There are always a few shows each season that, for whatever reason, don’t get licensed for streaming. One of the more egregious omissions in recent memory, at least as far as I’m concerned, is Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta [Tatsunoko Production, 2013], an adaptation of Suzuhito Yasuda’s popular manga. A beautifully crafted production, YZQ is charming and tons of fun, fitting it nicely into my ratings at a 6/10 (Rankings).
There really is only one place to start with Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta, and that’s with the animation by Tatsunoko Production and direction by Ryochimo Sawa. The SakugaBooru clip above is just a simple sparring match in a mid-show episode—not a climactic battle, just two friends fighting for practice. Again, this isn’t an arc’s conclusion or even a fight with the show’s main antagonist, only a short fight between two characters practicing together. And it’s not just fighting: the staff has animated the heck out of pretty much every moment of the show, including small character movements. YZQ is a decadent reminder that animation truly is an artform practiced by absurdly talented people. These are just two examples, but even clips like this don’t really do justice to the animation quality in this show—only watching it can do that.
But the production strengths YZQ brings aren’t limited to the visuals; sonically, it’s just as impressive. Pretty much every part of the sound design is superb. Every top tier soundtrack has standout tracks among general quality and the highlights YZQ‘s are not only great tracks in their own right, but are also used perfectly within the context of the show. For the themes, Unison Square Garden’s OP is solid, while Phatmans After School turn in one of my all-time favorite ED tunes. The voice performances are great—Miyuki Sawashiro’s Kotoha, Misato Fukuen’s Hime, and Daisuke Ono’s Kyousuke are the standouts, joined by what I think is one of Yuki Kaji’s better performances as Akina. And then…there are the sound effects. Meticulously edited and augmented by some really creative sound choices, they add a depth and weight to the show that few other anime have. The PV below lacks some of the more distinctive sound effects, but if you listen you can hear tons of tiny aural details.
On the content side of things, Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta brings together a cast of truly lovable characters in a setting that allows them to run wild as fighters and genuinely good people. The town mayor, Hime Yarizakura, heads up the crew as the head of the town and the best character YZQ has to offer. Built in the Maka Albarn mold of a brave, kind, honest young woman with a touch of rashness and the desire to prove herself, Hime is immediately lovable and constantly impressive. She’s backed up Akina Hiizumi, the young man tasked with the unenviable task of “tuning” the towns daemon residents to the unknown other dimension. Akina’s not quite as bright a star as Hime is, but his internal struggles and doubts add a sense of significance to the main plot—and allow him to demonstrate through his action what kind of person he is (a good one).
Between half-daemon Kotoha (who has my favorite superpower in the whole show), mind-reading foxgirl Ao, demon siblings Kyousuke and Touka, and nurse Juri, the rest of the main cast add a variety of personalities to the show, coloring Hime and Akina’s world with warmth and diversity that allows the two high schoolers to really shine. Despite the racial tensions that overcast the town, the YZQ celebrates diversity in a manner that is genuinely beautiful.
All this leads me into what I see as YZQ‘s greatest attribute: the fun factor. While the anime certainly does tackle some heavy issues, particularly the concepts of inherited responsibility and generational relationships, 13 episodes isn’t really long enough for the show to explore them in full. That is to say, it could be long enough, but YZQ is much more interested in getting you to love its characters and just enjoy spending time with them than in making big thematic statements. Fortunately, it’s phenomenal at doing exactly that. YZQ is kind of like a high school slice-of-life show, where getting to hang out with the characters is the main draw, except here the high school is traded for a daemon-human town at the precipice of merging with another dimension.
That being said, YZQ does ramble a bit through its plot—there are two OVA sets that cover smaller arcs—but, as I’ve note, it sometimes feels more like a slice-of-life show than an action show. It also takes a strangely cavalier, yet restrained (usually) approach to fanservice—the panty shots come off more matter-of-fact than leering, almost like the show’s saying, “Yeah, this is what happens when a girl wears a really short skirt while swinging a spear around or while sitting on a tree with her legs spread uncrossed.” I’d obviously prefer no fanservice at all, but YZQ‘s sensibilities in that area are less offensive to me than those of shows that take a much raunchier approach to fanservice.
Overall, Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta is one of the most fun shows to watch that I know of. Marathoning it is dangerously easy; whether it’s the animation, the sound, the awesome fights, or just the sheer youthful exuberance that the anime brings to the screen through its characters, there are plenty of things to love about it. And whenever a show makes me think I’d like to live in its world, even as a background characters, I have to admit it—I’m hooked.
Important Note: Check out this graphic to see the chronological (recommended) watching order for Hana no Uta and the two OVA sets, Hoshi no Umi and Tsuki ni Naku. Both OVA sets boast the same merits as the main show.
Yes, yes, yes! Unless you’re opposed to fun or tremendous animation, Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta is a blast to watch and a great set a characters to spend a few hours with.
Reasons to Watch:
- Jawdroppingly good animation. Through the entire show.
- Superb audio production in all areas.
- Lovable characters are the best characters to cheer for in a fight.
- Basically just some of the most fun 6 hours you’ll ever have in your life.