Of the three anime featured in my seasonal preview from J.C. Staff, Otome Youkai Zakuro was the one I was least looking forward too. The setting sounded interesting but I had little information to guess at the quality. No anime blog that I read seemed familiar with the underlying source material for this beyond a mention that the author of Otome Youkai Zakuro normally does BL (boys love) titles. Not the greatest endorsement but I’ve seen anime hits come from stranger places.
This leads us to the 64 thousand dollar question, is Otome Youkai Zakuro a keeper or a stinker?
Rating for episode 1 – 10/12 A
Rating for episode 2 – 9/12 A-
Anticipation Level: 3/5 Average to Medium
Set in an alternative Japan where Youkai (spirits/monsters) exist and live among humans, our heroine leads a group of female half human/half Youkai tasked with protecting the very delicate balance of peace between humans and Youkai by subduing trouble-making Youkai. A recent rise in Youkai trouble (possibly tied to Japan’s switch to the modern Gregorian calendar) has further strained relations so a joint task force is created by partnering human army officers with the half Youkai/humans. It’s apparent that there’s something deeper behind these attacks but at this point we don’t what.
The Fine Print
Slightly over a year ago J.C. Staff did a series called Taishou Yakyuu Musume where the first episode started with a musical number. About halfway through the song I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was going to be a hit. These feeling of mine are rarely wrong and was right-on that time.
This came to mind after I got a similar feeling 37 seconds into watching the first episode of Otome Youkai Zakuro after a cool musical number featuring blood, monster slaying, traditional Japanese style chanting, high quality animation, attractively drawn character designs and quality vocal work. I’m convinced this will be a hit and I’d go so far to predict that Otome Youkai Zakuro will be the best of J.C. Staff’s 4 new fall anime series.
I’ve watched enough series by J.C. Staff to not be surprised that this turned out as well as it did. The surprise came from watching the 4 different anime from J.C. Staff (Bakuman, Toaru Majutsu no Index 2, Otome Youkai Zakuro, and Tantei Opera Milky Holmes) and realizing that Otome Youkai Zakuro was getting the same or close to the same treatment as Index 2 with the other two receiving the third- and fourth-stringers. I’m not complaining, just surprised.
The animation style of Otome Youkai Zakuro falls within the well-known J.C. Staff watercolor style but this time there’s a bit of bite to it. This is welcome addition since, while I like their watercolor style, most of their series use it and they have lots of series to get the viewer tired of the basic style. I’m guessing having the director behind Higurashi directing this helped put an interesting spin to the standard style. As was the obvious influence of Arakawa Under the Bridge on the animation staff.
The first two episodes have emphasized character development for the 7 main characters and has done a pretty good job. This hasn’t allowed the bigger plot of the series to be introduced yet but I’m okay with that. If a show can create interesting characters then I’m much more likely to care about what happens in that show and thusly, like the show more. The three pairs of male army officer and female half human/half youkai are meant both in a meta sense and a story sense to function as couples and all three couples seem well-matched. It’s not a shocker, then, that the vocal work shown by the main characters has all been top-notch and compliments the characters perfectly.
It seems redundant to say this but, in conclusion, Otome Youkai Zakuro is one of the season’s must watch series and one that I recommend highly. 🙂
Screen shots to follow.
I love the variety of spirits we’ve seen so far.
The use of red helps make the animation style look interesting.
Cherry blossoms are always a plus.
Subtitle lighting effects and other animation tricks also help the show look good.