So far, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan has been a rather difficult series to get into. Some time ago, when I watched the first half of its first series, I found the show unapproachable, complicated and unexpectedly amusing. The series tried to marry some of the elements of a high school slice-of-life with its paranormal society and Rikuo’s friends, and a shounen fighting style once Rikuo transformed into his yokai self. The series also kept delving into the past of Rikuo’s father and grand-father as they fought their enemies. This dipping and diving made the series, which is already very heavy on its mythos and number of characters, a bit hard to get into.
The second series of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, subtitled Demon Capital, follows on from the first series and starts in time-honoured flashback fashion. To recap from the first season, Rikuo is riding on the victory that occurred at the end of that series. Having defeated another yokai clan and staked his claim as the third heir to the Nura clan, he is biding his time with his friends and generally taking it easy, basking in the glow of his victory.
The second series starts with a preview into Rikuo's history when he was eight years old - the death of his father, his bullying at the hands of his current friends and the emergence of his yokai powers. The story then jumps again to his friend Yura, who is a member of a family of spirit-wielding yokai hunters. After duking it out with her brothers (and Yura herself), Rukio’s true identity as the heir to the yokai clan becomes apparent to Yura and her family. The victor is clear, but this fight does serve as a useful introduction to the family, who will play a big part in the later story arc. Another story jump before the main act takes us 400 years in the past to when Nurarihyon, Rukio’s grand-father, met his human wife Princess Yo, and defeated the liver eating nine-tailed fox Hagoromo-Kitsune. Using the combined powers of Yura’s descendants, a spirit blade gifted to him by Princess Yo, and his own powers of fear and confusion, Nurarihyon defeated Hagoromo and she was sealed away for 400 years. What this little partnership does bring to the story is an understanding of the Nura clan’s attitudes to humanity as a whole. Unlike many of the other yokai clans, the Nura clan seek peaceful co-existence with humanity, and the first step to this is having heirs who have both yokai and human blood. Taking Princess Yo as a wife was an investment Nurarihyon made for this future, and it wasn’t just because she was cute!
We finally have all the information and background knowledge to understand the threat at the fore in this second series. Hagoromo has returned, and with her own parade of demons she's going to attack Kyoto and destroy all the seals binding her and protecting the city. It is now down to Yura, her family and her unexpected allies within the Nura clan, to take down Hagoromo once again and bind her away for eternity before she destroys the city and kills everyone living within it. But not before Nura goes off for a few episodes for “training”...
I admit that I am enjoying the series more this second time around. Although highly disjointed, the story has a purpose and the characters and their history are now all known. In other words, we have development to the plot at long last. Yura, the once quiet love interest, has become a spiritual warrior. Rikuo, who is a bit of a pansy, has grown up a bit and, finally, discovered his abilities. As for the rest of the paranormal society, well, they are just being weird as per usual. Never mind, eh?
This first half of Demon Capital is a build up to an all-out battle in Kyoto between the two parties with all the good violent bits, unfortunately, left out until the second half of the series. Call this a bit of a motivator to buy the second volume.
Compared to the first series, both the acting and the animation have had a bit of a boost this time around, with more unique actors providing both the Japanese and English dubs and a bigger budget for the animation. The fight scenes are not only fully acted, but well animated, with the CGI being only slightly noticeable, mostly when it comes down to the use of the spiritual abilities.
Once again, this half of the series comes on three DVDs with four to five episodes per disc. This time none of the discs has any extras such as a creditless opening and closing sequence or character information, which is a bit of a loss. An encyclopaedia of characters and their abilities would actually have been very useful and beneficial with keeping track of the story. Lord knows that I have to rely on Wikipedia and other sites just to remember the character’s names!
This minor omission aside, the second series of Nura has taken the template from the first, polished it up, and served us with a new story which offers the promise of some hard-core supernatural yokai violence, although not until its second half. Until then, we are left with a better understanding of the Nura clan’s take on humanity and their continual striving for co-existence with the human world and their fighting ability, as they once again try to save our world.