Otome Youkai Zakuro – now THAT is romance!

Feels rather strange writing that description for an anime adapted from a seinen manga. It just blows my mind, especially considering that Zakuro’s mangaka, Hoshino Lily, is actually known for her BL works more than anything else… I haven’t actually read it, but if it’s anything like the anime, I really wonder just what kinds of stories seinen works are comprised of. Or perhaps it’s like shounen manga which is aimed at boys but also read by girls: seinen manga is aimed at more mature male audiences, but is also read by females…

/end tangent!

A beginning that's uncertain and tentative…

What I really like about Otome Youkai Zakuro is that it takes a few tropes about romance and actually gives them a deeper and more rounded application. For female audiences, the prince-like character who’s actually a wimp is quite an amusing cliche, but the back story that explains his fear of spirits, coupled with an almost contradictory mix of naivete and sensitivity, won me over. I should probably admit though, that the voice was yet another factor…

…but out of which deep care and concern grows…

The trait that normally hooks male audiences, the tsundere, was also given a treatment that I highly approve of. Perhaps I’ve been completely biased against tsunderes by two other series I’ve seen recently, namely OreImo and Cross Game, where I felt that the girls in question often treated the main character with such hostility that I wondered how people could ever want see a romantic relationship between them. Admittedly, Aoba wasn’t quite as bad as Kirino, who really drives me up the wall with her expectation that her brother will know how much she cares about his opinion and his treatment of her even though she treats him like dirt.

…to the point where misunderstandings hurt…

That’s why it was so refreshing to see Agemaki, in the final episode, actually voice the impression that Zakuro’s criticism and put-downs had given him until then. And to see Zakuro understand (somewhat) and respond by telling him how she really felt. Honest communication is a necessity for any relationship, because you really cannot expect others to know exactly how you feel about anything unless you make it clear. Its nice to see a series that finally recognises that.

…but determination shines through when it counts.

I’ve concentrated on Zakuro and Agemaki, but the supporting characters also captured many hearts, particularly Riken and Susukihotaru. I personally am somewhat disappointed that this seemed like a more classical ‘gentle prince’ and ‘insecure maiden’ pair, because it seemed like Riken was already perfect from the start, reliable and completely understanding of his partner. It’s sweet, but somewhat unfulfilling because he did not really have a journey to make. Ganryuu, Bonbori and Houzuki fare better in that respect, with the theme being the paradox that, although people don’t want their loved ones hurt (especially for their sake), they will often put themselves in harms way to ensure that their loved ones stay safe. Whilst I didn’t like them quite as much as the Zakuro/Agemaki pair, their development appealed to me greatly as well.

It ends as it started…but some things have certainly changed.

On the series in general: this was not the most impressively animated series of the season. The colour palette was gorgeous and the character designs were generally consistent, but the action scenes were never going to be of the quality of certain mecha anime. But I did generally like what we’d call the ‘cinematography’ were it a live-action show – the lighting of the shots, the angles and camera movements, manipulation of depth of field (though I have seen better elsewhere). The music, especially the harp(?) piece that gave off a really pensive feeling, complimented it well. It’s hard for me to qualify, but the atmosphere director Kon Chiaki and her staff managed to create helped to keep me interested in this series.

Don’t get me wrong: they were cute too!

In summary, although it was apparently changed quite significantly from the manga, such that it would have a decent wrap up even with just one cour, writer Okada Mari has delivered a decent story and convincing character arcs, especially for Zakuro and Agemaki. Whilst I am disappointed that we probably won’t see any more of this series animated (in recent memory, Kuroshitsuji is the only series that had a second, anime-only season after its first completely detached itself from the manga), it’s left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling that will have me reading the manga if I can scrounge up the time. 7.5/10

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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