Young Ushio Aotsuki is like most teenagers – he doesn’t really listen to his Dad, even when he warns him about a legendary spear known to defeat evil, and an evil monster who may or may not be living in the basement. One day, while begrudgingly cleaning out the temple, Ushio stumbles upon a hidden door to the basement that his Dad warned him about, where a fearsome monster lay impaled by a spear. Surprisingly, this monster is still alive, and when his demonic presence unwittingly summons more monsters, Ushio finds himself forging a unique partnership with the demon, whom he names Tora. Ushio pledges to use the “Beast Spear” to battle the evil forces and work to restore the balance of the spiritual world, as long as Tora doesn’t eat him first.
Ushio and Tora originally ran as a manga series from 1990-1996, and the art style of the latest series captures the spirit of 90s anime, which I appreciate. I got a very distinct “Ranma 1/2” and “Inuyasha” feel from the get go, which helps it to stand out among more modern stylized series.
The comedy is refreshing, though it can be one-dimensional. Most jokes revolve around Ushio’s impending fate as a meal for Tora, or Tora’s fascination with modern civilization. Still, the delivery, combined with their ever evolving relationship, provides some good laughs.
If we’ve heard one “Boy battles demons to balance the spiritual world” story we’ve heard them all, but as I’ve mentioned before, similar storylines don’t prohibit good storytelling. Ushio and Tora doesn’t do a particularly bad job of constructing the story, it just fails to provide any unique twists to provide a different perspective. Then again, it’s not supposed to be the same sort of introspective experience that a show like Mushishi offers, and I would say the show is very aware of that.
What helps to prop the story up is the great chemistry that Ushio and Tora are able to develop as a result of their shared disdain for each other. Ushio’s female companions, Asako and Mayuko, also give some variety to the story, as they provide some romantic elements for our conflicted protagonist. Unfortunately, they also fall into the classic trap of damsels in distress more times than you can shake a beast spear at.
Ushio and Tora is a fun shonen/supernatural series that’s a great option if you’re looking for a show to kill some time between your higher priority series this season. Or, if you appreciate/enjoy the 90s style animation, you’ll be enamored by the execution.