Otome Youkai Zakuro may be this season’s “shoujo” anime, but beneath the sparkly flow­ery bishies, the Ouran–esque cast of shoujo arche­types, and the fast track to fluffy romance, there also lies a com­par­a­tive tale of cul­tural encroach­ment and admix­ture. After all, we may be set in an alter­nate Meiji-era Japan, but it still par­al­lels the West­ern­iza­tion prac­tices of the period, and the ensu­ing clashes of tra­di­tions between West­ern and Japan­ese customs.

After the Toku­gawa Shogu­nate, which saw West­ern influ­ences as a threat to Japan­ese soci­ety, was over­thrown after the Meiji Restora­tion, the re-established Impe­r­ial Gov­ern­ment soon took on a pol­icy of West­ern­iza­tion and de-Asianization which lead to the rapid eco­nomic and tech­no­log­i­cal rise of Japan. The ini­tial steps in accom­plish­ing this always involve the intro­duc­tion of for­eign indus­trial and mil­i­tary advis­ers into the local sys­tem, and as a result our three bishies were invited into Youkai soci­ety to not only fos­ter bet­ter rela­tions, but also to intro­duce their ‘mod­ern’ meth­ods of orga­ni­za­tion and techniques.

The spin here is that the tra­di­tion­al­ists, Zakuro and com­pany, are the ones treated as if they were large-nosed white for­eign­ers walk­ing down the streets of Meiji Japan…

Cul­tural expan­sion­ism and con­flict always comes as a part of fos­ter­ing rela­tion­ships between soci­eties, there is no way around this, and Zakuro directly intro­duces it to us as both sides of the inter­ra­cial pro­mo­tion board frown and puz­zle over each oth­ers’ lifestyles and practices.

For sam­ple, some­thing as sim­ple as drink­ing milk. While Europe may have the agrar­ian tra­di­tion of milk drink­ing which evolved into a dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem with milk bot­tles at the doorsteps, East Asian com­mon­ers don’t prac­tice this and lean far more towards the soy side of pro­teins, from Japan­ese Natto to Chi­nese soy milk, both daily break­fast sta­ples. This tra­di­tion can be traced down to a genetic level: one study in Amer­ica dis­cov­ered that the T allele ‘lac­tase genetic marker’ asso­ci­ated with milk drinkers could be found in 77% of Euro­pean Amer­i­cans, 13% of African Amer­i­cans, and 0% in East Asians — with­out adaquate pro­duc­tion of the lac­tase enzyme to break down the lac­tose, many Asians are sim­ply unable to con­sume fresh milk on a bio­log­i­cal level.

Age­maki Kei’s youkai-phobia is sym­bolic of the fear many have towards alien cus­toms, exag­ger­ated for sake of hilar­ity~ I know more than one Asian have pan­icked over the array of forks and knives before them after sit­ting down at a for­mal West­ern din­ner table; the President’s cour­tesy bow to the Japan­ese Emperor is as icky as shak­ing the trunk of an elephant-man (the exact pos­ture, depth, and length of bows in Japan is a pretty big deal); there’s also  2DT har­bor­ing his fears over the Asian toilet…

So, just as a cou­ple comes to under­stand one another through the pas­sage of time, the same must be done between cul­tures— quite a delight­ful dou­ble expe­ri­ence Zakuro offers~

But drink­ing milk? No thanks, I’ll pass.

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12 Responses to “Otome Youkai Zakuro and the Cultural Divide: Got Milk?”
  1. RyanA says:

    Hmm, inter­est­ing point on the milk. I won­der why we see char­ac­ters drink­ing milk some­times (or is that not raw/fresh milk), and the best exam­ple I can think of is Onizuka maybe.

    Very much enjoyed this first episode :>

    • Aorii says:

      I’m not com­pletely sure. I know it’s some­thing that’s been encour­aged a lot in Asia since every1 believes chug­ging milk helps height growth but… (shrug).

  2. chikorita157 says:

    Hmm, the lac­tose with milk is a pretty inter­est­ing fact con­sid­er­ing that I am from East­ern Asian Decent (Chi­nese). This is prob­a­bly a rea­son why soy milk is very pop­u­lar in asian food stores.

    As for the show, it seems inter­est­ing, but I have way too much on my plate to cover another Anime. I’ll shall wait until the reviews to ulti­mately see if the show is worth watch­ing.
    chikorita157´s last post: Taste Test Part I – Shin­ryaku! Ika MusumeMy ComLuv Profile

    • Aorii says:

      Soy milk’s texture/taste sim­ply agrees with Asians a lot more~

      You should think about check­ing it out though xD, at least some more shoujo in your EXP would help all those genre mis­takes you made when talk­ing about Kai­chou =P

  3. KrimzonStriker says:

    Good review, I was wait­ing for some­one else to notice these rather sub­tle but inter­est­ing mes­sages just under­neath the sur­face of this series. It gave it new depth by intro­duc­ing a clash of cul­tures and how that was reflected in the soci­ety of the time. A very good review, and I hope to see more like it in the future pend­ing the show man­ages to fol­low up on the premise.

    • Aorii says:

      Thanks~
      Well given the comedic pre­sen­ta­tion, this wouldn’t be some­thing most peo­ple think of while watch­ing it xD
      I just hope the show keeps it up; too many series uses stuff like this kinda stuff as one-shot flings >.<

  4. Xiao says:

    Very infor­ma­tive post as always. I can see the par­al­lelism of West and East in the rela­tion­ship between humans and the youkai.

    lol, the men­tion about milk reminded me of when my doc­tor told me to switch to 2% milk instead of whole milk for the very same rea­son and she said it’d make me fat even though I’ve been drink­ing whole milk all my life. xD;

    Also, you do know this is cat­e­go­rized as seinen, right? (I know it’s weird) Just wanted to make sure. ^^;

    • Aorii says:

      lol that explains the fox­ears and crappy uni­forms; I ques­tioned whether this was actu­ally shoujo before but the entire first episode was just too shoujo that I ended up com­pletely think­ing of it that way xD

  5. rune_devros says:

    I never knew that about milk. Some­how my inabil­ity to have milk has gone away over the years. I can drink it pretty much fine nowadays.

    Might add Zakuro to the list of things to fol­low. The his­tor­i­cal set­ting with a fan­tasy ele­ment is kind of appeal­ing to me.

    • Aorii says:

      one can get used to it, I guess.
      his­tor­i­cal fan­tasy set­ting is the best~ and most series that fol­low it have been really good so :D

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