Before I start reviewing, I have to admit, I’m a big sucker for Jun Fukuyama voicing characters with alter egos (e.g. Lelouch/Zero in Code Geass, Ryner/Ryner with Alpha Stigma activated in Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu and of course, Rikuo Day/Rikuo Night in Nurarihyon no Mago), so excuse me if I sound a bit biased here. You have your classic reluctant hero, Nura Rikuo, heir to the Nura Clan. 3/4 human and 1/4 youkai, he lives a normal school life by day and controls an army of youkai by night. The story details the challenges Rikuo face as a part human in a youkai household and as a part youkai in human society.
Sounds cliched, right? I agree. Even so, the story isn’t all that bad. Although the development of the plot is painfully slow, it also allows the viewer to gain a greater insight into the characters. Nurarhiyon no Mago didn’t lack story backgrounds at all. They explained what happened in the past with the right execution. The jabs also were at the right timing and in the right scene. There was not really anything horribly wrong with the story, and it was really good to tell the truth. Yet, the story crawls at a snails pace that it just ruins the whole experience. Through the start I was just thinking of how the build up was great, but then it hit me. The climax could never reach those expectations it builds up for a whole season. I had my hopes up since it was only 26 episodes, but it felt like I was watching filler sometimes!
Like I mentioned earlier, I think the characters were well developed because of the slow movement of the plot. There were some crucial flashbacks that I really enjoyed because they cleared up character motivations brilliantly (e.g. Gyuki’s flashback regarding his relationship with the Nurarihyon and Kana’s flashback regarding her relationship with Night Rikuo). However, because of the large cast of youkai, not many of them are examined in detail, so many of the characters are just kind of there…you don’t really know much about them other than little insignificant hints dropped here and there. The OSTs in this anime are brilliant. Then again, I shouldn’t say OSTs, because it’s more like just one OST with many variations, but it still sounds good nonetheless. Seiyuus were well casted for the most part, again, I’m a sucker for Jun Fukuyama voicing characters with “double” lives, so I have no complaints there. Openings were…great. Endings were…. okay.
Studio Deen has never really done a bad job with their animations, while I was happy the art stayed true to Hiroshi Shiibashi’s manga, giving you a richly detailed account to Japan’s youkai like you’d find in an old Japanese tapestry, I was really disappointed in its animation. For a shounen title, the series really lacked ‘fluidity’ for a better word making each scene seem like your watching still-frame art from the 90’s. The execution and pacing was lacking and for a series made late 2010, the choreography was non-existent. While there are times when you think animation might improve (like watching the intricacies of a Sakura tree blossom at night), you are let down the next moment when characters clash….very…slowly. Even anime such as Hikaru no Go, which is a series about an Asian ‘bored’ game provided better excitement. I usually have a benchmark when it comes to shounen anime (specially ones released in the last few years) and Mago simply did not cut it for me.
In all honesty, I have mixed feelings for this series as a part of me wants to grow to like it thanks to having known how the manga continues, while the other half is screaming “Bloody Murder!” at the anime director. Overall I am clearly disappointed with Mago as an anime due to the segments I had mentioned earlier and I’m surprised that it’s even getting a second season when there are clearly far better anime out there who hasn’t seen the light of day since they first aired. Nurarihyon no Mago is more ‘superficial’ then it is supernatural and at best may pass time for people with nothing to do, but it definitely isn’t praiseworthy let alone top-shelf when it comes to action anime.