Yozakura Quartet, a 12-episode anime series based on a shonen (boys') manga by Suzuhito Yasuda, is an unmistakably Japanese creation. Most of its characters are youkai, the "demons" or monsters of Japanese folklore, but here they are (mostly) cute teenage girls rather than monsters. At the same time, the series assumes familiarity with modern otaku fetishes like tsundere (a girl with a cold exterior who is really soft and sweet inside), meganneko (a girl with glasses) and nekomimi (cat ears). Each of these stock character types appears in Yozakura Quartet, and while the show winks at us, it certainly has a particular target audience in mind.
Don't get the wrong idea - this series doesn't contain sex or nudity and it would be fine for teenagers. The animators actually show a remarkable amount of restraint here. Despite the fact that the main heroine runs around on the tops of buildings in a short skirt most of the time, there's nary a panty shot to be found.
The story takes place in the town of Sakurashin, the only place in the world where demons (youkai) and humans live together. The four main characters are Akina, an 18-year-old human who has inherited the ability (called "tuning") to banish demons from the human world and return them to the demon world, Hime, a high school girl with supernatural powers who wears a long red scarf and serves as mayor of the town, Ao, a type of youkai who can read the minds of people and animals, and Kotoha, a half human, half demon "language user" who can summon items such as guns by emphasizing words (note: the Japanese word for "language" is "kotoba"). Hime is the tsundere type (which she even makes fun of in the official town song), Ao is the cat-eared girl (although she usually keeps her ears covered with a cap), Kotoha is the glasses girl (although she says they're just for show) and Akina is the token male. These four run the Hiizumi Life Counseling Office, which watches over and protects the people of Sakurashin, both human and youkai.
The first half of the series is mostly made up of slice-of-life stories while giving us back stories for the various characters. We see how Hime became the mayor at a very young age and how Akina arrived at his role as a "tuner" and the guilt associated with the job (some demons consider what he does to be murder). We get Ao-centric and Kotoha-centric episodes. The show also explores the prejudices some of the demons have about humans and vice versa. The relationships between humans and demons in Sakurashin are an obvious metaphor for race relations in the real world.
In the second half, the plot finally shifts into gear. It revolves around a malevolent demon named Enjin who has possessed the body of Gin, Ao's older brother and close friend to Akina and Hime. Our quartet (plus a few supporting characters) must stop Enjin and his half demon lackey before they can destroy the barriers protecting the town. Complicating this is that the soul of their friend Gin could still reside in his body. This latter half mainly consists of action and often has the feel of a video game, with the outcome never really in doubt. The conclusion of the series is just what you'd expect.
The character I found the most interesting was definitely Kotoha. A human corrupted by a demon but strong enough to not let the demon completely take over, she seems to enjoy her youkai power to summon heavy German artillery a little too much. You probably don't want to be on this gal's bad side.
Yozakura Quartet sports an anamorphic (1.78:1) transfer which looks about as good as you can get with standard definition. I noticed no flaws in the transfer aside from very minor compression artifacts and some mild shimmering. Even though each disc contains six episodes, it doesn't appear to impact the picture quality.
I did, however, notice several typos in the subtitles (things like the same word repeated or the wrong word used). It doesn't happen very often but it is noticeable.
One thing I definitely disliked was the very loud and obnoxious anime commercial that starts up when you first insert the DVD.
The only audio track here is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese track that sounds clean and free of distortion. No English dub is offered for this series.
The only extras are clean versions of the opening and ending animations and previews for other titles from Sentai Filmworks.
Several anime have been produced over the years dealing with a demon world that runs parallel to our human world. Yoshiaki Kawajiri's Wicked City (1987) was about a human who partnered with a female from the demon world in order to ensure the enduring peace of both realms. The demon world also played a part in the infamous Urotsukidoji (also 1987). Those films depicted the demon world as dark, erotic, and grotesque. Yozakura Quartet gives us the moe demon world.