If you’re not into Japanese collectible card games, then I wouldn’t expect you to have heard of the Z/X franchise before. It was born in the card game boom of the mid-2010s, Z/X (pronounced Zex, and sometimes called Zillions of Enemy X) joined others such as Weiß Schwarz, Cardfight Vanguard, Luck & Logic, and WIXOSS, but marketed itself as the first physical “free to play” card game as, with it being produced by Broccoli, the parent company of the Gamers chain of entertainment retail stores, they were able to give customers of said stores free packs of the cards. While it never seemed to take off in the same way as its peers, it did end up with a range of manga, TV anime and games.
Z/X Code Reunion then, is the anime adaptation of a spin-off (and sort-of sequel) manga of the same name, set some time after the end of the original TV anime, Z/X Ignition, featuring some of its original characters. While you thankfully don’t need to know anything about Z/X as it is rather stand-alone, it does reference those events from time to time, but gives you enough explanation to get by. To give you some background, Ignition introduces the Z/X as invaders from five coloured dimensions separate from the human world, comprising of Red, Blue, Green, White and Black. Not all of the Z/X are bad however, and wishing to stop the war, join forces with different humans by whom they can be wielded as partners.
Code Reunion focuses on two of the main characters from the original series, Azumi Kagumihara and her Blue World Z/X partner, the sharpshooter Rigel, as they move to attend a newly founded school for Z/X wielders. However, unbeknownst to the students, the school has been founded to combat a new threat called the Inerma, giant and deadly Z/X that hail from another dimension known as Dunamis, home to gods who have locked our dimension in a constant cycle of death and rebirth.
The girls at the school are placed into ranked teams (going from S to E) based on their skill levels, and are ultimately tasked to take on these Inerma whenever they appear. Placed on the lowest ranked team, Azumi now has to deal with not only the Inerma, but her idiotic teammates, as they somehow have to stop the destruction of the world.
On the face of things, the series is a science fiction/schoolgirl battle anime, which is similar to shows such as Battle Girl High School, Symphogear, and indeed its card game brethren WIXOSS and Hina Logi ~from Luck & Logic~. While the core formula may be a cute group of girls teaming up to battle hideous monsters, a lot of the time this one places itself more in the slice-of-life genre, as the girls spend more time goofing off than doing any actual fighting. As such there’s not really much of a plot or a story to this series other than hacking away at its core premise while watching the girls get up to dumb antics like skipping class to go camping, going to the beach, or throwing surprise parties.
While you may be thinking, “Oh, this sounds a lot fluffier than I first thought”, you’d be right, but at the same time that isn’t a bad thing, as it’s decently written enough to tie these events into the main plot as, through the girls’ experiences and bonding, they begin to unlock new skills such as Overboost, which allows a human and a Z/X partner to combine into a more powerful form when they trust and depend on each other enough. These Overboost forms actually look really cool and, as well as offering some really powerful moves, reflect well on the overall designs of the characters.
This is key because it’s the characters that truly drive this series forward and your ultimate enjoyment of it will depend on how much you can bond with them. Personally, I rather liked the five main girls in the rank E team, and although they do start out as pretty annoying, it’s easy to warm up to them in time. Lead protagonist Azumi seems quite wimpy and unsure of herself at first, but slowly starts building up self-confidence through the series until she’s kicking some serious alien behind in the latter stages. Then you have Yuni, who begins as a complete slacker, but after gaining Overboost with her cat-like partner Z/X Amrita, starts to want to help the team a bit more; while Matoi, being the youngest, is basically an annoying kid, yet turns out to be the team’s point character after she gains Overboost with her Z/X Sonne, who takes the appearance of a doll. There’s also samurai nerd Shuri, who is fun enough in her pursuit of training but often seems to get forgotten about, only gaining Overboost with her sword partner Z/X Muramasa in the final episode; and finally, the most interesting and competent of the bunch, Ena, who displays some decent leadership qualities that would make them all an effective team, if only she could actually stamp some authority on them.
There’s a bunch of characters in the other teams as well, but for the most part they are nameless and faceless extras who are only really there to bulk out the student cohort. This presents an issue with a couple of episodes that try to build them in, particularly with the student council and the A and D rank teams, presenting quite major conflicts or incidents where we are supposed to feel something for these characters. However, because we know so little about them, it’s difficult to make an effort to really care about what they are going through, meaning the episodes themselves fall flat.
Despite these episodes being ineffective and the series having an over-abundance of slice-of-life fluff, it still manages to produce a rewarding finale, as it becomes make or break for both the fate of the world and the girls’ friendships. The final sequence isn’t going to blow you away by any means, but it does give us a good range of action sequences that shows that this series may have had some more serious potential lying underneath that was just unlocked too late. Still, if you’ve become invested in the core cast over its twelve-episode run, it’s worthwhile making it to the end.
The series is animated by Passione, and it honestly doesn’t look too bad. The character designs are cute and pretty fun, there are lots of bright colours taking into account the seaside setting, and the action scenes are pretty competently done and are, most importantly, fun to watch. My only major nit-pick was with the costume designs which are downright bad and are occasionally used to oversexualise the characters, forcing them into gym-kit-like battle uniforms which pair Japanese-style bloomers with cyborg-like white stockings or socks. While I kind-of get the image they were going for, it just looks extremely weird and shows off far more butt than needed.
MVM’s release of the series features all twelve episodes in Japanese with English subtitles. The voice acting is generally good and is filled with some popular Japanese talent such as Yui Ogura (Yaya in Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs) voicing Azumi, Aya Uchida (Kotori in Love Live!) voicing Rigel, and Inori Minase (Hestia in Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?) voicing Ena. I did think however, that Aina Suzuki (Love Live! Sunshine!!’s Mari) played warrior-like Shuri just a bit too much on the high side.
The soundtrack, composed by Satoru Kuwabara, is light-hearted and fits the tone of the series well, while the opening theme, “Destiny” by Yui Ogura, is a fitting jam to start each episode. The ending theme, “Girl Meets Girl”, sung by Yui Ogura and Aya Uchida, is pretty cute and fits with the even cuter ending animation. Both textless versions of the opening and ending are available in the extras, along with trailers for other series licensed by Sentai Filmworks.
Overall, I thought Z/X Code Reunion was actually pretty okay. It’s nothing special by any means, but it isn’t bad either. It’s just a fun but whimsical schoolgirl sci-fi action series based on a collectible card game, where being familiar with its source material doesn’t matter too much.