Otome Youkai Zakuro

September 23, 2011

If you like half-spirit female demons in kimonos and military guys, you may want to check out Otome Youkai Zakuro. For your information, I’m not the tiniest fan of either but after watching my favourite and ubiquitous high school comedy genre for too long, I thought that it will be good to ‘diversify’ once in a while into other genres. Just like how I did for other shows from time to time. And in view of this once in a while thingy, this series got picked randomly simply well, I thought the half-spirit female demons look cuter than your stereotypical ugly and vengeful ghosts. Sheesh…

Set in an alternate Japan whereby humans and spirits are co-existing side by side, it is a time whereby the country is embracing Westernization amidst their traditional culture. Don’t worry, it won’t look odd and out-of-place like what Gintama is. Due to the uneasy co-existence between both sides, the Spirits Affair is established to maintain harmony between humans and spirits.

Episode 1
The Japanese military has sent 3 of its men to participate in this programme. They are Kei Agemaki, Riken Yoshinozakura and Ganryuu Hanakiri and will be watched over by Lieutenant Takatoshi Hanadate. The men accept their orders to co-habitat with the half-spirit ladies, Zakuro, Susukihotaru and twins Bonbori and Houzuki (those killer locks remind of a certain someone in Ladies Versus Butlers). Agemaki gets Zakuro, stoic Riken with shy Susukihotaru and the young Ganryuu gets double jeopardy, oops I mean the cheeky twins. The ironic part is that Agemaki has a fear of spirits! How can he do his duty when he has this phobia? He’s going to be surrounded by more than 1 spirit, you know. Plus, Zakuro hates humans especially those who are of the Jesuit belief. Whereas Susukihotaru feels that Riken is someone big and scary. Of course you wouldn’t expect things to work out as soon as possible and bonding takes time. The men also meet other spirits in the building they are supposed to live in. They include a fox spirit Kushimatsu, the elephant spirit Amaryouju, a pair of lively pumpkin-head spirit kids, Sakura and Kiri and 3 tanuki-like servants. Agemaki must quickly get used to having spirits around him because Sakura and Kiri enjoy playing with him. Worse, Zakuro’s artefact spirit, Mamezo (I feel he’s like a horror version of Bugs Bunny) likes hanging around this ‘big brother too. Other bonding in this episode includes introducing the ladies to cow’s milk in which Zakuro completely detests. While Bonbori and Houzuki enjoy frolicking with Ganryuu, Susukihotaru finds that Riken isn’t as scary as he seems but someone kind and helpful. Zakuro is further upset by Agemaki’s cowardice of spirit when he even requests her to accompany him to the toilet! And she thought he was hugging her out of romantic gesture but the actual fact he’s just a wuss. To further improve their ties, the gang go on a hanami (flower viewing) and receive unpleasant stares from other passers-by. During the view, a lightning beast appears and unlike its tame nature, it starts attacking them. Agemaki manages to temporarily overcome his fear and safe Sakura and Kiri from harm’s way but that’s when he starts to paralyze in fear. Zakuro and co go into action to tame the beast. She takes out a sakura branch from Mamezo’s throat and with the other half-spirit ladies singing a weird but sadness-filled ritual song in the background, the branch turns into a knife to slash and calm down the beast. In the aftermath, the beast becomes docile as Sakura and Kiri play with it and the gang continue their picnic amidst the hanami.

Episode 2
Zakuro dreams whereby she was picking a fruit up the persimmon tree when she was young. She saw demons crawling up from beneath. In her fear, she carelessly climbs up further, not heeding advice to do so because it is connected to the underworld. She falls off and wakes up from the dream. During breakfast, Zakuro continues to loathe Agemaki. This time he gave her a candle for breakfast thinking spirits like her eat candles. The gang are called on their first mission. Seems there is a ghost haunting a newly constructed western hotel though it is harmless. As they meet the manager, he wants them to exterminate the spirit because his workers are getting too afraid to go to work. They split up to look for the spirit. Susukihotaru tells Riken why Zakuro is important to them and how Kushimatsu brought them all together to this place. Ganryuu seems to be able to tell the difference between Bonbori and Houzuki, much to their delight (I still certainly can’t). Then the haunting spirit appears. Though looking menacing, it’s not attacking them. Zakuro and co go into action but after slicing it, it has no effect on the spirit but the building walls got destroyed instead. The manager is furious as Zakuro explains. Taking a lit candle and approaching the spirit, the light reveals its true form, which is a very tiny and meek self. The big one is just his projected shadow. Zakuro says that there was once a shrine in this area and the construction has caused it to lose its home. Plus, the surrounding rapid development and the streets filled with light makes the spirits’ dwellings vanish so it was just trying to scare humans away. She feels humans have lost the respect for spirits. However the manager and the other humans aren’t pleased with this. You know how much it costs to build a hotel? Hanadate arrives to quell the commotion. He says the military would reimburse all his costs incurred and give him a piece of land as compensation. He feels this is necessary as to maintain a good relationship with both humans and spirits. He also sees the importance of both westernization and maintaining local tradition. With all sides pacified, Zakuro starts blushing when he calls to her to thank her for reminding him about important things. Hey, this cool guy must be better than a certain wuss, right? That night back home, Agemaki asks Zakuro why she is willing to fight for worthless humans. Her reply is that this is where she belongs and that there are wonderful humans (Hanadate) and wusses (Agemaki). She just had to say that, didn’t she?

