Otome Youkai Zakuro 9

After much sturm und drang last week, a lighthearted and/or lightweight episode was expected by me, and in the first couple acts, this was very much the case. Spirit Affairs has to catch a mostly-harmless spirit forged from the countless thoughts of young ladies pining for love. The half-spirit girls’ usual shtick (using sakura sticks) won’t work on it; only a confession of love will send it away.

When they find this beast, grown larger and more dangerous, it’s Zakuro and Agemaki who find it; but Lt. Hanadate is with them too; and when neither of the others can get over the embarrassment to do it, he – not Agemaki – confesses his love for Zakuro. Playing along, she confesses her love for him, and the Kokkuri is gone. Agemaki isn’t happy; even if she didn’t mean it, it still stings.

This is pretty much the final time we see Hanadate before we learn that he’s in league with the Black Widow; unconvincingly hiding his face with a noh mask. This is bad news, since Zakuro’s feelings for Hanadate and Agemaki remain as confused as ever. When she finds out he’s evil (or being controlled), that will most definitely change…Rating: 3

Hyakka Ryouran 9

I’ll admit I was a little naive in thinking Gisen was a good gal last week just because she had a cute face and innocent voice. She shows her true, ruthless colors in this episode, kidnapping Muneakira and taking his free will away with her evil eye. When Sen and Hanzo locate them, Gisen transforms into a master samurai and proceeds to mop the floor with Sen. The battle is interrupted by Sen’s bro Yoshihiko who has arrived a week earlier than expected. His lieutenant Nia sends Gisen into retreat, but that doesn’t mean they’re on Sen and Muneakira’s side. This was a nice-looking duel; that different fighters create different color ink blots on the screen is a nice touch.

The episode then lays everything out on the table: Nia is an artificial master samurai created in an experiment that made use of the spirited-away students. The reason he wants these fake samurai is because he knows that the seven master samurai believed to be left are actually dead, leaving Great Japan with nothing to fight the evil force of change and destruction embodied by Amakusa. He credits Amakusa with every major calamity in Japan’s history – famines, quakes, bombings. The Master Samurai were always there to cut him down, but he always comes back, and with no natural samurai left, he believes desperate measures are in order.

Sen and Co. are now in an unfortunate situation. Her brother wants to kill them all, but the threat to Japan he speaks of is real, and must be dealt with. Gisen was likely Amakusa’s scout, and she was no slouch. It would seem there are two ways to defeat him: Yoshihiko’s human sacrifices, or Muneakira’s master samurai. Here’s the rub re the latter: Sen was weaker then Gisen, but Nia was stronger. Next week, beyond the more immediate challenge of escaping Yoshihiko’s clutches, the good guys will have to figure out how they’ll be able to win against the next iteration of Amakusa. Rating: 3.5