Otome Youkai Zakuro

Alt titles: Zakuro

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cassiesheepgirl's avatar By cassiesheepgirl on Mar 8, 2011

Story

One dark, stormy night when Cassie was somewhat tipsy, the evil Patchworth decided to take advantage of the poor inebriated maiden. After whispering sweet nothings of pacing, characterisation and voice actors in her ear, they joined forces. The result of this illicit tryst? Well, you’re reading it.

Set in an idyllic, westernizing Japan, Otome Youkai Zakuro chronicles the activities of the newly-minted Ministry of Spirit Affairs. The government agency ostensibly exists both to help spirits adjust to the changes occurring within the country and ease tension between humans and youkai. As they all get to know each other, they pursue the ministry’s overt goal by intervening directly to solve problems that occur between the two races. However, as the series wears on, Zakuro’s mysterious power becomes the target of a shady organization with whom the group increasingly finds itself at odds.

On the surface the basic concept seems more like the thinnest excuse to get a gaggle of archetypal bishies to work hand-in-hand with a collection of adorable half-youkai heroines. But, with the frequently-shunned girls gradually opening themselves up to the dashing soldiers - who each have their own hangups ranging from Agemaki’s abject fear of youkai to Ganryuu’s physical weakness - all the pieces for a good story seem to be in place. There’s plenty of romance, lots of action (mostly performed by cute girls!), a sprinkling of legend, and a touch of mystery. Sadly, the series doesn’t dwell long enough on anything to make these elements work. Had the show drawn out the real conflict more, adding doubt, a false conclusion, or a little complacency to affect its cast, the inevitable climactic showdown might have resonated stronger. (Patches: I’m reminded of Sakura Wars TV, which while a narrative underachiever still had a strong ending that flowed from twenty-six episodes of collected character interactions.)

That being said, the mystery behind Zakuro’s past and her true identity, draws you into the story. Though some of the twists and turns are glaringly obvious - I’m looking at you big, bad antagonist in the mask - in general the show doesn’t do a bad job of entertaining its audience. Sure, it may not have you counting down the days, hours, or minutes until the next episode, but the anime proves suitably engaging and won’t have you constantly checking the clock to see how long you have left to endure. (Cassie: I ended up stalling it for several weeks while it was airing as despite being a rampant youkai fangirl - seriously, chuck a kappa in an anime and I’m happy - even I never quite got into this anime.)

Otome Youkai Zakuro can’t quite seem to decide whether it’s an ensemble piece or not, and instead settles for haphazard development as a poor excuse for a compromise. For all intents and purposes the series isn’t a group narrative. Zakuro and the delicious, blonde studmuffin, Agemaki, stand clearly at the centre, with everyone else taking a sideline. However, the advancement of their relationship ends up rushed; in fact, timid Susukihotaru and strong, silent Riken’s romance shows a much more natural progression. After thirteen episodes of Agemaki going from “you scare me, please don’t eat me!” to “I love you” *sparkly eyes* quicker than a road runner in heat, the affair between Susukihotaru and the stoic soldier proves far more compelling than the couple we’re supposed to be focusing on.


Animation

One word: eyegasm. As the knockout aspect of Otome Youkai Zakuro, J.C. Staff have gone to town and the show’s animation feels like the equivalent of being bundled up in a fluffy blanket of quilted moe. Instead of harsh cut shadows, graduated shading and pastel hues add a delicate effect to proceedings, which accentuates the plot’s romantic themes. These softer tones also work to enhance more than just the narrative. Despite Agemaki and the others waving the flag for bishies everywhere, the colour scheme upgrades their appearance from merely drool-worthy to delectably lick-able, as if they’d taste of candyfloss if you just had a nibble of their earlobe. (Cassie: I bet Riken is like a rich, dark chocolate - bitter but oh so good!)