Episode 3
Zakuro isn’t happy that she is the only one who isn’t on a mission but Kushimatsu says that she should first improve her relation with Agemaki since she’s always bickering. Then when an old guy comes to request for help about girls from his village who start disappearing or in worse case, spirited away, Zakuro becomes all excited to take this mission and feels they can’t wait for the rest to return. In the train, Agemaki remembers what Kushimatsu told him about how half-spirits are born. When pregnant females get spirited away, the return with half-spirits. They who are believed to be possessed by fox spirits are shunned and taken away immediately at birth. She adds that though Zakuro and co look cheerful because they have each other, deep down some wounds are hard to heal. She is trying hard because she wants to be accepted and pushes herself hard. Upon arriving in the village, they are forced to share the same room and in an awkward position. That night they can’t sleep so when Agemaki tells her about learning how half-spirits are born, she explains her mom was spirited away twice. Once before she was born and after the second time, she never return. That’s why she got worked up when she heard about girls getting spirited away and she thought she might learn something about her mom. The next day as they start their search, Zakuro meets a bunch of curious kids who have never seen half-spirits before. They played without discrimination. After the kids leave, they rest but Zakuro is suddenly under a trance. She’s going to follow the voice when Agemaki snaps her out of it. That night, she gets trance again and walks straight into the woods. Agemaki spots this and goes after her. He also sees a giant white fox spirit hovering over the sky. When he manages to catch up and snap her out of her spell, they are outside a cave’s mouth. A pair of hooded ladies seems to be pleased that this is going as planned. The fox attacks them so they retreat. As they trek deeper into the cave, Agemaki becomes scared after seeing human bones everywhere on the ground. Then they see a huge spirit and Zakuro realizes the girls weren’t spirited away but eaten by it. They both cooperate to fight it and Zakuro lands the final stab on its head. Back home, Kushimatsu reports to Amaryouju that a half-spirit is using illusion of girls spirited away as bait to lure Zakuro. They think they’re starting to make their move. As for the rest, they are pestering Zakuro for details about spending the night together with Agemaki.

Episode 4
With Zakuro and Agemaki given a rest day, the rest head over to shop believed to be possessed. The gang are relieved to see the shop owner, Aya Orikata accepting the existence of spirits because she too has a little spirit, Mugi as her assistance. Aya brings out the sword she believes many people around her have met with unfortunate events. Riken is going to touch it but is stopped by Susukihotaru. She then starts feeling uneasy. Riken goes to talk to her while she is resting. The twins tell Ganryuu about Susukihotaru’s power: She is able to empathise with objects and other people by a mere touch. When Mugi shows Susukihotaru a comb from her mom, she starts seeing visions of how Mugi’s mom was brutally murdered by humans. To Mugi, she doesn’t remember much. Susukihotaru encourages her further by saying her mom will come if she is a good girl. Then they see Mugi trying to work hard so that she can be a good girl but she accidentally bumps and causes the cursed sword to drop. Susukihotaru catches it and sees visions of it being used to slaughter. She becomes possessed and attacks Riken. Aya and Mugi could’ve been victims if Riken didn’t get back up on his feet to protect them. Mugi starts to remember how her mom protected her. Riken uses the cloth and wrap around his hands to catch the cursed sword. This brings Susukihotaru back to her senses. She becomes guilty for hurting him and felt afraid to tell him about her powers. Riken holds her hand and asks if she could sense what he is thinking. As a man of few words, he hopes that this is a way he can show his feelings. Susukihotaru is overcome with emotion and hugs him. When they leave, they take the cursed sword back with them. Susukihotaru feels she is no longer bothered with all the other people around her and feels it must be because of Riken. He holds her hand and causes her to blush.

