Something’s always bothered me about contemporary “spirit-hunting” stories. I find myself wondering why these spirits just now becoming a problem. Why didn’t someone hunt this demon/ghost/whatever a long time ago? Especially when I hear the whole “our organization’s been doing this since the dawn of time” bullshit. Won’t the demons eventually go extinct?
I don’t buy it. The worst is when there’s a speech about how normal people are unaware of the demons, and yet said demons cause mass destruction at some point within the series, or people manage to find out about them. What took so long? In the entire history of this demon-fighting organization, why is the main character the first outsider to ever witness a slaying? (At least it’s not as bad as a centuries-old being with the mind of a high-schooler, though.)
There’re shows that get around these pitfalls, and I applaud them. Natsume Yuujinchou is a great example—Natsume has to deal with spirits not because they’re causing mischief and he needs to tame them all or something, but because he’s trying to give their names back after his grandmother stole them. It makes perfect sense that no one’s done his job already because it’s a specific thing that he’s doing.
Another series I love for something like this is Vampire Hunter D. To begin with, vampire hunting in D isn’t like ghost or demon hunting—it’s more like dragon hunting in high fantasy stories, where only the most badass person alive can hunt a vampire. Moreover, Vampire Hunter D convincingly explains the entire history of how vampire hunters came to exist with a backstory that covers thousands of years. (The story takes place in like the 15,000s.)
But Otome Youkai Zakuro tackles my biggest gripe with demon/ghost hunting stories, which is the idea that changes in society could cause demons to go crazy.
It’s an age-old story type that usually paints us as living in special times. It’s always these modern times that’ve finally ruined the world, and now spirits and plants and shit are pissed at the human race. Even one of my favorite movies, Hellboy 2, has the same story. Why’d it take all these centuries of humans fucking things up before Prince Nuada finally lost his shit? That’s what I mean.
Otome Youkai Zakuro is cool because it picks the perfect time for the issue to make sense. The show is about Japanese spirits that’re losing their shit over Westernization and “Jesuit” intrusion.
What better time for spirits to freak out? Humans had respected them up until now, and they’d been living with the same customs for the hundreds of years that they live. This was a turning point for spirits, and the best part is, it’s a real part of history! Were it not for the fact that Japan had been isolated for so long and then got Westernized virtually all at once like it did, this plot wouldn’t be possible.
To me, seeing spirits react to specific things like a new calendar or new food is much more interesting than seeing them whine about how the wastefulness of the 21st Century is killing mother earth.
Otome Youkai Zakuro has a fairly positive view on the Westernization. There’s a classic “whose side are us halflings on?” scene where the main girls are treated like shit by humans in spite of having saved their asses, but in general, it looks like the spirits want peace and don’t have a strong drive to fight back. Besides Zakuro, the girls are having fun with the new calendar and Western treats, and they’ve all fallen for their assigned Western boyfriends pretty hard.
But that only makes sense. I imagine the Westernization process was similar in real life to what it is in this show. I’d like to think the spirits end up getting along well with things, and that the end result of Otome Youkai Zakuro is something like Kamichu.
Bonus: I forgot to leave a bonus so here’s a random-ass Vampire Hunter D AMV set to one of my favorite songs lol.