Yozakura Quartet Complete Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A group of four people serve to protect the town made up of humans and demons living together in relative peace, a town about to be shattered.
 
What They Say
When Demons Walk the Streets, The Cops need to recruit More Demons! In a town where humans and demons co-exist, it takes more than a normal police force to maintain the peace. Enter the Hiizumi Life Counseling Office, a fantastic foursome of unique teenagers, each gifted with an amazing super power! Since it sometimes takes real demon-fire to fight demon fire, the first three quarters of the team aren't exactly human: Ao, a cat-eared telepath; Kotoha, a half-human conjuror and Hime, descended from a dragon (and the town's acting mayor,) all of whom also happen to be delightfully female. Rounding out the group is the token male and human, Akina, the office director and "Oyakume," capable of banishing spirits permanently (and from their point of view quite fatally) via a process called tuning. They may not look as impressive as some other superhero teams, and they certainly don't have the most dynamic name ever, but come hell hounds or high water, but they WILL defend their city in Yozakura Quartet
 
The Review!
Audio:
This release contains only the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps, which seems to be a standard for Sentai Filmworks releases. The series has a good mix to it with a fair bit of action blended into all the dialogue and with the way the scenes flow, it has some solid directionality and placement to it. The music, whether the opening and closing sequences or the incidental pieces throughout the main program, has a very good full feeling to it that sets the mood well. The show often has multiple characters on screen at a time so the flow of dialogue is important and well handled here, with a good sense of depth and placement in many scenes. The show holds up well and is problem free throughout with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
 
Video:
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show runs for twelve episodes across two discs with six episodes on each disc. There aren't any significant extras on here so the space all goes to the show itself and the results are very good. Yozakura Quartet has a lot of bold colors to it but it avoids going for the overly vibrant style you find in costumes and hair colors. Instead it uses it for small things here and there, such as the orange in Hime's outfit or the eyes of characters like Ao. The backgrounds such as the sky and the greens of the forests are punched up as well to make it feel even more alive. The show has a very smooth and good look throughout with only a few mild moments where there's some noise in the solid color backgrounds but it's pretty minimal overall.
 
Packaging
The cover design for this release is really hard to like as almost none of the elements work well here. The front cover uses a black background with some white shadows across it where the main focus is the foreground full color artwork of Hime herself as her scarf flows all around her. The other members of the quartet are behind her in red outlines to flesh it out a bit more. The color combination feels unnecessarily dark for this and the logo is very plain looking causing the whole thing to come together fairly poorly. The back cover isn't quite as bad but still has an awkward feeling at best to it with a shot of two of the supporting characters along the left with the blended red, orange and white lines that contrast poorly with the artwork itself. There's a good clean listing of the episode and disc count for this set and the summary, white text on black, covers the basics of what the show is about. There are a few shots from the show but they're done at an odd angle and too small while also being done over a large white strip which makes it even more awkward looking. The production credits are below it in the same kind of layout though the technical grid is kept simple and clean at the bottom with accurate information. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
 
Menu:
The menus are laid out similarly to the cover in that there are angled sections where the episode numbers are listed. There's only a single piece of character artwork on each of the menus and the artwork itself is decent but like the cover it's the combination with the background that doesn't work all that well. The navigation itself is solid though and there's not that much here outside of the episodes and the special features as there is no language submenu. Everything does load quickly and navigation is easy but there's just not a lot there. Subtitles can be changed on the fly though even if there's no menu piece for it.
 
Extras:
The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences found on the second disc.
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Suzuhito Yasuda which is being published in the US by Del Rey Manga, Yozakura Quarter is a twelve episode series with animation production by Nomad, who is known in the US for its work on the Rozen Maiden series and Sola. Though the manga is ongoing as of this writing, the anime tells a complete story overall as it doesn't play out like a story of the week idea, though those are certainly in there. It's telling a larger story from early on but it doesn't start to gel until almost halfway through, which in turn has you going back to the earlier episodes to reexamine what may have been missed. Many shows of this nature tend to tell just a small part of the story, or come across as little more than a setup, so it was good to see a twelve episode show that focuses on telling something more cohesive.
 
Yozakura Quartet revolves around the city of Sakurashin which has a very unique history to it. Demons had made their way into the world over the centuries but had been persecuted and hunted. Here they found a home though where they could live together with humans under the protective barrier that is created by the Nanagou, huge trees that have no branches that ring around the city. Demons, who look like humans for the most part and especially when they aren't activating their powers, continue to flow into Sakurashin over the years as a safe haven where they have to play by the rules. Everything that you see of the city looks beautiful and serene, though it's not completely free of problems.
 
