Ushio and Tora (うしおととら Ushio to Tora?) is a youkai manga by Kazuhiro Fujita. It received the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen in 1992. It was adapted into three OVA series: one with six episodes released from September 11, 1992 to February 1, 1993; one with four episodes released from June 11, 1993 to August 1, 1993; and one single episode OVA released on October 1, 1993. The anime was released in the United States by ADV Films.
Ushio and Tora centers around the travails and battles of Ushio Aotsuki (蒼月潮 Aotsuki Ushio?), who is constantly being stalked and aided by a gigantic, supernatural and sometimes invisible tiger-like monster.
Ushio's family maintains a temple in Japan, where 500 years ago, his samurai ancestor battled that same monster to a standstill, and eventually trapped him against a rock using a cursed spear called the "Beast Spear", which grants strength, speed, and endurance to the wielder in exchange to his soul. Ushio accidentally unsealed the cave Tora was trapped in.
Initially, Ushio refuses to remove the spear pinning Tora (とら, Japanese for tiger) down (as Tora made the strategic blunder of mentioning that the first thing he would do upon being freed would be to devour Ushio), but Tora's unsealed presence attracts various monsters to the temple. Ushio is forced to free Tora, who would like to eat Ushio, but dares not since Ushio keeps the spear close by. The series focuses on their relationship, interspersed with battles against mythological foes, and with Tora's attempts to grapple with modern life.
Episodic in nature, most of the manga is a series of fights with different youkai or other creatures from Japanese myths. But at thirty-three volumes, the story continues far past the events of the anime, and leads to an epic conclusion.
Major Arcs in the Storyline: i) The Beginnings ii) Journey to Asahikawa iii) Crisis at Kouhamei Sect Monastery iv) The Kansai Yokai Army v) Artificial Monster Technology vi) Brainwash vii) The Final Battles
- Ushio Aotsuki
- The protagonist of the series, he is the son of a temple priest and a lady shaman, destined to wield the Beast Spear and defeat the super yokai Hakumen no Mono. He is very kind-hearted and greatly values all life and friendships. With his ideals, he manages to unite the forces of mankind and yokai against Hakumen through his example of his fighting partnership with Tora. Ushio loves Asako and cares a lot for Mayuko, and will promptly appear to save them from yokai attacks.
- An ancient tiger-like yokai who was released when Ushio pulled off the Beast Spear. Prior to being pin in the basement of Ushio's temple, he was known as Nagatobimaru, famously feared among the yokai community for his sheer strength and powers of lightning. Being trapped in the basement for 500 years, he has great curiosity over modern lifestyle and gadgets. His favourite food is hamburgers, which Mayuko always provides when they meet. He states that he has every intention to eat Ushio and Mayuko, thus will not let them be taken away by other yokai. At the same time, Tora seems to enjoy their company, and he has said that he will not do something as low as attempting to eat Ushio in his sleep, implying he would prefer fair combat. He also explains the reason why he protects Ushio despite saying he'll eat him is that he never feels bored around him. Tora cares deeply about him which he truly tries to deny.
- Asako Nakamura
- The hot-headed, tomboyish childhood friend of Ushio and Mayuko. She and Ushio love each other the most, and she also cares for Mayuko a lot. Her family owns a ramen restaurant.
- Mayuko Inoue
- Ushio and Asako's best friend. She is more sweet and feminine. She cares for Ushio and has feelings for Tora, whom she readily buys hamburgers for. Later, she took in Kirio as her stepbrother. It is also revealed that she belongs to the lineage of powerful lady shamans. Therefore, Mayuko is able to create psychic barriers powerful enough to hold back Hakumen.
- Shigure Aotsuki
- Ushio's father, keeper of the temple he and his son live in. He's a stern, businesslike man at times, but also kind and wise. His secret identity is being one of strongest priest of a special Buddhist sect named Kouhamei, dedicated to fighting yokai.
- Reiko Hanyuu
- An orphaned girl who goes to the same school as Ushio, Asako and Mayuko. Her father was very overprotective of her, and when he died he became an oni, causing danger to any boys who took the slightest fancy of her. This distressed her greatly, and she tried to commit suicide many times in vain. Ushio finally made her father realize his errors, and he left for the afterworld. Thereafter, Reiko was able to lead a normal life, and became good friends with Ushio, Asako and Mayuko.
- A powerful Chinese exorcist, highly skilled in geomancy, usage of seals and flying spears. He travels around China and eventually comes to Japan to seek the yokai who killed his wife and his daughter, and took out his right eye and left three long scars on his face. In his right eye socket now is a magical blue crystal ball used to save his life by his teacher. Hyou initially thinks Tora is the one who murdered his family, but Ushio convinces him Tora is innocent, and Hyou later calms down a little, becoming a valued ally.
