Anime Review: Yozakura Quartet: Hoshi no Umi Episode 1

(Originally published on Livejournal on 11/11/10)

Anime Review in a Minute:
Yozakura Quartet: Hoshi no Umi Episode 1

Anime Review in a Minute: What this is all about. — Watching all the anime shows so you don’t HAVE to!

tl;dr review: Four teens protect city where humans and demons co-exist; faithful adaptation of the manga.

The Skinny: For centuries the town of Sakurashin has been a unique place in Japanese where demons (youkai) and humans can co-exist. Surrounded by seven giant pillars, the town is protected by a spiritual barrier that melds the two otherwise incompatiable worlds together. Four teenagers, each with their own special powers, are charged with protecting the city from evil attacks: Akina (the only human) who has the ability to ‘tune’ demons and return them to their world; Hime (who inherited the mayorship) who a powerful reincarnation of a dragon; the cat-eared Ao who can read thoughts; and the half-demon Kotoha who can conjure up objects with a word. This episode mostly involves introducing the main characters and setting; all seems well in the city. But bad-girl Zakuro has an evil plan, using her powers to control an otherwise-inept burglar to shoot at the bear-costume-headed Mariabelle who is out on patrol, and later to take over the body of the Chinese delivery girl Rin.

Assorted video captures from the episode – click on each one for a full-sized view:

My Thoughts: While I am sure a lot of the plot makes perfect sense to someone who is familiar with the Yozakura Quartet manga, it’s really a head-scratcher for me, as I try to sort out what is going on. Back in 2008 there was a twelve-episode series that was based on the manga, but with a somewhat different story. This original video animation, however, is intended to be a much more faithful adaptation of the manga story, and is really aimed at the existing fan-base. But I was interested enough to go back and sample the older anime series.

What I found is that the two stories really *are* unrelated, there’s no continuity between them. However, watching the earlier episodes does give me a better feel for the characters and their motivations, as opposed to just being thrown into the middle of things without explanation with the ‘Hoshi no Umi’ story. Secondly, while the story may not be something to write home about, the animation and artwork in the OVA is clearly a step above the first series, and quite pleasant to watch. It’s going to be a long wait for the next chapter, though, which is not due out until April of next year.

This OVA got me interested enough to go back and check out the original series, which by my own definition earns this show a thumbs-up. Unsure about the plot itself (there’s not much to go on there, since it’s a whole lot of set-up and exposition rather than action), but I do find the thematic undertones of characters who by their very nature cannot fit in with the world exploring their role within that same world intriguing.

For more info:

Random Curiosity Review:
Wikipedia Entry:
Banana Muffin Review:
Video trailer:

The Verdict:

An additional note about the original 2008 series, which I checked out after watching this episode. I’m halfway through and less than impressed with the story than I thought I would be, not sure if I’ll finish off the rest of the series or not. The artwork and character designs are very true to the original manga, interesting in their own right but I’m much more a fan of the OVA artwork. While I’m not a fan with how the story is playing out (I am inclined at this point to grade it a “C” at the very best), there was something drawing me to the series involving how the characters behaved and interacted — much more like real, believable people than one-dimensional cut-outs on the screen. So, I did a little digging and discovered that series was directed and storyboarded by Kou Matsuo, who also had a heavy hand with Kurenai and Red Garden, which are also shows that I have praised for their realistic characters (despite unrealistic stories) and interplay between those characters. Anything he works on deserves checking out.

The tally for Fall 2010 season first episodes so far:
Passing Grade: Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute, The World God Only Knows, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, Psychic Detective Yakumo, Shinryaku! Ika Musume, Letter Bee Reverse, Bakuman, Otome Youkai Zakura

Failing grade: MM!, Star Driver, Iron Man, Fortune Arterial, Motto To Love-ru, Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, Yumeiro Patissiere Professional, Tamayura, To Aru Majutsu no Index 2, Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls, Sora no Otoshimono Forte

Up Next (not necessarily in this order): Yosuga no Sora, Arakawa Under the Bridge x2, Kuragehime, Robin and His 100 Friends, Agriculture Girl, Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimittsu Special, You Are Umasou, Hakuouki: Hekketsu Roku, To Aru Kagaku no Railgun Special

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