Episode 5
Hanadate pays the gang a visit. Based on a survivor’s testimony, there seems to be an incident whereby victims (all men) are lured away by a beautiful woman who then transforms herself into a giant spider. This only happens at official government parties. And yes, our heroes and heroines get to attend a grand ball as part of their mission. Zakuro seems to be enjoying herself with Hanadate accompanying and dancing with her rather than Agemaki. Then a couple of mean military guys mock Zakuro. She’s upset but holding it in. Agemaki gets this chance to show his cool side when he steps in like a gentlemen so the punks take their leave. Zakuro cries in his arms and he could feel her trembling in fear. Bonbori and Houzuki manage to locate the enemy and send message to the rest. However they are being stopped by those hooded characters. While Riken is clashing swords with one of them, Susukihotaru touched her skin. Though she escapes, Susukihotaru starts crying because she felt a very dark and deep sorrow. Ganryuu and the twins enter a room and to their horror, see lots of rotting corpse of men in the ceiling. There’s a fresh one up there and he is Hanadate. The lady culprit, Rangui makes her appearance and transform into a spider. Bonbori fights Rangui but her power is only at half level since Houzuki is protecting Ganryuu. Bonbori becomes injured as Ganryuu becomes hysterical. Enraged Zakuro whizzes and stabs Rangui for hurting Bonbori. Though Bonbori is still breathing, Ganryuu is upset over her actions. Rangui lies in her pool of blood but she’s laughing. She knows who Zakuro is and even her mother, Tsukuhane. Zakuro badgers her for more information but she vanishes, leaving Zakuro pretty confused and shell shocked.

Episode 6
Zakuro is visibly distressed but all that is alleviated when Agemaki comes by to hand her some cookies from Hanadate. Well, she really likes it. What she didn’t know and Agemaki couldn’t tell her is that it’s made out of milk. So it’s all in the mind, eh? Ganryuu on the other hand seems upset not because of the twins but rather himself for being incompetent and inexperienced that has caused what happened. But they don’t mind because they are prepared to lay down their lives for him whom they love dearly. They tell him their past how a woman once in awhile came by to see how they were doing in a cave. She always told them never to go out of the cave in daylight and never approach humans. They happily played together in the dark and came to love her. One day, the woman never stopped coming and they became curios and ventured out to search for her. They encounter a furious human who believes they killed his wife. In his rage, he hunted down to kills them and all the petrified twins could do was to run as fast as they could. They felt this bad thing happened to them because they disobeyed the woman’s instruction. But the next thing they know, they were whisked away on a flying white fox who brought them to meet the rest just like them. The ironic part wasn’t how they could understand each other without speaking and even so with that woman but rather they never realize they could speak! Until only recently. Meanwhile Susukihotaru tells Agemaki how they first met Zakuro. She’s always cheerful and smiling but is afraid that one day she might just disappear. Zakuro is pestering Kushimatsu about details about her mom, why she was serving her but the fox isn’t telling and will only do so when the time is right. That’s not an answer. Soon Agemaki requests Zakuro’s help to remove Sakura and Kiri’s kite stuck on the tree. Why her? Yeah, he can’t climb trees. When Zakuro climbs it, it’s that deja vu feeling of that persimmon tree dream again. She slips off but luckily Agemaki is there to catch her. Noticing her pendant’s chain broken, he offers to fix it. She mentions it is from her mom as Agemaki notes she is always putting on a brave face and pushing herself hard. After fixing it, he gives it back to her and hugs her. Susukihotaru notes that this is the first time she let someone else touch her pendant.

