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~