Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 07

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Hime has the bad guy cornered with her Dragon Lance, but he still has Kohime as a hostage. He conjures a super-massive lizard, teleports to the top of a building, and prepares to drop Kohime into its gullet, but Mayor Morino and Shinozuka save her. The bad guy reveals himself as Hiizumi Enjin, a descendant of the branch family member sent to the other dimension, possessing the body of Ao’s brother Gin. He stabs Akina, and Kyousuke, Touka, Kotoha and Hime respond by beating the crap out of him. Shidou stops Hime from killing him, and he vanishes. Yuuhi arrives and judges Kohime too young to be mayor.

The third and final chapter in the “Mayoral Crisis” arc takes a little while to get going and is a bit too stationary, but was ultimately an improvement over last week. For one thing, it finally reveals who the hell the old guy is and what he’s after. Akina learns that the branch family members didn’t go to the other side willingly, but as sacrifices, which could potentially make him question his role as dutybound; that, is, if Enjin wasn’t such a dick about things. First he steals the body of Gin, a good friend of Akina’s and Ao’s beloved brother. Then he attempts to kill Kohime and Akina and threatens to destroy the town. None of these actions are bound to endear anyone to his plight or that of his ancestors. But Enjin isn’t really looking for love or sympathy…just revenge.

He and his family were hurt by the head Hiizumi’s, so he’s going to hurt them back. It makes for a rather simplistic, all-too-easy-to-root-against villain, but he’s also a tough cookie and someone who brings out the best in the good guys. When everyone thinks the utility knife to Akina’s chest was fatal, it’s great to see his friends lose their shit and start whaling on Enjin with unrestrained rage. We also liked how Enjin also ended up being too evil for Morino to have anything more to do with, gaining the esteem of his loyal Shinozuka. We were also mildly amused by Yuuhi showing up and in five seconds making the whole mayoral stuggle moot, as Kohime really is too damn young to be mayor. Obviously the mayor thing was just a means for Enjin to announce his presence to Hime and the others, and letting them know he’s not going away.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

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Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 06

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Akina and Kyousuke are beaten back by Shinozuka, but Shidou, Touka and Ao rescue them in Shinou’s car. Unable to leave town, Kotoha conjures a railway gun and fires it at the Tokyo Tower, destroying the anti-youkai field. Rested enough to fight, Hime relieves Akina, takes out Shinozuka, and and along with a revived Kyousuke, fights off the numerous lizards their opponent is summoning. When the old storekeeper watches Hime protect her shop, he blows it up, revealing the “Dragon Vein” from which Hime is able to draw the Dargon Lance Sakanade.

We carried lofty expectations into this payoff episode after last week got all the game pieces into place. In the end, this episode didn’t quite meet them. Despite some truly inspired and redonkulous moments of action (Kotoha’s awesome railway gun; Kyousuke hitting a lizard with a telephone pole like a batted ball; Hime’s sundry acrobatics), and some lovely isolated moments (the flashback with Hime andJuri catching the KIshis; Akina grasping Hime’s scarf) the episode suffered from bouts of what we’ll call “Shounen Battle Paradox”, in which a battle actually hinders its own momentum with too many escalations in the combat, thus stretching things out when a shorter battle would’ve had more potency. Take the old bad guy (whose name still escapes us) helping the mayor: He creates giant lizards that Hime and Kyousuke quickly dispatch; then he just makes another batch. Tactical genius, this guy is not.

A smarter villain would’ve retreated as soon as the anti-youkai field dropped, yet he stays put. The battle gets a bit too tag-team happy, with someone showing up just in the nick of time to someone else. And the entire sequence with the old man and the giant crane that pops out of his shop—that just didn’t make a lick of sense to us. Kotoha’s toying around with giant machinery makes sense—she’s a conjurer—we don’t know what this guy’s deal is. He’s just there so he can blow up his shop (inches from where Hime was—a lil’ warning would’ve been nice, geezer!) and show Hime the next escalation in the battle, when she pulls the real Dragon Lance out of the wreckage. The last flaw that keeps this Part II from living up to the potential of Part I? The fact there’s a Part III next week.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 05

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An old man arrives at Hime’s house with the mayor Kohime is running against and a powerful monster, and activates an anti-youkai field that weakens full youkai, including Hime, who is badly beaten. The man demands Kohime drop out of the election and for Hime to relinquish her mayorship to him. Juri arrives and takes Hime to the hospital. Akina and Kyousuke fight with the half-youkai Shinozuka while Ao uses her Satellite ability to locate the source of the field: the Tokyo Tower.

