Ordinary high school kid Ushio is sent to clean up around the shrine that his father is the caretaker of. Stumbling through an ancient doorway, he finds himself face to face with a vicious, demonic monster with tiger stripes - a bakemono, pinned to the stone wall by an old spear.The bakemono's evil aura attracts minor bakemono to converge on the shrine, and Ushio makes the decision to free the tiger bakemono who promises to clean up the mess. However, the tiger bakemono merely attacks Ushio and gloats that it is free to devour humans once more. Outraged at the betrayal, Ushio unexpectedly channels the Beast Spear's awesome power and cows the fearful tiger bakemono into helping destroy the minor bakemono using its formidable strength and lightning bolts.After this unusual introduction, Ushio decides to keep the tiger bakemono close by in order to prevent it from killing and eating other humans, to its chagrin naming it Tora (Japanese for tiger). Tora, meanwhile, sticks around in order to find a chance to eat its tormentor.However, the act of removing the Beast Spear leads to a chain of events, ultimately drawing back to an ancient prophecy and an old and implacable enemy who has the power to destroy all Japan - human and bakemono alike. As Ushio and Tora face off against a variety of bakemono based mostly on Japanese traditional legends, they grow closer until they reach a perpetual Enemy Mine / Heterosexual Life-Partners state.Famous for its portrayal of classic Japanese monsters in a modern setting such as the Kamaitachi and Kappa (as well as having the heroes kick monster butt) and the interplay between the two leads, Ushio & Tora stretched 33 volumes of manga and was adapted to a short 10-episode OVA. Ushio and friends appear in the Massive Multiplayer Crossover game, Sunday VS Magazine: Shuuketsu! Choujou Daikessen.
Ushio&Tora provides examples of:
Action Girl - Hinowa is tomboyish battle monk-ette with a caustic attitude, probably because she was born a girl and her dad wanted a boy to train up as a warrior monk.
Most of the girls involved either are this or come pretty close.
Asako in particular, here, after we thought she was strong but no fighter.
Art Evolution / Art Shift / Off Model - Tora's ears are no longer visible. Or rather, witht he way his hair is drawn it's incredibly difficult to distinguish them.
In-series example; Ushio's art drastically improves from the first volume to the next one we see, in volume 15.
Badass Adorable - Believe or not, Tora can be pretty cute when he is pouting.
Badass Family - Ushio's old fart of a dad is actually one of the strongest in a secret order of bakemono-trashing monks. His mom is singlehandedly keeping Hakumen no Mono pinned down and holding off every bakemono of Japan that wants Hakumen no Mono's head.
Badass Longcoat - Creepy black-coated Hyou makes a living (and revenge) hunting bakemono, and almost took down Tora single handedly.
Ushio acquires one on his trip to find out about his mother.
Because Destiny Says So - Ushio and Tora and the Beast Spear are intricately linked to Hakumen, because due to time travel Ushio aka 'Shanyue' was party to the spear's forging, the spear was forged for the purpose of revenge against Hakumen, Tora while a human gave rise to Hakumen's physical form and then later became the first wielder of the spear, and Ushio is descended from the line of women linked to the spear's forging. So Ushio wielding the spear with Tora at his side to face down Hakumen represents a grand culmination of destiny.
Batman Gambit - Hakumen no Mono tried this with Kirio and the Elzaar Scythe - a plot spanning years to undermine support for the Beast Spear and ultimately destroy it by creating a wielder and a weapon actually very dangerous to itself.
Did the Beast Spear do this even as it struck Hakumen and broke apart? Seeing as the spear can almost always return to its wielder's side, even when in a thousand little pieces.
Probably. The Beast Spear in its shards form killed all of Hakumen's memory-blocking monsters (one from each person and bakemono), broke the hurricane that was preventing escape, showed Hakumen's past to Ushio giving him the knowledge on how to defeat Hakumen and restored faith in Tora. In short, it removed despair, added hope, restrengthened Ushio and Tora's fighting resolve, and doing all of these behind overconfident Hakumen's back by being 'defeated'
Big Bad - As the series progresses, hints are dropped about Hakumen no Mono (White Face), a giant dragonlike nine-tailed fox whose hobby is destroying both humans and other bakemono. The mere idea of it awakening again is equated to the end of Japan as we know it, followed by whatever civilization it decides to destroy next, and for good reason.
Big Damn Heroes - When it looks like Hakumen is starting to regain momentum again in the battle despite Ushio, Toras, all the Bakemono and Kohumei Sect's best efforts? Guess who shows up? The entire Japanese Defense Force. And know what's more awesome? They are effective, actually causing the first injuries to Hakumen besides what the Spear could do! Heh, if Ushio and Tora's JSDF was in Godzilla they'd be able to drive him off every time!
Call Back - The 'lost memories' arc is full of these as various characters recall past scenes that are missing... Someone... Who?... Which is shown by recycling panels from earlier chapters but which the someone's face blotted out.