Episode 7
A young woman named Tae suddenly barges in and hugs Agemaki. Feeling jealous, Zakuro? Who the heck is she, unashamed of throwing herself at a guy? Well, she’s one of the servants back in his home and it seems she is here to ask for Agemaki’s return to the house since his dad has already been making noise. Agemaki then pleads to Zakuro and wants her to temporarily be his assistant. She agrees but on a condition that he owes her each time he insults her. She gives him a paper of coupons of sweets. Erm… I think you need to give a lot more than that seeing the favour he is asking of you. Not wanting to expose she is a half-spirit, she has to hide her demon ears which can be quite uncomfortable. Upon reaching his mansion, Zakuro is introduced to his little sister Kumiko. Tae wonders Zakuro’s relation with Agemaki and as usual those scornful comments but to Tae, he is a kind person that treats everyone with respect. Later Zakuro confronts Agemaki for the real reason of bringing her back to his house. She thinks it must have something to do with a spirit. He admits that it happened since his pet cat Itsue disappeared. Then during dinner, Zakuro hears Agemaki’s boastful father (he’s in the military too) and that he doesn’t like spirits very much. He has this perception that his son is going to rein them all in. That night Agemaki tells Zakuro how he thought Itsue was taken away by a spirit so he begged to it not to do so and would trade all his treasure for Itsue. Plus, his dad was always yelling at him for being a scaredy cat. Because of this, it led him to his fear of spirits. Then Zakuro says that Itsue is here, sending Agemaki into his usual hair-standing-on-ends feeling. Zakuro tells Itsue to appear in her true form. As explained, when a cat is loved, it becomes a demon cat. Itsue appeared before him when he was young because she wanted to thank him for his kindness. Agemaki hugs Itsue and asks for forgiveness for being scared. Itsue returns to her normal cat form in which he can’t see. The next day as they’re leaving, Agemaki tells Zakuro that he wanted to show her how his father is like and not hide anything from her. Then his mom whispers to Zakuro asking her for forgiveness over her husband’s discourteous. She thanks her for making Agemaki feeling relaxed and leaves him in her care. On the way out, Zakuro felt glad she came while Kumiko watches them leave with Itsue. Can this kid see spirits?

Episode 8
While Agemaki and Susukihotaru are out in town for an errand, those hooded pair cast a sleeping spell and kidnap them. The pair are working for Rangui and this is their plan to draw Zakuro out. Agemaki and Susukihotaru awake to find themselves in an earthen cellar. Then Aya and Mugi stop by and tell something wrong must have happened because she found stuffs from the duo lying outside her store. Zakuro wants to go save them but was locked up by Kushimatsu instead. However Amaryouji wants her to free Zakuro as this is an order from the Spirits Affairs. Though Kushimatsu insists that she is just living up to her promise to protect Zakuro, Amaryouju cautions her that she is the one who could be locked up instead for disobedience. That rainy night, Riken frees Zakuro as they rush out for a rescue mission without Kushimatsu’s knowledge while Ganryuu and the twins stay behind as decoys. When they arrive, they are ambushed by the hooded ladies who reveal their true form. They are also half-spirits, sisters Byakuroku and Daidai. They clash swords and Riken got injured. When Byakuroku tells Zakuro that their loved ones are trapped beneath a cellar and will drown once the water fills it up, Zakuro becomes enraged and violent. The fight stops when Byakuroku starts vomiting and feeling pain. Zakuro is shocked to Rangui but the latter is here to retreat her underlings. Agemaki and Susukihotaru are having a hard time holding back the door (can they?) but it bursts open. Luckily, they manage to grab onto Zakuro’s hand. Riken hugs Susukihotaru and is relieved she is alright. Back home, Riken reports to Kushimatsu and will take full responsibility. Zakuro couldn’t hold back her tears because she was worried sick about Agemaki. He holds her and apologizes for making her worry. Rangui and the sisters are back in their safe place. Rangui notes their powers are difficult to use if they’re far away from the Village of Oracles since they’re only half-spirits. After assuring Daidai that she’ll help Byakuroku recover, she turns to the latter and wants her to serve her in exchange for her sister to be treated the same way.