- Jie Mei
- The spirit guardian who lives in the darkness of the Beast Spear. She is the sister of Giryou, who sacrificed her life to create the blade of the spear. She is the first of the lineage of powerful lady shamans, many of whom resemble her and were her reincarnations. Jie Mei is able freely materialize anywhere needed, and first appeared to help prevent Ushio from transforming into a Beast by having his soul totally absorbed by the spear.
- The brother of Jie Mei, a highly skilled blacksmith who eventually goes insane from being unable to prevent her sacrifice. Filled with anger, remorse and regret, he hammered his body into the shaft of the spear. His spirit is trapped in the darkness of the spear, unlike his sister, and can greatly influence the user of the spear with his fury. Still, he has pledged his loyalty to Ushio.
- Yuu Hiyama
- A young girl whose father was killed in an airplane crash caused by Fusuma, a flying demon. Initially she blamed her father's long-time friend Atsuzawa for the incident, but after helping Ushio to defeat Fusuma, she learns the truth and forgives Atsuzawa.
- Saya Takatori
- A young girl descended from a long line of white-haired women who have maintained the success of the Takatori household by appeasing the childlike spirit Omamori. She is shy and easily intimidated, apologizing profusely even when the other is at fault. At first she is reluctant to let Ushio destroy the barrier imprisoning Omamori, as the backlash of energy would destroy her, but she relents when Tora decides to deflect the backlash. In the aftermath, she tells Ushio of her decision to become stronger like him, and slowly becomes more outgoing and healthier. Oddly, her hair starts turning brown as well, perhaps symbolizing the end of her "job".
- Tokuno Shinji
- A former yakuza who left the business when he was diagnosed with cancer, and unconsciously decided to return to his home village. He was a delinquent as a child and was picked on and looked down by the others in his village, leading to his distaste for others. He sacrifices himself to seal Shimuna, the mist spirit and keep it from destroying his village. In the chapters afterward, Ushio wears Shinji's overcoat in memory of his sacrifice.
The Kouhamei Sect
- A petite old woman who commands the respect of the entire sect. It's later revealed that she is lady Hizaki Mikado, the shaman who sealed the Gamin in the boxes for a long time. She sacrificed herself by using all her psychic powers to kill one of the avatars of Hakumen no Mono that attacked the Kouhamei Sect headquarters.
- The leader of the Kouhamei sect, and the younger brother of Kyoura, nearly identical to him except for a large scar across the right side of his face. Initially Nigira is against entrusting Ushio with the Beast Spear, but is finally convinced by Oyakume to observe Ushio in order to test his worth.
- Kyoura the Heretic
- The older brother of Nigira, who was excommunicated from the sect for ignoring the teachings of Buddha in order to pursue his singular desire to exterminate yokai, but the sect is not above calling on him to do their dirty work for them. He attacks Ushio and Tora in Aomori castle, but is defeated when Ushio becomes one with the Beast Spear. He feels humiliated for being unable to defeat Ushio and Tora and vows to defeat them by all means, including stealing a special weapon from the Kouhamei Temple to so.
- Hinowa Sekimori
- A tough, caustic, skilled, no-nonsense girl who is extremely against Ushio being one of the four Chosen of the Beast Spear because she believes him to be undisciplined and reckless, far below those who trained all their lives in the Kouhamei sect in order to be selected to use the Beast Spear. When she gets the chance to wield the Spear, it rejects her, returning instead to Ushio. Hinowa is still reluctant to acknowledge Ushio as the true bearer of the Spear, but she ends up helping him from time to time anyway. Hinowa channels her power through a pair of combs, and is able to cast barriers.
- Nagare Akiba
- One of the four Chosen of the Beast Spear who is very well versed at using the shakuja and other holy weapons to deal with monsters.
- Satoru Moritsuna
- An master shikigami user and the most senior of the four Chosen of the Beast Spear. He was possessed by Hiyou to attack Ushio and destroy the Beast Spear. He is very protective of his younger sister Jun.
- The youngest but also the strongest of the four Chosen of the Beast Spear. He wields the Elzaar Scythe and is accompanied by a monster partner call Kuin. He later becomes Mayuko's step brother.
- Stone Eater
- A 200 year old centipede demon that turns its victims into stone before devouring them, it does this slowly in order to relish the fear of its victims. Inhabited a stone statue of a samurai until it was defeated by Ushio. Its broken pieces were later collected and made into a supernatural armour for Ushio.
- Formerly the master artist Michio Hanyuu. When his wife ran off with one of his students he became filled with hate and became an oni after he died. His soul inhabited a painting he had made of his daughter Reiko and was fiercely jealous of anyone who tried to get close to her, resulting in 'accidents' happening to all those who did. He finally passed on after Ushio defeated him by stabbing the painting he inhabited with the Beast Spear.
