Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 09

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In the first half, the episode follows new resident Kurumaki Zakuro as she finds her way around Sakurashin, encountering fellow half-youkai Kotoha and Shinozuka on the way and ending up at a memorial ground for the tuned. In the second half, Akina, Juri, Morino and Kohime visit the same ground, and are confronted by Enjin, who tries to steal Akina’s body. Elder Iyo and Shidare arrive and intervene, as Enjin is desecrating the memorial. Juri and Akina also fight him, and he eventually retreats.

Our first thought at the end of this episode was “Wow, what a scattered, disjointed, random mess!” But we did learn a great many things: Kotoha prefers going commando in the summer; Juri is descended from Frankenstein and wears pink panties; the elders use a kind of scientific magic substitute called “esoterism” to keep youkai in check. And once you get past the persistent and overt fanservice (from which even poor Kohime isn’t immune) and look back on everything that happened, there’s a method to the madness, and it’s this: the episode focused exclusively on half-youkai and humans, and their role in the coming trials.

It may have been random to focus on Zakuro, a character no one who hadn’t seen any previous YQ would know about, for half an episode but it’s also a very interesting move. Everything newbies needed to know was shown, not told, in the opening credits. We see that even those with horrendously violent pasts can live a peaceful existence in Sakurashin: watching her awkwardly adjust to that life with Rin, Kotoha, etc. demonstrates what the town is all about. And whether it’s esoterism, Frankenstein strength, or the powers of the dutybound, there are humans who will stand with their full- and half-youkai friends to preserve and defend it. It’s okay if everyone’s a “monster”, as long as there’s balance.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

 

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Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 08

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Shinozuka accompanies Kana and Mina on a Seven Pillars Tour, using the opportunity to apologize to everyone he fought. Hime asks Akina if anything’s changed now that he knows she’s a youkai, but he doesn’t have a chance to answer. He and Hime are called before the elders; Akina is reluctant to go beause of their disregard for youkai. They warn him that Enjin has taken up with four half-youkai youkai hunters.

Hime’s position as mayor may be stable and the townspeople seem fine with her being a youkai, but she’s still uneasy, particularly where Akina is concerned. Now that he knows her secret—and she knows his, for that matter—she’s worried that something’s “changed” between them. And she doesn’t get any straight answers, so she can only judge for herself by how Akina acts around her. She may well be worried about nothing at all—Akina’s all about harmony with youkai—but even if you tell her that, she’s still likely to be worried. Every scene the two are in is a nice mixture of comfort in each other, tinged with tension from recent events. But all either of them can do for now is carry on and hope for the best.

We really dig the subtle, tender Akina-Hime dynamic, and while not a lot happens in this episode, watching them interact are the highlights. They’re united in the belief that Sakurashin remain a town of humans and youkai. Akina is not willing to sacrifice the youkai to save the humans, but he has yet to find a solution that will stop the pillars blooming without losing anyone. If there even is one, odds are Enjin’s one of the only people who knows about it Of course, Enjin wants them to bloom, so convincing him otherwise won’t be easy, especially now that he now has his own quartet of powerful new friends.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Nanami is confident her brother’s soul is still intact and fighting Enjin. We wouldn’t be surprised if sometime near the end of all this, Nanami Gin regains his body and reunites with her.
  • Hi, Kotoha’s panties!
  • Offering Akina a bowl, then asking if she can eat it after all: a classic Hime move.
  • The head elder’s quite the dick, isn’t he? Akina is having none of his nonsense.
  • We like the many ways Hime’s ridiculously-long scarf is used, including as a way to pull her near you and to hide her tears.

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)

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!”