The Sengoku Youko animation and art style — Good? Bad? What could the anime have done better?

Sengoku Youko: Yonaoshi Kyoudai-hen (usually known as simply ‘Sengoku Youko’) — a recent fantasy anime that pits humans against monstrous katawara—has garnered attention for its unique premise and character-driven storytelling.

But what about the White Fox studios-produced art style and animation quality? Are they overwhelmingly good, bad, and what could they have done better?

Let’s take a quick look at the visual aspects of the Sengoku Youko anime series and see why, I think, it is one of the better more recent shounen anime out there when it comes to both its art and animation.

Several Sengoku Youko character designs standout, including that of Resshin – especially when he transforms

The good: Its solid foundation

Overall, the Sengoku Youko art style and animation quality is commendable, as it sticks pretty close to mangaka Satoshi Mizukami’s original work, but in a cleaner-lined version. Especially considering the show’s relatively modest profile.

Character Design: The character designs are solid and distinct.

Each member of the main cast—Tama, Jinka, and Shinsuke—has a unique appearance that reflects their personalities. Tama’s fox-like features, Jinka’s sullen but mysterious aura, and Shinsuke’s nervous but still determined expression all contribute to their appeal.

Supporting characters are also nicely designed, with several standouts (Mountain God, Resshin and Douren) proving character designer Shinpei Kobayashi really put some thought into how they should appear for maximum effect.

Sengoku Youko‘s character design is also at its best during characters’ transformation scenes, when otherwise almost-ordinary looking characters become wild, dramatic and sometimes scary.

Fluid Action: During Sengoku Youko‘s combat sequences, the animation maintains its fluidity.

Sword clashes, magical attacks, and acrobatic movements are well-executed, with much of it taking place at very high speed. This makes the katawara battles come alive on screen, and captures the intensity of their fights.

The transformations of different characters are also beautifully done and, so fast in some instances, I played back several scenes at 25% of their speed just to see that transformation take place.

Attention to Detail: While not groundbreaking, the Sengoku Youko animation pays attention to small details, and that does have an impact on your enjoyment of the show.

Characters’ expressions change subtly, or they will almost imperceptibly shift on their feet as they prepare to fight, and the world the anime takes place in feels alive.

Whether it’s Tama’s fox ears twitching, the rustling leaves in the forest or the rippling of the water, the way Douren bounces as his tiger form gets ready to massacre Jinka, or how Jinka’s face quickly changes from neutral to scowl  — these nice touches enhance the viewing experience.

The not-so-good

However, the Sengoku Youko animation isn’t without its flaws. Flaws that, while not massively annoying, are still apparent throughout.

Static Frames: A small percentage of the anime’s frames suffer from some stiffness. Characters will even occasionally freeze in place during non-action scenes, which can be jarring, as it disrupts the anime’s flow and the viewers’ immersion.

Limited Dynamic Shots: While Sengoku Youko‘s combat scenes are almost universally impressive, especially as the anime gets closer to its end, the series sometimes lacks dynamic camera angles.

That means the camera often remains at eye level, thus missing opportunities for more visually engaging shots. Had the cinematography had a wider range of perspectives, the rest of the anime away from the action scenes could have been even more vibrant and exciting.

Backgrounds: Some of the backgrounds, while serviceable, lack the intricate details seen in top-tier anime. They serve their purpose but rarely stand out. A more vibrant and textured world would have enhanced the overall aesthetic, and made the anime even more enjoyable.

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Despite its, I would say, minor imperfections, Sengoku Youko’s animation quality doesn’t hinder the anime’s core strength — its superb character development and its captivating story.

Because Sengoku Youko is so well-written, viewers connect with Tama, Jinka, and Shinsuke almost immediately because of their relatable struggles and growth, and connect with them and other characters (Shakugan, for instance) even more as the anime continues and those struggles become even more apparent.

Verdict: Sengoku Youko‘s art style and animation

In the grand scheme of things, Sengoku Youko strikes a balance with both its art style and animation.

The anime doesn’t aim for jaw-dropping visuals or mind-blowing animation, although it does feature them in a handful of action scenes, but maintains its consistency throughout instead.

So much so, even when the animation quality falls it isn’t disastrous, so it still doesn’t detract from the story’s impact.

Instead the Sengoku Youko art style and animation supports the characters’ journeys and the unfolding mystery of human-monster experimentation that, at the end of Season 1, has led us to where we are now.

As the first cour concludes, and a second cour is confirmed to be premiering in July, I hope that future episodes of Sengoku Youko build upon the solid foundation White Fox has created, so that its second cour is even better.

After all, while Sengoku Youko may not be a visual spectacle, it is obviously an anime that was created with a lot of passion by the folks at White Fox.

In other words, a reminder that even imperfect animation can house some of the most captivating tales, and the most enjoyable experiences.

All 13 episodes of the first cour of Sengoku Youko are streaming now on Crunchyroll.

About Michelle Topham

I'm a Brit-American journalist who spent a decade covering the anime and manga industries while living in Asia. Now based in Vienna, Austria and currently obsessed with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, KONOSUBA, The Archdemon's Dilemma, Kaiju No. 8, and the Boys' Love danmei Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation.