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.