NIS America has another winner on its hand with a short but
entrancing series Zakuro (Otome Yokai
Zakuro in Japan). Taking place in
during the westernization of the
country in an alternate reality where spirits are real, the show
newly formed Ministry of Spirit Affairs, a group of humans and
are charged with solving the problems that modernization is causing
two realms. More than just a monster of
the week show, there's an interesting story arc involving one of the
the secrets that are being kept from her.
With NIS America's typical outstanding packaging, this is a nice
that should please anime fans.
When Japan started adopting western ways there were a lot of
problems. Not only was it hard for the
people to get used to trains and European dress, it was hard on the
world too. This resulted in more
conflicts between the two realms.
The solution was the establishment of the Ministry of Spirit
Affairs. It was a small department,
consisting of three humans who teamed up with four spirits (technically
half-spirits) to defuse situations and ease the transition of turning
a more modern country. On the human side
are Lieutenants Kei Agemaki, a man who is deathly afraid of spirits but
afraid to admit it, Riken Yoshinokazura, a quiet and stoic by-the-book
and Ganryu Hanakiri, a very young and not unattractive member of the
Army. The spirit side of the department
includes Zakuro, a strong fighter who is impulsive and doesn't like the
adopting "Jesuit" ideas. She's partnered
with Agemaki whom she considers a wuss and has little respect for,
secretly attracted to him. She's
assisted by Susukihotaru, a very shy spirit who is intimidated by her
because he is so tall and confident. Hanakiri
is paired with twins, Hanakiri and Bonbori, who look exactly identical
somehow able to tell them apart.
They all live together in the Ministry building, a structure
donated by the spirits, and when they're not practicing or playing with
young spirits that live with them, they take on missions.
The Ministry has to protect a western-style
hotel that is being erected from an angry spirit that's terrifying the
find out why women and children are being 'spirited away' from a
protect a group of military officers from a strange woman who has been
It's not a monster-of-the-week show, though it might appear
like that at the start. There's a larger
story that's being told too, about Zakuro, the nightmares she's plagued
the mystery surrounding her mother who has been missing for years. There's also a lot of back story that gets
filled in over the course of the series, which adds a lot.
The spirits have a lot of trauma in their past,
and that naturally affects them and the choices that they make.
Part monster show, part romantic drama, you won't find many
new ideas or anything terribly original in Zakuro, but you will
while the show covered well-tread ground, it does it with style and
expertise. The animation is solid and
the character designs and voice acting is done very well.
The creators manage to work in a surprising
amount of development and depth for a 13-episode series, and that
some very likable characters is what makes this a series worth checking
Like NIS America's other Premium Edition releases, this is a
quality package. The 13-episode series
arrives on two discs, each in its own thinpak case.
The pair is house, not on top of each other,
but side by side, in a beautiful sturdy board case that's nearly 8 in X
11 in. The case is attractively
characters from the show. In a nice
touch that shows a fine attention to detail, the UPC code in hidden
inconspicuously on the side of the case so that the artwork isn't
marred. Included with the two DVDs is a
hardcover art book. Scroll down to the
extras section for more details on that.
This release arrives with the original Japanese soundtrack
in lossless LPCM stereo. It sounded very
good, with full range and some nice separation.
There are optional English subtitles, but there is not a dub
which is fine with me. I prefer watching
anime in Japanese since that was the way it was created to be seen.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks very good. The
colors are strong and solid and they're
accurately reproduced and come through clearly.
The level of detail is very good and the lines are tight. Digitally it also looked very good with
aliasing, which often plagues anime, being nonexistent.
The discs themselves include a clean opening and three virgin
closings, something I really enjoy seeing, as well as a pair of
dramas." These are still images with
clips of animation from the series that tell a couple of side stories. The two stories, Gala Preparations and Little
Spirit Theater, run 19 and 15 minutes respectively so they're almost as
a full episode. Worth checking out.
In addition there's also a very nice hardcover book included
with the set. This time the book reads
left-to-right, the way books are read in the US (as opposed to reading
right-to-left the way it's done in Japan), this attractive full-color
includes large images along with a synopsis from each episode,
interviews with the
Japanese voice cast, a talk with the author of the manga, and more. It's printed on high quality glossy paper,
and is really very striking.
This was a fun and enjoyable series. The
characters were delightful, the animation
was good, and the plot was much more developed than I expected. Add to that in NIS America's excellent
packaging which includes a very nice hardcover book and you've got a
set. It gets a very strong recommendation.