Content Warning: Fantasy Gore
What’s It About? Miwa Kakeru, a high schooler who survives a deadly disaster, gets involved in a battle between high-powered suits and oni, demons that hail from the Demon World in order to prey on humanity. Only a “Yoroi” (one of those high-powered suits) can protect humans from oni, and thanks to their fusion of ancient knowledge and cutting-edge tech, they give humanity a chance. But when Kakeru puts on a Yoroi and gets caught up in the mix, he finds himself pledging himself to protect Myoji Ouka, a shrine maiden destined to save the world from the looming oni threat.
So, here we are, once again: back at it with anime in this sunny, autumnal season. And today, we’re spending time with Shikizakura (stylized as the all-caps SHIKIZAKURA) a show that forced me to re-up my HiDive subscription, which… after watching this episode, I’m a bit disgruntled about. But I digress, and honestly, I needed to do that anyways.
That all said, I’m not going to eat up too much more of your time: let’s wade deep into this premiere y’all. No time like the present and all that.
Episode 1, “Hope / Start” opens with an actually fantastic CGI fight that feels a bit like Promare, but less queer-coded. It’s here that we see the oni, purple-red entities who surround two fighters fending off a volley of blades beneath a lavender-moon. This is backset by really solid sound design mixed with Japanese instrumentation and acapella vocals, which really set the atmosphere for Shikizakura in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Hard cut to the future with Miwa Kakeru, now a high school student about to set out on the school trip. By all appearances, he’s just… kind of a guy. Then the plot kicks in, and we realize that Kakeru is destined for so much more than his life in Nagoya. This is also where we meet Oka (written as Ouka in a few places, but localized as Oka in the HiDive subtitles) who is, at first glance, a kind of flighty young woman who’s lost. That is, until the oni reveal themselves about a third the way into the episode and… gosh, well, there’s not really much else to say because it’s pretty bog standard stuff, and all of it is geared towards jumping Kakeru into the plot himself.
Pretty much all of Shikizakura is done in CGI that looks somewhat 2.5D. And for the most part, it’s fine: I wouldn’t say it’s my personal preference, but it doesn’t look bad, except for a few moments where characters eyes have that dead fish kind of way. It reminds me of BACKFLIP!!, though it’s not as smooth and definitely not as charming–which is definitely my personal taste shining through. And while things never dip to the levels of Tesla Note, there’s this stagnant feeling that never goes away. I’m never convinced that I’m not watching a video game cutscene from like, 2011. It’s all just generically bland, save for the really cool-looking mech suit designs, which kind of saved this premiere for me.
However, that’s not to say that Shikizakura doesn’t have its charms: there’s definitely moments where the animation is incredibly expressive, especially concerning Kakeru, our intrepid lead who has major shonen protag vibes. I’d also like to shoutout the opening, which is really nicely animated and features the song “BELIEVE MYSELF” by singer Asaka. Also, shoutout to “Shikizakura” the ED, which is performed by May’n and feels just as good as the OP.
ALSO. I feel the need to mention that Shikizakura definitely drops in some hella good English, largely because this series employed a native speaker, Caitlin Macatee for the role of “Foreigner” (this is how it’s listed on ANN). It was enough that I got jarred out of my watch, had to rewind, and then was like, “Damn, thanks for hiring some good talent!” I’d really like to see more anime do this: that is, using foreign talent, especially in Japan, for English or non-Japanese roles. I think there’s a lot of meaning in that, especially since Japan already has a sizable pool to pull from.
I’ll be honest: I’m not sure if I’d have watched Shikizakura on my own. It’s not a genre I like to play in, and as far as premieres, it’s kind of middling, and at times quite boring. This is partially because it’s just kind of plot soup: a little bit of this, a little bit of that, with a heavy dash of tropes and plot elements that feel good on their own but together are just kind of the same old same old we’ve seen in seasons before. There’s time where things are solid, but by and large, I got caught up on the animation and just the kind of meh-ness of the plot. It’s not that things are bad, it’s just that they’re kind of not exciting.
Overall it’s just kind of not my thing, though you know me: I’m glad this series exist because it’ll definitely have an audience.I don’t think it’d be a waste of time because I do think the premiere ultimately sets up some neat stuff. I just didn’t find it fascinating enough to want to put Shikizakura on my already lengthy list.