J.C. Staff’s experience animating the charming, turn-of-the-century baseball moefest, Taishou Yaykuu Musume, shows clearly in the artistic approach to the setting in Otome Youkai Zakuro. The naturalistic palette gives the streets the proper period feel and helps situate the soft-colored character designs as part of a unified aesthetic. Everything from the gaslights to the sakura blossoms scream Meiji in the best possible way and really helps the anime exude a sense of place. (Patches: I want to go on record to say that I can’t believe that this aired at the same time as Tantei Opera Milky Holmes. CLEARLY, JC Staff has an ‘A’ team and a ‘B’ team. Can you guess which one this show got?)


Sound

With a voice cast this strong, the acting brings plenty of earjoy. Moe fans should love watching Yui Horie and Aki Toyosaki play “who’s the most face-meltingly cute” as twins Hozuki and Bonbori, when they’re not d’awwing at Kana Hanazawa’s Susukihotaru. Make no mistake, however, this is Mai Nakahara’s show. The stilted tsundere doesn’t fall far from the archetypal mold, but her volatile reading gives the girl far more personality than the script does on its own. Not to be outdone by the ladies, the male seiyuu perform just as admirably. Takahiro Sakurai delivers a standout performance as Agemaki, flawlessly switching between dulcet, panty-dampening tones for when the blonde bombshell turns on the charm (cue spinning roses), and frenzied panic at the sight of a rogue youkai. Meanwhile, Satoshi Hino gives a solid interpretation of Riken. Though a character of few words, Hino manages to create the perfect balance for the unflappable soldier utilising the stern lilt of a military officer with a softer edge that proves he’s nowhere near as scary as he looks.

“Moon Signal” is not the upbeat ear-worm of a song like “Shinryaku no Susume”, but is instead the right kind of J-Pop torch song to open a series like Otome Youkai Zakuro. Its combination of plaintive strains and poppy underbeat give it the kind of vulnerable energy that defines the show’s protagonist, making it a pitch-perfect anthem for the anime. That the strongest of the three ED themes comes from Aki Toyosaki and Yui Horie should surprise no one, as they have well-established singing chops demonstrated in Toyosaki’s tenure on K-On! for and in Horie’s work on the themes from Toradora!, School Rumble, and Kanamemo. The anime’s in-episode centerpiece--the prayer song the women use to empower Zakuro’s blade--provides another distinctive aural treat, capturing the dangerous determination of the half-spirits and its haunting melody sends a chill down your spine whenever it features.


Characters

Otome Youkai Zakuro’s characterisation is like opening your presents on Christmas morning; the anticipation is unbearable, and while some gifts are just as awesome as you’d hoped, there’s always one dodgy pair of socks, or a set of padded hangers that for some bizarre reason your grandparents thought you’d love. With a cast comprising of handsome military bishies and half-youkai cuties there’s plenty of room for full character exploration and luckily some individuals do actually deliver. As the focus of a large portion of the series, Zakuro naturally receives the most attention, with details of her past and powers gradually surfacing throughout. Conversely Ganryuu, Hozuki and Bonbori play fifth, sixth and seventh fiddle to Agemaki and the rest, serving as little more than fluff. Unlike the others, their love affair seems less like a believable romance and more akin to childish adoration. (Cassie: Ganryuu’s entire purpose seems to be that of the resident Lothario indulging in his sordid little threesome. At least Hozuki and Bonbori sing and clap their hands a bit.)

Though of little consequence to the actual plot, Kiri and Sakura deserve mention as the most huggably adorable characters to appear in an anime since the pint-sized cast of Hanamaru Youchien. With their childlike behaviour proving surprisingly realistic for such a bishie-filled fluff fest, the rosy-cheeked youkai solicit more than their fair share of “awwww” moments throughout the course of the series.

The cast could have been turned to the show’s advantage. Riken and Susukihotaru display stellar development for side characters which doesn’t feel as uniformly distracting as the Ryu-Chizu arc from Kimi ni Todoke. Again the claustrophobic episode count prevents their relationship’s success from forcing Agemaki and Zakuro into a more believable dance. Instead, the rapid forward movement on the two mains’ romantic plot sort of wills itself into conclusion during the final three episodes in order to provide the proper emotional resonance. This development short-changes Zakuro who doesn’t get enough time to really express the tsun to dere evolution in an adequate manner. (Patches: I WANTED to sink my teeth into “true tsundere falls in love with Tamaki Suoh”, but it just didn’t click. Maybe he really deserved a Haruhi Fujioka-like half-youkai?)


