Zakuro is a romantic character driven fighter that no one should miss. From the very first sequence, Zakuro immediately grabs your attention. Whilst the fighting aspect may be what draws you in, it is not what keeps you coming back for more. The characters and their stories are what hooks you in the end.
Zakuro is set in Japan during the middle to late 19th century, also know as the Meiji restoration era. This is when Japan opened its borders to the world and the westernization of the country began to take place. Zakuro and her companions, Susukihotaru, Bonbari and Hozuki, are half spirits who have been employed by the military to be a part of the spirit affiars office. The girls are partnered with officers from the military: Agemaki, Riken, and Ganryu. The people of the spirit affairs are charged with the task of maintaining amiable relations between the humans and the spirits. This task is complicated by the influences of the westernization colliding with the traditional attitudes.
The backdrop of the Meiji restoration period is interesting for this kind of story, spirits and humans trying to live together. During this time, many of the Japanese were giving up the ‘old’ ways of thinking, which included a belief in spirits. In the world of Zakuro, the humans seem to know the spirits exist but are getting tired of sharing the world with them. A clash of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ ways of thinking taking place at the time of the restoration seep into the storyline. The characters have to decide what is important in their personal lives and in the end make compromises in order to go on living in the world around them.
Another interesting aspect of the show is the overall discussion of the changing of the calendar. During this time in Japanese history, the calendar was changed to a more westernized calendar. Many times during the series, mention is made about how many spirits are against the new calendar and that is why they are causing trouble for the humans. This is an intriguing concept imbedded in the show in many ways, not just the calender but other westernizations taking place at the time. Zakuro likes to call them “Jesuit ideas”, referring to the fact that many westerners are Christians. The world that is created through these conflicting ideas sets a great backdrop for the characters to engage within.
As the story is driven by the characters, it makes a beautifully paced story that unfolds in a logical and interesting manner. Pairing up the half spirits with the male officers, automatically creates the stage for multiple type interactions. Zakuro and her partner Agemaki have a conflicting relationship, one that represents the backdrop of the show. Agemaki is used to the western changes and has embraced many of them, while Zakuro prefers the ways of the past and is reluctant to change. Agemaki is also terrified of spirits, who are in themselves part of the past. Susukihotaru, a quiet shy girl, and her partner Riken, a soft spoken military man offer the more romantic partnership from the very beginning. The twin half spirits, Bonbari and Hozuki are paired with the child like Ganryu. These three have a relationship that is more complicated and could even be considered strange for many people. Through these interactions as well as the other characters in the show, the story of Zakuro unfolds beautifully. It never feels as if the plot is just being driven by circumstance or plot devices. It is amazing how much happens, and yet doesn’t in the short thirteen episode series.
The two-disc, thirteen episode DVD Premium Edition from NIS America comes in an 8″x11″x1″ beautifully simple cardboard cover-box along with a 32-page, full-color, hard cover book. The book contains character profiles, episode write-ups, interviews with the main cast of voice actors, an interview with the manga author regarding the series, and full page character artwork. The special features include one textless opening, three different textless closing songs as well as two original picture dramas; “Gala Preparation” and “Little Spirit Theater”.