Episode 9
A beautiful day. Zakuro tries another hand at milk but still doesn’t like it. Riken’s punishment is a pay deduction and this is just a light sentence considering it could’ve been much more severe. Then Hanadate pays them a visit. Seems another occurrence in which recently girls are playing a popular game called Kokkuri. Think of it as something like the Ouija Board. When the girls play the game (usually involves pining for love), a peculiar spirit appears though it is harmless. He thinks they need to take action before something happens. So what better way than to investigate but to play the game itself. The gang including the Tanuki servants conspire to make Zakuro play and reveal her true love. As they start the process, a fox spirit appears but Zakuro notes that it isn’t a spirit but the visualization of the feelings of humans. Because the rest are still forcing to reveal Zakuro’s true love, Kokkuri causes a little storm and escapes via window. They give chase and when Zakuro is to cut it down, there is no effect. It soon disappears. Since it is not a spirit and just a mere visualization, they can’t really attack it. Everyone soon gathers to discuss to solve this problem. Amaryouju thinks that they need to show love and if Kokkuri sees a couple in love, it will think its task is done and will move on. Hanadate wishes to personally participate in this too. As they split up and set out to find Kokkuri, Agemaki is getting annoyed that Zakuro is having a friendly chat with Hanadate. Then they see Kokkuri larger than usual and well, it’s so colourful now. Is that a good sign or bad? Agemaki nervously is going to put on a demonstration of his love for Zakuro but she got embarrassed and strangles him. Then cool Hanadate steps in for the kill when he convincingly confesses that he loves Zakuro. Kokkuri is now at ease and disappears. Though Zakuro thanks him for putting up a splendid performance and big lie, unfortunately Hanadate says he is a poor liar. Uh oh. His eyes don’t indicate he’s lying or playing a fool. Back home, Susukihotaru asks Zakuro if she likes Hanadate. More woes for Zakuro when the Tanuki servants continue to pester her and to make her stand clear. She gets pissed off that they’re the root of this problem and they square off. Agemaki goes out after hearing the commotion and sees Zakuro taking on… Zakuros? One of the cheeky masquerading Tanuki goes up to Agemaki and seduces him so the real Zakuro gets flustered and beats him up. Meanwhile Rangui is seen making herself comfortable in the arms of a masked man. How come this guy seems familiar? Don’t tell me he is…

Episode 10
The gang head out for the night festival. As they make their way into the maze, Agemaki asks Zakuro if she is still mad at something. Not really anything important. Really. Agemaki continues that at first he was scared of her and is going to tell his feelings for her but she just ran off. While she is running away in tears, she sees a bright flash of light and soon disappears. Rangui continues to seduce the masked man but he isn’t interested so he orders her to take Byakuroku as her attendant. Zakuro wakes up from a dream of spending time with her mom and then saw her being taken away by those demons. She finds herself chained to the bed as the mask man enters with Byakuroku. He shows his true face… How come it’s no surprise to know the culprit is Hanadate? However he says that is nearly his false name and his real name is Omodaka. He mentions they are both disgraced creatures and will soon be as one. He’s not going to rape her, isn’t he? He orders Byakuroku to keep tabs on her. Zakuro sees her in pain and shares some of her power to make her feel better. As for the other gang, they are starting to get worried that Zakuro hasn’t returned. Their fears come true when Mamezo starts becoming weak, which is an indication that Zakuro is far away. At least by a day or two. Rangui continues her seduction on Omodaka but he is clearly not interested. Then he notices Zakuro’s powers in Byakuroku and is definite she is the one who will bear his child. Jealous Rangui confronts Zakuro and is going to tear her apart in her spider form. But in her rage, she not only destroys the room but accidentally sets her free as she uses this chance to escape. Zakuro chances upon lifeless half-spirits and as explained by Byakuroku, half-spirits like them all are merely tools. Neither human nor spirits, flawed by nature. Though female half-spirits like them are lucky, the males aren’t (those ugly dark demons from the persimmon tree). Zakuro sees an entire cell of lifeless half-spirits calling out her name. She gets scared and runs away through a dark corridor.

Episode 11
Zakuro’s pendant starts glowing and as she follows it, leading her to a secret pathway which leads to her mother sitting motionless in a tent. She is happy to be reunited with her but when she touches her, memories of Tsukuhane start flowing through her mind. Elsewhere Kushimatsu tells the rest about the Village of Oracles, the place where half-spirits are born. She once served Tsukuhane who was a maiden with rare powers. The Chief of the village wanted her powers and took her as a bride and kept her isolated in the mountains. When she gave birth to an heir, Omodaka, she was cast aside and not allowed to see her son. One day when she was peeking at the village where her son is, she fell out of a tree courtesy of the woodcutter, Enaga. He accepted for who she is and as time passes, they form a bond and she sneak out of her confinement to be with him and do chores in his village. She was having the time of her life when she heard that a villager’s wife got spirited away. She ran to the Chief’s village and begged for him to return those ladies.  Then she heard Omodaka’s voice and pleaded for a chance to see him but was turned away. She became depressed but Enaga stood by her side. One day, they decide d to elope but the Chief killed him in front of her eyes. If bearing his child isn’t bad timing, the bad news is that the one who told the Chief of Tsukuhane’s tryst is no other than Omodaka himself. Tsukuhane is taken in to be performed as part of another half-spirit ritual. The Chief noticed the glowing powers belonging to the newborn baby but at that time, Kushimatsu had taken Tsukuhane and her baby to escape the village. Kushimatsu can no longer return to the village since she has betrayed it. In reality, Omodaka puts Zakuro to sleep and gives Byakuroku an important role as a maiden at the wedding ceremony. Kushimatsu continues with her story, saying that half-spirits are the product of fox spirit rituals and they are considered failures. Zakuro’s pendant serves as a seal but over the years it has weakened as it could no longer hold her powers and thus difficult to hide it from the Village of Oracles (at that time Omodaka succeeded the Chief) so Tsukuhane chose to return to the village as atonement for her sins in return for Zakuro’s freedom. However Kushimatsu worries that he will betray them and that’s why they’re constantly on the move. As the years pass, Zakuro’s powers continue to increase and that’s when she met Amaryouju who told her not to run and hide but teach the girls to take pride in their powers. Though he feels that it’s a mistake now, the rest think it is not because they wouldn’t have met nor fought together. They are adamant to bring Zakuro back. But to enter the Village of Oracles, they must cross a barrier. They need to have a talisman which contains magic from that village. Riken shows them a little talisman left behind by Rangui when she appeared at the earthen cellar. This should do it. Meanwhile Omodaka and Byakuroku are starting the ritual. Daidai is jealous that her sister is given the important role instead of her. Rangui comes in to fan the fire and convinces her that she is here for her.

