Section23 Films // 2008 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // May 6th, 2010
When demons walk the streets, the cops need to recruit more demons!
Teenage superheroes running amok in a world full of demons. What's not to like about Yozakura Quartet? As it turns out, liking it isn't the problem. Finding reasons for it to stand out in a crowded anime marketplace is.
The town of Sakurashin faces some unique challenges. In the only town to permit humans and demons to live side-by-side in relative harmony, keeping the peace falls to the Hiizumi Life Counseling Office, a ragtag group of teens tasked with making things go smoothly in town. It's a tough job! The humans are scared of the demons, and the demons have been persecuted most of their lives. Tensions run high. To make matters worse, the barrier between the two worlds -- human and demon -- is being threatened by an unknown adversary.
Luckily, three-fourths of the team is demon themselves. They're going to need the firepower! Hime is the town mayor and descended from dragon stock, Kotoha is a half-human conjurer, and Ao is a cat-eared telepath. The lone human is Akina, descendant of a long family line of demon banishers. He's the only one with the ability to send a demon back to its own reality, removing it from the human world.
As superhero teams go, they're extremely disorganized and clumsy, but to them, Sakurashin represents a second chance in life, a safe haven where humans and demons can co-exist peacefully. They'll stop at nothing to protect their home!
Yokazura Quartet: Complete Collection contains all twelve episodes of the series spread over two discs.
Ever read a comic book? Then you've pretty much been brought up to speed with Yozakura Quartet: Complete Collection. Just replace the quartet with a particular academy of gifted youngsters, substitute demons for mutants, and you're there. Indeed, there are a lot of parallels here: demons persecuted during their childhood by humans and vice versa, creating a world of animosity and hatred, a group of youngsters looking to protect the fragile truce between the two groups, and a villain who'd like nothing more than to see war break out between the two. It is familiar but enjoyable territory.
Yozakura Quartet strikes a very confident balance between lighthearted comedy, mild fan service, demonic battles, and character development. This is a jack-of-all-trades situation here; the show does everything well, but nothing so well that it makes you inclined to tell your friends about it. This is tricky when it comes to writing a review, since I need to come up with reasons to do exactly that. Created by illustrator-turned-manga-creator Suzuhito Yasuda and animation studio Nomad, there is enough flair in the art and animation to give the show a likeable feel, but some of it may seem oddly familiar to fans of Tite Kubo and Tensai Okamura. There is much Bleach and Darker than Black in the visual style, but nothing blatantly plagiaristic.
The whole human and demon dynamic makes for some entertaining adventures, but also some peculiar logical gaffes. Like a good comic book, the rules of the universe are flexible and malleable in terms of magical powers -- even concepts like "What is a demon?" is a particularly challenging question to answer. Some of the demons are malevolent monsters and black shadow creatures, while others seem to be half-human and totally normal, and still others are vaguely animalistic: half-cat, mermaid, vampire, or dragon. Some are telepaths, some can fly through the air, and some can teleport and shoot lightning and summon items from thin air. The rhyme or reason of which characters can do what isn't always clear -- especially the villains, who kind of do whatever they need to get away from the situation at hand. And then there are Land Gods. Don't even ask me about them, because I still have no idea.
Setting aside such subtleties, it's still a pretty good show, just not a great show. The humans living alongside the demons have an interesting time of it. They've put a group of teenagers in charge of their defenses, which makes for some hilariously awkward chaos. There are laughs, tears, etc. I just wish there were more about Yozakura Quartet that felt...unique. The downside to being a jack-of-all-trades is that you master none. Nothing is out of place or particularly unlikeable here, but neither is the show better than any of the dozen of its peers already on the office. A short episodic run of twelve episodes doesn't really help matters here. Had the show been given a bit more room to grow, to space out some of its plot points and concepts, this might be a much stronger contender for your wallet.
The technical presentation is modest, but refreshingly straightforward: an anamorphic transfer, stereo Japanese dialogue, and English subs, and that's it. No corny English dub job, no surround presentation skimping on the native language track. Just a nice and simple treatment -- I can respect that. Colors are pleasingly vibrant, with yellows and oranges coming through particularly sharp. Black and white levels are strong. The sharpness tends to wavers and some edge enhancement is noticeable throughout, but the presentation is certainly on par with any of the other distributors like Funimation. Dialogue is clear and bass response is average, with good depth and clarity in the environmental effects. English subtitles are large and yellow, with grey helpful pop-ups appearing from time to time to provide insight into obscure Japanese terminology or cultural references, a nice feature for those still learning the ways of the otaku.
Extras are nonexistent; all we get are textless openings and a bunch of trailers.
We live in a strange time for anime. It used to be you got this stuff on endlessly traded VHS tapes from conventions, prized possessions each. Only the best of the best made it to North America. Now there are twenty-four hour cable channels and streaming website archives devoted to the stuff. Yozakura Quartet is a perfect example of an anime that until recently, would have been considered very good, but the curve is just a lot more steep these days.
Some stylish character design and a decent story are strong points in favor of Yozakura Quartet: Complete Collection, but it's not the kind of show people are going to sing praises of in years to come. It's just one of many solidly average shows in the marketplace not unique or interesting enough to stand out in a flooded market. Remember those twenty-four hour cable and streaming archive websites I mentioned earlier? That's about how I'd go seeing Yozakura Quartet. Buying it on DVD? Pass.
Not guilty, but unfortunately not good enough to recommend.
Review content copyright © 2010 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Section23 Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Open/Close