This review is for both seasons of Hakkenden, albeit the first is a little better than the second, it is anyway the same story. It's an average anime with several flaws, but all in all watchable and enjoyable.
It's one of those anime that deal with spirits, myths, legends, sacred animals and reincarnated warriors from the past being gathered in the present. There's also a weird version of the Catholic Church which has an ambiguous role, sometimes aiding sometimes hindering the protagonists. The protagonists start off as three, Shino, Sousuke and Hamaji, who were the sole survivors of a disaster that hit their village and are now in the custody of the Church. Shino was saved because he accepted to let a spirit, Murasami, dwell within him - and this resulted in Shino not ageing anymore, so he has the aspect of a kid even if he is actually older. The three friends move to the capital and here the story is basically set in motion: Shino finds out that the two beads that he and Sousuke have are important and he is assigned the task to recover the other six. Each bead is obviously in the hand of a different person, so the cast starts increasing. I won't add anything else to avoid spoilers, but the story makes sense enough and there is a sort of "open ending" at the end of the second season, some things were left intentionally unresolved hoping, I guess, in a third season. Apart from the possibility to continue the story in another season, there are however several plot holes and things that are not explained, as well as characters who make an appearance but are then not developed at all. This makes me think that probably the story the anime is based on is much more complex and the creators didn't know very well how to condense it in the anime adaptation. So sometimes you get the impression that there isn't a very clear direction as to where the whole story is headed. As well as the distinct feeling that the bad guys have no idea of what they're really after.
As for the characters, there are quite a lot. You have the seven "dogs" of the title, Sousuke's shadow, Hamaji, then there's the representatives of the four families; and nearly each character then has a sister or a guardian spirit or animal that further increases the plethora of secondary characters. The characters, main and secondary, are presented quite well, they each have distinctive features, personalities and a back story. As for character development, there isn't that much to be seen. The anime is primarily about Shino and Sousuke's relationship, so it's centred on their friendship, which pretty much stays the same during the whole anime. Sousuke looks after and looks out for Shino as an older brother would, and Shino is the spoilt and wilfull brat who needs to be continuously bailed out of trouble but who cares very deeply for his friends. And obviously if the two main characters are developed painfully little, even less so are the other ones. The antagonists also suffer from this lack of development which results in them acting in sometimes incomprehensible ways. This goes for Sousuke's shadow, but mainly for the bad princess and the Church whose motivations are unclear, and the little that is explained appears to be quite stupid.
The animation and visuals are very good. The characters are for the most part all bishounen, which didn't bother me at all. As for the sound, no complaints.
So overall, an average anime.
Taken from my account in myanimelist (with some changes)
Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun is an historical and supernatural anime that revolves around the story of 18 years old Inuzuka Shino, Inukawa Sousuke, and Murasame. Inuzuka Shino was supposed to be dead 5 years ago without the help of Saitome Riou. Riou 'implanted' Murasame in Shino's body to have a second chance in life but the price was that Shino will never die and will always be trapped in a 13 years old body of his. Inukawa Sousuke was also revived but had to live in a consequences of having half of his soul was gone and have the ability of transforming to a dog named Yoshiro.
Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun is a masterpiece in its own league, having the perfect collaboration within the characters like Sousuke being a big brother to Shino, Riou's superiority to Shino, and many more; and also the perfect layout of unfolding and revealing mysteries such as Ao being Sousuke's shadow, Murasame's true form, Riou's claim of its his duty to give his blood to Shino, and all the bead holders' last names have "Inu" in them and have the same situations on how they had the beads.
Unlike in supernatural animes, Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun has a unique point of master-demons relationships. For example, Murasame and other demons are very vengeful to the people who harmed their masters, very dangerous when they sensed someone threatening their masters' safety, and very obedient to their masters. An example of this was Murasame devouring Shouichi when Shouichi shot Shino at his neck, causing Shino to be dead; Yatsufusa's obedience towards Rio, Hibiki's over protectiveness towards Ayane, Yukihime's possessiveness towards Inuyama Dousetsu and the casual relationship between the Five Foxes and Osaki Kaname. Also, the element of transforming a human to a demon without going berserk and claiming to be "good demons" like Inuta Kobungo and Inukai Genpachi.
What Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun fun to watch is the relationship of the characters to each other and the personality of each, which made a good balancing in the anime. In other animes, portraying the relationship of the characters in details can sometimes makes the story draggging and boring but in this case, it was different. It had a flavor of a good balance of relationships without inserting some dramatic events.
The protagonist's, Shino's, growth can be seen as well. At that start of the series, Shino will always be seen in Sousuke's side but later on, Shino hanging out to the other characters and meet other people like Kouhaku, and also the realization of the world, like Shino's statement to Kouhaku: “I didn’t understand that there are people who didn’t fear death, but instead falter at that thought of living.”
