[Synopsis]: Surrounding the town of Sakurashin are The Seven Pillars which exist simultaneously in both the human world and the world of the youkai. Due to this connection, youkai have come to live in the town and coexist alongside its human residents. The Hiizumi Life Counseling Office exists in order to uphold the pleasant atmosphere of the town. Headed by Hiizumi Akina (Kaji Yuki) and including the young mayor of Sakurashin, Yarizakura Hime (Fukuen Misato) and their friends, the group protects the town and the people they love from those who would disrupt their peace and daily lives.
As one might expect from the town-centric premise, Yozakura Quartet hosts a reasonably large, varying cast of eccentric and likable characters. Many of them are highly entertaining in their own right but what they all bring to the table collectively is perhaps even more impressive and important to the show. In the way they are each characterized and interact with each other, the cast presents a stunningly genuine sense of community. Everyone seems to know everyone. What each character means to the other varies a great deal from person to person and this allows the show to accent the individuality of its characters while continuously playing them off of one another.
Something worth noting is that the supernatural element of the show is presented very naturally in Sakurashin. Though the majority of its populace is human, many of the town’s denizens are youkai but the way in which the show portrays their coexistence is refreshing. The characters are presented like any other, whether they are human or otherwise and when the youkai characters do something supernatural, it’s taken for granted by everyone else – there aren’t instances of lengthy, out-of-character exposition or any awkward attempts to accentuate their otherworldliness. This helps build towards a more immersive image but also plays into the aspect of community I mentioned earlier. The extraordinary becomes ordinary. The characters feel like they belong in their setting and that they have lives outside of the frame of the narrative.
Above all else, the best thing that the cast of Yozakura Quartet has going for it is their pronounced sense of personality. This isn’t a case of them being particularly well-developed or highly intricate but one where you have a strong sense of who each character is – what they are like and what they will do. Through each of their many relationships, the main characters and supporting cast alike refine each other to the point of clarity. The cast is very lively, features many entertaining, supernatural powers, and is generally just very likable. Their fun-loving, warm attitudes and sense of kinship with each other makes them a lot of fun to watch despite how simplistic their characterization is.
The animation of Yozakura Quartet is what I personally find so enthralling about the show. The director, ryo-timo, has an extensive background as an animator and it shows. Yozakura Quartet, in so many ways, comes off as an animator’s passion project in how it looks, how it moves, and behaves. This isn’t to say that the art style is especially crisp or consistent but that there’s a lot of inventiveness and enthusiasm in the visual style of the show. It features some truly amazing action sequences but the show is just as energetic and expressive when detailing the more mundane parts of its character’s days and more trivial actions. In the same way that the characters emanate liveliness in how they talk and act, the way in which they are animated goes above and beyond in highlighting their respective personality traits. The characters are how they move and it’s beautiful to watch. The fight scenes, while infrequently occurring, are pervasive enough and a real thrill to watch when they roll around. Yasuda Suzuhito’s designs look incredible and have been adapted wonderfully.
Yozakura Quartet is an interesting show in how it strikes an odd balance between a relaxed, whimsical, slice of life atmosphere and plot-driven action sequences and light narrative development. Perhaps the biggest fault of the story is in just how straightforward it is. Sakurashin is a peaceful town full of boisterous and likable characters and one day an enemy appears that aims to disrupt this calm and merge the human world with that of the youkai in order to bring about destruction. What’s surprising however is that, despite how simple its story is, there is a fair amount of legitimate intrigue built into the world of the show and the motivations of its antagonist, Hiizumi Enjin.
At first glance, Enjin might appear somewhat comically evil in how he wants to destroy the peaceful town however when you learn more about the history of Sakurashin and its clans, some relatively intriguing mystery elements rise to the forefront of the story. The most compelling of which relates to an ability called ‘tuning’ possessed by Hiizumi Akina himself, the director of the Hiizumi Life Counseling Office. While Youkai coexist with humans in Sakurashin, it is not their native land as they of course belong in the world to which the town is connected through The Seven Pillars. By ‘tuning’ somebody, Akina is able to allegedly send them to this other dimension however because nobody has ever returned, no one can be certain whether this alternate world represents a heaven or hell for the youkai.
