Blu-ray Review: Ushio & Tora – The Complete Collection

An unlike pair of human and Yokai team-up to save the world in Animatsu Entertainment’s upcoming Blu-ray release of Ushio & Tora – The Complete Collection but can their effort really save the planet? Well you’ll have to watch the series to find out but you can read our thoughts on this Blu-ray release in our review!

Synopsis:

Long ago, a ferocious monster terrorized the land, until a samurai, wielding the legendary “Beast Spear”, sealed him away. 500 years later, a middle school student named Ushio Aotsuki accidently uncovers the monster in a hidden cellar under his family’s temple.

The unsealed monster and the spear attract many other supernatural creatures to the temple and Ushio is forced to release the monster in order to defeat them. Ushio names the monster “Tora” and unwillingly work together to battle other spirits and demons.

Our View:

Consisting of thirty-nine episodes over five Blu-ray discs this release of Ushio & Toria – The Complete Collection contains both Season 1 (26 episodes) and Season 2 (13 episodes) of the series to deliver everything you could possibly want in one package. From this explanation at least Ushio & Tora should be a well worth investment for your anime collection and while this is true it is a series that gets worse before it gets good. If you do manage to struggle through the rather mundane second act (of this four act scenario) you’ll find a nice ‘shonen styled’ action anime series where the fate of the world, if not the entire universe, rests on the shoulders of a young man and his unlikely yokai partner.

The story of Ushio & Tora begins when Ushio Aotsuki, the protagonist of this story, discovers a demonic yokai impaled on a spear hidden beneath the storage house of his families’ temple. Confused by this situation, and finally realising that his father’s stories about Yokai were true, Ushio decides to leave this creature in the basement; but after some ‘comical pleading and bickering’ Ushio reluctantly agrees to let the monster free.

It’s here where the unlikely friendship of a Yokai, who later is named Tora, and Ushio begins with a more sinister storyline lurking in the shadows. This setup of a story is very reminiscent of how Tenchi Muyo’s OVA Series began; as both follow the same patterns of releasing a beast, to be pursed by that beast and then being taught to save the world from destruction – even the character design of Ushio, and his clothing choices, are similar to Tenchi.

Alas; I’m not here to do comparisons but It’s safe to say that the story of Ushio & Tora is separated into four different story arcs with each offering a sense of purpose as well as character development. For instance the first story arc acts as an introduction to this ‘Yokai World’ as well as the abilities the Beast Spear, the spear which impaled Tora 500 years ago, has to offer. In this selection of episodes we see Ushio save local people from Yokai attacks as well as Tora constantly bragging that he will one day eat Ushio when the Beast Spear is destroyed (for reference Tora is afraid of the Beast Spear and plays along with Ushio so that he doesn’t get killed).

This first arc of the series swiftly moves onto the second arc; an arc which sees Ushio & Tora venture off on a Journey to understand more about the Beast Spear as well as learn about an ancient Yokai known as Hakumen. A secondary objective is also present in this story arc but it is quickly overshadow by episodic encounters and yokai threats.

It’s in this second arc where the true origins of the Beast Spear, Tora and the ancient Yokai Hakumen begin to surface with each passing episode giving the story  additional backbone on what was ‘at first impression’ just a monster slaying story with no goal. It’s revealed that the Beast Spear was created by forbidden magic for the purpose of destroying Hakumen, an ancient Yokai who feeds of hate and can generate unimaginable power; and as such Ushio & Tora train with local two different fractions of Yokai in order to become stronger.

During this journey of self-discovery (so-to-speak) Ushio and Tora begin to learn more about themselves, the Yokai World as well as the ‘potential beast spear wielders’ and as such an alliance is formed amongst skilled monks and sects throughout Japan – all of which are planning to destroy Hakumen when it reappears.

The third arc of Ushio & Tora is where things start to get interesting, even more so than what they were before, as Hakumen begins to use her powers to erase memories of Ushio & Tora from everyone he has been into contact with and as a result the alliance, and in turn bonds, he had formed with these people in preparation for Hakumen’s attack are gone.

What makes this situation interesting is seeing how Ushio deals with the situation (self-loathing) but more so on what happens next – as while Ushio attempts to rekindle the memories of those lost the remaining Yokai and sects within Japan team-up to destroy Hakumen alongside the humans.

