Anime

Review: Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode 2: Their First Mission and the Shadow of Doom

Quick Summary

In Otome Yokai Zakuro episode 2, “Crimson Brilliance,” the Ministry of Spirit Affairs gets their first field mission. Development on a new hotel has come to a halt because a spirit keeps disrupting the construction. The workers are convinced if they don’t flee, the spirit will curse them — or worse! Kei Agemaki wants them to have a successful mission, but he runs into several obstacles, including Zakuro! Can he overcome her animosity long enough to them to work as a team? Or will he even have a chance after he encounters the spirit in person — as its black, hulking shape towers over him?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Kei’s Well Intentioned Mistake

I’ll give Kei credit. He’s trying! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Once again, the staff served milk at breakfast — and Zakuro was seriously displeased. It didn’t help that Susukihotaru and the twins Bonbori and Houzuki told her it wasn’t bad (though Susukihotaru wanted to salt it!). Declaring that she couldn’t do it, Zakuro slammed the cup on the table.

You may infer that she’s in a foul mood.

Kei chose that moment to make his move. He offered her a pure white wax candle. Her deadpan “Huh?” confused him (3:34). He tried to explain why he’d chosen a candle with no pigment, but her indignation only grew. Now starting to panic, he tried to explain that he knew she was only half fox spirit, but her darkening expression stopped him.

“I thought you liked to eat candles,” he said plaintively (3:48).

Zakuro does not like where this conversation is heading. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Screaming at him that he should stop looking down on “us” (meaning her and the other half-spirits), she said “I’m about to pop a vein!” and left.

Kushimatsu had just entered the room, so she had seen the whole thing. After Zakuro stormed out, she calmly (and without rancor) explained that even she, a full-blooded fox spirit, had never nomed a candle.

Kei was crestfallen. He couldn’t believe the books were wrong. When Kushimatsu asked if he’d tried to research the subject, he said he had realized he knew next to nothing about spirits.

“I needed to understand Zakuro, so I could help out, as her partner” (4:28).

Kei knows he’s not doing well. He also wants to help and support Zakuro. I like how he’s trying to improve. Even if Zakuro hardly acknowledges it!

Moment 2: Zakuro’s Contagious Strength

Susukihotaru tells Riken what Zakuro means to her and the other half-spirits. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

After they arrived at the construction site, our heroes split up into teams. Riken Yoshinokazura had to stop when Susukihotaru paused and put her hands to the sides of her face. She felt a disturbance in the area’s ley lines (and I have to say how her ears twitched atop her head was absolutely adorable). Closing her eyes to focus better on her perceptions, she took a step forward and almost tripped over some lumber.

Riken grabbed her wrist and helped her regain her balance. She thanked him, but he didn’t let go.

“It’s a mystery,” he said (9:23). He took her confused expression as permission to continue. “You were able to fight so well with such delicate hands…”

I might be wrong, but I think Riken kinda digs Susukihotaru! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

She didn’t retreat in embarrassment. Instead, she smiled and said it was because of Zakuro. She explained how Kushimatsu had brought them together and how she had no power to fight at all, at least at first.

“But once I met Zakuro… Once I spent time with Zakuro… I was able to realize the spiritual power I possessed” (10:00). “Zakuro means the world to us.”

Can you think of any higher praise than to be told you’ve helped someone become more of who they should be? That’s awesome.

Moment 3: Kei Puts it All Together

Kei figured out that the hotel’s construction had destroyed the little spirit’s home. Capitalist Man, however, was far from sympathetic. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Kei’s candle finally came in handy! It was after dark when our heroes lured the spirit out into the open. It towered above Zakuro as she held the lit candle before her. The hotel owner (I couldn’t find his name; in my notes, I just called his Capitalist Man) and several townsfolk were nearby, cowering in fear.

Suddenly, Zakuro said, “Don’t be afraid” (16:24). But she’s not talking to the townsfolk or Capitalist Man. She was talking to the spirit! “I’ll return the darkness soon, I promise.”

