Otome Youkai Zakuro 13 and Wrap-up

Omodaka is reformed after all, as Agemaki saves him against Rangui, who has killed Daidai and is threatening to devour everyone else in her path. She loathes Zakuro most of all. Zakuro cannot move but she can tell what’s going on around her. When Agemaki says the magic words, she wakes up and takes care of business.

After the Village of Oracles mess is sorted out, word comes down that Spirit Affairs is to be resolved, and the soldiers recalled. This news forces Zakuro to confess to Agemaki as he confessed to her (FINALLY). Susukihotaru and Riken and Ganryuu and the twins make similar pacts to keep in touch. It seems a page is about to be turned…and then everything returns to the way it was as Spirit Affairs is almost instantly reinstated.

While that last twist was somewhat unnecessary considering the series has ended, it is consistent with the series’ overarching hope and optimism. Terrible things may have befallen the half-spirit girls in the past, but that past cannot define them. Life will go on with their military companions, and together they’ll help humans and spirits to understand each other just as they grew to. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.192 (Ranked 13th out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)

Otome Youkai Zakuro 12

Zakuro’s penultimate episode wasn’t that bad, but there were some issues. First of all, Agemaki & Co. basically teleport to the Village of Oracles by having guardian lions roar in their general direction. I was expecting something a little cleverer and more involving. Second: Omedaka has carried Zakuro to the same place his mom bonded with Zakuro’s father, presumably to rape her. Byakuroku is also with him. You’d think with the two sets of eyes between them, they’d have noticed Agemaki approaching them. Similarly, just when Byokuraku is about to kill Agemaki, Riken, Ganryu, and the other girls show up in the nick of time. This is a very open hilltop; how were they able to sneak up like that?

Regardless of these oddities, Agemaki sheds his fear and confronts Omedaka head on with his mother’s wishes. Thankfully, this isn’t quite enough to make Omedaka stand down. In fact, he changes his mind and decides to kill Zakuro, which he’s about to do, but then notices his house is on fire, so he picks her up and runs home. (Not to point out another issue, but why didn’t he just kill her right there?)

Anyway, the reason his house is on fire is the twist that will take us to the finale: Lady Rangui, whom he discarded once no longer of use, has seduced Daidai to do her bidding, and together they’ve staged a revolt at the household, setting it ablaze and freeing the half-spirits imprisoned there. So Rangui and Daidai have done Spirit Affairs a favor by releasing the prisoners, but I have a feeling that’s all they’ll help with, and will prove a pain in the butt next week. Rating: 3

Otome Youkai Zakuro 11

The stage is set for the final battle between Omodaka and Spirit Affairs, led by Agemaki, who wants to sake Zakuro for a change. Flashbacks and backstory are the order of the day, provided from two sources: Zakuro touching the hand of her dead(?) mother Tsukuhane, and Kushimatsu talking with Spirit Affairs.

It seems a little silly to be standing around listening to a long tale (even if it’s a good one) when every second matters…they wouldn’t have had to run if she’d simply told them how to get to the Village of Oracles. Similarly, Zakuro is in la-la flashback land and a sitting duck when Omodaka finds and re-captures her.

Her half-brother is keen to marry and produce a powerful heir, repeating the cruel cycle that led to his conception. Apparently his thirst for Zakuro’s power overrides whatever worries he may have about, ahem…inbreeding. I’m unsure  what three half-spirits and three humans will be able to accomplish against a village full of people with godlike powers, but I’ll certainly stick around to find out. Rating: 3

Otome Youkai Zakuro 10

While attending a festival in a human-friendly district, Agemaki ends up alone with Zakuro and confesses to her (pretty much). Surprised by his words, she runs off…and is instantly spirited away to the village of oracles. It is here where half-spirits are born and, like Byakuroku and Daidai, live oppressed lives as mere “tools” for the villagers.

Hanadate (or Omodaka, revealed as the main antagonist) had her brought here so that he could “join with her”, as two accursed spirits with the “same dark blood.” In other words, he wants her to birth his child. Considering they’re of the same blood, that’s obviously creepy. But it’s another example of half-spirits-as-tools, in this case, a tool for making a powerful progeny.

