Hakkenden is not a bad anime but it is not exactly spectacular either. It may fall into average or slightly above average at best. It suffers from the same problems that plague many of the manufactured anime. I say manufactured because most of them feel like they came off an assembly line and were made from previously made prepared standardized parts. This is where you get characters that seem too similar to other anime or archetypes or cliches and other stereotypes. Basically, anime like this does not involve alot of deep thought. Not to say they are all bad but none of them are really all that great either as they just do not stand out or apart from nearly ever other anime. We have your typical hero characters who, as usual, seem to have some tragic or even worse disgusting attribute. Here we have Shino. He may look like an average caring boy, but given how he seems to place even Sousouke's shadow above all the lives the shadow has harmed or destroyed, I just can not get much empathy for a filthy character like him. Sure, I want to like him. And he seems likable enough but when he totally ignores the damage this creep he is after has caused as if it were nothing, I just can not bring myself to really even consider him good. There is a limit to how bad or immoral a person can be, before a reasonable person just decides it is enough or too much. Shino does not seem to have that quality as nothing Sousouke's shadow does ever seem to make him hate or want to destroy that evil beast and therefore he prefers to let it run amok and cause more damage, pain, and suffering than a typhoon. This reflects negatively on Shino, especially since he is supposed to be a hero character, since this hero character not only does nothing to stop him but never seems to blame him or even try to seriously harm him or get angry or nothing. Nothing tangible that says, you have gone too far you disgusting shadow. I just never feel Shino gets serious about it. He actually seems to get angrier at others for far far far less disgusting or evil actions, which kind of fatally imbalances Shino as a character and makes him totally fail as a hero.
It is honestly hard to accept the shadow character has any redeeming qualities whatsoever but for some reason it places Shino's life above others but does not give a dam about Shino's wants, desires, or feelings since he ends up causing him more pain than Shino's worst enemy. Somehow that just doesn't fly. I must comprehend either one or both have no empathy or feelings for anything whatsoever, or one or both are very stupid. Most the other characters are relagated to little more than background support characters. We see a bit from Satome, the two demon guys, sometimes Hajime, but not alot beyond that. It is a bit imbalance that Hajime starts off as such a so called important character to be so badly pushed to the background and given little else to do but fawn over the psychopath weirdo who kidnapped her. I just don't get it. Maybe this is some bizarre weirdo thing in Japan that victims so easily and frequently develop a severe form of Stockholm syndrome though that happens no where else in the world.
Most of the story centers around Aoi the shadow (I can not really call this part a spoiler cause of how early and frequently it is mentioned who he is) being pursued by the so called 8 dogs and the church group Satome works for. Supposedly the evil princess is part of the bad guy force but we see and hear little from her til the end. Plus it is never quite made sure why or how Aoi suddenly decides to be such an evil jackass or support the evil princess who is purported to b the good princess Fuse which only adds to the confusion about who she is and Aoi's motivation. It is never quite made clear what the stones are or the significance they play either. Though you can read about it in wiki or the other books about it supposedly. It kind of sets a bad example if the only way to really understand an anime is to read about it via comics, novels, or the wiki cause the show offers too little to go on.
The pacing is pretty standard fair. Shino often gets annoying with his angry dork pushy attitude and Sousouke often feels like little more than an obedient lap dog or an over indulgent babysitter. It is not quite as bad or obnoxiously done as Yuu is from Seraph of the End. Animation is a bit bouffy, as in well manicured hairstyles. The animation is a tad heavy on characters that look pretty with too many sparkles and a hint of BL though no actual execution. Even where they strongly suggest such an interest, it is uninterestingly never capitlalized on or properly utilized so it comes off feeling more like a side show distraction than anything real. It has it's share of frog faces (unrealistically flattened oval shaped faces and unrealistically malproportioned oversized eyes) but not quite as heavily on the side profile dog face image that most anime allow. Characters for the most part are modestly interesting but most never offer much in the way of depth even among the lead characters though they get a bit more flushing out than the support characters. Sound and voices were ok and well matched but like the show itself nothing extraordinary about it either.
While the first season completely convinced me. I hate to say that I was kinda disappointed from it's sucessor. I could have write a combined review of the first and second season together, but there are obvious differences between those seasons. I'm in the opinion that you should consider and compare it separately.
While the first season just shone brilliantly in this section, the quality of the story section really dropped noticeable in the 2nd season. You will not find the strenght and speciality of the first season to combine information and plotlines to a common thread on a perfect tier only to some extent. The anime indeed has a good startwith a smooth segue from the first season. Afterwards it was more like a odyssey without a common thread. Unfortunately the end was more like a slide with the forced climax in my eyes. So the end is either story-wise and directed-wise poorly.
One episode kinda gave me the feeling of a filler-episode, which kinda carry weight on the story by the total number episode of 13.
TO BE CONTINUED...