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.