Chizuru's story starts off in quite a common manner ( minus the rounin who are chasing her for reasons unknown ). Her father goes missing and she decides that it's been far too long since she heard from him so armed with a sword and a boy's attire, she sets out. Only to attract the attention of rounin who have nothing better do than chase a "boy" who did nothing to them ( I still have no idea why they were chasing her but well, rounin are rounin and we need something to start off with ).
Much to Chizuru's horror, the rounin are cut down by demon-like men, their hair gleaming white in the dark of the night. And they're about to cut her down too, when three men suddenly appear and save the day. But no, these men are not your conventional heroes. They are part of the Shinsengumi, a group of "police officers" whom the general population share no feelings of camaraderie for, at that time, a rebellion was slowly stirring.
Chizuru is handled none-too-gently for witnessing what happened and the Vice-Commander, Hijikata Toushizou is convinced that "he" must be killed. The gentle Commander, Kondou Isami is hesitant and we are slowly introduced to the other characters at this point. Okita Souji, Saitou Hajime, Harada Sanosuke, Toudou Heisuke, Nagakura Shinpachi and Sannan Keisuke. Chizuru is saved by the fact that the Shinsengumi too, is searching for her father and they they agree to keep her with them until he is found.
Hakuouki is a historical anime and still surprisingly, all the main male characters are models of the real-life people, apart from Sannan-san. One thing that you'll love about the anime is the male characters. All of them, while fiercely protective of Chizuru, do not display what typical reverse harem boys do. They don't constantly try to grab her attention or sweep her off her feet, only trying to cheer her up and sharing their true feelings with her. If there are any special feelings, the boys give way to the canon couple because there is no time to fight over love when everything they've been fighting for is falling apart.
Chizuru, while spending time with the group, discovers quite accidentally exactly why the Shinsengumi are searching for her father and is shocked. A not-so-chance meeting with a mysterious blond who is after her reveals much about herself that even she had no idea about.
Most people describe Chizuru as a spineless character who is of absolutely no use but I think that's exactly what she exists for - to bring out the best of the male characters. It's true that she's mostly unable to fight for herself, having to constantly depend on others but it's not exactly her fault. She has the ability to move on and tries her best to help others.
The anime managed to capture my attention with the events that were going on. Slowly but surely, the cogs of fate began to turn and started breaking down the protective shield that made the Shinsengumi what it was. Hakuouki is not at all the sparkles and rainbows it appears to be. The events of the anime faithfully follow what happened in real life and then you begin to realise that victory doesn't come as easily as it appears to.
Even so, Hakuouki is intriguing exactly because of that. Enemies and evil are not black and white. It's a blend of colours, never singular and that's exactly what the inevitable war that the Shinsengumi are about to face is. The end of this first season points towards more bloodshed, tragedy and unfortunate events. At this point of time, can they keep holding on?
The characters are not one-sided. They have flaws, their own personalities and they make decisions that might not always be the right thing. Their lives, quite refreshingly, do not centre around the female lead and the choices they make might, at times, be surprising. If you're someone like me who has a strong interest in historical events, then Hakuouki is the anime for you. It explores what happened in a truly gripping way.
I fell in love with the OP and ED but the OSTs are quite mediocre. The voice acting, however, was superb and the characters were really expressed well, especially Okita's voice, which I really fell in love with and Chikage, whom Tsuda Kenjirou-san voiced ( I absolutely loved him as Spanner ).
The animation was one of the strong points, in my opinion, Hakuouki is rightfully not tagged reverse harem but the bishounen quality is still there and the colours are kind of dark-themed, there aren't really any bright colours.
Hakuouki, as the first part of the series, did a wonderful job of introducing the characters to us and I will explore the second season in my review for it.
It's not just fans of historical anime, I honestly don't think action fans will be disappointed by this either and if you're a huge fan of romance, then Hakuouki will definitely fulfill your thirst for it. Masochistic people ( like me ) who just can't stop watching tragedies, then, this, surprisingly might just be your cup of tea.
Hakuouki is an anime made by Studio DEEN, who have, in recent years, gained infamy for putting their names to a variety of very poor shows in recent years, as well as making a horribly butchered adaptation of Umineko. So, does Hakuouki enter the ranks of awful DEEN series, or does it redeem the studio? Well, put simply, it is terrible. It is a perfect example of why DEEN are a bad studio. There isn't a single good thing about it.
But before I get into the details about why Hakuouki is horrible, let's just sum up what Hakuouki is about for those not familiar with the series. The series is introduced with a young "boy" trying to escape from a strange vampire-like demon. At the last minute, "he" is saved by a group of samurai, who then take "him" hostage. As it turns out, the "boy" has seen more than he should have done, and is now being held captive by a large group of suspiciously attractive men. As it also turns out, the boy is named Chizuru and is not a boy, and is a girl disguising as one. If this sounds cliché to you then that's probably because it is.