Overall

Patches: Otome Youkai Zakuro falls firmly into the same category as Pandora Hearts. I was reluctant to turn on the episodes, enjoyed them while I watched them, but was left wanting more. The show’s exceptional visuals and delightful characters should have drummed up undying affection and had me on my feet during its most tense moments, but everything here feels like a tease. Given the convergence of bits that normally make a hit--romance, bishies, action, an incredible voice cast--the fact that this anime is merely enjoyable seems a let down in some way. Not that it’s bad, just it could have been great.

Cassie: Without a doubt, this show is all about the pretty. The gorgeous guys, the beautiful babes, and the sumptuous settings all combine to deliver a visual treat that J.C. Staff does best. Meanwhile the voice cast acts like a high class host club for the aural senses, satisfying every fibre of your sensory being. Sadly, the narrative doesn’t quite manage to keep up, so while your eyes and ears are having the time of their lives, your brain may not necessarily share the same enthusiasm.

6/10 story
8/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
6.5/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
Galadriel's avatar By Galadriel on Feb 6, 2011

Otome Youkai Zakuro (Demon Maiden Zakuro)

Plot: "In order to bridge the gap between humans and youkai, The Ministry of Spirit Affairs was formed. Military man Kei Agemaki is assigned to the new unit and seems to be the ideal candidate. He’s charming, polite, and a complete gentleman, but there’s just one problem: he’s absolutely terrified of spirits! When he arrives at the new headquarters, Agemaki is partnered up with a cute, yet brash, youkai named Zakuro. Now the unlikely pair must work together to solve the region’s spirit-related problems to help improve relations between humans and youkai, and maybe help Agemaki overcome his crippling fear while they’re at it." (site synopsis)

Story: Another shows that I decided to pay my respect to it and to the author’s that made it possible to be adapted into an anime adaptation. Otome Youkai Zakuro is probably in top 5 best shows that came out in the Fall 2010 Anime Shows, a season that brought a big number of shows with a huge variety of genres that was satisfying a huge variety of fans. This show focuses a lot on a fantasy type of plot, mainly because it is introduced a spirit world among a world supposedly ruled by humans. Settled in a late feudal era, the world was divided into two, a world where humans live in peace and a world where youkais or spirits coexist. However since long times, the contact between these two world’s had always been stained with blood and violence mainly because there was no way for both human’s and youkai’s to understand each other and coexist in a peaceful environment. To solve this issue a Ministry of Spiritual Afairs is being introduced with the mission of making a place where humans and youkais could coexist. However, making contact with normal spirits is not as easy as it seems so the members of this Ministry are not only humans and youkais but even half youkais, beings that were born from a youkai and a human. And here we are introduced to the shy, tsundere, energetic and mysterious Zakuro, considered the most powerful half youkai but also with a past covered in mystery, Susukihotaru, a shy but reliable half youkai and the twins Bonbori and Hozuki. But for the mission to be carried out, there was a need for some humans as well in the organization and they will be paired with the half youkais. Zakuro is paired together with  Kei Agemaki, a handsome guy but with a weakness that shatters his perfect image, he is afraid of spirits and consequently his relationship with Zakuro becomes awkward as she claims that she also hates humans, Susukihotaru is paired together with Riken Hoshinozakrua, the most reliable out of all the human representatives of the military, probably the perfect type of soldier, Bonbori and Houzuki are paired up with Ganryuu Hanakiri, the most childish figure out of all the soldiers. For them to carry on their mission, they need to put aside all the differences between them and to live as equals in the same building, so that they can become a model for the other people. The fact that they are able to coexist in peace and harmony could become a model for the other people to accept youkais and to concider them as beings that do not represent danger. Even though Ganryuu and Riken get along with their partners the relationship between Zakuro and Agemaki develops slowly and with small steps. Because of certain childhood experiences that marked his life, Agemaki has trouble in adapting into the new environment mainly because he is surrounded by the one thing that he feared the most, spirits, more of it his partner is a half spirit that affirmed that she also hates humans and does not want to get along with them. Once Zakuro finds out about Agemaki’s weakness his first image of him is shattered, and she conciders him a wuss, for being such a coward. However in reality Zakuro does not really bear a grudge against humans since she is infatuaded with Takatoshi Hanadate, a handsome high ranked officer that also supports the idea of humans and youkais coexisting. However life is not easy since the spirit affairs are not easily to dealt with. Unlike the human affairs which are left to be taken care of by the military, the spirit affairs is a much more troublesome issue since conflicts cannot really be prevented and most of the time they become hard to control. Simple but well though plot in my opinion and not a story that goes into complicated issues or that could be dragged on for a long time, pointlessly.

