Anime

Review: Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode 7: A Shadow from the Past and the Insightful Little Sister

Quick Summary

In Otome Yokai Zakuro episode 7, “A Feline Home,” Kei Agemaki is surprised when Tae, a servant from his household, showed up at the Ministry of Spirit Affairs and threw her arms around him — but not nearly as surprised as Zakuro! What reason could she possibly have for being so demonstrative? Why did she beg for Kei to come home? With a resigned air, Kei begged Zakuro to go home with him. Did he expect her to protect him from his father, who is famous for disliking spirits? Or is there something more sinister going on — something to do with a spirit?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Kei’s Continued Bad Timing

Kei should really work on his timing. It’s for his own safety! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Kei continued his streak of really bad timing, at least when it comes to his interactions of Zakuro. In this episode, he seemed to chain these events for maximum effect. And not in his favor.

Kei and Zakuro met with Tae in a private room. After Zakuro used her powerful glare to scare off Ganryuu Hanakiri, Susukihotaru, Bonbori, and Houzuki as they tried to listen in through the keyhole, Kei introduced Zakuro as “his assistant” (04:45). You can guess how she felt about that! To her credit, she didn’t call him a liar to his face, but you could just see her plotting some kind of revenge.

Zakuro was less than pleased that she had to chase eavesdroppers away from her conversation with Kei and Tae. So she was already in a bad temper when he called her an assistant! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Tae said she had come at the request of Kei’s father, who wanted Kei to go home for a visit. He pulled Zakuro aside and begged her to come with him. She’s still indignant at being called an assistant, but she reluctantly agreed — if he authorized military payment for some sweets.

But then he demonstrated his terrible sense of timing again. He asked her if she would hide her ears while she’s in his father’s house (06:20).

I think it’s a sign of her growing affection for him that she didn’t just walk off and leave him to visit his father alone!

Moment 2: A Spirit’s Gratitude

Itsue finally got to tell Kei what she had wanted to all those years ago. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Kei had just finished telling Zakuro the tragic tale of how he had started fearing spirits. When he had been a kid, he had a beloved cat named Itsue. One night, he thought he saw a gigantic spirit with huge, red glowing eyes at the foot of his bed. Terrified and in tears, he ran to his father for comfort and protection. But his father berated him for being a coward.

Even worse, when he went to find his cat, she was gone. He looked everywhere, but he eventually came to the conclusion that the spirit had taken his cat. So between his father’s treatment and the loss of his pet, he developed a fear of spirits.

It was a quiet, emotionally intimate moment that he shared with Zakuro. Which she ruined by flicking him on the forehead and saying, “You’re such an idiot” (17:32).

He was used to her being curt with him, so he wasn’t exactly surprised. He was surprised when she started calling for Itsue. She ignored his objections until, exasperated, she said that the cat’s been in the house all this time.

“Show him,” Zakuro said, apparently to the air near Kei.

When something completely other takes a form that includes traits that we recognize as “cute,” it’s easy to accept them. To the point I wish there were spirits like Itsue in this world. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

After a gust of wind through the open window made him blink his eyes, he suddenly saw what was unmistakably a cat-inspired spirit. She smiled up at him as Zakuro explained that when a cat’s owner loves it enough, it can become a cat demon.

This is the part that got to me.

“When you were young,” Zakuro said (18:36), “she appeared before you because she wanted to think you for being kind to her.”

Kei had completely misunderstood the moment. I’ve had enough of too many of my own experiences that only afterward I found out would have been positive, if only I’d been receptive. What I liked about this scene is that Itsue finally got a chance to set the record straight and thank Kei for how he treated her. If only we all got such chances…

Moment 3: A Human’s Gratitude

Have we ever seen Zakuro show such an open, honest smile? I don’t think we have! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I thought I had endured maximum cute-ness with my second favorite moment. Nope! This episode had more Cute Power to unleash.

It turned out that when Zakuro had said, “Show him,” the change meant that Kei could not only see her, but hear her as well. He instantly recognized her meow. Hardly daring to breath, he knelt in front of her and stroked her head. She leaned into his hand, still enjoying him petting her as much as when she had been in feline form.

He couldn’t help himself. He scooped her up into a gentle embrace. Eyes closed, fighting back the tears, he said he was sorry for being scared. He asked her to forgive him.

I know that discussions of masculinity often degenerate into something less than informative, so I’ll just say this: In my world, it takes a real man to show affection in this way. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Her soft meow made it plain she did. But even as she forgave him, she began to dissolve into a haze of sparkling light. He almost panicked, but Zakuro, in an uncharacteristic show of sensitivity, told him all was well. Itsue couldn’t hold human form for very long. Even now, in feline form, she was rubbing herself against his ankle.

All of that was beautiful enough to count as my third favorite moment. What I really liked, though, was how Kei stood, took Zakuro’s right hand in both of his, looked her straight in the eyes, and said, “Thank you. Thank you, Zakuro-kun” (19:59). She even smiled.

Thoughts

This show is just beautiful. I love how the show builds moments to display such beauty by, in a previous episode, showing us a brutal dangerous and cruel cave spirit, and in this episode, showing us a spirit like Itsue, who is kind and supportive and warm. Between how much Itsue still loved Kei and the adorable relationship between Itsue and Kumiko, Kei’s sister, I was on the verge of cute overload.

Look, I don’t care how old we get. This is adorable. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

And a little sister who isn’t a bro-con? What a relief!

This episode had some more of what I’m finding is my favorite thing about the series: the developing relationship between Zakuro and Kei. We’re learning that despite her amazing personal strength, Zakuro is still carrying some emotional wreckage over whatever happened to her mom. She’s also amazingly naive, though I don’t know why that still surprises me. Someone who is strong can still be relatively inexperienced.

Maybe it’s that dichotomy between strength and experience that makes it so much fun to watch Zakuro’s reactions to her blossoming feelings for Kei. We get funny little moments like what happened shortly after they arrived at Kei’s home. Binding her ears to hide her nature gave Zakuro a terrible headache, so while she was alone in her room with Kei, she released them. Someone knocked and opened the door (09:01). Kei acted immediately by embracing Zakuro and pulling her head to his chest. She blushed furiously — she’s not sure what to do about her feelings, and here he was, pulling her close!

I think she’s still trying to tell herself that Kei’s just a coward who no one could possibly like. That would be one way to contain her own feelings! But Tae single-handedly destroyed that idea. When Kei left to play with Kumiko, Tae confronted Zakuro, asking (09:24) “What is your relationship to young Master Kei?” Zakuro’s embarrassed, of course, and tries to laugh it off by saying he’s just a wuss. Tae snapped back that she Kei treats her and the other staff with kindness; further, she says he’s a very kind person. That make Zakuro pause and reflect.

Unfortunately, Kei got caught in Zakuro’s internal cross-fire. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Kei got a physical demonstration of her confusion when he came back into the room and apologized for leaving her alone. Without a word, with her usual stunning physical grace, she rose and slugged him right in the stomach.

“Wh-why?” he asked from the floor (10:41).

“I know!”

“Huh?” he asked. She had hit him so hard he was almost coughing in pain. “Know what?”

“I don’t know!”

That exchange was amazing. It was everything I want in a drama: It was honest. It was representative of the character’s feelings. And it revealed more about the character than they knew about themselves.

Zakuro might still be uncertain about how she feels. Kei might be oblivious. But Kei’s mom knew. “…Kei seems to enjoy himself when he’s with you. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him relax. I must thank you. Please take good care of Kei” (21:23). I am convinced momma Agemaki knew that Zakuro was a half spirit. After all, her daughter Kumiko could see (and interact with) Itsue. I wonder when Zakuro’s self-awareness will catch up?

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

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2 thoughts on “Review: Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode 7: A Shadow from the Past and the Insightful Little Sister

  1. Ah, my favourite episode has arrived. The ear-binding must have been aweful for Zakuro; she put up with quite a lot here.

    My favourite scene was the family dinner. Dad gleefully spouts his bigoted nonsense, but Mum plays the diplomat, something that Kei doesn’t really notice but Zakuro does. Meanwhile the little sister is feeding the cat under the table, something that Zakuro notices, too, and the first time round you notice her noticing and wonder what the big deal is. This is such a subtle scene, and it works so well because it’s filtered through Zakuro’s third-wheelness. She feels both a little out of place, taken advantage of by the men at the table, but also finding an unexpected ally with Mum (and more indirectly the little sister). Zakuro’s off-hand remark as they’re leaving, “You’re family’s quite something,” or something like that, sums that up perfectly. All the contradictions she’s sensed in him were basically present at that table. Yeah, he’s a wuss, and he’s kind. He’s not that perceptive and he doesn’t dare face his father. But dispite all that open bigotry of his father, it’s not bigotry that ruled Kei’s upbringing. Finally, the father’s proselitizing felt more like armchair bigotry than the casual cruelty we witnessed in episode 1. You have to wonder how his father would have reacted to an open revelation that Zakuro’s a spirit. My guess is he’d have silently left the table or something similar, but not kicked her out. Proud and doubling down on the bigotry, but mostly being disappointed that his son’s a coward and not facing him head on. That’s just a hunch, though, and it could have gotten a lot uglier (especially if Mum’s not also present).

    That’s such a richly textured scene; there’s so much in it. This episode does seem to draw a fairly common gender line, with the husband getting the say, but the woman being the defacto ruler of the household. You see that in anime a lot, and this episode uses this to max effect.

    There’s also the Itsue scene: Itsue being Itsue takes instinctive precendence over her being a spirit, but that’s not such a given. When Kei thanks Zakuro, it’s not just for the scene really. It’s at the centre of course: it’s the occasion. But Kei might not have been able to react like that if he hadn’t been assigned that position. Sure the others helped, too, especially Kushimatsu and the pumpkin twins, who’s name I’ve forgotten, but Zakuro was most definitely the biggest part of it with her calling him out and not pussy-footing around him, but also never beeing unfair.

    A lot came to a head this episode. I do so want to see the follow up in anime form, but it’s just not very likely. I hear the manga’s still ongoing, which is mindboggling: a long-runner which you don’t hear much about. (Also, I hear the final arc is anime original Okada stuff; she’s done well, I’d say, but then Okada has, in my book, always been great at adapting works for anime – see Toradora or Hourou Musuko).

    1. “This is such a subtle scene, and it works so well because it’s filtered through Zakuro’s third-wheelness. ”

      I wanted to choose a moment from the dinner for one of my 3, but the whole thing was a single fabric, and pulling one piece out just didn’t feel right.

      “Finally, the father’s proselitizing felt more like armchair bigotry than the casual cruelty we witnessed in episode 1. ”

      I think that’s a great point, and it’s one of the things I love about this series. It presents subtleties. There’s not just “bigotry.” It has many expressions, and those expressions have varying impacts.

      “My guess is he’d have silently left the table or something similar, but not kicked her out. Proud and doubling down on the bigotry, but mostly being disappointed that his son’s a coward and not facing him head on. ”

      That’s how I read it, too.

      “But Kei might not have been able to react like that if he hadn’t been assigned that position. ”

      His gratitude to Zakuro was awesome — and completely heart-felt. I think that’s why we got treated to the most open and uninhibited smile we’ve seen from Zakuro.

      “I hear the manga’s still ongoing, which is mindboggling: a long-runner which you don’t hear much about.”

      Really? I didn’t know that. Not sure why I didn’t even think to check. Thanks for letting me know!

      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — I’m really glad I’m reviewing this series. I’d forgotten just how much I loved it!

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