Anime Review: Zakuro (Premium Edition)

Studio: J.C. Staff
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Genre: Alt History Romantic Dramedy
Run Time: Approx 318 Minutes
Release Date: 06/12/2012

Zakuro is one of the latest anime releases from Nippon Ichi. It’s a thirteen episode series based off the manga series Otome Yōkai Zakuro. Their last anime series Occult Academy was a Blu-Ray only release but Zakuro is DVD only. This of course cuts down how many people can and will pick this series up, especially As Nippon Ichi has been doing combo packs for a while now.

I found Zakuro to be a mix of Sakura Taisen and Haunted Junction. The former due to alternate wartime history with an emphasis on power pretty women and the latter due to the sheer number of Yokai in the series. Yokai is basically a catch-all word for ghosts, ghouls, goblins, spirits and demons from Japanese folklore. I’m a big fan of both the aforementioned series, and the premise of Zakuro, an alliance between humans and spirits to create a peace between the two was intriguing. I happy to report that the anime lived up to my expectations. While it wasn’t the most impressive series I’ve ever seen, or even the best put out by Nippon Ichi so far, but it is a very fun one that I enjoyed and can easily recommend to you, our readers.

I think the romance side of the series is what I liked best. There are four female Yokai and three male humans. You pretty much know that two pairs (Zakuro and Kei, Susukihotaru and Riken) are going to be created. With Susukihotaru and Riken, it happens pretty much right away, They are partnered in the Ministyr of Spirit Affairs but they become more than just teammates. Zakuro and Kei end up their two at the end of the series, but it’s an exceptionally complicated relationship by comparison. At the start Zakuro is attracted to Rei, even though she admittedly hates anything and everything related to the Jesuits. Rei on the other hand has a severe phobi of all Yokai. So despite, their initial pairing and attraction, Zakuro finds Rei to be a useless cowardly boor and Rei just finds Zakuro to be scary. As the series progresses the two grow to care for each other, but Zakuro also finds herself smitten with Lt Hanadate, another member of the Ministry of Spirit Affairs. At one point in the series Rei is about to confess is love for Zakuro only to have her confess her love to Hanadate. OUCH. I did enjoy the juxtaposition of the two couples with one being a straightforward romance and the other being a comedy of errors.

The series is a mix of many genres. There’s a lot of comedy, both witty and slapstick. There’s the aforementioned romantic aspects. You have a decent amount of action in the series with good and evil Yokai battling each other. The fights are of note because it’s not like a lot of other animes such as Vampire Princess Miyu where there is a different monster met and killed in each episode. Most of the enemies retreat or escape and are seen throughout the series. As such, the combat and relationships between protagonists and antagonists are more akin to Ronin Warriors/Yoroiden Samurai Troopers than say, Voltron where the enemies and combat are merely interchangeable windowdressing.

My favorite episode of the series by far was Episode 7: “A Feline House.” It was so amazing and I went through so many different emotions. It made me laugh, it made me whistful, it made me melancholic and it also made me incredibly sad at one point something no anime other than Galaxy Express 999 had ever done. If all the episodes of Zakuro were as good as “A Feline House, I think this would have been one of my favorite animes of all time. As such, it’s worth purchasing and keeping this specidion edition box set just for the episode. In “A Feline House,” he not only meet Rei’s family but also learn the origins of why Yokai causes such horrible terror within him. We also get a touching and somewhat tragic tales about Rei’s beloved cat Itsue. By the end of the episode, I just wanted to go hug my very elderly bunny and let him know how much I value the little time we have left together…and this is coming from a guy who is rarely, if ever, moved by fiction, be it video game, movie, cartoon or something else.

So the anime is a really enjoyable one, but like all Nippon Ichi releases, this is a Special Edition which includes two slim-pak DVD cases, a durable slip case and a hardcover, full-colour glossy-paged artbook. The slipcase is very durable and makes the entire package look like a coffee table book. Each face of the package has character artwork on it. One side sports Zakuro and Rei, while the other is an ensemble piece featuring all seven of the main characters. The background for the entire package is a two-tone pink, which is supposed to represent the color of sakura blossoms I believe. Each of the slim packs contains character art as well. Disc one sports Sakuro herself and sic two has Rei. The backs of the cases list episodes and a few screenshots from the series. Disc two’s case also highlights the special features of the set, which include a clean opening, three different clean endings and two original picture dramas: Gaia Presentation and Little Spirit Theatre. There’s not a lot here for extras, but what’s here should delight fans of the series.

Finally we have the art book, and what an impressive piece of work this is. The front cover has a scene of all the main characters set on a white background with falling sakura petals. Inside are thirty-six ful color glossy pages. You are given character summaries, a set of episode synopses, episode stills, assorted factoids, cast interviews and ten full page pieces of character artwork. This is one of Nippon Ichi’s best artbooks yet. The artbook itself would fetch a pretty penny if sold by itself, but the whole package for only $47.99 ends up being an incredible deal.

All in all, I’m extremely happy with Zakuro and I feel that most anime fans will get a kick out of this series. Regardless of your genre preferences, Zakuro is sure to fall into one of them unless you only like Leiji Matsumoto style sci-fi epics. If you’re looking for a new anime series to pick up, then by all means throw money at Nippon Ichi and get yourself a copy of Zakuro. If your purchase the series directly from Nippon Ichi, you’ll also get a lovely set of four prints, with images from Zakuro on both the front and back. If you would like to know more about Zakuro, you can always visit its official website.



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