Chekhov's Gun - The Beast Spear is inextricably linked to White Face and even Tora's origin.
Call Back / Chekhov's Gunman - Just about every single character and even enemies the heroes meet shows up to do their part in the finale. Justified by the fact that one of the key roles of the protagonists is to rally disparate individuals and groups to work together.
The Chessmaster - Hakumen is undoubtedly this, having multiple insidious and long-running plans to weaken opposition to its eventual rise. Add to the fact that it can't move making chess-piece manipulation its only recourse...
The Beast Spear itself qualifies somewhat... Every wielder than gets turned into a Tora-type bakemono eventually sleeps in stone form, with hatred of Hakumen festering in their dreams, until they all awaken to take part in the final battle against Hakumen
Which also justifies why Ushio (chosen wielder of the spear) and Tora ( turned into his present form by the spear) fight so well together.
Clothing Damage - Hinowa has her clothes ripped almost every time she appears. Being hardcore, she doesn't seem to care if she's titillatingly exposed.
Happens a lot to Ushio and some opponents, simply due to the course of battle.
Cool Sword / Heroes Prefer Swords - Averted throughout the series, beginning with Ushio using a spear, to the monks using staves and unusual weapons, to Kirio using the Elzaar Scythe, to Hyou using knives, to the kamaitachi using their body sickles. In fact, there are only a handful of notable sword users throughout the story (e.g. an agent of Hakumen with a katana, and Shinno with a western-looking two-edged sword).
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass - After centuries buried underground, Tora is naively intrigued and often befuddled by the advances of human technology and is drawn SD style. He gets better.
Ushio's dad seems like an annoying, cranky, good-for-nothing old geezer. He also leads a double-life as a Japan-traveling, bakemon-killing badass monk who is respected and held in awe by the juniors of the sect and who was able to keep it a secret from his son to protect Ushio the entire time.
Despair Event Horizon - Happens to Ushio at the climax when everyone he knows or loves has forgotten him, seemingly betrayed him or seemingly been killed, which causes him to enter Heroic BSOD mode. Then the Beast Spear shatters with its first blow against Hakumen...
And for everyone remaining, the youkai and humans as their last best hopes (not even counting Ushio) are casually swatted aside... See also Near Villain Victory below.
The Determinator - After losing so many lives that he just failed to save, Ushio refuses to let anyone else close to him die on his watch... Especially not the love of his life.
The Dragon - Tora's 'evil twin' (and that's saying something when Tora is a human-eating, savage bakemono!) Guren is basically this to Hakumen (who is ironically quite a literal dragon itself)
Elite Mooks - Guren's Kokuen spawn are more than a match for even the best fighters among the entire East-West alliance of Japan's bakemono... And he can create endless numbers of them! Says a lot about how elite Guren himself is.
And after Ushio and Tora easily kick their butts, the next batch are spawned with a massive Level in Badass.
Emotion Eater - Hakumen literally feeds off fear of it from human and bakemono alike. Furthermore, hatred for it makes it unkillable.
Enemy Mine - Ushio often whacks Tora with the Beast Spear to keep him in line, and Tora always makes the excuse that no bakemono but him is allowed to eat Ushio, but as the story progresses the two become fast friends and watch each other's back - even while still giving the same excuses as ever.
Everyone Can See It - During a tearjerker scene, Mayuko calls out Tora on his excuse that he always sticks by Ushio for purely selfish reasons.
Mayuko:You promised to eat me.
Tora:Right after Ushio, you'll be my dessert.
Mayuko:Then, Tora... You're never going to eat me huh?
Expy - Tora here sure looks a lot like Raizen...or perhaps vice versa?
Fanservice - Every couple of story arcs, one of the many females Ushio meets will be either undressed, de-clothed or undressing herself (for spiritual purposes of course).
Not to mention various female-form bakemon who appear stark naked. YMMV.
Freudian Excuse - Just about every opponent Ushio and Tora meet has one of these.
Gonk - As common to Kazuhiro Fujita's style. More of an intensification of expression, although some of the worse youkai are truly gross.
Grandfather Paradox - Later in the plot, time travel is invoked. The particular type used doesn't seem to have any qualms about present-day characters influencing past events which will directly cause the events that lead to the present-day characters time traveling in the first place. Actually just one single, much-entangled case in point : Ushio /the Beast Spear/ Jie Mei's line of descendants / Tora / Hakumen are all interlinked to the point it becomes unclear what the original, pre-time travel timeline could possibly have been!
Heroic Sacrifice - The series is full of these, perhaps none as many in a row (well, attempted anyway) as when a human must die to make a replacement Beast Spear.
Hope Springs Eternal - Against a seemingly invincible and impossibly powerful Hakumen, Ushio and Tora awaken The Power of Hope in human and bakemono alike. Literally - the hope growing in hearts acts as a counter to the fear that would otherwise increase Hakumen's power. Hakumen admits this in its attempt to erase all memories of the inspiring duo.