Episode 12
The gang are transported to the Village of Oracles. Agemaki is separated from the rest. As he treks through the corridors, he sees Tsukuhane and hears her voice. Seems she wants him to deliver a message to Zakuro and Omodaka. The ritual is interrupted when our heroes and heroines barge in. The priests use fox spirits to attack. Susukihotaru could feel that they are doing this against their will and wants them to kill them and put them out of their misery. Of course they can’t do it. Riken will bear the burden. No, he didn’t turn into a bloodthirsty slasher. Instead, he scared the priests and they lose concentration and run away. That’s it? It was that easy? And the priests never thought they’d be in danger? Omodaka takes Zakuro to the place where Tsukuhane and Enaga met and is going to defile her here. They get another interruption in the form of Agemaki. Byakuroku clashes with him. Though she got the better of him, Agemaki’s reinforcement arrives. He says it is just not him who is going to rescue Zakuro. Omodaka unleashes several fox spirits to keep them at bay. When a sword comes flying Zakuro’s way, Agemaki dives in to get her out of harm’s way. Can you believe it? He’s faster than the sword. Then he caught glimpse of her pendant. Ganryuu wants him to release the pendant and release her true powers but he did not. His reasoning was that Tsukuhane wanted Zakuro to live a normal life. Omodaka is surprised Agemaki was able to hear Tsukuhane’s voice. The way he says things indicates he must’ve been jealous of Zakuro who is loved more by Tsukuhane. When she returned to the village, she refused to be Omodaka’s tool by bearing more half-spirits and died though retaining her same form even in death. He thinks she is punishing him by sacrificing herself for Zakuro and hates him. Agemaki replies the other reason why Tsukuhane left Zakuro in Kushimatsu’s care. She felt guilty of hurting Omodaka and should her powers be used for ill intentions, she will take her life and her only wish is to be with the child she was separated from, thus her reason returning to the village. Flashback reveals Omodaka too wanted to see his mom badly and one day when he managed to sneak out, his happiness turned into hatred when he spotted her having a nice time with Enaga. Though Omodaka felt pain just thinking about it, he returns to his unremorseful evil self. He no longer needs her power and wants to destroy the world along with Zakuro. Suddenly they see the village on fire. Daidai is setting it on fire and releasing the lifeless half-spirits from their cells. All part of Rangui’s plan as she gets Daidai to fawn her even more by saying she only needs her and no longer Byakuroku. Omodaka takes Zakuro and rushes back to the village. Byakuroku decides to aid Agemaki and co in hopes they can help save Omodaka from his past.

