Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode #04 (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, October 25, 2010
Release Date: Monday, October 25, 2010

The leads take some time off which allows the supporting cast to stand tall while not coming across as useless.

What They Say:
Spirit Affairs receives a request to investigate a suspicious piece of merchandise. Susukihotaru, Riken, Bonbori, Hozuki, and Ganryu head to the antique shop "Ori's" where the item is. The woman who owns Ori's, Orikata Aya, runs the place with the little spirit Mugi. The group is surprised to find spirit and human happily living together. Meanwhile, the suspicious item turns out to be a blade with an ominous aura.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Otome Yokai Zakuro takes a slightly different approach this episode, one that works in its favor in a lot of ways. After returning from their previous mission as seen in the last episode, Kei and Zakuro are told to take the day off rather than go on the next mission since they need to be rested and not overworked. That in itself isn't a bad thing but what I like is that Kei has once again found himself being saved by Zakuro and he takes it in stride but intends to continue training himself so that she doesn't have to do it. But he does that in a way that avoids being either shy about it or making a bigger show of his training. It's another element of the show done in a realistic fashion which is very important to have when half the show is focused on unrealistic things like yokai.

The mission this time around again feels fairly inconsequential as it's just something that allows the characters to interact with others. The remaining group heads off to an antique shop to investigate what's going on and it's nicely revealing as they make their way. The suspicion and uncertainly of your average citizen is still very much apparent as they look on the procession with either disdain or fear. Few of them smile really since there's still so much distrust and a long history to overcome. One of the soldiers, Riken, takes it in stride though and offers to lead the way, allowing the young female yokai to be protected and feel safe. It's a typical high school kind of moment where she realizes how large his back is, but it's something that again paints the picture of a society dealing with strong racial prejudices that are hard to hide. The tension is nicely done and is something I'm impressed to see used episode after episode so far instead of dropping it so things would move more smoothly elsewhere.

While there are some decent little interpersonal moments and a nice balance of humans and spirits working together in harmony, the focus on the item itself that comes into play is rather fun. The sword that's bandied about as the potential problem has a lot of history to it, something that Susukihotaru finds herself very trouble by. Through it she sees some of its past and it has a distinct effect on her when it comes to others and she event ends up essentially possessed by it, leaving Riken to try and rescue her. While it could be played big with lots of effects and action, instead it plays out in a small room with an almost quiet intensity amongst those involved. The music ratchets it up a few notches, but it stays appropriate and works very well in providing tension, especially after the way Susukihotaru and Riken started to get mildly closer in a way that's appropriate for this time period and their social standings.

In Summary:
The importance of a solid supporting cast cannot be understated and Otome Yokai Zakuro has really struck the right balance here. It's all very controlled and precise, especially when it comes to Riken, but Susukihotaru is well exposed here as well with her fears and how she sees ordinary folks looking at her just walking down the street. The two of them add a new layer to the soothing of relations between the races and helps to humanize both of them. While it may be predictable, it does not feel forced and because of the restraint shown by them. This episode does the rare job of making the supporting cast interesting and expanding on them a bit without making them caricatures or over the top. The restraint is key as it lets them keep it all in while expressing so much of it with their body movements and eyes. This episode definitely helps solidify Otome Yokai Zakuro as a show to watch.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook 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: NA
Video Rating: NA
Packaging Rating: NA
Menus Rating: NA
Extras Rating: NA
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Crunchyroll
Running time: 24
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Otome Yokai ZAKURO