So Agemaki and the others need to rescue her before something very bad happens, and likely free all the trod-upon half-spirits in the village before she’ll let them rescue her. The only problem is, the village “hovers outside reality,” which I imagine is a place hard for humans to reach, if not impossible. Finally, it’s in captivity, when Omodaka tries to kiss Zakuro, that she realizes where her true affections lie. Perhaps this ordeal will convince her to be honest with herself. Rating: 3.5

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

Otome Youkai Zakuro 8

This week the characters are shuffled around such that Zakuro and Riken have to rescue Agemaki and Susukihotaru, who it turns out have been kidnapped by the mysterious monk girls, who turn out to be half-spirits themselves (wearing kick-ass outfits), named Byakuroku and Daidai, who are working for the Black Widow, or Rangui.

When Zakuro takes the bait, Byakuroku immediately comes at her, much to Zakuro’s shock. It would seem that the happy, love-filled life Zakuro has lived thus far pisses Byakuroku off to no end. She and Daidai have never tasted the freedom Zakuro enjoys everyday. But Zakuro isn’t a pushover, and when Byakuroku presses her attack, Zakuro strikes her down. Rangui apparates, gathers the sisters, and vanishes just as fast. It was a test.

But of what? Well, clearly Zakuro is hella strong, and it’s clearly intimated that if she loses control of her power, she’d likely lose herself. That’s what Rangui wants, and she’s clearly fine with tossing Byakuroku and Daidai the minute she no longer finds them useful. I’m glad these two sisters got vital fleshing-out, and wonder if they’ll ever be free of Rangui’s influence. In the meantime, the whole kidnapping experience showed Zakuro beyond any doubt that she definitely cares about Agemaki a great deal. Rating: 3.5

Otome Youkai Zakuro 7

Another episode without a distinct conflict, when Kei convinces Zakuro to come with him to visit his family…who live in an enormous palace and have an army of servants, one of whom obviously has a thing for Kei. Zakuro’s reaction to this is a combinaiton of jealousy and pity for the girl, since she knows what a wuss he can be.

About that…Kei got his fear of spirits from a couple things in this house. His father, who is extremely prejudiced against spirits (Zakuro covers her ears to appear human in his presence), and a spirit who started to haunt his room after his beloved pet cat disappeared. It turns out, the cat just turned into a youkai that normally can’t be seen by humans.

Though he has to bribe her to come along, and he refers to her as his assistant in front of his family, this was obviously an opportunity for Zakuro to meet Kei’s parents, which is a time-honored step in courtship, whether between humans or between a human and a half-spirit. This episode doesn’t really go into how furious Kei’s dad would be if he learned Zakuro’s identity, but he could definitely make things very unpleasant for him. Now I wonder if Kei will ever meet Zakuro’s mother… Rating: 3

Otome Youkai Zakuro 6

After last week’s big to-do, this episode kicks back and develops the characters a little more; not a bad thing. Hozuki and Bonbori regail a distraught Ganryu about their dark and rather odd past, while both Susukihotaru and Zakuro also reminisce about their earlier years. Zakuro tries to pry information about her mother from the white fox, to no avail. I wonder if Zakuro’s power and the way she strengthens the other half-spirits would be disturbed if she learned this “truth” before she was ready.

Then, while fetching a kite from a tree, Zakuro blanks out again, causing her to fall onto Agemaki, who ran to catch her. Her mother’s pendant breaks and he fixes it for her. Then she asserts her eagerness to find out more about her mother (I mean, she can’t be as bad as Yakumo’s mother, who tried to kill him, amaright?). In all, a very calm, quiet outing. Rating: 3

Otome Youkai Zakuro 5

Honzoki and Bonbori finally get to fight on their own. Well, Bonbori fights, while Honzoki protects Ganryu, who is now more mindful than ever that compared to his twin companions, he’s pretty weak and helpless. I declare the three of them now far less annoying as a result of, you know, showing emotion and doing stuff. And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that battle song, it’s got such a nice haunting beauty to it.

It’s kind of glossed over, but Lieutenant Hanadate, whom Zakuro has a crush on, kinda ditches her for a cougar who turns out to be a Black Widow. It’s this instance, when Zakuro finds herself alone and cornered by two uncouth officers, when Agemaki comes to her rescue, which she greatly appreciates. Agemaki doesn’t even flinch at her creepy bunny sidekick anymore; he’s definitely growing

The pale “weirdos” make brief appearances (are they Sith?) but we don’t really know what they’re all about yet. Another nice touch: the Black Widow actually doesn’t reveal any information when Ganryu demands it. She only hints at knowing something about Zakuro’s mother, but vanishes before they can get anything else out of her. This was nice because I hate it when villains just spill the beans – the good guys have to work to solve the mystery here! Rating: 3.5

Otome Youkai Zakuro 4

This is the episode where Susukihotaru and Riken are fleshed out, both as individuals and as each others companions. Like Agemaki with youkai (initially), Susukihotaru is scared of humans, and always keeps her head down in public. It’s also revealed she’s empathic (kinda out of the blue, but okay), which is handy when the lieutenant you’re paired with hardly ever talks.