Humans Are Special: The series goes out of its way to show that humans are, despite some having flaws, a kind, loving race. Even Yokai notice how they, after getting over their fear immediately go to help them.
Construction Worker: Sakaguichi-tsan, where are you going?!
Justified, in that they've been training for a lifetime in martial arts and spiritual power - especially the Chosen Four who are supposed to wield the Beast Spear when it appears - and then this kiddo from the city with NO kungfu skills and ZERO spiritual training shows up with it? Even Ushio temporarily surrendered the spear to Hinowa when she pointed this out!
This is doubly so because Mayuko loves both Ushio AND Asako. She even admits it directly to Asako when they both have their memory of Ushio wiped, and she only remembers she was in love with this guy but rather let Asako have him
Which is immediately followed by Asako giving him up to Mayuko when she voluntarily takes Mayuko's place as a human sacrifice.
Love Triangle - Ushio, Asako, and Mayuko. Asako most likely is in love with Ushio, but is Tsundere as hell. Mayuko is in love with Ushio, but seems bent on not ruining it for Asako (though there are some hints that she wouldn't be adverse to sharing him. Ushio...is most likely completely in the dark about either of them.
Ushio and Asako get better. Especially with impending doomsday approaching. Then Hakumen has to spoil the moment with its memory-antics!
Magic Hair - Tora's can be used as prehensile limbs (and can catch bullets mid-flight), blades, replacement limbs for running, and even break off and shapeshift (e.g. Mayuko or Asako's form) complete with homing function!
At least once every new arc, Tora will be drawn taking up almost of full page, with his exquisite mane floating about him.
Near Villain Victory - Ironically happens towards the end, since Hakumen is incapacitated until the climax. Everyone has drastically underestimated Hakumen's power - even considering their massive trepidation of it! - and in quick succession, Ushio's loved ones seem to be killed, the Beast Spear broken in one blow, the entire East and West youkai alliance are seemingly destroyed, the JSDF's anti-Hakumen weapons are crushed, the hourikisi sect's ultimate attack is wasted, the people of Japan are dead as their cities burn, Japan is about to sink into the sea but a typhoon prevents any escape, and Tora is bleeding in the massive jaws of Hakumen... and Hakumen is only just getting started.
Prehensile Hair - Tora's can be used to grapple and even catch bullets mid-flight. Plus, he's often drawn with hair floating around looking totally Awesome. Plenty other bakemono use hair as limbs (since they're often lacking actual limbs) and slashing weapons.
Single Specimen Species - Seemingly played straight but then averted with Tora, who is shown to be merely the Monster Progenitor of a whole slew of bakemono with similar shape and powers, all spawned by the Beast Spear consuming the soul of the user.
The Stoic - Hyou turned from loving father to merciless hunter of the supernatural because a bakemono killed his wife and daughter. How does he respond when a shapeshifting bakemono reads his heart and takes the form of his wife and daughter? He picks up his daughter tenderly and then stabs her through the heart with a blade, followed by his wife in the forehead. "If you had to, would you kill your mother or father? I would."
Takahashi Couple - Ushio and Asako have only memories of fighting ever since childhood, except for one.
Taking You with Me / Good Thing You Can Heal - During the finale of the Lost Gedou storyline, Ushio lets the Lost Gedou possess him, knowing that in doing so it won't flee or split apart like it had been doing previously, then uses every ounce of his willpower to snatch up the Beast Spear and stab himself, killing the Lost Gedou and leaving nothing but a wound that the Beast Spear's powers can easily heal.
The Powerof Hate - A running theme later in the storyline. Spoilers abound! Hatred birthed Hakumen's physical form from pre-bakemono Tora; hatred powers the Beast Spear (along with souls); hatred turns wielders of the Spear into Tora-type Azafuse bakemono; hatred for Hakumen eventually turns Azafuse into Hakumens themselves(!); and hatred for Hakumen keeps Hakumen existing no matter how injured it gets.
Tragic Villain - Would you believe that Hakumen no Mono, of all compassionless civilization-destroying omnicidal Complete Monsters, has a tragic backstory? It is revealed almost at the last that Hakumen acts out of jealousy and resentment stemming from the very dawn of time, when it was born of hideous evil ki into darkness and gazed longingly at the beautiful good ki that became humans. Hakumen's final act upon death is reveal its age old wish to have been born a human baby and given love. Still doesn't excuse its total jerk attitude.
Weirdness Censor - How the vast majority of Japan manages to forget personally witnessing or watching on TV giant, murderous bakemono battling with a spear-wielding boy and his lightning-spewing flying tiger sidekick.
Windows of the Soul - Literally with wielders of the Beast Spear. Their soul is gradually consumed until it is drained completely, and the mark preceding final transformation into a Tora type bakemono is the eyes and pupils 'shattering' to become pupil-less.
Youkai - Of many varieties, including a European-style vampire.