Animation and Sound: Definitely one of the most redeeming point of this show is probably the animation design and quality. My first though when I saw this show was that the visual are eyecandy~ish, in other words it’s very colourful and is pleasant for the eye. At times it can be very bright with a nice atmosphere but it can turn into a dark one with a dark ambience with cool action sequences and probably the best incantations I ever seen in anime, credits to the author. The character designs are also very adorable, pointing especially at Zakuro and the other half spirits and the youkais. The sound is also very well chosen with an opening that surely attracts attention with cool action sequences and a nice character presentation. The background songs and the ending soundtrack also seemed to fit the environment of the anime. The voice acting for this show is filled with many important names such as Yui Horie (Houzuki, known for many other roles in Shikabane Hime, Vampire Knight, Ikkitousen or Kampfer), Aoi Toyosaki (Bonbori – Shugo Chara!, Kaichou wa Maid-sama or Railgun), Mai Nakahara (Zakuro), Satoshi Hino (Riken), Kana Hanazawa (Susukihotaru) or Takahiro Sakurai (Agemaki).

Characters: What I liked regarding this show is the fact that it presented a big cast but it focused on the main characters so that they would have a sort of development. Zakuro is the main attraction since her past is covered in mystery, she is not aware of it but wants to find out more about her origin and especially about her mother, Tsukuhane, which disappeared when she was little. Kushimatsu, the spirit that protects Zakuro is aware of what happened since he used to serve lady Tsukuhane as well but for Zakuro’s safety she tries to keep it a secret from her. Agemaki on the other hand is way different, being born in a wealthy family with an important status among other nobles, he had to live to his parents expectation and the reason why he entered in the army is because of his family background. He interacted with spirits when he was young but unfortunately in a negative way. His fear for spirits was also developed by his family as well, since his parents also seemed to hate spirits and reject them. Susukihotaru, Bonbori and Houzuki had different situation, unlike Zakuro who has always been taken care of, they were found and sheltered by Kushimatsu.

Overall: If someone would ask me about a show that was good out of all the Fall 2010 Anime Season I would strongly recommend Otome Youkai Zakuro. Glancing through it, it might seem like a typical shoujo anime but in reality it oscilates from a funny, comedy atmosphere to a tense, dark ambience. Surely this show knows how to balance both issues. Even though it’s short, it’s worth watching and there are hints for a continuation so I still have high expectations from this one.

~Enjoy and Cya Around~

9/10 story
10/10 animation
9/10 sound
9/10 characters
9/10 overall
Archaeon's avatar By Archaeon on Jan 13, 2011

Cliches, stereotypes, formulas, and other such mass production "tools" that are involved in the creation of "original" anime are a common part of the industry these days. One only has to look at the shows released over the previous season, never mind the previous year, to see just how many titles are nothing more than variations on a given theme.

That doesn't mean that they're all bad though. While an anime may be burdened with cliches, have a fomulaic plot and/or stereotypical characters, if these are used in an intelligent and innovative manner then it's possible to produce something decent at least. Sadly, many of shows made this way (which unfortunately is the majority of anime these days), have more in common with the delusions of a hormone addled teenager (either male or female), than they do with quality entertainment.