Alas this is where the final arc of Ushio & Tora starts to emerge; a desperate fight for survival with humans and yokai teaming up to stop the notorious Hakumen from destroying the planet. Simply put it is a superb fight that sees everyone from the entire series pull together in order to save the world; with even Ushio & Tora sacrificing their own sanity in an attempt to win this penultimate battle.

This is what I found surprising about Ushio & Tora; it started off as a simplistic ‘rinse and repeat’ approach with Ushio destroying evil Yokai with the reluctant help of Tora but expanded into an ever-evolving plot that sees Yokai & Humans team up to defeat a indescribable threat.

Sure enough the series starts off slow, and it even has some misguided ways of presenting a story that doesn’t follow its own continuity of events; but when all is said and done it is a good story with a strong cast of characters; and quite frankly I wanted more.

Extras:

When it comes to bonus features then ‘sentai filmwork authored discs’ never seem to have the variety; but in the case of Ushio & Tora some variety can be found in the form of textless songs, Japanese promotional materials and trailers for other Sentai Filmwork licensed shows.

Naturally this isn’t a ‘big’ variety but considering that most Sentai Filmwork authored shows only feature textless songs and trailers for other Sentai Filmwork licensed shows, it is a nice surprise. As per the norm all of the extra features are located on the final blu-ray disc with both opening and closing segments, in textless form, being included alongside original promotional material for the series that was used before and after the Japanese broadcast of Ushio & Tora.

In addition to these supplementary content we also have the inclusion of trailers for other Sentai Filmwork licensed shows; in this case trailers for GATE, Is It Wrong To Try To Pick-Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Utawarerumono and AJIN.  As per usual the trailers are simply the opening animation mixed together with clips from the series so they don’t offer a ‘look at the story’ that you may expect from a trailer.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50 x4, BD 25 x1
Region: A & B
Running Time: 3:48:09 (Disc 1, Disc 3 & Disc 3), 3:23:12 (Disc 4), 1:41:36 (Disc 5)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD 2.0 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:
In hindsight Ushio & Tora tells the story an unlikely duo as they team up and venture on a journey of discovery; with that journey resulting in the truth behind the Beast Spear, Tora and demonic creature known as Hakumen. It begins when Ushio releases Tora from his imprisonment and it ends with the [SPOILER] destruction of Hakumen [END SPOILER] but along the way the two begin to learn more about each other, the spiritual world of the Yokai and the infamous Beast Spear which every Yokai fears.

It’s comical, it’s fun and has plenty of violent action but at times it does have some rather obscure slow moments that disrupt and disconnect the pacing of the series. For example during the final arc of the series, and in turn during the final fight, we have an entire episode that focuses on the origin of Tora and the 500 year battle he has been waging.  Sure enough it is a nice story; but it was not needed during such an intense moment – so much so that it felt like filler content.

In regards to this Blu-ray release by Animatsu Entertainment then once again the UK Distributor have opted to use disc assets provided to them via Sentai Filmworks (so you can expect Sentai Filmwork logos on the disc menu and such) as well as a small selection of bonus content; but more than other Sentai Filmwork styled releases. In this case a selection Japanese promotional materials for the series,  textless opening and closing songs as well as trailer for other Sentai Filmwork licensed shows.

It’s worth noting that Ushio & Tora also features both English & Japanese audio with the English Audio being (for the most part) pretty adequate but (as with most Sentai Filmwork dubs) the Japanese audio provides the better experience – especially when it comes to the piercing screams of Tora and Ushio during battle and the Yokai that they fight against.

Ushio & Tora wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be, but that is for the better – as while I thought it would be a repetitive story of a hero and a monster defeating other monsters (which is a small part of this series) it’s actually about an unlikely team learning more about each others world and teaming up to stop an immeasurable enemy.

It’s fun, it’s interestingly animated but more than anything it has a good story to tell with a strong cast of characters – and it only gets better the longer you stay.

Score: review-stars-4

Ushio & Tora – The Complete Collection will be available on Blu-ray as a ‘Complete Collection’ from the 9th October 2017 while the DVD version of the series will be available during 2018.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

One Response to Blu-ray Review: Ushio & Tora – The Complete Collection

  1. John Ellis says:

    I think I actually prefer Brett Weaver as Tora

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