Friday, 13 January 2006 06:29

Ushio & Tora (OVA, 1987)

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I dunno if anybody else has ever heard of this title, but it's one of the old crop of anime, released before CN and even Sci-Fi Saturday Anime even existed. It dates back to the same era as Record of Lodoss Wars and Bubblegum Crisis, and it shows in the animation. Compared to today's stuff, it's rough, some might even go so far as to say gritty. Personally, I rather like that; it adds a sort of more realistic effect to the animation than today's computer generated animation does. Anyway, Ushio and Tora revolves about a young man who finds a tiger-like demon pinned to the wall of his family shrine's basement...


Gee, somehow that sounds familiar, doesn't it? Unlike a certain other, similar anime male, Ushio has enough brains to NOT set said demon free - course, the fact that the first thing Tora does is tell Ushio that he plans on devouring him and making the world a living hell like he used to might have been a good clue not to. Only problem is, just because the demon is still trapped doesn't mean his aura is, and so, in the end, Ushio is forced to make a deal with Tora to fight the low level demons summoned by Tora's aura. Mayhem and comic hilarity ensues through a total of eight episodes. You'd think that the story would come off as cheesy in a story quite as cliché as this, but quite the opposite, the writing is quite good and well worth the twenty or so bucks it'll cost you to pick up the DVD collection at an online discount place. There's equal shares of character development and (very, in some cases) blood'n'guts action, and the DVD collection also comes with three Omake episodes called the Ushio and Tora Comically Deformed Theater that'll have you laughing until your sides hurt.

As I mentioned earlier, Ushio and Tora is an older title, and so came before the advent of CG animation. While it's fair to admit that these days CG has been getting better and less plastic looking, I do like the harsher edges of cel-drawn anime, and always have. Ushio and Tora is one of the more consistently animated in this respect, and while the characters do see minor adjustments throughout the episodes, that's just one of the nice parts about cel-drawn series. On the other hand, it's equally fair to say that the animation isn't as smooth as CG is; in some places it does indeed grow slightly choppy, in fact. This is most noticeable during the fight scenes, but the animators did a good job of hiding it in the movements of the fight.

The soundtrack is pretty standard fare for anime, with some good action themes to be found. The opening theme is particularly enjoyable if you like fast-paced, rhythm based themes, but it isn't really anything to really write home about. The VA's are decent, but again, this is an anime from before the time when distributors realized that anime wasn't just a niche market. There is some iffy effort to be found in the final production cut. On the other hand, the editors had fun with this too. On the Ultimate Edition DVD set, one of the extras is a set of out takes. The simple fact that they were willing to not take themselves too seriously scores points, and overall the VA job is pretty good.


My one biggest problem with Ushio and Tora is actually two parts of one issue. The first problem is that the series is too short - only 13 episodes long, and it seems from the abrupt ending as though there was more that the writers wanted to do. This is only heightened by the fact that about midway through the series, the episode formula changes from single episode monster-of-the-week style meetings to two-parters, meaning that you essentially only get 10 episodes total. Still, the slapstick comedy to be found is more than worth the overall shortness of the series, and the fact that there's good action all around certainly doesn't hurt either. The guys will probably find enough enjoyment out of that alone to make this worth picking up. Though it's kinda slim pickings, there's enough of a romantic subplot that the girls can get decent enjoyment out of the series too, even if they're not into action, though Ushio and Tora wouldn't be my first recommendation. Go on and take a look at the series if you're looking for a classic anime that has enough action to keep things interesting between good slapstick humor and solid writing. And watch out for the flying heads, they bite.

Additional Info

  • Title: Ushio & Tora, Ushio to Tora, うしおととら
  • Genre: Action, Drama, Occult, Horror
  • Director: Kunihiko Yuyama
  • Studio: Toho, Shogakukan
  • Licensed: ADV Films
  • Format: OVA/ODA
  • Episodes: 6
  • Animation: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Writing: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Pacing: Groovy (+5)
  • Voice Acting: Very Good (+3)
  • Soundtrack: Good (+2)
Last modified on Tuesday, 24 January 2012 23:23

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