Anyway, there’s a pretty unexceptional mission where the other two thirds of Spirit Affairs (Zakuro and Agemaki get the day off) encounter a comely human woman who employs a youkai and needs a demon sword taken off her hands. Pretty dull, but it provided a chance for vital characterization, as Susukihotaru and Riken have a little more depth now.

Ganryuu, Daidai and Kiri are pretty much useless, as usual, but at least the preview hinted that the next episode would focus on them. That could be horrible, or it could redeem them. All I know is, they are currently dragging the whole show down; though not as much as the annoying little youkai children. Rating: 3

Otome Youkai Zakuro 3

After a brief appearance at the start, we get a much needed break from the other officers/half-youkai girls. They’re not nearly as interesting as the dynamic between Agemaki and Zakuro, which is gradually and nicely evolving. Agemaki learn’s of Zakuro’s past – and the past of all the half-youkais, and even manages to save her, twice, from the siren’s song of a gluttonous, glutenous monster in a cave. It was also pretty hilarious when he tried to mimic the battle dance.

These two draw strength and confidence from one another, and as they learn more about each other with time, I see them growing closer. The series seems open to letting that happen, as the other characters seem to be well-paired off already; complimenting each other in their own limited way.

What could be interesting is that if indeed some romance comes out of this, how will Agemaki fare before the military authority he ultimately answers to? He’s officially supposed to support Zakuro, not fall in love with her. This show should stay good if it moves forward and explores that potentially forbidden, and definitely socially untested love, if any.  Rating: 3.5

Otome Youkai Zakuro 2

So how goes our squad of human army lieutenants and their fair, fox-eared half-youkai partners? This time they have to play Ghostbusters for the owner of a western hotel (not a Best Western), and more political strife is reveald when they partially destroy his hotel in the process. The elegant ‘battle’ the girls fight is really more of a ritual, not a brawl.

The problem is, parts of Japan are “Westernizing”, and the building glut has led to the destruction of shrines that house spirits, which makes them angry and confused. Zakuro resents the trend of lighting cities up a night and such, but she and her companions’ half-youkai status is not a desirable one, as they are surrounded by humans who are filled with a volatile mixture of hatred and fear. They’re literally stuck in the middle…not ideal.

Still, there are humans willing to foster amity and compromise and to coexist with youkai, which is the point of the “Spirit Affairs” bureau. I do wonder, moving forward, how serious the conflict would get between the youkai and the humans who refuse to live with them, and whether there are parts of the military against consorting with youkai at all. In the meantime, the flirting continues.

An aside: I quite like the creepy-yet-nurturing white fox-woman and especally the serene old elephant-man. They just float (not literally) over everything and observe…just as deities should. Rating: 3

Otome Youkai Zakuro – First Impressions

With so many series out this fall, it’s not surprising that one of them deals with youkai like Nurarihyon no Mago, one of my three summer carryovers. No biggie though, Zakuro wastes no time establishing itself as its own animal. Certainly, both deal with crossing between the human and spirit worlds, but in this case, by design: the army assigns three young lieutenants to support four half-youkai maidens in the fight against ‘youkai gone bad.’

That may sound a little dry, but it’s all in the details. Zakuro, the maiden with the biggest chip on her shoulder, is kind of a tsundere-lite, becoming instantly smitten with her lieutenant until she discovers he’s scared to death of youkai. The lieutenant himself, Kei, is the son of a high-ranking officer, and is determined to get over his fear. The best scenes of the episode were these two trying to feel each other out. I’m looking forward to how they both develop.

I appreciate how each lieutenant has their own girl to worry about (one of them has two), so there’s little chance of love triangles or competitions that will waste time. They’ve already been paired off, and they seem like good fits. The episode also mixed in some respectable comedy and a smidgen of social commentary, and was book-ended by action scenes that were most elegant and graceful, eschewing the typical weapons-clanking and screaming for some actual lyricism. Nice start. Rating: 3

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