Thanks heavens for small favours.

Otome Youkai Zakuro is based on the ongoing historical fantasy manga of the same name by Hoshino Lily. The story is set in an alternate Japan during the Meiji era's period of Westernisation, where the Ministry of Spirit Affairs deals with the common and uncommon issues that arise in a multi-vital society (i.e. youkai and humans trying to live side by side).

The story is pretty decent for the most part, especially in terms of content, and there's a lot to keep the casual viewer watching the show. The plot is pitched at a specific audience though, and while it may flow quite well, although there are times when it's difficult to tell who that audience is. In addition to this, one can't help but think of Otome Youkai Zakuro as more than a little "folkish", and with good reason too as aside from the obvious allusions to Japanese folklore and mythology, there's actually a very subtle, and slightly bawdy, undercurrent to the show that seems to have bypassed just about everybody.

Confused? Well, it's not that obvious as it has to do with soldiers, maidens, garter-belts and folk songs. Three soldiers are sent to join the Ministry of Spirit Affairs where they are to partner young half-youkai ladies (complete with animal ears), who are supposed to represent the yamato nadeshiko, but carry branches with pomegranate blossoms inside their garter belts like they're some kind of hidden weapon.

Seriously, if I showed that sentence to anyone interested in traditional ribaldry or the more coarse side of folk music they'd first applaud the subtlety, then laugh themselves silly.

But I digress. The fact is that Hoshino Lily managed to insert some very sly inferences directly into the plot without anybody realising it, which should bode well for the series but for one thing. While the story may be decent enough, certain key plot events can feel staged because the viewer is able to predict not only what is going to happen, but the outcome as well. This is one of the dangers of relying too heavily on cliches, stereotypes and formulas, as there is an inherent repetitiveness that arises from using these "tools".

And boy, does this show use them.

Otome Youkai Zakuro is one of those shows that looks as though it was made while someone was checking boxes in a "moe: how to ..." handbook. One look at the series and it's clear that while this may be labelled a seinen show (with some rather obvious shoujo influences), the target audience is mainly those who like "cute" young girls with animal ears.

The "human" characters have been made to look as attractive as possible, even when they're being evil, and there's a certain generic quality to the design principle that can sometimes make the viewer wonder if they've seen the character before (I'm pretty sure I saw the elephant guy in India). The settings are nicely detailed, but while they're well suited to the time period, they seem a bit too clinical and sanitised. Everything and everyone are too clean and too "nice", even when bad things are happening, and this can sometimes make it difficult to take the show seriously. The colour scheme also compounds the "nice" atmosphere, and Otome Youkai Zakuro is literally awash with "cute" pinks, blues, greens, yellows, etc.

On the plus side, the animation is pretty good, with flowing character movements  and some rather nice action set pieces. The problem  is that the shadow of repetition raises its head once more. There are a few scenes that, aside from the backgrounds, are simply the same routine repeated over and over again (the most common one being Zakuro's transformation into "Mega-Zakuro" - which basically means she has a knife instead of a stick and her pupils change shape). Fortunately this doesn't really impede on one's enjoyment of the series, but it does make one wonder why more effort hasn't gone into the animation production, and also why a respected studio like J.C. Staff decided to cut some very obvious corners.

Thankfully the acting is a definite step in the right direction, although it has to be said that some of the roles didn't really require anything special. Nakahara Mai is an enormously talented actress and has some surprising lead roles under her belt (Furukawa Nagisa from Clannad, Ryuuguu Rena from Higurashi, etc), but while she gives a decent performance in her role as Zakuro, she is ultimately limited by some mediocre scripting. The same is true for Sakurai Takahiro (who plays Agemaki Kei), and the rest of the cast, and while all of the sieyuu clearly have a great deal of ability, there are times when it feels like their skills aren't being fully utilised.

