Series: Hakuoki,Hakuouki: Shinsengumi Kitan, Hakuouki Hekketsuroku, Hakuouki Movie 1: Kyoto Ranbu, Hakuouki Movie 2: Shikon Soukyuu, Hakuouki Sekkaroku ( season1 and 2, both movies and OVA)
Release: 2010 April 4
Genre: Action, Historical, Supernatural, Drama, Samurai, Josei
Director: Osamu Yamasaki
Writer: Original Concept by Tsunekiyo Fujisawa
Studio: Studio Deen
Number of episodes: 28 episodes + 2 movies (including OVA)
The series takes place around 1860 in Japan. The protagonist is a 16 year old girl who, in search of her father, travels to Kyoto where she is attacked by rogue samurai and strange inhuman creatures. Luckily she is saved by members of a group called the “Shinsengumi”. However, having witnessed one of their most guarded secrets, she is brought back to their headquarters as a prisoner. There, she will face their judgment.
The story is about a group of young handsome men forming a bond with the 16 year old girl Chizuru that will change their lives forever.
As someone who’s not a fan of samurai anime (Chanbara anime) at all, I was genuinely shocked when I ended up enjoying Hakuouki. I can’t stand all that crap about honor, especially honorable suicide. I just can't understand how someone could willingly take their own life.
I have also watched many reverse harem anime, but none were quite like this one. This is where you can clearly see the difference between shojo and josei reverse-harem anime. Shojo, deals with rather childish problems, just for the sake of comic relief, most of the time, while josei deals with more mature situations. I must admit that I’m not a fan of either genre. Shojo just annoys me most of the time with its characters' stupid antics while josei bores me. As I said, I was genuinely surprised when I ended up enjoying Hakuouki.
Hakuouki is adapted from a visual novel of the same name which is based on real events. Of course, we all know that “based on” simply means that, barring some minor details, a major chunk of the material is fantasy.
As far as the story goes it wasn’t without its faults. The anime’s pacing was fine for the most part, even though the second season was rushed. Characters were killed off too fast. Moreover, one of the main characters just disappeared from the story. We aren’t even told what happens to him. I understand that this anime is supposed to be a romance/reverse harem, but if they were going to follow through with the historical-political bullshit it would have been more satisfying had they developed it more instead of leaving it half baked. It felt like they were trying to put too much stuff into this story while forgetting to develop or connect everything.
The movies were a recap of season one and two, and the pacing there was like “The Flash”. However, some scenes that made it into the movie never featured in the anime. That caused some important moments to make less sense than they should. Consider the scene where one of the main characters promised to meet Chizuru in Aizu. No such moment appeared in the anime leaving us wondering who he meant by “a friend”. The movie had many scenes that were different from what happened in the anime, but in the long run it made the plot better.
The OVA just captured some fluffy moments between Chizuru and the boys.
The main character is a 16 year old girl who is supposed to be really strong. However, all we see is her being protected by the guys- thus, playing out a typical female character. The problem is that, like I said, she is supposed to be strong, but her strength isn’t even showcased. After realizing her true identity, she still remains a weak little girl. Then there is the fact that she can't use a sword as well as any of the guys. Even when “the best swordsman” of the group acknowledges her skills, she is still unable to use the sword to protect herself. This is really frustrating because, rather than the protagonist, she feels like a background character that can do nothing more than service the guys.
The boys have many cliché harem personalities like tsundere and kuudere, but at the same time they are so much more. These characters don’t pretend to be good. They fight for what they believe in. They all have different reasons to fight for and it’s interesting to watch them follow their paths and what they are willing to risk to reach their goals. The dynamic that all those different personalities exude just engulfs the viewer, making them more attached to the characters.
The relationship of the boys with Chizuru should be the focal point of the anime, but it just feels like she is their servant most of the time. Sure, she helps them solve their problems, but sometimes it feels forced. Especially in the second season, where she seems to care just about one of them. It’s kind of sad since the boys deserve more than forced attention.
Animation and Art Style:
In the movies the animation is spectacular and much better than in the anime, where it lacked detail. The anime is quite plain: the characters expressions aren’t that well drawn and even deformed in some scenes while the colors were bland most of the time. However, at least the light fell on the right spot and seemed to go well with the mood they were trying to portray.
The character designs were beautiful, especially the boys. They all looked like idols and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I believe that fan service is necessary, because not everyone enjoys watching some old bearded men fighting. By that I mean anime that focuses on being more realistic and portrays its characters in a more mature way; the ones that don’t idolize characters. Anyway, visually everything looked better in the movies and in season two. Season 1 seemed to want just a passing mark.
The ending and opening themes were really good. The insert music during the episodes complemented the scenes quite well. As far as the character voices go, even though they looked like idols at least their speech pattern fitted the era.
While Hakuouki has many flaws/plot holes it still has an enjoyable story. This anime isn’t for everyone and you should never start watching it with high expectations, but If you love hot guys fighting each other and enjoy reverse harem then this anime is for you.