As it turns out, Chizuru is looking for her father, a doctor who went missing in Kyoto. Later on, it turns out that her father is involved with the medicine that turns men into the aforementioned vampires that are never once called vampires in spite of being nocturnal creatures once human but now superhuman who lust after human blood.
Now, the biggest problem with Hakuouki is, rather simply, that it is boring. Throughout the entire 12 episodes, the show held my interest for maybe 5 seconds at most. Despite being a show about swordsmen and demons, there is very little action. While a similar statement can be made of Saraiya Goyou, a similarly themed show that aired at the same time, the fact is that while the latter keeps the viewer's interest with a quirky style, fascinating dialogue, and originality, Hakuouki does nothing of the sort. Hakuouki is rather bland, having no real selling point other than the cast of bishonens. Stylistically, the themes that run through Hakuouki have been done before many times, and better. And the worst complaint that can be said of it is the dialogue. Hakuouki is an adaptation of a visual novel, but it doesn't seem to understand the "adaptation" part of that. Everything in this show is just talking. The action is almost never focused on, and is completely weightless when it is. The plot has no intrigue or suspense. It is just talking. This could have been forgiveable, but even worse is that the dialogue isn't even good. It's just boring and lifeless, and it begs the question of why this was taken from a VN at all when it simply acts exactly like one.
Now, I said before that the selling point of the show is the bishonens, but there's a problem with that too. As a heterosexual male, I know that I am not the target audience, but there are still some clear problems even taking that into account. For a start, there isn't a single character in this show with a likeable or memorable character trait. Every single one of them is completely one-dimensional. None of them are developed on, very few of them go through any kind of personal struggle, and at the end of it almost every character is simply forgettable. To make things worse, the character design in Hakuouki is extremely weak. It is often completely impossible to tell one character apart from another, with them all being uniformed, alongside many of them sharing various features with other characters, and combined with my previous complaint it can often make the show confusing out of a lack of basic knowledge for which character is which.
The only character who is actually worth mentioning here is Chizuru, the shoddily disguised centre of our reverse-harem. But don't mistake my meaning, she is by no means a good character. For the most part, she is only memorable simply for being the only girl. But due to her being in focus, unlike 90% of the cast, she becomes memorable, and her faults become noticeable. For one, she does not help the plot at all for most of the series, except towards the end, in which her only role is to become a living MacGuffin that the enemy forces want. When thrown into combat, she is completely useless, and seems to have no self-defence instinct whatsoever, leading other characters to become injured in her stead while she just stands there.
The ending is one of the few moments where the show is actually interesting, but it may also be the worst for the complete contradictions we are shown. Now, I don't want to spoil anybody, but it's going to be hard to discuss the ending without doing so, so if you are particularly spoiler-sensitive and want to watch this series for whatever reason, I would advise you to skip the rest of this paragraph. Basically, one of the samurai is killed in front of Chizuru, and a member of the enemy force is nearby at the time, though he was not the one responsible. Another member of the samurai sees this, blames the demon, and drinks the potion that turns people into the not-vampire creatures so he will have the strength to kill him. Now, there are several problems with this. For a start, a very curious question is raised... where did he get the potion? The potion is not supposed to be easily accessible, for obvious reasons. He had no reason to plan for an event like this, so he would not have prepared it. There is no foreshadowing or reason that suggests he was already considering the change. It simply doesn't make sense. But on top of that, after the battle, he reveals that he knew that the man wasn't responsible for his death. Which now means that the drinker just sentenced himself to a life as an undead monster to get revenge on a man he knew wasn't even responsible.
Sadly, Hakuouki repeatedly proves itself to be a terrible show without a single redeeming feature, but just to put the cherry on top, DEEN are giving it a sequel in the fall. Yes, you heard that right... somehow, this mess of an anime has gathered enough of a fanbase to warrant a sequel. So sadly, we haven't even seen the end of this series.
I'm sure I've made this clear by now, but my verdict on this anime is simply a no. It does not deserve to be watched by anybody, and if there is any justice in the world it will have been completely forgotten by the end of the year... at least if DEEN don't end up making a third series.
Final Words: I'd have more fun watching paint dry.
Story - 6/10
The story, I am referring to the plot, not the writing.
The story is more complex than needed. It takes away from the anime. Its difficult to keep track of everything that is happening, and they don't give you time to understand.
Everything is told to us, but anime is a visual medium. It would do best to use visuals to help explain the plot, and make it easier to follow and digest.
By this, I am referring to the diplomacy and war parts of the plot, or where there is a lot happening and it should be broken down.
The overall story is ok. The story of Chizuru living with the Shinsengumi, whilst trying to find her father, and her being a Demon could lead to some interesting plot development, but that is not the focus of the anime.
The father is forgotten, there is no character development and we don't see much of her living and bonding with the shinsengumi, her being a Demon is used as a plot device to give some adversity rather than going into her thoughts and challenges as a Demon, and most the writing focuses on cliche fight scenes, cliche emotional scenes without much emotion, and complicated battles that are not shown well.
