Ushio and Tora! Tora! Tora!
- Episodes : 10
- Genre : Action, Shounen, Comedy
- Airing Date : September 1992 – August 1993
- Studios : Pastel
Ushio to Tora Introduction
It’s the classic story of a boy and his friend going on an adventure, except the boy is Ushio Aotsuki, the heir to the legendary demon-slaying weapon known as the Beast Spear and his friend is Tora, a powerful, ancient and evil yokai who is released when Ushio frees him from the Beast Spear’s restraints. The two start out as enemies, but quickly form an uneasy, but unstoppable power-duo, aiming to keep the world safe from the yokai that would threaten it.
What We Liked About Ushio to Tora
Like we said, this is a classic adventure in its rawest form. It has the same feeling as classics like The Neverending Story or The Goonies but reflected through the lens of a stylish shounen battle anime aesthetic.
1. A Classic Visual Style
If you’re the kind of person who misses the time when anime looked scratchy and grungy with dark shading and colors everywhere and you haven’t seen this OVA yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
2. A Unique Character Dynamic
As mentioned before, the titular pair start off as sworn enemies before forming their friendship, but that doesn’t mean they just start being the best of friends. Ushio doesn’t just forget Tora’s history of trying to kill people, nor does Tora simply move on from his man-hunting nature without a thought. Instead, the story follows the two working through these issues and struggling to maintain a faithful but uneasy friendship that lends a subtle conflict to the pair as a team, and the story comes away from it with much more nuance and intrigue than its contemporaries.
3. Fights! Fights! Fights!
Naturally, an action show will be primarily judged by its combat and Ushio to Tora is no slouch in this regard either. A main character who fights with a spear already makes the series stand out from the hundreds of other shonen battle anime and Tora brings some interesting powers to the table as well. Combining the two together makes for some slick battles with creative choreography and satisfying combat which is only bolstered by the solid art and soundtrack.
1. Truncated Storytelling
At only 10 episodes, it’s understandable that the show would have to be paced a bit quicker than most, but it tries to cram far too many arcs of the over 310 chapter manga in its four and a half hour running time. Now thankfully enough of the main story beats and meaningful character moments are translated faithfully, but audiences will still feel the absence of the rest. While we stand by our praise for the fights in the story, they tend to end abruptly. Sometimes, leaving viewers wanting more isn’t a good thing.
2. What Animation?
This OVA came out a mere year after the infamous Japanese asset price bubble crash, a damaging economic blow the nation has yet to fully recover from to this very day. As a result, massive budget cuts rippled throughout the entire anime industry, and Ushio to Tora is a clear example of these negative repercussions. Nearly every scene that isn’t a fight sequence barely moves beyond tweens and walk cycles without having to resort to switching to a chibi art style, even when the scene really doesn’t call for it.
3. Not Much New Here
Outside of the nuanced relationship of the leads, the story doesn’t really bring much new to the genre. Fans who dislike traditional shounen battle anime, monster-of-the-week structure or anime that only adapt small portions of a much longer source material will not have their minds changed by this show.
There’s little doubt that Ushio and Tora’s adventures will find a welcome home on the shelves of genre fans, but its qualities aren’t big enough to completely overshadow all of its faults. It remains a good example of shonen battle anime done right, but there are several other examples of such that viewers would benefit from prioritizing over this one. Not perfect, not great, not even really a diamond in the rough, but a fun sit nonetheless, that stands out just enough to leave viewers happy.