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Nabari no Ou #1 PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Thursday, 25 August 2011 00:00
Nabari no OuWelcome to a world where ninja fight for secret villages, each trying to be the strongest and gain an advantage over the other. Not, it's not another volume of Naruto - although that would, you may be shocked to learn, probably be more interesting. Welcome to the Nabari world...

Miharu Rokujou is a fourteen-year-old student who really doesn't give a damn about anything - and he'd quite like to stay that way. He's constantly pestered by his classmate Koichi Aizawa and teacher Tobari Kumohira to join their kendo club, though - and when Tobari tries to tell Miharu that he's being targeted by ninja, Miharu understandably doesn't take him seriously. Until he is attacked by a ninja - at which point things start to get really strange...

Koichi and Tobari, along with soon-to-arrive female ninja Raimei, are all representatives of the Fuma village, you see, and they've determined that Miharu is the current possessor of the village's forbidden power, the Shinrabunshou. With proper training, the Shinrabunshou would give Miharu the power to grant almost any wish, to change the past, or to erase things from existence - so it's only to be expected that the village would want to exert their influence over him as soon as possible. And before he learns how to use his ability.

The Fuma are just one of several clans, though, each with their own forbidden techniques, and it's not long before we meet the first of them - the Kairoshu, most often represented by Yoite, possessor the the Kira ability - a power that allows him to inflict lethal damage on others, albeit at the cost of a little of his own life every time he uses it. That's a sign of how importantly the clans and villages view the pursuit of power - but Yoite is tiring of the battles that he's having to fight, and sees in Miharu a way out of that cycle of violence. If Miharu will agree to let him use it.

So begins a relationship between the two that's very much safe-distance, but where it's not much of a stretch to see the two getting down to a little BL action together. Ho-yay, as TVTropes might put it. Take that sort of relationship, add high stakes clan warfare and high-powered battles, and you also end up with an unhealthily large dose of angst to deal with, as Yoite and Miharu struggle to come to terms with who and what they are.

So far, so dull. The series doesn't help itself by simply not explaining itself very well, either - the conflict between the clans and villages is often spoken to in terms of the 'Nabari World' and the 'Human World', with Miharu spoken of as a potential King of the Nabari World (that's the Nabari no Ou of the title, translation fans) on account of his ability - but while you get the feeling that the real and Nabari worlds are two distinct, separate physical realms, there's no explanation given of what this really means, what the Nabari world is, or how you would travel between the two. Strange, given how key it seems to be to the show's concept. There's also no clear good guy / nad guy relationship between the villages - the Fuma present the Kairoshu as the villains, because it's in their interest to do so, but they're using the same tactics and treating their own warriors as cannon fodder when it suits them, so they're clearly not so "good" themselves. When Miharu ends up spending some time with the Kairoshu himself, we see a group of normal people, clearly not outright "evil" themselves - and so you're left with no side to choose or cheer on. That's another fairly big flaw.

End result, is that I have no idea what the series is trying to do, and it's so overburdened with emotion and angst that I couldn't work up much enthusiasm to watch it. This set (the first of two) is only 13 episodes, but it took me a month to get through it, and that alone tells me a lot. If the second set can put some clear distance between the groups, some different motivations that can be clearly identified with, and if there's more of an effort made to explain the significance of the "Nabari World", then perhaps the show can still dig itself out of the hole it's dug itself in to. But I can't say that I'm hugely hopeful, and I wouldn't rush to recommend this volume in the meantime.

Rating - **