This episode is only one half of a two-parter and is mostly setup for a showdown with a so-far nondescript villain, but it was a waaaaay better effort than last week’s dawdling clunker. We already knew from previous version of this anime that Hime was a youkai, but the flashback with Akina was very touching, and we liked Hime’s reasoning for wiping everyone’s memories of what she really is so she can better understand her constituents. This episode did something else gutsy, in taking perhaps the most powerful fighter of the quartet completely out of action in the first minutes.

This leaves her friends to save the day, and so far they seem more than up to the task. Once everyone leave’s Himes house and splits up, there’s a great energy to the story. Everyone is given something to do (except Touka…where’d she go?) and they have to do it under considerable duress (in the form of flying scooters for Akina and a rampaging dragon-thing for Ao and Kotoha). This was more or less table-setting, but highly competent table-setting. We look forward to seeing how things shake out, which is more than we could say after last week.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • That “anti-youkai field” is a hell of a plot device…but we like Yae’s workaround, as well as Yuuhi’s subtle hint to Ao. Gods can only interfere so much, after all.
  • As soon as we heard “Minato” and “high place”, Tokyo Tower immediately came to mind. Though we’re a little disappointed it wasn’t the Tokyo Sky Tree.
  • About Minato: didn’t Juri point out to Akina and Kyousuke that no one could physically leave Sakurashin? If that’s the case, how are Ao and Kotoha going to get to the field? Hopefully this quandary is answered and isn’t just a plot hole.
  • Seems odd how Ao is able to use her ability at such a high level when the anti-youkai field still in place and Yae weakening all youkai power town-wide. Perhaps it’s just evidence Ao is one seriously powerful cat girl. She says all of Tokyo is “no sweat”; perhaps if the field were down she could read the whole country’s minds…
  • The huge pile of gifts from townsfolk was a cute little scene that quickly showed Hime that the people in fact do love their mayor. Who wouldn’t? That scarf is adorable.
  • So far the nameless villain is pretty damn bland. Here’s hoping we won’t have to watch him standing around yammering all next week.

Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 01

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During the town sakura festival, Isone Kotoha and Kishi Touka find a lost little girl, Lily. Mayor Yarizakura Hime takes her to Hiizumi Akina and Nanami Ao, who reads her mind and makes a crude drawing of the parents. A bored Hiizumi Enjin starts trouble to entertain himself, summoning dark lightning that turns several goldfish into enormous menaces that bounce around town. Hime, Akina, Kotoha and Ao work together to capture all the fish and defeat the final “boss” fish. Lily finds her parents, but it’s later revealed she’s actually an adult mage acquainted with Enjin who was testing the skills of the town’s protectors.

This episode starts off slowly, like a slice-of-life but radiates calm confidence as a pleasant, ordinary sakura festival takes a turn for the bizarre. Kotoha’s cheating with the fish-catching foreshadows the foe of the week: a school of mega-goldfish bouncing around like gargantuan medicine balls. Hardly a world-class threat, but as Enjin remarked, merely a “gentle nudge,” the first, and likely easiest test for the quartet who comprise the intrepid Hiizumi Life Counseling Office. Yet it still demonstrates their superb teamwork and complementary abilities.

Most anime series we try to watch are either fun/interesting to look at or sets forth some kind of original, appealing ideas. Out of the gate, Hana no Uta is both, like the Hoshi no Umi OVAs that preceded it. The visuals are polished and bright, and whenever something “supernatural” happens, the animation crackles, pops, and bangs with engaging playfulness and a little alarm. There’s a lot of nice detail and flair in the characters’ movements. Combine that with the charming, whimsical concept of jumbo goldfish, and the twist that the lost girl who was really a powerful (and stylish) new adversary in disguise, and you have an auspicious start to a promising series.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Some of our favorite funny little moments: Hime eating an enormous mass of festival fare in one gulp; Ao having a ton of fun with a toy plane, and a panicky Touka telling a calm crowd not to panic.
  • The cold open had a nice WTF quality to it, with Kotoha summoning a giant fish tank in the night sky, which then evaporates in a cloud of pigeons.
  • We also enjoyed the reveal that Ao’s crappy drawings of Lily’s “parents” were actually dead accurate, as the sexy witch conjured them from small cow dolls.
  • Those who’ve watched YQ know the first blow Hime lands with her spear is rarely effective.
  • The only letdown this week? Akina didn’t yell “TUUUU-NIIIING-GUUUU!”