Anime

Review: Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode 11: A Tender Embrace and a Its Terrible Cost

Quick Summary

In Otome Yokai Zakuro episode 11, “Hollow Touch,” Zakuro tried hard to get away from Byakuroku and her evil boss Omodaka (Hanadate). As she ran, the emerald pendant that her mother had given her flashed brightly, bestowing on her a memory that led her through a secret passage. What will she find waiting for her? How long can she elude Omodaka? Meanwhile, Kushimatsu bowed to pressure from everyone, especially Kei Agemaki, and told them about Zakuro’s origin. And talk about a tale of woe! Are events with Omodaka about to add to that tale? Is it even possible for Kei and the rest of the Ministry of Spirit Affairs to go to Zakuro’s aid? Or is she on her own?

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: A Gentle Entry into Tragedy

It was a funny, endearing moment. And it had an ulterior motive. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

An effective tragedy needs to be introduced gently. We’re all pretty jaded as viewers. If we see that something dreadful’s about to happen, we harden our hearts and brace ourselves. If we see subtle signs, but events are otherwise bright and cheerful, we can be caught off guard.

It’s the unexpected ice dagger that hurts the most. The writers for this show understand that idea very, very well.

We got the idea that Tsukuhane, Zakuro’s mother, had a rough life. She was bound to the cruel, harsh, and generally repellent Chief of the Village of Oracles. He forced her to bear his first child, Omodaka, and kept trying to conceive a second. But to no avail.

What is it with humans and power? Okay, Oracles and power… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The Chief wouldn’t even let her see her son, no matter how much she pleaded. So, she got in the habit of climbing to the top of the mountain on which her cabin (prison) was situated. She could see the Chief’s house in the Village from there. On one occasion, she climbed to the top of a tree and gazed longingly, hoping against hope that she’d catch even a glimpse of her son.

The chopping took her completely by surprise (05:56). There were humans who lived on the mountain, and one of them had decided that the tree would make either great planks or firewood. Or both. The look on her face as the tree fell over was almost comical.

And as a viewer, I bought it. It left me more open to what was to come.

Moment 2: A Threat to Baby Zakuro

It took a direct threat to her new-born daughter to re-engage Tsukuhane’s heart and will. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This moment happened after the Chief ordered his minions to kill Enaga. He learned of his “wife’s” affair after Omodaka saw Enaga kissing Tsukuhane. The little boy ratted them out. The minions killed him right in front of her. His blood even sprayed on her face. Even worse, the Chief had brought Omodaka along to watch. When Tsukuhane reached out to him in her grief, looking for some hint of solace, he flatly told her (14:30), “A disgrace like you could never be my mother.”

It broke her heart and her sanity. So much so that when the Chief ordered her to undergo the ritual to turn her unborn daughter into a half spirit, she was utterly unresponsive.

The Chief, not content with simply murdering Enaga in front of her, wanted to further assert his authority. He intended to turn the unborn daughter over to his followers to be treated as the other half spirit “tools” — an example of which we say in the previous episode. “I will ensure that it lives in humiliation,” he said (15:22).

Seriously, history — and fiction — are jam-packed with reasons to keep unlimited power away from people! This guy’s the poster child for that cause. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Then something happened: glowing white lotus blossoms appeared in the nearby lake, and the Chief and his followers interpreted it as a sign that a being of profound spiritual power was nearby — the new baby was apparently very, very powerful. He ordered that Tsukuhane be secured, and he moved quickly to interrogate her. He planned to use Zakuro for his own ends.

Tsukuhane, though, somehow heard that he was coming. By the time he’d arrived in her room, her guards were unresponsive and she was gone. Along with her attendant fox spirit, Kushimatsu.

This is the part that’s my second favorite moment. The camera cuts to a beautiful Kushimatsu flowing through the sky. Tsukuhane was nestled between her shoulder blades. In her arms was a little baby Zakuro. Tsukuhane had decided she had to leave because “If we leave her there, the village will attempt to use her” (16:17).

The Chief’s cruelty had extinguished her will. It took a direct threat to her newborn daughter to re-ignite it. Her gesture was as beautiful as it was desparate.

Moment 3: A United Front

Kei spoke for all of them: Whatever it took, they were going to get Zakuro back. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

While Zakuro was re-living her mother’s memories in the Village of Oracles, Kushimatsu told the same story to Kei and the others. She spoke of how Tsukuhane had traded her freedom to Omodaka in exchange for his promise to leave Zakuro alone. Yet, Kushimatsu never trusted Omodaka. She had worked ceaselessly to keep her hidden, going so far as to never stay in any one location for version long.

She also told everyone about the real nature of Zakuro’s pendant. It was her limiter. As long as it could dampen her power, Omodaka would be hard-pressed to find her. But as she matured, her power grew, and it strained now against the pendant.

During their journeys, they had found little Susukihotaru, Bonbori, and Houzuki. It would have been hard for the five of them to keep traveling, so Amaryouju suggested that Kushimatsu train them to honor and respect their powers. He offered to take them into the Ministry of Spirit Affairs.

Wouldn’t it be great if this kind of loneliness and suffering happened in fiction? Where there are Zakuros and Keis and others to oppose the evil? If only… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Now, Amaryouju bitterly regretted that offer. He blamed himself for what had happened to Zakuro.

Kei stepped up and disputed his interpretation, saying that Amaryouju’s decision was critically important. It was, in fact, (20:08), “…the reason we could meet and fight together.”

I have to admit that I got all fired up seeing how strongly Kei wanted to go rescue Zakuro — right the heck now — with his friends beside him. Yes, he’s in love with Zakuro and yes, he wants to save her — but he’s way too smart to want to try it on his own. He knew he needed his friends. Passion and intelligence. That’s a good combination!

Thoughts

I’ve read a ton of stuff over the years. I’ve read ancient works like Beowulf, ancient Scriptures (canonical and otherwise). I’ve read classical works like Sophocles’ Antigone. I’ve read more recent classics like Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello and Francis Beaumont’s comedy The Knight of the Burning Pestle. I’ve read modern science fiction like Frank Herbert’s Dune and Peter F. Hamilton’s The Temporal Void. Bragging? No. Because I know may of you have done the same or more. I’m setting the stage to say:

It’s like I have been preparing myself all my life to watch anime!

I can also say that it’s pretty hard to surprise me. It’s pretty hard to make me feel upset enough about a character’s fate that I want to draw back from the screen in horror.

What Tsukuhane had to endure ranked right up there with some of the more powerful tragedies. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

What the Chief put Tsukuhane through wasn’t just cruel. It was utterly believable. To me, it felt very much like Antigone, or one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. The antagonist was someone with the power granted by that culture and that time. The protagonist was helpless and tried to find a moment of happiness — only to have it crushed, and crushed with finality and arrogant, cold rage.

That’s why my third favorite moment resonated so much with me. Bonbori, Ganryuu, Houzuki, Kei, Riken, and Susukihotaru now knew the full story. They knew they were up against powers and principals from another realm. They knew that Kushimatsu could not go with them. They knew they’d be on their own.

And they were still utterly determined to plunge into that world and bring Zakuro home. Informed consent is not only really cool. It can be wildly dramatic!

What did you think of Tsukuhane’s story? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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