Dangerous spirits killing people? Chaos all over in an attack? That's nothing next to a young woman throwing herself at a man for some in the Ministry of Spirit Affairs.
What They Say:
It was another relaxed afternoon at Spirit Affairs when a young woman suddenly appeared and threw herself on Agemaki with a cry of "Young master!" The woman, Tae, was a servant of the Agemaki family who had been sent by the master of the Agemaki household, Kei's father, to Spirit Affairs. Agemaki reluctantly agrees to go home, but strangely enough, he begs Zakuro to come with him. Zakuro gave him an earful but agreed to join him.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Otoome Yokai Zakuro has rolled along nicely in its first half with a mixture of quiet stories, decent action and a look at prejudices and racism due to a number of spirits and half spirits who are trying to integrate into society. These themes have been touched on in most episodes to one degree or another, but over time we have seen a softening of interactions among those in the Ministry itself, which is to be expected when you have people working together with each others lives in the balance. While Kei and Zakuro have started to get along better, a wrench has been thrown into things with the arrival of Tae.
Tae's there to bring Kei back to the Agemaki family per request of his father, but that takes a bit of time to be revealed as the initial focus is the sudden jealousy that Zakuro feels when this woman throws herself on Kei. Tae brings a fair bit of tension to things and you can see how Zakuro really gets bothered by it all as she gets quiet and quick to cut down Kei on just about everything. It's interesting to see Kei's home and the sheer opulence of it all, but it certainly fits with what he know of his character, even if it comes as something of a shock to Zakuro. The way Kei lives his life is all the clearer because of this and it makes his mannerisms and approach to life more understandable as well, though that kind of personality just leads to more amusing conflicts as events progress.
While it's not a surprise that Kei asks Zakuro to go with him to the house, it does feel odd that he asks her to hide her ears which leads to some small silly moments to add a bit of lightness, which actually feels a little out of place in all of this. When it shifts to the meatier parts of the show, it's a bit of a drastic change for something so short as Kei's father is very negative against spirits, repeatedly calling them monsters, and having some brutal opinions about them that Kei and Zakuro have to keep quiet about. It's not a pleasant scene to watch as Zakuro has to listen to all of it and simply keep quiet. At least until they can get his father to start talking about war stories.
The focus on the prejudice of his father is something that I will say I found welcome, though it took some time to get to that part of the story. The focus in the show on the prejudice and racism against the spirits, and the effect it has both on people and spirits, is one of the strong suits of this series. They have to walk a bit of a line to make sure it's not so overdone and morally heavy handed, which is why I liked that they went and used Kei's father to explain why Kei himself has a fear of spirits and how it impact his childhood. The fears and insecurities of the father have come home to roost within the son, but he's doing his best now to get past all of that and to live in the present. Which can be considerably difficult when you have to deal with the previous generation that's so full of hate and fear.
While there's a lot done here about the prejudices of people, there's also a really nice little subplot focusing on a spirit that means something to Kei which challenges him to be more accepting of spirits. Kei's grown a great deal since the start and it goes back to the old adage that exposure to something can definitely soften ones vitriol towards it as it becomes less of an uncertainty and more of something familiar. Kei and Zakuro continue to grow a relationship as friends, with a very mild undercurrent of more possible, in a way which enhances the strength of the show. There may be spirits and action here that keeps it from being a reality based show, but it's filled with realistic characters and growth for them that allows it to excel unlike many others
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.