This air of mystery surrounding the two worlds, Enjin, and the history of the town illustrates a pretty engaging part of the story despite the simplistic design of the show’s overarching narrative. Some viewers may be disappointing by how rarely this subplot surfaces and the lingering questions that surround it however I think it adds a compelling element to the story. There are of course other interesting facets of Yozakura Quartet’s world such as the existence of half-youkai and the enigmatic senate which presides over the town.
This isn’t to undersell the other parts of the show. While not every episode features an electrifying action sequence or a development relating to the show’s underlying mysteries, it’s very fun and charming throughout. Certain story arcs are spent fleshing out specific characters or exhibiting the way in which the cast interacts with each other and given how much personality the show has, these episodes are quite entertaining. While not an aggressively thematic show, there are certainly some pervasive ideas that circulate, influence the characters, and manifest as key elements within the plot. The idea of legacy is especially important to Akina and Hime who each are following in the footsteps of their guardians despite their young age and the theme arises elsewhere as well. Though the town is very warmhearted and the cast possesses a great sense of community, that doesn’t mean that the world is deprived of prejudice. A major theme of the show is how to live with other people which exists both on the macro level in how humans and youkai can coexist as well as on an individual level on the scale of the character’s relationships.
The show’s soundtrack is pretty good and successfully exhibits Yozakura Quartet’s different tones, from comedy, to slice of life, to its action packed showdowns. It supports the show well and has a few memorable songs but doesn’t steal the show in the same way that its visuals do. What is exceptional is Yozakura Quartet’s sound design. The most remarkable example of this is in the show’s portrayal of the supernatural lightning strikes that occasionally happen in Sakurashin and cause various issues for the cast. When these scenes appear, the resulting sound is absolutely colossal, ominous, and overwhelming – seemingly blowing out your speakers to the point of feedback. This impressive, powerful depiction of the lightning strikes really accents their danger and energy. The show goes further with this, utilizing a similar effect to impress upon the viewer intensity and hopelessness in certain scenes. There are numerous, impressive examples of this kind of sound design and along with Yozakura Quartet’s expressive animation, it’s another element which further speaks to the show’s uniqueness and vision.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Between its visuals, cast of characters, sound design, and engaging narrative elements, Yozakura Quartet is a show that has a lot going for it. Its story is deceptively simple at face value for how intriguing it can be and the show has reasonably good comedy, character writing, and individual character arcs to balance out its potential narrative shortcomings. All in all, it’s a very fun show and I consider it significantly underrepresented in regards to how many people have watched it given how strong it is in certain aspects.
I gave Yozakura Quartet an 8 because it featured a large, interweaving cast of memorable characters that portrayed a really strong sense of connectivity and community through their frequent interactions and complicated relationships. The show’s visuals are downright stunning more often than not and it sports some of the best action scenes I I’ve seen in respects to animation and choreography. The straightforward nature of its story can leave it feeling predictable or even stereotypical at times but the show’s world-building and mystery elements make up for this pretty successfully.
If you like shows about large casts of people all intermingling in eccentric and outlandish ways then Yozakura Quartet is the show for you. It’s got great fight scenes, inventive supernatural abilities, and a good blend of day to day comedy and plot.
To clarify which shows fall under the umbrella of this review and the order in which you watch them: Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta comes first. Switch to Yozakura Quartet: Hoshi no Umi, a 3-episode OVA, after episode 8 and then finish out Hana no Uta afterwards. Yozakura Quartet: Tsuki ni Naku comes last after finishing the main show and is another 3-episode sequel OVA. Ignore the original 2008 adaptation.