However, itself is not bad. The anime didn't use the story well.
Animation - 6/10
6/10 is a positive score.
The animation has beautiful colours and lighting, the characters have unique appearances, the scenery is wonderful.
Its not spectacular, but its good.
However, the real weakness is in the action and characters.
The sword action is not very impressive in the slightest, and from an actual swordfighting perspective is as accurate and believable as Legolas jumping off rocks falling in the air.
But that aside, the main characters are protected by the plot. Nothing can befall upon them, nothing bad can happen to them.
Even when the enemy clearly has the advantage, the plot will protect them.
When you have a magic elixir that heals the main characters, no injury makes you feel any tension.
And luckily the main characters are only ever targetted one by one, if the enemies attacked together than the main characters might be in trouble. Its storm trooper level stupidity.
The fights are only short, and most of it are the characters talking.
The fights are not easy to see. They are not interested in showing what is actually happening in the sword fight, only conveying a sense of power. They will rush and glance over the fighting and movement, but put a lot of effort into making the clashes and swings look as impressive as possible.
The movement of the characters is nothing special either.
Its "OK". The movement is pretty dull in general.
The faces of the characters are not very expressive either. They did not convey much emotion in the movements, facial expressions or actions of the main characters.
Sound - 7/10
The music played in the background is nice. They are very appropriate for what is going on in the scene, the pieces played are good pieces that do what they are supposed to do, help convey the emotions of what is happening without being obvious or distracting.
The sound effects are good. They sound good, are used well, though there are some places where it would be nice if they added perhaps another sound effect to make it seem more physical.
The voice actors I watched in Japanese, but they do well. There is nothing to complain about. They seem to convery good emotion in their voice, but not enough to make up for the script and animation.
The voice actor for Chizuru, Houko Kuwashima, conveys more emotion for chizuru than the script, animation and writing does, but still doesn't convey enough emotion to me. Her fake crying is pretty bad as well, and you will hear it a lot.
Characters - 3/10
Every character lacked development. There were so many characters, each one was developed very little.
The characters are also not allowed to look anything other than beautiful. Their range of expressions are small, not showing too much emotion. Their reactions to emotion is not truely there with us, there is no effort to make the viewer care about the situation. The responses are very uninspired and flat.
Because of this, it was difficult to empathise and care about the main characters and the struggles they go through.
They were given copy-paste personalities, the type of personality which one sees all the time in anime, without any effort to make them unique individuals.
The main character, Chizuru, was the worst. She is one of the most bland, forgettable, pointless main characters I have seen.
Her role is simple - Get into trouble, gasp, have someone save her. She rarely does anything useful.
What she does useful, such as looking after the injured in episode 12, and relaying messages, is glanced over.
All we see is a heroine who wants to help, but is so naive and useless she causes far more trouble than she does good.
She doesn't even attempt to get into any combat or even protect herself in the slightest. Its incredibly dumb, she would sooner die than pull out her sword.
But its obvious she is nothing more than a shell for people to project through. Its so disappointing to watch. She fails at everything she does.
However, one good thing is that her comrades in the Shinsengumi still allow her to try her best, and let her go into potentially dangerous situations to help everyone.
I consider that a good thing, as in many anime the female characters are extremely sheltered and left out of any responsibility.
But that good point is completely shattered by her inadequacy and inability to do anything without needing to be rescued.
Even when running errands in replace of her comrades so she can help, her efforts end up being useless as she gets into trouble and the plot demands that a man must go save her, which defeats the purpose of her going to run the errand, and makes her completely useless.
Overall, the characters are written like a poorly written fanfiction for self-projecting the viewer into the body of a lifeless and emotionless character who must be saved by the handsome, anime copy-paste men who are strong.
The writing of the anime was terrible, and one of the weakest parts. There is nothing I liked about the writing.
Even in other cliche anime based on stereotypes, i find there can still be a lot to like about it that makes it fun and entertaining.
But Hakuouki Shinsengumi was entertaining, I did like it. It was ok, nothing bad, a little good.
I got some enjoyment out of it, but I wasn't invested or too caring about the anime as the bad writing didn't lead much to be invested about.
There are some very cliche and unoriginal anime which I do like as they are fun to watch, but Hakuouki Shinsengumi was not so entertaining.
Overall this anime would probably be the most disappointing anime that there is out there, the start and mid way of the anime was good but the ending and last episodes of the anime were the worst sad ending. Not to spoil anything but the girl is always protected and is uterly useless, she takes on lives of her friends (my favourite character sadly..) and the ending.. well, remove all characters and place her and one dude... The End.
This anime so far is close to perfection, yes it has some cliche moments but the wonderful story line and constant action evens it out. In an anime my personal prefreance is that no character is invincable, I hate OP characters with a passion. In this anime they are doing a wonderful job making sure none of the characters are OP and they balance them being defeated and them winning the battle fantasticly. I am currently on episode 11 but I have very high hopes for the rest of this anime. I very highly recomend it.