I’ve long suspected that this season was going to be a tougher one than usual to settle on a blogging schedule for, because there seemed likely to be an inordinate number of shows bunched very close together in terms of interest level – and that interest level seemed likely to be close to my usual blogging cutoff. It’s worked out that way, in fact, and Yozakura Quartet is squarely entrenched in that cluster of series. We’re at the three-episode point and to be honest, I’m still not sure if I’m going to blog it.
It was only today, as I read my old post from 2011 on the last of Ryo-timo’s Yozakura OVAs, that I realize that I said “I’d love to have seen what he could have done with this material with a full cour to play with, rather than three OVA episodes.” And so here we are, and the results are indeed interesting – Ryo-timo’s visual artistry is proudly on display – but Yozakura remains an oddly difficult story for me to really get engaged in. I actually enjoy this show more than enough to blog it in most seasons, but it’s not an easy one to write about because it’s so matter-of-fact in the way it goes about its business. If Uchouten Kazoku was a surrealistic show that didn’t act like it was surrealistic, Yozakura Quartet is a fantasy-action series that acts like a slice-of-life.
One aspect Ryo-timo didn’t spend much time on in the first two episodes (perhaps because it didn’t afford much in terms of fanservice opportunities) was Akina and his “tuning” ability. This is one of the darker elements of Yozakura Quartet, an area where the idealistic nature that pervades much of the rest of the story and its depiction of human-youkai relations is put to the test. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the introductory episodes but Akina is at worst a co-lead in this series with Hime, and in many ways he’s the one in the most difficult position when it comes to the balance of life in Sakura New Town. That Shidou (and Akina’s grandfather) refer to his ability as “murder” is not hyperbole – he sends these sentient creatures off to an unknown dimension, a thinly-disguised metaphor for the afterlife. It’s a huge responsibility on his shoulders, and his personality usually belies the fact that he’s carrying it.
Akina is one of Kaji Yuuki’s better roles, I think – one that falls in his very compact sweet spot as a seiyuu – and he’s effective in this series. The way Akina’s power is finally brought to the surface in this episode is typically obtuse and irreverent YQ style, via the person of Touka, Kyousuke’s younger sister who’s likewise an ogre, and who’s crushing hard (she’s good at crushing) on Akina. After Shidou’s car (seemingly sabotaged) goes out of control and barrels towards the mermaid-vampire tots Mina and Kana, Touka jumps in to shield them but in the process squeezes the blood out of them like juice from an orange. These are youkai of course and thus they’re fine (eventually) but it’s a shocking moment nonetheless. Still, Kyousuke’s rage at Akina that his sister (he is in fact a siscon, by the way) is suffering because Akina is not “duty-bound” (in the tuning business) seems odd, because there seems to be no chance that Kyousuke would actually want to see Touka tuned. And in fact, Akina puts that to the test as his own way of mending fences with Kyousuke, bro-style. It’s a very weird, classic Yozakura sequence.
That really defines this show in a nutshell – shit just happens, and you just go with it because hell – they do. That can make for interesting viewing but not such interesting writing. And the headline attraction is of course Ryo-timo’s art and cinematography, which continues to be a joy to see but is likewise tough to write about week after week. There is a larger plot developing that’s been hinted at in the first three episodes, and as that asserts itself the series will have a bit more layering and thus perhaps be a better subject for weekly posts. For the moment I’m still on the fence, but I suspect I’ll make a final decision after the next episode.