I continue to find Ryo-timo’s approach to fanservice far more interesting than I probably should. It seems to me that there are fanservice shows in plenty, and then there are non-fanservice shows where a glimpse of panties is a shocking and rare event – and then there’s Yozakura Quartet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show that’s quite so matter-of-fact about its pantsu shots – the camera just goes there and sets up camp for a while. It may not be the most interesting thing to be distinctive about, but any time a show is different from every other I’ve seen that makes it sort of interesting in itself.
As for the this week’s episode, it serves very much as both a breather and a bridge between two major arcs. The last few eps have been pretty intense, and the series now seems set to more or less retrace the ground of the OVA – though by the looks of the preview there are going to be significant changes. This week we’re back in that strange zone YQ naturally reverts to, where it feels as if the episode starts and ends in the middle of another episode. Stuff just happens, and most of it in the first half is pretty much atmospherics – Shinozuka and the vampire moeblobs going from station to station getting their Sakura Newtown rally cards stamped. There’s a bit of tension in the air between Akina (I think, on balance, this may be Kaji Yuuki’s most natural performance in any series) and Hime over the revelation that she’s a youkai, but you know that’s not going to have legs.
It’s in the second half where a few interesting things start to happen, and the heavy lifting to set up the next arc begins. Whenever Yuuhi slums with the mortals and gets directly involved in their affairs (always claiming he’s not while he is) interesting usually follows – and this time he pulls the strings on a meeting between Akina and Hime and the elders, in order to make sure a crucial piece of information reaches the pair. Yuuhi also gives them a piece of information directly – it was the elders who came up with the anti-youkai field, and it’s already deployed in all the neighboring towns. We haven’t had much involvement from the elders in this adaptation, but they’re a highly important power center in this mythology, and not exactly what you would call allies of the heroes. This story has a lot of characters whose true loyalties are rather opaque, which is one of the elements that makes it interesting.
As usual, one of the big recurring themes here is Akina being caught in the middle – between his ideals, the elders, Enjin – and now Enjin’s new allies, the youkai hunters. There seems little disagreement that the two dimensions are going to merge, or that it’s a bad thing – the problem is that all the options to stop it from happening rely on Akina, and he finds them all unacceptable. He can tune every demon in town without knowing what kind of world he’s sending them to, he can sacrifice many of them by using their power to tune the pillars, or he can do nothing and let the dimensions collide (which sounds like a really bad idea. Akina is caught in the middle, just as his grandfather was, and that seems to be the curse his family has been asked to bear.