Hell Teacher Nūbē (地獄先生ぬ～べ～ Jigoku Sensei Nūbē?) is a horror-comedy manga created by the collaborative efforts of writer Shō Makura (真倉翔?) and artist Takeshi Okano in Shueisha's manga anthology book Weekly Shōnen Jump. The series ran for 276 chapters (not including the two pilot chapters where Nūbē was known as Nubo (ぬ～ぼ～ Nūbō)) from Issue 38, 1993 through Issue 24, 1999. A 48-episode anime series based on the manga was created by Toei Animation, and aired from 1996–1997 on Animax and TV Asahi. The anime resulted in three movies and three OVA episodes. A spinoff story for Izuna Hazuki the itako-girl, Izuna the Spiritual Medium (霊媒師いずな), has been running in Oh, Super Jump since July 2007.
The series follows Meisuke Nueno (鵺野鳴介 Nueno Meisuke?), aka Nūbē (ぬ～べ～?), the homeroom teacher for Class 5-3 at Dōmori Elementary (童守小学校 Dōmori Shōgakkō?). More than a teacher, however, he is a skilled exorcist, protecting the town of Dōmori from supernatural threats with strength borrowed from a powerful demon sealed in his left hand—a technique he calls the Demon's Hand (鬼の手 Oni no Te?).
The basic formula for the manga chapters and anime episodes is as follows: what seems like a normal day at Dōmori Elementary is disrupted by some weird phenomenon, usually targeting one of Nūbē's own students. Nūbē is forced into action, most often using the power of the Demon's Hand to assist in solving the problem, but occasionally the solution lies either in another of his spiritual weapons, or somehow reasoning with or appeasing the threatening entity. By the end, things always seem to get back to normal, with Nūbē and his students having learned something from the experience. Most of the series retains this episodic formula, forgoing an over-arching storyline in favor of more character-driven action, although there are several recurring antagonists throughout, as well as some longer story arcs towards the end of the series.
The characters in Hell Teacher Nūbē can be divided into several distinct groups, each one separate from the others, yet consistently interacting with the others.
- The first group is the staff of Dōmori Elementary, made up of the teachers and other adults (mostly) who assist in the education and welfare of the students. These include Nūbē, his "perverted obsession" Ritsuko Takahashi, and other teachers of the school, as well as the principal.
- The second is the student body of Dōmori Elementary, each of whom brings a different personality and set of experiences brought both to their education and experiences with the supernatural. Most of these characters are the students of Nūbē's class 5-3, but also includes other students in other classes, both in the fifth and other grades (such as Hiroshi's soccer teammates and Makoto's "girlfriend", Ai Shinozaki).
- The third are the various yōkai Nūbē and the citizens of Dōmori encounter. Many of these spirits appear once and never appear again after their chapter of focus. Others show up at least that one time, and then cameo here and there during certain chapters where various spirits reappear for the better or worse of Nūbē and the others. And still others, such as the yōko Tamamo and the yuki-onna Yukime, end up becoming intertwined in the events of Doumori, either assisting or tormenting Nūbē as they feel at that moment!
- The last group of characters are humans who do not quite fit in any of the other categories, yet consistently are connected to the affairs of Nūbē or his students. These include other exorcists like "itako-girl" Izuna Hazuki and crooked Buddhist priest Oshō, normal recurring characters, and even the parents of the 5-3 students!
Influences and Homages
Although Shou and Okano created their universe of Nūbē as its own separate world, they were highly influenced by the works of several other authors, anime and mangaka in one way or another. For starters, Nūbē himself is a combination in design of Chirico Cuvie, main character of the anime Armored Trooper Votoms and Black Jack, from the classic medical manga by Osamu Tezuka. Similarly, several of the students gain their influence from series that have influenced the diversity of series nature: the school-comedy connection coming from the 1970s Jump series Dokonjō Gaeru, the horror side from Go Nagai's classic Devilman. Ritsuko-sensei's design is similar to many of the heroines of classic 1970s giant robot anime, and Minako-sensei design is similar to Honey Kisaragi's design from Cutie Honey. Finally, the yōkai themselves are derived in design from the works of painter Sekien Toriyama, known for his art of the supernatural.
Although there are many connections to the past in Nūbē, the series does acknowledge that it is one of many manga that exist within the Weekly Shōnen Jump anthology. Since the series exists in then-modern 1990s Japan, it is merely one part of the world in which they live in. There are consistently jokes breaking the fourth wall regarding Jump, whether it is Nūbē or one of his students reading the book or commenting about how the staff of the book may act regarding certain plot points. Similarly, several other Jump series occasionally receive mention either in tribute or for laughs. One of the consistent mentions regards Osamu Akimoto's long running police-comedy manga Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen-mae Hashutsujo: both series have a similar story style where most stories are just one chapter episodes, yet the characters still grow and change through their run like the serial manga (though some of the comments were in regard to Kochi Kame's extremely long run). Another consistent Jump target regarded Akira Toriyama's action classic Dragon Ball. In this case, the tributes are varied, between the "artistic" appearance of characters like Son Goku or parodies of various attacks such as Nūbē going Super Saiyan or performing the fusion dance. Many other Jump manga from this era have also appeared in cameo within Nūbē as varied as Midori no Makibaou, Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoiyo! Masaru-san, Yu-Gi-Oh and Rurouni Kenshin!
Since the manga was a period of its time in the mid/late 1990s, the series did touch and joke about many of the things within Japanese culture during this period of time. The series made passing references to politicians (such as prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa) and sports players, as well as having visual cameos of celebrities such as Takuya Kimura of SMAP and actress Ryoko Hirosue. However, amidst the spiritual encounters, the manga also touched on various crazes and factors within the society of the era. One chapter involved a pagers as part of a climax, while another involved the consequences of Hiroshi receiving his first personal computer in a period where computers and the internet were becoming more prominent. Other chapters acknowledged video games such as Pokémon and the "fighting monster" craze (followed up by a literal Pokémon parody in a volume page), the Tamagotchi games, and the Gainax series of Princess Maker games. (Although a more well known Gainax creation, Neon Genesis Evangelion, got in a tiny reference in one of the other manga volumes, as does Cowboy Bebop.)
Nūbē in Other Media
A video game was released in Japan on the Sony PlayStation in 1997. More recently, Nūbē and Yukime became support characters in the 2006 DS game Jump Ultimate Stars, with Hiroshi and Kyoko as help characters.
- Baribari Saikyou No. 1 (The No. 1 Greatest Hard-Worker) by Feel So Bad (TV Series)
- News na Gakkou (School News) by Sigetaka Takayama & Himawari Kids (OAVs)
- Mienai Chikara ~Invisible One~ (Unseen Power ~Invisible One~) by B'z (TV Series - Eps. 1-29)
- Spirit by Pamelah (TV Series - Eps. 30-47)
- Baribari Saikyou No. 1 (TV Series - Ep. 48)
- Hurt by CASH (OAVs)
- Toei's official Nūbē site (Japanese)
- Animax's official Jigoku Sensei Nūbē website (Japanese)
- Hell Teacher Nūbē (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Hell Teacher Nūbē (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia