Anime

Review: Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode 9: An Innocent Game and a Tipped Hand

Quick Summary

In Otome Yokai Zakuro episode 9, “Joy of Love,” Lieutenant Hanadate brings the Ministry of Spirit Affairs a new case. Young women pining for love have been playing a game called kokkuri, where they ask a spirit to answer romantic questions. They didn’t bargain for a spirit to really appear! The Ministry, lead by the enthusiastic Bonbori and Houzuki, come up with a plan to summon the spirit so they can deal with it. However, what arrives during the game is not a spirit. Can they adjust tactics and prevail — before civilians get hurt? What’s going on between Kei Agemaki, Zakuro, and Hanadate? And why is Susukihotaru, of all people, feeling jealous all of a sudden?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Protesting Too Much

Kei hadn’t thought about his own feelings of jealousy — not until Susukihotaru asked him about it. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

At breakfast, Zakuro surprised Kei by actually trying to drink milk. She failed, but at least she tried! Then she noticed that Riken wasn’t there but was meeting with Kushimatsu. Worried that he was going to get into trouble not only for trying to rescue Susukihotaru and Kei but for also freeing Zakuro (in the previous episode), the half spirit rushed to Kushimatsu’s office, just in time to see Riken come out.

He seemed to be in good spirits, but Zakuro was dismayed that Kushimatsu had given him three month’s reduced pay. Riken, on the other hand, pointed out that in the military, he would have gotten a lot worse for disobeying a superior officer. Zakuro remained incensed, saying that they’d done nothing wrong. She was just about to confront Kushimatsu when Riken put his hand on her shoulder and told her again that it was okay.

Kei and Susukihotaru had been following Zakuro, and just as they came to the door, they saw Riken with his hand on Zakuro’s shoulder.

This moment has two cool parts.

Susukihotaru wondered if Kei felt jealous, too. Her question seemed to hit pretty close to home! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

First, seeing Susukihotaru’s expression, Kei gently teased her by asking if she felt jealous. She denied it with such vehemence that there’s no doubt she about her feelings (04:12). But remember in the previous episode when she showed more confidence by pushing back when Kei said she should use him as a shield? She did it again in this episode. She immediately asked if he were jealous.

Judging from his expression (04:23), he wasn’t feeling jealous — until her question made him think about it! He was so preoccupied at the implications that he was startled when Zakuro and Riken walked up behind him.

This show has a great handle on its character’s feelings. It feels so realistic and natural!

Moment 2: Oh, So That’s What Knotroots Mean

I’m not sure Ganryuu has enough hair to look like a knotroot… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This episode’s core mystery around the kokkuri game seemed custom made to appeal to Bonbori and Houzuki. They were quite giggly for most of the show.

After the kokkuri apparition escaped the building, the twins and Ganryuu (I should probably stop calling him The Littlest Soldier in my notes) were out searching for it. The two were happily chatting when he told them to stop walking so far ahead. He wanted to be the one to protect them (15:02).

In their happiest voices, they teased him, saying, “Which means that you’re going to express your love for us, right?” “And start a relationship?”

He seemed confused, and I don’t think he understood his situation. At all. He asked how three people could be in a relationship — the insinuation being a romantic relationship.

I’ll give Ganryuu credit. He didn’t faint straight away. Or freak out. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I honestly can’t tell the difference between them. I really respect Ganryuu’s ability to do so! But one of them asked, in a completely honest voice, “Is there something wrong with that?”

I’ll give him credit. He didn’t freak out. Nor did he look like he had just received the most amazing gift ever — which he just had. He just stared at them and tried to digest what they’d said.

It was utterly in character when they added (15:21), “Once we’re in a relationship, we’ll make your hair look like knotroots!”

They are almost frighteningly upbeat about the idea!

Moment 3: Zakuro’s Plea for Honesty

Zakuro was more afraid of hearing him say something he didn’t mean than anything else. This series does a fantastic job of showing how people sometimes don’t know their own feelings. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Hanadate, Zakuro, and Kei were also out looking for the kokkuri apparition. It was a little funny — and sad at the same time — to see Zakuro and Hanadate chatting while Kei followed, dejected. I mean, Hanadate is his superior officer. There’s not a lot he could really say without risking military discipline!

By the time they found the entity, it had grown considerably. Zakuro prepared to attack it again until Kei held her back and said (17:36), “The kokkuri can only be stopped by a demonstration of love.”

Zakuro was all for attacking the kokkuri — apparently forgetting how well that hadn’t worked before. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

And — bless his soul! — he stepped towards kokkuri and prepared to confess his feelings for Zakuro. Even as he took a breath to speak, Zakuro came up behind him and started choking him with her forearm. Was she that opposed to hearing how he felt?

Not exactly.

She said (18:07), “I don’t want to hear you say something that you might not even mean!”

She was not afraid to hear that he loves her. She’s afraid to hear him say the words and not mean it. I wonder if she even understands the implications? Even if she doesn’t, it’s still a lot of fun to watch their relationship develop.

Thoughts

This show excels at demonstrating the subtleties of emotions. A glance, a gesture with the hands, or even a tone of voice conveys a ton of meaning. And when it comes to showing how it’s hard for a character to sometimes know even their own heart, I’m not sure this show has an equal. Or if it does, I haven’t found it yet.

And I’d like to. Because it’s blast to watch!

I think a scene that perfectly illustrates this idea focused on Susukihotaru and Riken. They, too, were searching for kokkuri-san when they started to cross a little bridge. Riken mused that he didn’t think the creature would be satisfied by a fake confession. He seemed to think that something more substantial and profound was in order. Susukihotaru said that she understood where it was coming from (15:52) and launched into a discussion of the different kinds of love.

Susukihotaru was clearly trying to communicate with Riken. Did she succeed? Or did she fail? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Riken listened intently, as he always does for her. When she said that even her power — being able to sense someone’s thoughts through physical contact — was ambiguous at times. She was surprised when she looked over at him to see him staring intently.

Seeing her face was flushed, he immediately went over to a drink vendor, bought her a drink, and offered it to her.

Here’s the cool part.

She looked at him with an incredulous expression. Saying, “No, thank you” (24:23), she stalked off.

It looked like she thought he completely misread what she’d said. She was hoping for him to clarify his feelings for her. From her perspective, he just thought she had gotten too warm, so he bought her a drink. He was, in other words, completely missing the point.

Or was he?

Did Susukihotaru interpret Riken’s gesture correctly? Did he understand what she wasn’t saying? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Did he offer her the glass, hoping she’d touch his hand as she took it? Hoping that she’d read the feelings he had for her — and give him a chance to remove the doubt with his words? Hoping, in other words, to answer the question she couldn’t quite bring herself to ask out loud?

Seriously, these kinds of moments are why I love fiction. It’s not that I like to see character suffer. It’s that I feel such a kinship to them as they try to work through situations similar to what I see everyday. And if they do so within a fantastic and interesting world like this one, so much the better!

Also, as I watched Susukihotaru and Riken interact, for a brief moment, I was completely caught up in the instant. I wanted to know how she’d react to his gesture; I wanted to know how he’d react to her stalking off, angry. For a heartbeat, I was in their world, experiencing it through their eyes.

Someday, when I publish novels, I want my readers to have moments like that.

What did you think of Hanadate’s almost reveal in this episode? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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