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Ushio Aotsuki comes from an old family with a rich and colorful history. For example, 500 years ago his first ancestor was a samurai who, armed with a magical spear, pinned a nasty monster to a rock. Now, monsters such as that are usually unkillable, so the best that the samurai ancestor was able to do was to subdue the beast. Later, this ancestor built a temple over the spot to keep an eye on the monster. Ushio and his father still live in this temple.
Of course, who would believe such things.... Certainly not Ushio.
One day he finds a trapped door that he had never seen before. Behind the door was a sub-basement with one very bored and annoyed monster in it. After some banter, and a number of threats on the part of the monster [mainly about the thing that the beast would do first, if released, namely to eat Ushio first thing].
Things might have been ok, except that all the monster's evil "vibes" from the past 500 years have been released. This is a little more then Ushio and two young female friends, Asako and Mayuko can handle. So back to the sub-basement he goes.
A deal is made, of sorts.... Basically, as long as Ushio has the spear of subjugation of evil the monster beast, whom Ushio names Tora [which is Japanese for "tiger"], will not just eat him outright. After a number of whacks with the spear, Tora is also convinced that he should not eat anyone else, either. Tora is content for the time being with just haunting Ushio.
So Ushio, armed with a magical spear [which has a number of special features] and a "tiger" like monster fight a number of other monster beings.
But, no matter what happens, Tora does not quite grasp the entire idea of television.
In Volume 2, a monster hunter from Hong Kong mistakes Tora for the monster who ate his family 15 years before. Ushio is in a moral dilemma. He knows that Tora was stuck to his basement for 500 years, but should he just let the monster hunter kill Tora.
Scorching Spinning Wheel features a monster who likes to live in spinning things. Tora summed it up by saying, "... a strange guy."
In any case, this particular monster has taken a shine to Asako, and Ushio must, in turn, save her from becoming this monsters consort. In a number of places, Asako shows that she likes Ushio by hitting him. Kids are so cute at that age.
Volume 3 is a two part story which has Tora visiting town after Ushio accuses him of committing a string of murders. However, having spent 500 years in a basement, Tora is not exactly prepared for the 20th century. Annoying little things like carbon monoxide, perfume, glass windows and various body metals provide to almost be too much for him.
However, just as Tora thinks he might stave to death, he spots Mayuko, one of Ushio's friends. In typical monster style, Tora decides to make her into a light lunch. But his plans are foiled when a group of other monsters/spirits show up. These new monsters are part of a flying head clan which had been imprisoned for several hundred years. They are also somewhat confused by the 20th century, but that does not stop them killing quite a number of people in their vain search for the person who imprisoned them.
In the end, after helping Ushio defeat the Gamin, Tora does not eat Mayuko, and is introduced to the hamburger concept.
Volume 4 is another two part story. In this one, Ushio and some of his classmates go on a trip to the beach. They stay at Asako's grandparents place and have Asako's father as escort.
Of course, Tora comes along as well. He finds the ocean Big and the taste of sharks bad.
Everything would be pretty nice, except that a younger boy named Tatsuya keeps making trouble and is being generally annoying. Asako takes a liking to him, however, as he reminds her of Ushio when they were younger. She seems to think of Ushio a lot nowadays. [Kids are soooo cute at that age].
Things change, however, when a huge sea monster named Ayakashi arrives on the scene. Its first victim is Tora, who get promptly swallowed. The next victims are Asako and Tatsuya.
With some assistance from here and there, Ushio is made aware of the monster and what it has done, and he goes speeding off. Unfortunately, the Beast Spear seems to have little effect on the oily skinned Ayakashi. So, Ushio, too, allows himself to be swallowed and fights the monster from the inside.
In the end, of course, Ushio & Tora defeat the sea monster and everyone is rescued. We also get to learn Tora's real name. He was known as Lord Nagatobimaru, but he doesn't like this name anymore as it reminds him of his 500 year imprisonment in Ushio's basement. Tatsuya also learns to behave himself.
Volume 5 concludes the series. In this volume there is another two part story. This time, Ushio is approached by a sibling spirit pair, who need the Beast Spear's help. The pair are two of a three part sibling group who are known as the Kamaitachi. They are old Japanese spirits that have the natural form of giant weasels. Their mission is to hurt humans, a little. The first Kamaitachi causes a human to trip, the second will cut the human, and the third will put medicine on the cut and then leave.
These particular three Kamaitachi are known by the names Raishin, Juro, and Kagari. Juro, the one who cuts the humans with his sickle, is out of control killing humans all over the place. He hates the entire human race for driving him and his brother and sister from their homes. His hate has caused his sickle to become sharp and strong.
Juro is also more then a match for Ushio and the Beast Spear. In fact, Ushio never defeats Juro in combat.
In the end, this story is much more introspective then the previous volumes and does not exactly have what might be termed a happy ending.
Ushio & Tora is a fairly cute buddy series with fair animation. The Super Deformed Theater special on the end of the fifth volume is a lot of fun, placing Ushio, Tora, and the rest of the characters in odd and strange situations.