Most of the discussion around Hana no Uta has predictably degenerated into the usual petty bickering about Yasuda’s manga designs vs. Ryo-Timo’s anime designs (an argument that felt old when it was new, and now really is old) but the series continues apace, delivering some wonderful visual moments and retaining the agreeably random element that sets the series apart. I don’t really have a horse in this race because I like the manga just fine without being a true fan, but it does seem to me that Yasuda is fine with what Tatsunoko is doing with his work because he’s working on the anime himself. But people will believe what they want.
I won’t say that Yozakura Quartet is a series that captivates me, story-wise, which is the main reason I’m on the fence about blogging it. I mean, how many times can you write about Ryo-timo doing something cool? But there is an appealing something to YQ, a sense that you’ve always walked into the story in the middle and that it keeps going after the audience is gone. It’s a series that spends very little time explaining or justifying itself – stuff just happens and since the characters mostly just take it in stride, it feels like we should too. Giant goldfish? Random girl-on-girl kissing? Ramen tabehoudai? All in a day’s work in Sakura New Town.
The developing plot here clearly involves Lily, the little girl who wasn’t who popped up as a lost child in the premiere and is clearly working with Enjin in his attempts to take down the spiritual barrier protecting Sakurashin. To that ends she’s sent mysterious postcards to most of the power brokers in town, featuring childish crayon drawings. Most of this episode, though, basically amounts to what passes for slice-of-life in the very strange place. That means Hime gorging on ramen and Kyousuke fretting about it, Hime and Kotoha “sparring” (with Kotoha’s powers, that means it’d probably be best to put up the storm windows) Yuuhi acting ecchi and lots of lots of fanservice.
In the final analysis, how you feel about that fanservice is likely to be a major factor in how you feel about Yozakura Quartet. Ryo-timo is a youngish guy but his sensibility is pure old-school (and most of the fanservice is straight out of the manga anyway) and the service in YQ feels like it’s from an earlier time. It might be seen as crass, but I see it as more unapologetic – it’s just part of the fabric of the series, and it’s treated as if it’s as natural as vegan oatmeal. The modern way is to either be an all-out ecchi show or to call attention to the fanservice by teasing and mostly denying it, but Ryo-timo throws out extended panty-shots, oppai-groping and (plot-relevant) yuri kisses without a trace of self-consciousness. It’s like most everything in YQ – it just is what it is, no apologies and no justifications. For me it’s pleasant enough in a nostalgic way, but I worry a little that it distracts from some of the other fabulously creative stuff Ryo-timo is doing here visually. In any event it’s not going anywhere in Yozakura isn’t changing its style, so you should have a pretty fair idea of where you stand with this series going forward.