Review by: Felicia Day
Publisher: NIS America
MSRP: $59.99 US
Running Time: 318 minutes
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
Can spirits and humans really get along? Who knows but it will be fun to find out.
If InuYasha taught me anything it’s that no matter what you are or who you are there is always room for acceptance with some space left over to change the way you think. You can be a half-demon and learn to live with a human and a human can learn to love a half-demon. In the case of the Complete Series Premium Edition of Zakuro, humans and half-spirits alike learn from each another and come to embrace a new way of thinking. This is but a small fragment of what makes this supernaturally-themed romance/comedy series such a meaningful and delightfully amusing one that no anime fan should miss.
Told in 13-episodes, Zakuro takes us back to a time in Japan’s history when the old customs are slowly making way for a more Westernized way of living. With these changing times, the government feels that it is important to open a relationship with spirits that walk the land so humans and spirits alike can learn to co-exist. This is why the Ministry of Spirit Affairs was founded by a young Lieutenant Hanadate of the Imperial Army who has carefully selected three young Second Lieutenants to join and living among spirits in a house that holds four lovely young maiden who happen to be half-spirits (not quite human and not quite a spirit).
So the tall and silent Riken Yoshinokazura, the young and cute Ganryu Hanakiri and the handsome yet cowardly Kei Agemaki come to live in the house run by a fox spirit named Kushimatsu who tends to the beautiful young maidens who look human except for their fox-like ears. Led by the beautiful and very powerful Zakuro, there’s the shy Susukihotaru and the twins Hokuki and Bonbori. All four combat wayward spirits using a branch from a cherry blossom tree that transforms into a blade and, of course, and sing a song that helps unleash their powers.
By orders of both Lieutenant Hanadate and Kushimatsu, the three young officers pair up with a maiden (Ganryu gets both twins) in order to get to get comfortable with each another. It is thanks to this arrangement that both the half-spirits and the human officers learn a lot about each another. However, we learn that Zakuro has distaste for humans while Agemaki has a comical fear for all things spirit-related including – at first – two cute spirit children named Sakura and Kiri as well as the rabbit-like spirit Mamezo.
As a group, Spirit Affairs sees to a number of cases including a client who wants to rid the future site of his new hotel from a most unusual spirit and later must deal with Raiju – a wolf-like spirit who attacks all during a cherry blossom viewing festival. In another case, Zakuro and Agemaki visit a village where the women have been spirited away … a case that interests Zakuro for very personal reason that begin to unravel the mystery of her past.
Half the fun of this series is the relationships that unfold because of their time together. It’s clear that Susukihotaru has feelings for her partner, Riken, who doesn’t say much but makes it clear that he might also like the pretty girl. Then there’s the relationship between Ganryu and the twins that quite possibly makes them the cutest threesome in anime. It becomes clear how each character begins to change because of their partnership as the young officers learn the truth about all half-spirits.
Even more fun is watching the relationship between Zakuro and Agemaki unfold. He tries his best to impress her and turns on the charm rather easily but when it comes down to it he’s afraid of Zakuro who has a very short fuse. However, their relationship changes enough that Agemaki even invites Zakuro home when he goes to visit his wealthy family and becomes jealous when the beautiful half-spirit falls for Lieutenant Hanadate who begins to show up often to see how they are all doing.
While we watch Spirit Affairs look into cases, one case in particular changes everything. When they are hired to look into the vicious attack of military officers during a military gala ball, they encounter two sisters who attack in the name of the mysterious Black Widow. Suddenly, it becomes clear that they are all after Zakuro who holds the key to a greater mystery … particularly who the lovely young maiden is related to and why she is more powerful than the other half-spirits.
I won’t spoil what happens but the series heads to a fascinating finale because of this new threat that leads to a number of flawlessly handled plot twists. You have to give the writers credit for not falling back on the usual clichés when it comes to the enemy and yes even fan service is completely left out of this series entirely (well, unless you count the inclusion of two busty babes). It also handles the comedy elements perfectly as well, never relying on tired sight gags or puns. Seeing Agemaki freeze up at the sight of a spirit never gets old and watching Zakuro react to his cowardice is pure comedy gold.
There’s also some action sequences that, although not excessive, adds more excitement to the situations that arise especially towards the end of the series. Even the ending – personally speaking – is handled perfectly. Add the lovely animation and the excellent voice acting and you have an anime series that is way too much fun to watch. In fact, I guarantee you will be a big fan of it even before the fifth episode.
Every once and awhile an anime series comes along that hits all the right notes and does its genre proud and the Complete Series Premium Edition of Zakuro definitely does just that as it not only makes for a meaningful series but also an addictive gem that will win you over five minutes into the first episode. Yes, it’s a rare find, indeed, but Zakuro is that kind of series and believe me when I say that you will have a blast watching all 13 episodes of this very likeable anime.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
As Japan is heading in a new Westernized direction, the Ministry of Spirit Affairs is formed and three young military officers have been selected to become human representatives that will being living and working alongside four lovely half-spirits. Together the group not only deals with supernatural cases but also develop a relationship that proves spirits and humans really can co-exist.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation in the series is actually quite gorgeous to the point that we wish NIS America included a Blu-ray version. Sporting lovely backgrounds, even lovelier character models and plenty of eye-catching visual effects, this is definitely one visually-pleasing anime series.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
You’ll only find a Japanese language track here but you will not complain seeing as the talents of Mai Nakahara, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa and Yuki Kaji (just to name a few of the talented voice actors) pull off stellar performances. Then there’s Masaru Sugimoto’s amazing score as well as a good opening theme song and three decent closing theme songs.
You’ll find that the Premium Edition set not only has a really gorgeous box but the discs include extras like the clean opening and three closing animation as well as a few NIS America trailers. The real bonus comes in the form of two rather lengthy featurettes. One is called “Gala Preparations” told through still artwork involving the girls getting dressed up for the military gala ball from one of the episodes. The other is similar, only it features the three friendly spirits Mamezo and the spirit kids, Sakura and Kiri as we see how they perceive key events through their eyes.
Put simply: Zakuro is the kind of anime series that doesn’t fail to make you realize just how much fun you can have watching anime. Wildly entertaining from start to finish, the Complete Series of Zakuro offers a wonderful supernatural tale with a healthy dose of comedy and just the right dash of romance to make this a perfect collector’s item. This is definitely well worth the purchase price, anime fans.
Review copy provided by NIS America