- A group of five demonic heads that were sealed in boxes that were pinned beneath a massive stone by the priestess Mikado Hizaki. After they were unwittingly released by a construction team they slaughtered the workers and searched the city for Hizaki in order to exact their revenge even though Hizaki was long dead. They pursued Mayuko because her appearance was identical to Hizaki's, but they were confronted and defeated by Tora (because he wanted to eat Mayuko himself at the time).
- A sky-going demon that eats humans, he caused an air carrier to crash and devoured all 200 occupants including Yuu's father. He attacked the plane that Ushio, Tora, Yuu and Atsuzawa were on and killed the pilots in order to control the plane. However he was wounded in the neck by the Beast Spear and was completely destroyed by an exploding missile from a air support fighter plane (according to Tora his weaknesses are the tooth of an ohaguro and large amounts of fire). Before dying he remarks that it wasn't a bad thing to die before Hakumen no Mono's awakening.
- An invincible demon composed of only corrosive mist that dissolves and eats humans, yokai and any organic matter.
- An old acquaintance of Tora back when he was called Nagatobimaru. A guardian of the ocean he takes the form of an elderly man with a walking stick and a sake jug. He enlists the help of Ushio and Tora in order to subdue a giant sea serpent. Later he inadvertently reveals to Ushio that his mother (whom he thought dead) is still alive and hated by all yokai.
- The Kamaitachi Siblings
- A trio of kamaitachi living in the area around Tono that consists of the eldest brother Raishin, the middle brother Juuro and the younger sister Kagari. They were driven from their old home when it was turned into a golf course and Juuro, originally a gentle demon became filled with hatred for humans and began wantonly killing any he found. When they heard that Ushio was in the area, Raishin and Kagari approached Ushio to ask for his help. During the battle Ushio after realizing where Juuro was coming from began to cry for the sufferings of yokai which moved Juuro, who along with Tora and the workers of a construction site managed to free Raishin and Kagari when they were pinned under a construction vehicle. Afterwards Ushio promised to find a place for the siblings to live, but Juuro, believing that such a place did not exist, attacked Ushio causing him to kill Juuro on reflex and he died, finally at peace. Afterwards Raishin and Kagari became staunch allies of Ushio and Tora, defending them against the wrathful demons of Tono.
- A zashiki warashi spirit imprisoned by the Takatori family in order to ensure the family's prosperity. During her imprisonment Omamori has been comforted by a long line of white-haired women including Saya's mother. She foretold the coming of a boy with a spear who would free her from her imprisonment, this was fulfilled when Ushio came to the Takatori house and destroyed the barrier imprisoning her. Even after the destruction of the Takatori household she remains behind to watch over Saya. She sides with Ushio during the attack of the Tono and spoke to Osa on his behalf.
- The wise chief of the Tono yokai whose true self is that of a powerful Tengu. He is revealed to be also the chief of the Kanto yokai.
- A small fox-like spirit send by the Osa of Tono to assist Ushio in his effort to purge the demons possessing Moritsuna.
- the time travelling yokai who sents Ushio and Tora back to the past to observe the birth of the Beast Spear
- The chief of the Kansai yokai who believed that his army could defeat the imprisoned Hakumen no Mono. He wields a huge claymore like a katana.
Hakumen no Mono
An extremely powerful, golden nine-tailed fox born from ancient times who enjoys destroying countries by manipulating the rulers and creating fear among humans and yokai. Currently, it is trapped in an immense psychic barrier maintained by a lineage of lady shamans under the sea south of Japan. However, this does not keep it completely helpless and plots to destroy the Beast Spear before it finally escapes from its imprisonment.
Each of the nine tails has specific abilities and can spawn various minion yokai and avatars, that can phase through the barrier to do its bidding. The avatars of Hakumen no Mono are some of the strongest monsters ever faced by the protagonists.
- Small yokai minions spawned from Hakumen that looks like a flying eyeball with ears. They can combine together to form a stronger entity or attack en masse in huge numbers.
- A giant cricket-like monster that easily broke through the protective barrier of the Kouhamei Sect Main Headquarters. Possesses razor sharp claws and body that can reflect standard attacks.
- An avatar in the form of a enigmatic lady who suddenly appeared to assist the renegade Kouhamei monk, Inasa, in his research to create the Elzaar Scythe. After Inasa died, Towako acted as Kirio's mom and through the boy, manipulated a group of Kouohamei Sect monks to abduct the Beast Spear. She did managed to partially destroy the Beast Spear but it was revived by Ushio's pledge.
- "小学館漫画賞：歴代受賞者" (in Japanese). Shogakukan. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
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- Ushio and Tora at the Internet Movie Database
- Ushio and Tora (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia