Day 9: Ushio & Tora Got Me Back Into Shonens

On Day 9 in the 12 Days of Anime I shall write about an anime that did something important for me. Got me back into watching shonen anime. First thing though, I know Shonen is actually a demographic of young men between 12 – 18 in Japan, but the purpose of this post I’m just going to refer to anime based around Shonen Jump manga as just Shonen. A lot in of anime fans in the anime community already do so let’s get to it.

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My reaction to the length of this post.

I think my fatigue with Shonen anime started with a little know vampire anime called Seraph of the End. During this time I was also getting fed up with 100 episodes of Fairy Tail power of friendship nonsense. So any Shonen I saw that wasn’t Fairy Tail at the time was an immediate improvement. Well half of it was true. From the first minute of Seraph of the End I knew it wasn’t going to be something I would I like. Once episode 1 was over I knew it certainly wasn’t going to be anything for me. You can chalk it up the fact that it reveals over 90 % of the human population has died, and yet still have students go to school. Way to eliminate urgency by acting everything is normal.

Seraph of the End also had similarities to Attack On Titan, but saying that Attack On Titan also had a lot of similarities to Knights of Sidonia. Only Attack On Titan I ended up like because it’s over the top presentation, and fantastically animated sequences kept me entertain. The writing was spotty, but how it told it story ensured I was hooked. Seraph of the End didn’t have the polish of Attack On Titan, but it did have the spotty writing so I didn’t find it as entertaining. However, even when I first finished I still thought for its intended demographic it might be enjoyable.

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Me snickering when someone tells AssClass season 2 is sad

Than we come to Assassination Classroom which I started earlier than Seraph of the End, but got fed up reading subtitles to an anime I didn’t like so I waited for the English dub. Initially I did enjoy episodes from season 1. It was the longevity of the premise that ruined any semblance of suspense. There only two ways Assassination Classroom could have ended; Earth time-bomb Korosensei would either die, or he wouldn’t. I know that same logic can be applied to practically every single story ever made. That didn’t stop me from using that as a defense for calling the ending predictable whenever my Discord pals want to argue with me on it.

Season 1 of Assassination Classroom wasn’t to my liking, but I felt they tried to make something special. Season 2 of Assassination Classroom on the other hand completely phoned in! Ramp up the “we’ve come so far”, and “you’re such a great person” speeches you’ll have a inspirational anime that grates on me. It became so repetitive to a point I took days off from watching episodes just to build up my tolerance for it again. I hated it a lot, and don’t even get me started on the last three episodes which were the worst written episodes of the entire series!

Now we arrive with My Hero Academia season 1, and this is were all the damn Shonen tropes came together badly for me just to hate on it! I was unfortunate enough to watch season 1 dubbed so my first introduction to Deku was me wanting to choke the damn character. Episode, after episode it did things to aggregate me so much. Before season 1 was over I was dead set on the mindset this is the worst Shonen I’ve ever seen. It’s not MHA fault its mangaka is force to use these tropes. Considering I have some vague understanding how Shonen Jump Weekly is run I wouldn’t blame the mangaka for phoning it so he can make something he wants later on in his career.

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Somewhere on Discord, I’m making someone feel like this

We finally arrive at Black Clover, and MHA season 2. In the case of Black Clover everyone I knew was hyping Black Clover as the absolute worst Shonen ever made. Everyone I knew told me they despite it, and told me it would be the new low bar surpassing MHA. Watching a couple episodes of Black Clover I was disappointed my friends that watch anime overhyped how bad Black Clover actually. In the same way MHA is a collection of Shonen trope so was Black Clover. The difference why I can enjoy Black Clover moderately is that it plays it straight without deviation. MHA wants to deviate from the Shonen tropes into something better, but always goes back to them suffering as a result.

Around the time MHA season 3 was finishing concluding plenty of anime fans I talk too on different Discord servers started disliking more. They weren’t on the same level of me in terms of seething hatred for MHA, but slowly they were getting there. So as you would expect, when I sat to watch a few episodes of MHA season 2 I absolutely found season 2 a marginal improvement. Ironic considering the tournament arc is also a point some of MHA fans weren’t quite feeling it. Including some of the small Anitubbers I know that say season 2 tournament arc slow things to a crawl, and was worse overall. Me, I was happy I found it tolerable to a point where if I wanted I could watch multiple episodes of MHA, and not feel like my brain would explode.

Long introduction to basically say watching all these Shonen over the years I fatigue by it. None of the ones I’ve mentioned didn’t stand out in any way. Maybe I was simply too told in my 20s to appreciate anime aimed at 12 – 18 year old males. I was more than ready to check myself into a retirement home until one day me, and my brother recently finished watching the OVA Wounded Man. You already know how I feel about that OVA, and my brother hates it even more than me. So when we were deciding what exactly we should try to watch next in my anime collection I randomly chose Ushio & Tora on a whim. I’ve been wanting to watching it for a while, and after the travesty that was Wounded Man anything would be better.

I popped in the blu ray disc, saw the first episode, and it was actually enjoyable. From than on we just kept watching Ushio & Tora enjoy ourself. Before getting to a point in the middle of season 1 were episodes were starting to end on cliffhangers. We just kept binging episode after episode. It was a significant event since I can’t tell you the last time I binge a Shonen that wasn’t FMA related, or Death Note. This was due to the fact the plot was kept generally simple, the objective already set so it was a matter of going to it, and wasn’t bogged down by superficial drama.

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While I’m at it, these two are always fun on screen.

Simplicity is what Ushio & Tora first season was good at, and also a why it would be hard to get into. It has a monster of the week formula to it, and depending on how you like the two constantly bickering leads will determine where it falls for you. I enjoyed the bickering chemistry between Ushio & Tora so I always found it entertaining. While the action wasn’t exactly impressive it didn’t drag out. Something modern Shonen seems to be getting better at as a observation.

Ushio & Tora also fell on my good graces by not having a tournament arc! So whenever season 1 as unfocus as it was didn’t feel like it was making significant progress never did it feel like it was prolonging something from concluded. Things kept progressing which I like seeing in my Shonen, and here’s looking at you Yu Yu Hakusho for having a longer than necessary tournament arc.

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I’ll take this moment over any tournament arc.

With this praise towards it being fun, and seemingly cutting out the fluff from your average Shonen what about the characters. Well, that wouldn’t be capitalize on until the much more focused, and refined season 2 of Ushio & Tora. I kinda feel like season 1 of Ushio & Tora tried to emulate how Noragami first season perfectly setup the groundwork for everything to be expanded on in later seasons, but not quite as good. Season 1 changes objective from fighting monsters weekly to going to a location to find out more information to getting stronger until the big baddie comes. Enjoyable as it was it sure was messy getting to season 2.

An immediate improvement over season 1 is getting straight to the point of its story. With everything already set up it can conclude lingering plot points from season 1. Leading to plenty of great character moments, in particular for the duo the anime is named after. The interaction between Ushio & Tora doesn’t change one bit, but the meaning behind their interaction does. It’s done in a subtle way that it was refreshing to witness in a Shonen.

Surprisingly, Ushio & Tora got me to be invested in its cast. Nowhere near emotional, but I cared about their well being. Something I consider a great accomplishment since Tora is a dickhead to everyone for practically the entire series. So imagine when in season 2 he’s a given a dramatic moment with a friend of Ushio, and it settle in ultimate cost this final battle will potentially have. It was a surprisingly sad moment that I felt was rightfully earned as Tora grows, and seeing him fall to his lowest point.

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Yes, even lower than loosing to a truck.

Contrast this to Assassination Classroom for Korosensei where the character was presented as this great individual, and that wouldn’t be sad if something bad happened to him. 40 plus episodes of scenes like this eventually made me not care for the finale during season 2 of AssClass as I sighed in relief it was going to be over soon. Meanwhile, multiple characters tell Tora how they would like to just beat him up, or kill him. So when Tora gets this specific dramatic moment with Ushio friend in season 2 it feels more impactful. It didn’t create a series of good deeds for Tora to perform, point to it as a good thing, and told me what to feel. I naturally came to the conclusion this is surprisingly sad.

While not without it flaws aside from the messy structure of season 1. It does feel the need to make every character Ushio & Tora come across seems significant. Not a problem to solve if the anime was wasn’t a 39 episode long. Numerous character will disappear, and appear out nowhere at random points in the series. If they had more screen time than the final arc would have felt even more eventful than it already did.

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Generally though, Ushio & Tora provided me something previous shonens I’ve mentioned couldn’t provide me consistently. All I ask for any form of media in general to do is either be entertaining, or engage me in the story it’s telling. Ushio & Tora manages to do both consistently throughout the series no matter how messy it gets. The lack of filler means the buildup to the final confrontation feels like a significant event instead of just another power scaling breaker. Most important of all, it’s likable characters, good drama in season 2, and overall just entertainment of watching Ushio & Tora made want to watch Shonen anime again. Reminding me of why I enjoy watching Shonen so much when they are done right.

This post came out twice as long as I expected. That what happens when I do things on a whim instead of plan them out. Either way, I celebrated Ushio & Tora for getting me back into watching Shonen anime. Even if I don’t something as good as it for a while. The viewing experience of it will stick with me for a long time. Tomorrow though, I’ll probably take another departure from the praises I’m handing for some criticism. Until that fateful day of tomorrow, sayanora!

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