She held the candle near to it to reveal the spirit’s real form. It was about 4 inches high, and it was terrified. Zakuro enticed it to jump into her palm. It seemed happy now that it saw it could trust her.

This little guy had been pushed into taking extreme action to protect its home. And Capitalist Man wanted him dead because of that. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Capitalist Man, of course, was enraged. He’d called the Ministry of Spirit Affairs in to exterminate a threat. Now, right in front of his eyes, Zakuro was cuddling with it! She asked if there had been a shrine nearby. Capitalist Man confirmed it.

Kei put the pieces together. He asked the little spirit (17:32), “Was that your home?”

It had been.

In the beginning of the first episode, even Mamezou nearly made him wet himself (literally!). Now, he’s starting to empathize with a spirit — and a spirit that had just a few minutes before terrified him.

Character development is cool.

Thoughts

Do you remember how, near the end of the previous episode, the other people enjoying the sights of the blooming trees looked judgmentally at Zakuro and the other half-spirits and spirits? It was pretty clear that modernization in Japan was having an impact on the population, and it wasn’t generating goodwill for people like Zakuro.

In this episode, we got an even more clear demonstration of attitudes towards spirits and half-spirits. During their initial meeting with Capitalist Man, he point blank told them he wanted to “exterminate this spirit” (07:19). Riken protested, saying they’d been told it was harmless. Bonbori and Houzuki suggested they try to negotiate with the spirit, but Capitalist Man sneered. “Is that even necessary when dealing with spirits?”

Capitalist Man could not understand why a spirit should be given basic courtesies — like not being exterminated. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Later, as the little spirit stood on Zakuro’s palm and Kei understood why it was trying to stop construction, Capitalist Man lost his temper. Zakuro, thinking that maybe an explanation would make the man understand, told him that “The spirits’ dwellings are vanishing. Humans feared spirits, but they also respected them. Until now… That’s why we could coexist” (18:00). But Zakuro was, despite her temper and dim view of humans, naive. A rational discussion was the last thing that Capitalist Man wanted. After all, he only saw spirits as an impediment to construction, which meant he needed to wait longer for the cash to start rolling in.

If Lieutenant Hanadate had not arrived to basically bribe Capitalist Man with an offer of military land, I’m not sure what would have happened. The crowd was becoming unruly. Kei had tried to tell them to stop agitating, but it didn’t seem like they were listening. Capitalist Man seemed on the verge of launching a vigilante attack on the poor little spirit.

I like scenes like these. I like seeing our heroes struggle against injustice. It gives their personal struggles a a universal context. But in the case of this show, it’s also doing something else. It’s giving us a point of comparison with Zakuro, Kei, and their prejudices.

Even though Zakuro does not like humans at all, and even though Capitalist Man give her ample reason to become angry, at no point did she think it was a good idea to kill him. She’s more civilized than that. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Zakuro is constantly berating humans. She makes no secret of her disdain for all things Western — especially cow’s milk! She constantly berates Kei for being cowardly and for stereotyping her. Yet, do you notice what she didn’t do? Despite feeling prejudices at least as strong as Capitalist Man’s, she never seriously threatened to kill humans. Any humans.

Kei is terrified of spirits. Yet, instead of trying to frame his situation as the fault of the spirits, he recognizes it as a fault in himself. He’s ashamed of his cowardice because he recognizes it’s a failing in himself. In my first favorite moment for this episode, he realized he really didn’t know anything about spirits, so he did something very reasonable: he researched the topic! It’s not his fault that the reference material was faulty. His intent was good. And despite his fear and ignorance, he had no inclination to slaughter innocent spirits.

We have three flawed perspectives colliding in a single episode. It’s enjoyable dramatically. It’s enjoyable from the perspective of theme. And it’s a great study of the three characters involved. I’m looking forward to seeing how the show develops these threads.

What did you think of the spirit in this episode? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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