Weekly Anime Geekout
Ushio and Tora
For those of you not in the know, Ushio and Tora was one of the break out masterpieces of 90's era manga. Kazuhiro Fujita's magnum opus spanned an epic 33 volumes published between 1990 and 1996. This massively popular series left it's DNA all over the industry, creating the standard for supernatural adventure shonen. Needless to say I was very excited when I heard there was going to be a TV anime adaptation this year and have been doggedly following it since it's Japanese premier earlier this summer.
The Original OVA
Naturally a series as important as Ushio and Tora has been adapted to anime before. The 1992 OVA (Original Video Animation) series lasted for ten memorable episodes that eventually made their way to America and became a cult classic among American anime fans. The animation is dated and the voice acting in the dubbed version is pretty bad but the OVA series is still very entertaining and for the stuff making it over in the 90's is really one of the best. The problem really is both in the OVA format and the timing of the release. When the series started off nobody could have known how big Fujita would make the manga. The OVA format is really designed for shorter, more self contained stories. Installments in these series are usually released anywhere from months to years apart. Unfortunately rather because the OVA had gotten uncomfortably close to an unfinished arc or that it was getting clear that the manga was becoming far too lengthy and epic to be supported by the format the decision was made to stop production. This was especially disappointing in that it ends right before the manga picks up the pace and introduces the main antagonist.
2015 TV Adaptation
The current adaptation made it's debut in Japan on July 3rd and it's been everything one would hope from a modern interpretation of the series. The animation is crisp, the Japanese voice acting is skillful and the directing is spot on. There have only been improvements made to what the original OVA offered. This includes timely injections of humor and more detailed character animation. Unfortunately until just this past week, for the long-time fan the series has only been an exercise in nostalgia and comparison. The first six episodes are straight up remakes of the OVA episodes, made occasionally as almost shot for shot updates. With episode seven we are finally breaking free of OVA territory, leaving behind the one-off episodic stories and jumping right into the main arc that has never before seen animation.
Episode Seven: A Game Changer
The seventh episode has placed all of the cards on the table, changing the dynamic of the series forever. Ushio's dad finally learns about Tora and of Ushio's continued use of the mystical Beast Spear. Ushio learns about his father's involvement in a demon fighting sect and confronts him over the lies he's been fed about his mother's "death". Killer monks attack the shrine, Tora proves himself trustworthy and we get the first mention of the series big bad, Hakumen No Mono. Overall episode seven is the real beginning of the new Ushio and Tora, having put most of the OVA baggage behind it the show is now charging forward into uncharted territories. For newcomers the adventure is about to get mind blowing. For those of us who've read the manga this is a dream come true, I can't wait to take this epic ride to it's amazing conclusion. The series can be viewed legally at Crunchyroll.com