demon fighting in a modern place unknown to him, not unlike a hipster who moves from the middle of Nowhere, Ohio to the bustling metropolis of New York.
Tora is not alone in this brave, new world. Ushio is along, but only because he agrees to be Tora’s snack if he helps him defeat the demons that have come to his city. This forms the basis of these two’s relationship at first, one trying to eat the other, but over time, rather predictably, Tora starts to show some degree of compassion for this brave human. Ushio is not afraid to face down demons, now matter how big they are, if it’s to protect his family and friends. This fearless shounen archetype will later reappear endlessly throughout the next decade, much to our enjoyment – or chagrin.
This fearless male lead inevitably means that there’s a helpless female character that Ushio and Tora must always save. This just so happens to be Inuoe, who is able to see Tora unlike most other humans, as she comes from a lineage of powerful priestesses. Several other powerful humans appear, including yet another stereotype, the angry vengeful demon hunter. Ushio and Tora is packed full of cheesy but very funny characters such as these, which make the series as a whole a treat, and a valuable look into the past, before Bleach, before Naruto, etc.
At only 10 episodes and available through $10-$15 through Amazon and other online retailers, it’s very easy to buy this anime, and fall in love with all the cheesiness it has to offer in its very limited run. Ushio and Tora firmly established over ten years ago much of what is taken as cliché nowadays, but the series itself still remains fresh and accessible to today’s audience of animation enthusiasts looking for something “new”.