On a different note, aside from some strange choices with the incidental music, the soundtrack is functional, but that's about the best one can say about it. There are some small issues with timing, and more importantly relevance, but these can be viewed as minor niggles that are quickly forgotten. The big issues are the opening theme and the three ending themes. The OP is well animated, but the timing is all over the place, and to further compound matters Moon Signal by Sphere doesn't fit in with the look, storyline, or atmosphere of the whole show. The song feels completely out of place, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

All of the EDs are sung by the seiyuu whose roles are partnered in the anime (for example, Nakahara Mai and Sakurai Takahiro sing the first one together), which is nice, and could have worked well as an additional reinforcement of the bond between the soldiers and the youkai maidens. Unfortunately it seems as though somebody has overestimated their musical ability (I look pointedly at you Sugimoto Masaru), as the first two EDs, Hatsukoi wa Zakuro-iro and Junjou Masquerade, are stereotypical efforts that don't work with the ending sequence's imagery, nor the main storyline itself. Strangely, the third ED, Futari Shizuka, is more in keeping with the feel of the show, so it's obvious that although somebody was paying attention, it wasn't enough or they were sinply overruled by the producers.

Now while it may be true that the scripting wasn't up to spec, that doesn't mean that the characters were poorly envisioned. Granted there is a degree of formula to their personas (Zakuro being a tsundere is one example of this), and a number of cliches are on display with their development, but as a rule the characters aren't that bad. Each is able to grow because of their "partnership", and while there is a certain method and measure to this, the evolution of the characters is treated with a degree of diffidence that somewhat belies the open targeting of the moe market.

Unfortunately, the developmental method is a bit too formulaic at times, and because of this the viewer can feel like certain obvious events are being force fed to them in an effort to elicit some sort of empathy. That said, the characters are charming in their own ways, and while they may appeal to a specific fan base, that doesn't mean that others won't find them interesting, or even cute.

I will admit that Otome Youkai Zakuro surprised me, as while it's definitely cliched and formulaic, it's also pretty enjoyable in a charming, quirky sort of way. Yes, the story is predictable, but rather than make the characters completely stereotypical there has been some effort to give them a degree of individuality (which is one of the reasons why the poor scripting is so noticeable). The design may be aimed at the moe markets, but within that saccharine sweet exterior lies a story that tries to mix several genres to produce something ... at least a little different.

Ultimately though, this is yet another example of the anime industry wasting the opportunity to produce something above average. It's a decent show, but it had the potential to be so much better than it is if the producers and director had tried that little bit harder to ditch the fomrulaic approach.

7/10 story
7/10 animation
7/10 sound
7/10 characters
7/10 overall
snivets's avatar By snivets on May 15, 2012

I'm not quite sure what I was expecting when I picked this show up, and I was actually seriously annoyed after the first episode. However, I'll admit that I got sucked in, and, despite the obvious thin-ness of plot, I ended up enjoying it.

Story: What annoyed me so much in the first episode was the contrived-ness of the premise, which felt a lot like someone said, "What excuse can we devise to throw three dapper bishounen into the lives of four moe-moe ear-girls? And of course they'll ALL fall in love with exactly the right person--we don't need any reasons for that!" And then then conclusion was like, "Bwahaha all according to the plan of mask-man!"

Once I got over that aspect, much like a fish being reeled in against my will by the overpowering moe of looooove, I actually thought that elements of the premise/plot worked rather well. Half-youkai by their nature are half-breeds, and the idea that they were used and shunned and maltreated was not unusual given that fact. It made me think a lot about race, as well as making their tragic past much more believable. In fact, very little of the tragedy in the characters' pasts felt contrived when I framed it term of race, class, and power. Also I liked the theme of tension between Westernization/traditional Japanese-ness. That stuff is like moe for my brain.

Characters: Each character had a distinct personality, and they were dimensional and had moods and quirks and weaknesses. Each had actions he or she could or could not take based on their character. The villain was fleshed out, had a past, had a clear motive, had an Achilles heel. Nothing ground-breaking. Character development (characters growing/developing themselves because of things in the plot) was thin to lacking, and some of the side characters had more believable romance than the title character.

