Ushio and Tora (うしおととら – Ushio to Tora)
By Fujita Kazuhiro
Published by Shogakukan in Weekly Shōnen Sunday
Original run: January 1990 – October 1996
“A boy unleashes a feared youkai from his seal! Now they have to work together and hunt the evil youkais that brings chaos to the human world!”
Every lonely child dreams of befriending a terrifying beast. The chance to share adventures, scare the bullies and create an unbreakable bond of friendship with a fellow outcast. For Ushio, this dream becomes a reality in the form of the fantastical Tora!
Ushio’s rather uneventful life is suddenly turned upside down when exploring the family temple, where he discovers a cave containing the impossible. Sealed by magic, is the ancient beast Tora.
500 years ago, Ushio’s samurai ancestor waged a bitter and devastating battle against the terrifying beast. With the aid of a magical spear, the samurai thwart his foe and bound the creature to the very foundation rocks of the temple.
Tora with his scary nature urges Ushio to remove the seal, feeling disappointed that Ushio doesn’t seem affected by his presence, proving in the amount of times that Ushio actually has the guts to hit Tora.
Centuries later, Tora cannot help but utter his intention to eat Ushio when confronted with his enemy’s descendant. Unfazed, Ushio shrugs off the threat and resolves to leave the beast where he found when disaster strikes.
Drawn to the presence of the now exposed Tora, a whole cabal of hungry monsters begin to circle the temple, intent on feeding off the legendary beast. Ushio finds no other alternative than to free his ancestral foe, in exchange for defending the temple.
Luckily, the power of the spear that defeated Tora is always in the hands of Ushio. Not only does this keep the vengeful beast in check, it also allows the young boy to share in the burden of defeating the attacking monsters, making short work of them.
However, like all legendary weapons, the ultimate power it bestows comes at a very high cost. To wield the spear, Ushio must sacrifice his soul!
Ushio and Tora is the very embodiment of Shōnen manga. A young boy befriends a supernatural beast to take on evil!
Aside from battle scenes, the series is, at its very heart an “odd couple” story. Much beloved the world over, this story device has consistently proven successful in countless incarnations. With Ushio and Tora, we have the very positive and upbeat 20th century boy, juxtaposed with the ancient and blood thirsty beast.
These opposing personalities prove the perfect mix in their mission to take on the countless supernatural threats, while also providing comic relief against the tense themes within the work.
This heady mix of action and comedy is beautifully released Fujita Kazuhiro’s exquisite art. With line work that oozes personality, each page of manga exhibits an almost organic self awareness that perfectly compliments the animalistic themes of Ushio and Tora.
With the “odd couple” motifs and ancient battles against good and evil, the work also highlights the innate need for belonging and friendship. We may all dream of adventures with a mythical beast, but its that shared friendship, rather than the action that keeps that dream strong.
As one of the reader’s choices, would love to hear your thoughts of this manga!
What do you like about Ushio and Tora?
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