It does feel a little strange to find ourselves back at Yozakura Quartet’s “downtime” not just because of the amount of intensity stuffed into every fiber of these last few episodes; it’s also because it showed how significantly the narrative has actually shifted in tone since the start of the show. As one might expect from the fantasy slice-of-life of Yozakura Quartet, it still exudes the same atmospheric, relaxed vibe we saw before, that just seemed to confidently work itself. Yet this is an episode that also feels far weightier than what we saw before; it’s in the amount the show and its characters has grown over its first major arc, so much so that it’s ambient tone has seen these collective changes.
To be fair, it’s not that I was expecting a complete return to the idyllic episodes we saw before – although in the back of my mind there was the very real possibility of it happening. But I still can’t help but be a little surprised at how almost every aspect of the narrative had grown noticeably reflective, and the dialogue’s become considerably more introspective of the characters as well. In the first half of the episode as we follow the quest for the rally stamps, Shinozuka’s small talks with each leading character are palatable piecemeals that do their part in contributing to the bigger story; we see Aoi’s reaction to her brother’s fate, learn about Kotoha’s resolution about being a half-youkai, while Akina and Hime had their own mini-segment about her being a youkai.
But this is all just appetizers for when we got to the second half of the episode, where the real buffet got served up. Plotwise we’ve a lot of heavy exposition to get out of the way in order to lay the foundations for the next arc, and an equal amount of fuel for the Youkai-Human crisis that’s repeatedly been raised in the storyline. Enjin’s Youkai Hunters are already potential avenues of explorations for this, seeing as how they are half-youkais themselves. But the bulk of this focus was squarely on the Elders, ambiguous old coots as they are, who purportedly set up the anti-youkai field we saw previously in multiple towns. Admittedly, this is one of the times we really get to see the strengths of Yozakura Quartet’s investment into world; the Elders are constantly forcing proposals of demon eradication onto Akina, the only person with the tuning capability to carry out their plans, but who refuses to see the reason in their plan. Unsurprisingly Ward Chief Yuuhi is involved as the person who somehow orchestrated this meeting, and always seems to be one step ahead of the game. There’s a lot of agendas being pushed around, and nothing that seems particularly clear-cut.
Even as interesting as these developments are, I again wonder how much of it we’ll see actually factor into the plot – after all, these are the big, narrative developments that probably won’t get addressed within the single cour series. I suppose more than an objective flaw, it’s a complaint from a disappointed me that we won’t see these plotlines come to fruition; if there’s one thing I hate in a narrative more than anything else, it’s incomplete stories.
On a final note, this episode basically leads us into the starting scene for the OVA001’s Hoshi no Umi arc. But if you’d ask me I honestly can’t tell if we’re getting a summarized account or a completely redone storyline to fit more organically into Hana no Uta’s narrative. Regardless, if you were still waiting to watch the OVAs, now’s the best chance to do so.
Full-length images: 05.