Episode 13
Byakuroku questions them why do they easily trust her. Susukihotaru’s answer is simple: Because they’re half-spirits and have endured the same sorrow. Back inside the burning village, Byakuroku is horrified to see Rangui devouring Daidai. In her dying breath, Daidai apologizes for always being envious of her sister and didn’t want to be a burden because she’s always protecting her. Too late for those now. With her demise, Byakuroku is filled with enrage but being blind with anger won’t do her any good to Rangui. Omodaka tries to cast a spell but Rangui is stronger due to the life force she sucked from her victims. She is going to eat him too (out of love?) but Agemaki protects Omodaka. Rangui gets upset each time they mention Zakuro’s name so she intends of getting rid of her. Zakuro could hear and see everyone around fighting to protect her. Just that she can’t move. Agemaki then confesses he likes her. His feelings reach her and she’s able to move once more. Zakuro breaks her pendant because she wants to use the power to protect those she loves. What is her power up? Well, the Moon turns red and there are red drops everywhere. Zakuro easily slices Rangui in half. The village starts collapsing as Omodaka runs back into Tsukuhane’s room but is shocked to see her rotting corpse. As Byakuroku noted, all she ever saw were bones. Omodaka thinks it’s his self-delusion that caused him to see her retaining her form but Agemaki reasons that their mom wanted her children to see her in this form. Omodaka wants to die with Tsukuhane’s side. Though reluctant, Zakuro accepts his decision thinking Tsukuhane would be happy. Byakuroku also wishes to be by Omodaka’s side. Since her existence is to protect Daidai, with her gone, she couldn’t bear this new freedom and wants to serve him till the very end. The building caves in while the rest manage to get out in time. In the aftermath back at their home, Kushimatsu has an important announcement: The Spirits Affairs will be disbanded! Seems the military agreed to form this as it was part of Hanadate/Omodaka’s scheme to get Zakuro. But now he’s gone, they’ve lost interest and have other more important things to deal with. As the guys pack, their partners say their tearful farewell. Agemaki and Zakuro chat for one last time. Among it includes him being a wuss and she’s not scared of anymore. Out of the blue, Agemaki confesses he loves her, catching her by surprise. He gets depressed when he reprimands him for his bad timing. But I guess there’s so much a man could take so Zakuro blurts out to that dense guy that she loves him too. Finally they share a kiss. The guys leave and the ladies take their stroll in town. The passers-by seem friendlier. Hey, in that passing car, isn’t that Omodaka and Byakuroku? Well, anybody mentioned about finding corpses? Zakuro gets annoyed when she finds that Agemaki, Riken and Ganryuu are having tea with them. Why? Seems they managed to persuade the General about the importance of Spirits Affairs and thus was successfully reinstated. Zakuro is flustered because if she knew this would happen, she wouldn’t have said all those embarrassing things. It’s only going to get worse because Sakura and Kiri spill the beans about seeing them kissed. I wonder how they’ll get themselves out of this crisis.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?
So, I guess everything is rather okay. Nothing much groundbreaking. I just felt that it didn’t have any sort of impact that would leave it memorable for the long run. What kind of impact? A few of them I could name. Firstly, though we see the characters grow and their relationship deepen crossing the human-spirit barrier, it was like they got on good terms too quick. Not that this is a bad thing but from my perspective being from 2 different sides, this kind of bonding really do take time so it really is a miracle that these guys do get along pretty well. And since it is pretty much expected, I guess that’s where it lacks the impact. Hanadate as Omodaka as the villain was somewhat expected. I mean from my point of view, he’s got that villain’s look (no offense, buddy) and his actions were pretty suspicious too (say, being at the right place at the right time). So when he turned out to be a baddie after Zakuro’s power, it was somewhat so typical. Next, Zakuro’s super powers. I don’t really feel that she had powered up. Maybe that’s why they need to turn the scenery reddish with some dramatic effects so that we could see the awesomeness. Would you not believe me that she could still slice evil spirits like a hot knife through butter without breaking her pendant? It’s no different, right? Maybe Rangui has powered up and tougher to kill (which isn’t obvious either) so that’s why the need for a higher power. But the point is as I have said, do you feel the impact of it all? Not to me. Lastly when the military suspended Spirits Affairs and suddenly reversed its decision, it made me think if the top guy is a soft person. I know it’s to keep viewers happy that the guys won’t be separated from their partners but if a General could reverse such a decision, imagine he could overturn major decisions during important events. I doubt the guys are good persuaders as boasted by Ganryuu. Why not? Well, Agemaki’s got a hard time convincing Zakuro or speak up to his dad, so what makes you think he can do that? Riken? He doesn’t talk much. And Ganryuu? Ah, I don’t know he had that kind of skill.