However, the story itself lack the appeal of 'hunger craving' unlike in most anime. Seemingly like an adventure with a goal that is vague, the story did not progress that great but the flow of the story wanders around the building of greater bonds between the characters, which failed to satisfy my own lust and ended up pretty bland. Although there's no harm in making the bonds of each characters stronger, for Hakkenden, it did not go well. Only in the last episode did my curiousity picks up when a secret was revealed.
Overall, Hakkende: Touhou Hakken Ibun is ecommended for the people who are carving in a different ride of supernatural animes. There are no girls pairing up to these beautiful boys but these boys are pairing up each other themselves (xD); Shino's clingy attitude towards Sousuke and Genpachi's love to Shino. Of course, there's an exception, Hamaji's and Kaname's love to each other (Kaname said himself that he wants to marry Hamaji when she is old enough to marry)
“I told you that I’m afraid of dying, but I think being left all alone in this world is much more painful than death. However, if only there’d be someone by my side to hold my hand, then I’m sure I’d neither fear the thought of life nor death.” -Shino Inuzuka
Hakkenden was one of the two animes of the meager 2013 Spring season, which surprised me and I ended up to like. I was kinda skeptical at first, because of the many bishounen characters. Sorry, but most time those animes are kinda poor in my opinion. So I started the anime with low expectations.
There was a tragical plague of a whole town named Ootsuka. Mysteriously there were three survivors. Those three are living in an isolated church. One of the boys named Shino is the holder of the legendary sword Murasame, which is described as the sword of life. Now the main church is wanting to get that sword and the peaceful days of our survivors will end here.
Stop! You think that sounds like a text-book anime? Well, not at all. At least from the second epsiode on, you will enter in a anime world with questions, surprises and secrets.
Well, the setting is set between the traditional japanese world of ghosts, gods and demon and the christian church with a stronger emphasize on the japanese part. Sometimes Hakkenden gives a tiny Mononoke Hime feeling like by a certain episode, maybe because of the japanese god setting. And especially the dog Yatsufusa from Rio reminds me of the 'Moro no Kimi' from Princess Mononoke. I personally would never dream to set those settings together. But it surprisingly worked out quiete well in my opinion.
I think the strongest point of the series is definitely the story. It is not one straight line, but telling a cleverly fragmented and interweaved story with the legend of the eight dogs as background. Through the whole series you get keep feed with the righ amount of information and questions, when Shino and his friends are accomplishing their missions. Each episode exploit it's full potential. On the one hand they have the function to introduce the characters and Shino himself further and on the other they are giving out one puzzle of information each time. So you are diving deeper and deeper into this world with the time. I especially like the little last arc seriously.
People, who set great value upon stories will be well served by Hakkenden in my opinion.
The animation and backgrounds are on a good average TV series, even though you can see that the production doesn't belong to the highest-cost ones. You already can tell the animation difference between the first and second season of Hakkenden. Looks like they got more budget for the second season because of the success.
In my point of view the fighting scenes are OK, but could have been better. But if you consider the budget and orientation of the female audience (doesn't mean that the anime isn't suitable for the males), then it's well done.
The BGM fits the setting and anime pretty well and captured the feeling nicely. Most time there are medival or folklore sounding pieces, which works with the setting greatly. You always feel the presence of the soundtrack in the background.
Well, I personally love the OP. Sound or lyrical or voice-wise, I can't think of a better song for the opening of this anime.
The seiyuus did a good job like always, but I can't find any outstanding or special perfomances.
Due the few episodes and still a fairly amount of appearing (good-looking) characters, it is hard to get to know every character deeply. The protagonist Shino is a sympathetic young teenager, who also most time behave like that, but still isn't like the typical shounen hero (Luffy, Naruto,...). Because that he is seen in every episode, you get to know him the best and can make the best connection with him.
As already mentioned due the time matter, the secondary cast is still a little bit blank and some characters seems to be stereotypic and boring (Kobungo INUTA, Genpachi INUKAI) to me. But especially due that some characters not wholely seen, you want to know more about them like Murasame, Sosuke or Rio. Every char is still likeable to me, some more (like Kaname) and some less. I guess with the second season the character rating can get higher.
I assume it's still a more unknown und underrated anime. Hakkenden easily goes over my normal expectations and I think it's definitely worth watching, especially who attach importance to the story section.
To the male audience: there are two or three little scences with a shounen-ai undertone. But those are really short and light. You can consider it as a fanservice for the females. So if you can bear with it, you may give a try to watch Hakkenden. (hello, I also survived those fanservices for the males from CG 2, OK? Then you definitely should be OKwith Hakkenden. It's nothings compared to CG2 lol)
Besides of that you get a reverse harem feeling sometimes, even though it totally isn't the case by Hakkenden. It's maybe because of the many bishies. You don't have a nice and naive teenage heroine here. There's Hamaji as a female support, but I do like her and she didn't give me creeps lol. In general I'm rather bad with the reverse or normal harem genre. So I don't think you have to worry here.
All in all the studio has done the best with the budget.
DC STAMP: worth-watching lol