Inner Feminist must break in and say how much she liked the male characters admitting to deep emtions and that they were usually the weaker ones, and also that the girls had strong roles (or like Byakuroku, was able to [somewhat] overcome her victimization). However, Inner Feminist did not much like how the girls were fated into their relationships with The One or how girly-girl-silly the girls were or how they were roled into caring for children (but that's [mostly] just because she's a tomboy at heart and dislikes kids).

Loooooove is in the air~!<3 That's about all you need to know. The show was entertaining, and had some substance if you care to develop it in your head for your own amusement. Otherwise, sit back and feel the loooooooove. Also random side note: the catchy demon-killing chant had me singing "Washi wa hana ka? Chou chou ka, oni ka?" for days.

7/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
7/10 characters
7/10 overall
RedCrossRobbery's avatar By RedCrossRobbery on Oct 12, 2011

When I reached out and started to watch Otome Youkai Zakuro, I was hoping that I could feel a little of the sublime love I got from watching Spice and Wolf. I was disappointed at first, but if you are well-read on my reviews, you know I try very hard not to be biased. That being said, forgetting the hole in my chest, yearning for more Spice and Wolf-esque romance and storytelling, OYZ was honestly not all that bad.

Story: 5 out of 10
Story was the lowest of the categories to me, solely because of the inconsistency of maturity. In one episode, they would face a monster that loved the flavor of pregnant women, because of the children inside of them were tasty. Then the next episode involved a board-game spirit that needed to see true love to disappear. It is incredibly irritating as a viewer to wonder "Should I be watching this anime seriously, or just casually?".
The entire storyline plays out fairly episodic until the last few episodes, a group of military boys get sent to a special spirit division of the army to group up with half-spirit girls and try to promote a healthy relationship between humans and spirits. Within only a few episodes, love is in the air, and comedy is a plenty. 
The plot thickens when a man in the shadows starts trying to capture the main girl, and he turns out to be her half-brother (who wants to marry and have sex with her? Kind of a touchy subject there guys...) who is also bent on world-domination, or some other 5-cent villain excuse. All in all, completely average and erratic.

Animation: 8 out of 10
The animation of OYZ was insistent, just like the storyline. There were moments of dazzling beautiful displays of art, and then scenes of choppy, boorish coloring. The beautiful moments were much more prevalent than the bad, and the pretty parts certainly were pretty. For that, I give it an 8, but the inconsistent style was a little annoying at times.

Sound: 7 out of 10
Sound was an unexpected treat. Lots of singing, excellent voice-acting, and catchy OP and ED songs made the sound department really shine for this series.

Characters: 9.5 out of 10
The highlight of the series, characters, were incredible. OYZ did a fantastic job of making fractured, likeable characters that will have you cheering for them the entire way there. No two characters are alike, and they all have admirable qualities, but they all fight tooth and nail for what they love. For that very reason, all 7 main characters become heroes in our eyes. Zakuro's past, and Agemaki's growth are two of the pivotal points to character development that made this series what it is.
Zakuro has a haunted past of loss and despair, but through friendship, and a deep sense of love given to her by her mother, she carries on, trying to help out those in need. Agemaki is rich, prolific general's son, but is a caring, sensitive lad. These daddy issues lead him to have an irrational fear of spirits,and through Zakuro, he learns to not only overcome them, but learn about himself in the process.
Even the minor characters of OYZ are well thought out. The 4 main bad guys all have different reasons for being there (Rangui from love, Hanadate for lack thereof, byakoroku to protect her sister, and Daidai to feel useful), and this makes them much more believable as characters versus the typical "I don't like things so I smash world rawr!" that infects so many villain characters.

Overall:  7 out of 10
Overall, OYZ is no ground-breaking work of genius, but it is a subtle sort of series that will have you smiling from time to time. It is not a series that focuses on romance, action, or drama specifically, but dabbles in all. The overall feel of the show is young love. If you are someone like me who remembers what young love felt like, or perhaps you are young and in love now, I think you will appreciate this. Floods of nostalgia made me a melodramatic mess as i sat here watching thsi series unroll before my eyes. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

 

5/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
9.5/10 characters
7/10 overall