The most amusing pair has got to be Agemaki and Zakuro. I believe Zakuro can be classified as what we call in the otaku world as a tsundere. We know the trend that Zakuro is always berating Agemaki for being a wuss but that tough facade is just to hide the love that she can’t openly express to him. It’s ‘entertaining’ to see Zakuro shooting off her mouth at Agemaki, especially her usual incredulous, “HUUUUH??!!!”. Oh, here’s another thing that lacks impact. I don’t feel Zakuro’s particular hatred towards Jesuit humans nor do I get the impression that Agemaki is totally afraid of ghosts. They seem more like mild cases. I know Agemaki has to sum up his courage because he’s going to be dealing with lots of spirits but you don’t really see the extent of his phobia as a real phobia. More like a little discomfort. Mamezo felt like a mascot (heck, he didn’t even do anything major in the final few episodes) while Sakura and Kiri are too energetic so much so their curiosity can become an annoyance. Okay, so they’re just kids. Humans or spirits, kids will be kids. There are a couple of episodes focusing on Riken-Susukihotaru and Ganryuu-Bonbori-Houzuki relationship but it is nothing that deep and it’s just about that. One thing still bugs me. If Kushimatsu knew Omodaka was a threat to Zakuro, how come she didn’t recognize him when he first appeared as Hanadate? I mean, being a fox spirit, even if Omodaka was wearing that mask or the last time Kushimatsu saw him was when he’s a kid, doesn’t she get that ‘evil targeting’ aura? Unless Omodaka is really playing one cool cat all the way. And yeah, just like many antagonists who aren’t really bad people, he’s the baddie just because of his twisted ideals and sorrowful past. People like him just need to be nudged a little before they realize they’re wrong and return to the right path. So that last bit seeing him with Byakuroku does it indicates that he has turned over a new leaf?

There are quite a number of known seiyuus lending their voice to this series. Mai Nakahara as Zakuro is such a perfect in playing haughty ladies just like how she did for Selnia in Ladies Versus Butlers and Erika and Tsuyokiss. Kana Hanazawa is recognizable as Susukihotaru like she did in Anri in Durarara!! and Mikan in To Love-Ru series. I guess the only way to differentiate between Bonbori and Houzuki are their different seiyuu. At least I could still tell apart (though rather tough) between Bonbori by Aki Toyosaki (Yui in K-ON!) and Houzuki by Yui Horie (Kotori in Da Capo series). Other casts include Takahiro Sakurai as Agemaki (Suzaku in Code Geass), Satoshi Hino as Riken (Yuuji in Shakugan No Shana – his low voice in this role makes him unrecognizable), Yuuki Kaji as Ganryuu (Akina in Yozakura Quartet), Nobuhiko Okamoto as Mamezo (Usui in Kaichou Wa Maid-sama – sounding more like a geek here), Takayuki Kondou as Hanadate/Omodaka (Oishi in Prince Of Tennis), Haruka Tomatsu as Byakuroku (Nagi in Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens), Minako Kotobuki as Daidai (Tsumugi in K-ON!), Kikuko Inoue as Rangui (Belldandy in Aa! Megami-sama – no dreamy voice here) and Ai Nanoka as Mugi (Fuura in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei series).

The opening theme is Moon Signal by Sphere. Sounds like your typical upbeat anime song suitable for this kind of genre. There are 3 different ending themes, each tailored to the partners. We have Mai Nakahara and Takahiro Sakurai doing the lively Hatsukoi Wa Zakuro-iro, Kana Hanazawa and Satoshi Hino singing the slow ballad of Futari Shizuka, Aki Toyosaki, Yui Horie and Yuuki Kaji performing the cheeky Broadway-like Junjou Masquerade. However in all 3 themes, I find it a little annoying that while the ladies are singing the main lines, you can hear the male vocal talking during some parts. It sounded so out of place, so awkward, so disruptive… And even if they do a duet with the ladies, let’s just say I feel that it’s much better if the ladies were to sing it without any accompaniment vocals.

The issue of humans coexisting with spirits isn’t truly explored nor solved. But I guess as long as both sides do not accept the other’s shortcomings or differences, you can’t really live together in harmony. Heck, even half-spirits are discriminated here. It’s like they do not belong anywhere. Neither here nor there. So having a bunch of military guys to show the public as role models (because the military is supposed to be strict and respected, right?) together with a bunch of pretty half-spirit females in kimonos would do the trick? Well, it’s that age where people are more gullible and naive but still strong in superstitious beliefs. In the end, I’m not really a fan of this kind of genre and setting so if there is a sequel to this, there is a high chance that I might not want to watch it to find out further developments in terms of characters and plot. Really, we have a rough idea how that will turn out, right? Plus, I wasn’t really bewitched.