「イバラミチ 3」 (Ibara Michi 3)
“Thorny Path 3”
My thoughts from two weeks ago haven’t changed in the slightest: the current storyline is far from compelling, and that’s even before we saw this simplistic and all-too-idealistic way it resolved itself. Turns out, Kohime can’t run for mayor after all, rendering this entire fight moot! And as misguided as his actions were, Morino only had noble intentions from the beginning, redeeming himself by putting his life on the line for Kohime! “Awww!”, right? Let’s be honest here, it pretty much par the course for Yozakura Quartet: a little cheesy and all-too-simple in an somewhat retro fashion, which ain’t gonna get any top billings from anyone.
But like I said last week, I really couldn’t care less so long as they continued to deliver on the goods; the character interactions, the brilliantly irreverent humor and lots of tightly choreographed action. And so they did; every episode in this 3-part story successively pushed these qualities of Yozakura Quartet higher and better, to this point where I can finally say: “This was exactly what the OVAs promised”. While there’s nothing quite as stupendous as Hime’s bumbling entrance with the tsundere~ fanfare (still my favorite moment of the show) the offbeat humor from the last episode is still strongly intact: Kyousuke’s “Friend A” got one hell of a laugh out of me, as did the utterly unperturbed appearance of ward chief Yuuhi (complete with golfer Mariabelle) to close the book on this arc. And what d’ya know, even with the joking and light-heartedness, the show still manages to give a good deal of sincerity to the characters. In between the characters’ snapping, their (rightly deserved) outburst at Akina and Hime’s utter relief and contentment (she really gets the best expressions in the show, doesn’t she?) these character moments really do bring some bit of warmth to this cold heart of mine. (To be fair, anything would bring warmth now; why is it so darn cold this year?)
And once again, check out those action sequences! If there’s one thing about this last 3 episodes that been highly consistent, it’s that Ryochimo and the Tatsunoko team always manages to get in that one single segment – typically near the end of the episode – running so high on the “FUCK YEAH!” factor. When Akina get stabbed by Enjin the cast proceeds in a beat-down so intensely one-sided that I almost felt bad for Enjin…almost. It’s just that the amazing fluidity of the all-too-short sequence made me want to see the characters beat him down even more.
What’s perhaps less interesting is the setup for the main story…which doesn’t seem like its ever going to be addressed in this series. There’s a lot to choke down in this episode, but none of which seemed particularly pressing; the revelation about the Hiizumi branch family, Enjin’s connection to Akina, the truth behind what happened to Aoi’s brother Gin (which I mistakenly assumed to be Enjin before) and the reason for the Nanago’s inevitable blooming. Its all fundamental for Yozakura Quartet’s ongoing narrative, as all the future arcs are related in some way to this overarching plotline But there was never any question that we wouldn’t be getting the full story; the manga’s still going strongly with some 70 plus chapters, and 13 episodes definitely wouldn’t have given any much time to cover more than a few arcs. Was it wise for the reboot to spend over half its runtime getting to this true starting line? I wonder; I do appreciate an adapted story being given its due with a reasonable pace, and it still has to be seen how much of this leads into the titular Hana no Uta story arc. At the same time, it all seems too much for a series that won’t be expanding on these broad plotlines much. If we had a second season incoming, I’d definitely say it is time well spent, but as it stands I would’ve much rather see Yozakura Quartet with a tighter focus on the immediate story arcs.
Finally, I know I bring up the OVAs a lot, but even now when we’re over the halfway point of Hana no Uta, I still believe the comparison is apt; nothing Hana no Uta has shown – at least until this string of episodes – has reached the sheer excitement and entertainment that the 3-part OVA delivered. I guess I should chalk this up to the difference in the narrative; the OVAs pretty much hit the ground running, while as reboot the TV series has been revving its engine up for this moment till it could finally show Yozakura Quartet in its most enjoyable form, where the action and the humor are getting one heck of a workout. But we’re finally reach this point in the narrative, and I sincerely hope its staying for the rest of Hana no Uta’s duration.
Of course, the next episode seems to be taking a short breather in between arcs. While we’re certainly going to be dialing back a few notches on the pure action, it’s not like Yozakura Quartet is terribly bad in its downtime – in fact, the fantastical slice-of-life of these story have a real charm to them, and its typically where the characterizations and atmosphere get to shine. All the same, I hope it’s a short break in the narrative; these last few episodes really have shown that the show is at its best when there’s conflict, action and jokes to be had.