If there's one word I could describe Nurarihyon no Mago, it would have to be BORING.
Having read the adaptation I really had high hopes for this series as the formula to which Mago is about, is seldom used in shonén anime and if done right, would have definitely been one of the better series for 2010.
...but like I said, BORING. Here's why:
Story - 8
Nurarihyon no Mago is a tale of the supernatural. It's a tale of demons and spirits and the co-existence between their kind and ours. It's also a tale of Rikuo Nura and how he takes over his grandfathers clan known as the Hyakki Yakō, a clan made up of yōkai(demons) and other familiar spirits of Japanese folklore. Nurarihyon no Mago is about the trials and tribulations Rikuo goes through to achieve being the head of that clan(to which at first he has no interest in) while knowing that he is only a quarter yōkai himself.
What makes the story even more interesting is how the Nura yōkai clan portray chivalry, similar to those you'd find in yakuza(Japanese gangster) movies, and how this series uses fear to gauge their strength.
Nurarihyon no Mago is Rikuo's story, as he struggles to find his place between both worlds, and it's a tale of superiority between other yōkai clans as you'll find in the second half of the series.
So far so good right? So what went wrong?
Art & Animation - 6
This is where it was a miss for me. While I was happy the art stayed true to Hiroshi Shiibashi's manga, giving you a richly detailed account to Japan's yōkai like you'd find in an old Japanese tapestry, I was really disappointed in its animation. For a shonén title, the series really lacked 'fluidity' for a better word making each scene seem like your watching still-frame art from the 90's. The execution and pacing was lacking and for a series made late 2010, the choreography was non-existent.
While there are times when you think animation might improve(like watching the intricacies of a Sakura tree blossom at night), you are let down the next moment when characters clash....very...slowly. Even anime such as Hikaru no Go, which is a series about an Asian 'bored' game provided better excitement. I usually have a benchmark when it comes to shonén anime(specially ones released in the last few years) and Mago simply did not cut it for me.
If I had to make a comparison to Mago's animation, it would probably come close to Samurai Deeper Kyo(which aired back in 2002), another anime that had all the right premises but didn't deliver.
Yes, Nurarihyon no Mago may have picked up after 20 episodes into the series, but that's 20+ episodes too late! For some people, an anime is good if it entices you through the first few episodes. NOT at the very end where people have already dropped it or have put it on hold waiting for someone to tell them to pick it up again. It's not fine wine which you to mature(unless you're one who don't drop anime regardless)
Sound - 5
While I have no complaints about the voice actors chosen for Mago(besides the obvious of some being miscasted), where I really felt the series was also lacking was a 'strong' musical score. Shonén anime can be gripping when a running score is played in the background. The series I mentioned earlier, Hikaru no Go is a very good example to this in that it has such a moving soundtrack, that regardless how boring the game is played in Hikaru it still keeps you riveted, and at times even on edge. Whilst Nurarihyon no Mago does have BGM running(softly), none felt suited to the tempo of each scene making it seem like I was watching an 80's series due to just hearing dialogue.
I will commend that the OP's for both arcs in the series were consistent( with both titles performed by Monkey Majik) giving you that feeling for what the show is going to be, but I'll be honest and admit that the ED's(performed by Katate☆Size) just did not feel appropriate for each ending episode. Instead of thinking I was watching a series about demons and the supernatural, the upbeat tempo at the end of each episode made it sound like it was done by a backyard DJ adding music to his favorite home video.
Characters - 6
The series as a whole only really shines through its characters. For one, you have Rikuo who is a quarter yōkai which means like any shonén anime, there is a part of the main character that would make any fan who's into transformations go: "Wow! Sick! I want to see more of this!" And I admit, when I had first read the adaptation, I was pretty much all over it the moment Rikuo turned into the 'Master of the Night'.
Just seeing his transformation made me feel like a little boy again watching Goku turn into Super-Saiyijinn 3.
Nurarihyon no Mago also features a huge cast of characters which at most 'can' be likable, but I wouldn't start saying that they'd be memorable like other well known shonén supporting characters and the only one I'd take real note of is Kiyotsugu(of the Kiyo Paranormal Squad) who happens to probably be the most annoying side character in all of anime history.
Enjoyment and Overall - 5
In all honesty, I have mixed feelings for this series as a part of me wants to grow to like it thanks to having known how the manga continues, while the other half is screaming "Bloody Murder!" at the anime director.
Overall I am clearly disappointed with Mago as an anime due to the segments I had mentioned earlier and I'm surprised that it's even getting a second season when there are clearly far better anime out there who hasn't seen the light of day since they first aired(Berserk & Kenichi to name a few). I can only hope that they find a better director(or another studio take it up) for season 2 as there is no way I'd be buying the first once its licensed.
Nurarihyon no Mago is more 'superficial' then it is supernatural and at best may pass time for people with nothing to do, but it definitely isn't praiseworthy let alone top-shelf when it comes to action anime.