While the city has a Council that oversees things in general, serving as the ages old protectors of the Nanagou, it also has a more active younger part that deals in the day to day events of Sakurashin. The Mayor of the city is sixteen year old Hime who is tied to the Dragons of the past as she's the chosen one of theirs to take on this role. She's conflicted about the right way to earn the love and respect of the citizens of Sakurashin but in the end she really just wants to do the right thing. Helping her in this role is an eighteen year old man named Akina who is the current active member of the Hiizumi family. This family has one in each generation that takes on the role of being able to “tune” a demon, which sends their soul back to the demon world. This is a difficult power in general as it uses a lot of energy but it's the only way to deal with the demons who disrupt Sakurashin in a criminal way. It's not often used which gives it all the more importance.
 
Akina also runs the Life Counseling Center in which they help demons adjust to this life that are already living there and new ones as well. The series opens up by introducing us to Rin, a young female demon who has come to Sakurashin to find a new life but is having a lot of trouble from the moment she enters the barrier. She's so resistant to the idea of humans and demons living together like this based off of her past but also because she's being controlled by a shadow demon that's making her feelings even stronger. That shadow demon is the pawn of Enjin, a demon who has long standing issues with Sakurashin from the time he was tuned years ago and sent back to the other world.
 
Enjin's now back to start breaking down the barrier so he can come inside and make the changes he wants. His views in the past centered around the idea that demons should have their own city instead of trying to live with humans but those views got him tuned right out of Sakurashin. So his goal is to be able to change Sakurashin as revenge by causing the Nanagou to bloom which will increase the powers and abilities of the demons inside that will lead to them being unable to leave peacefully with humans. What makes Enjin's plan all the more dangerous is that he took over the body of Gin two years ago and has managed to wipe almost all of his existence from within that body. And Gin was a long time childhood friend of both Hime and Akina, making it all the harder for the two of them to truly deal with him since it would mean killing their friend.
 
Yozakura Quartet does introduce other characters that work alongside Akina and Hime, such as a kotodama that conjures things and a satori user who can read minds that's actually the younger sister of Gin. The relationships between them all, along with an ogre that assists Hime that has a younger sister that's affectionate towards Akina, are a good part of the focus as they discover that Enjin is in Sakurashin and that he's really Gin in a way. The show does some basic story of the week ideas here and there, such as a dog of Hime's that becomes possessed and the opening story involving Rin and her anger about demons. But what Yozakura Quartet really does is tell an entire single story over its twelve episode run. It deals with what Enjin is doing and teases out the past while bringing it all to a strong conclusion at the end. While there's certainly room for more, I was impressed that it told a story with a beginning, middle and end.
 
The animation by Nomad is very strong here throughout with both its backgrounds and its character designs. The characters have a good flow to them and are done in a more realistic style for the most part. The characters are all unique though they do provide for some good family ties when it comes to Ao and Gin. While they do tend to wear the same clothes throughout, they're all functional and work well with a fair bit of design and elements to play with, such as Hime's scarf or the way they change slightly when their powers are activated. The setting for Yozakura Quartet takes place almost entirely in Sakurashin which has a very striking look to it. The Nanagou towers give it an otherworldly feel at times but it also has a lot of green to it that makes everything feel so natural. They use a good real world design to it with some soft colors and a lot of detail that gives it a lived in if clean feeling.
 
In Summary:
I couldn't get into Yozakura Quartet when I first read the manga but I liked this adaptation of it, particularly since it is a closed storyline. So many shows that are adapted are working off of manga that's barely dealt with its first main arc that they have a very incomplete feeling to it or just run with an adventure of the week idea. It takes a bit to get the setting fully established but the characters are engaging and the ideas are intriguing, even if not fleshed out fully with how the world would work like this. Bringing everything together and making it personal for Hime and Akina adds more flavor to it but also gives it that connection for the viewer to really work with. Enjin has his reasons for what he's doing and you can sympathize with him a fair bit. But you also see so many humans and demons making it work that you want to see more of that explored. I liked Yozakura Quartet as it has strong animation and a full story to it but it's not a show that really stands out. It's executed solidly and has a lot going for it but is still missing something to make it special.
 
Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Closing and Opening Animation
 
Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer. 



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: C
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: 39.98
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Yozakura Quartet