The village of Ootsuka—home to Shino Inuzuka, Sousuke Inukawa, and Hamaji—was lit on fire under the preconception that a virus had seen all of its life eradicated. Now surrounded by flames and on the verge of death, the three were approached by a strange man holding a sword. He tells them that they must reach a decision if they want to live. That night changed everything for these children.
Five years later, the family of three now lives under the watchful eye of the small Imperial Church in a nearby village. All is fine and dandy until the Church attempts to reclaim the demonic sword of Murasame. To accomplish this, they kidnap Hamaji to lure Shino, now a bearer of Murasame's soul, and Sousuke, who possesses the ability to transform into a dog. The brothers must put their differences aside to rescue their beloved sister from the Church in the Imperial Capital, signalling the beginning of a very difficult journey.
Hakkenden draws you in through its artwork, elements of fantasy, and its moments of mystery. It was an enjoyable anime that kept me watching every week but it did not have me dying to watch it.
The storyline is definitely unique, however there is an absence of a central plot or it tends to stray from it. What kept me interested were the characters and their background stories. With the introduction of each character, there are minor plots that keep you interested, however it is usually resolved within the following episode. The storyline tends to feel like a collection of stories that are somewhat connected to
a central plot however it feels mostly disconnected.
The characters are my reason for scoring this anime as an 8. Shino, the protagonist, is very childish however he has a sensitive and caring side that makes him very enjoyable. Sosuke, his childhood friend, maintains a calm and loyal attitude and is seen accompanying Shino mostly everywhere. He provides a balance to Shino, who would otherwise be a typical bratty protagonist. Hamaji is another childhood friend, but her presence in the story is not a prominent halfway through. She appear to be immature and demanding but later displays a level of maturity far greater than most of the characters, even the adult ones. She is a refreshing character, who although lacks a background story of her own, adds a silly and realistic feel to the story. She is a main character but acts mainly as supporting. These characters and the rest as they are introduced actually add to the story. Not only are their personalities in great variety and incredibly different from one another, but their stories are what truly make this series a great one.
The artwork is definitely done incredibly well. It is one of the first things that drew me in. The characters all have defining features that are immediately noticeable and match the multitude of personalities presented. The background is captured beautifully. Each district, each of the places that the characters visits are almost like a painted work of art. The artwork is the defining beauty of this series.
Hakkenden is a very good series if you don’t mind the lack of a central plot. Don’t fret though because it does keep you interested if you get into it. It does tend to leave you wondering what it all leads into, hopefully we will see a central plot in the second season.
When people make certain decisions in their lives and truly desire something, it could forever change their life, it could even come true if they worked really hard in this world to achieve it, but that’s under the understanding of our world. But, what ‘if’ you were about to die and really desired to live, what would happen? How about, some nasty or beautiful entities come and grant those wishes to keep you alive, but for a price, eveeen if the price falls upon both parties. Well in Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun that’s all possible if you truly desired it, and even then you kinda
have to be in the right place at the right time.
Luckily our main character, Shino Inuzuka exactly was wishing that, and he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time while dying from a tragic accident, but it turns in to be the right place and the right time, as he is saved by the Church’s Riou Satomi, but his price is a lot larger than any, as the boy will forever not age (forever aged 13) or die, technically an immortal, not only that he gives born to a grow who is called Murasame, who is meant to be this super powerful entity (that’s what we are led to believe), that when is called for bursts through Shino’s skin and comes out as a sword (yeah, I know weird transformation). Also, his friend, if not family is a dog and his best friend Hamaji, well we don’t know about her yet, but I suggest she is something too. Thus, their lives changed as well. He is now no longer alive, what will his life be like now?
Right, just before we go into this review I would just like to say that, I will be marking this solely as if there wasn’t even a second season, but that doesn’t mean I won’t mention anything about it. That’s all I would like to say, so let’s get on with this review.
Story (8/10) - Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun is a an Action, Shoujo and a Supernatural anime, with katanas and all that, which would make you think that this could have some real good battles and fighting scenes, but can I just say ‘right now’, don’t bother, if you are here for action, because you will be wasting your time. I mean don’t get me wrong it has its moments, but they don’t last long and there’s nothing really to them anyway. This anime (or this season) wasn’t based on Action and theatrics, it’s based on one big ass puzzle, with what seems to be a deep story, which is slowly, but surely coming together, and by the end you will definitely see why this anime got a second season, and what exactly is a drawing them in together, as it was hinted quite a few times throughout the series.
This series, while trying to tell the story goes about it really slowly with barely anything happening. Some of you viewers might give up with this anime 5 episodes in, because let’s be honest, nothing actually happens for like a good 7 to 8 episodes, for me it wasn’t till the 9th one that it really got interesting. It’s around there, that all the previous episodes start to make sense, this anime is just simply, you getting to know the characters, the feel of the story, what they are and get into the feel of it, but honestly I think it failed at getting you into it, until you get to that exact part of the series. Anyway, it’s more like a long introduction of sorts, still if you got through a whole lot of nothing then you are definitely are rewarded with a lot of mystery. I’m sure you will be going straight onto season 2 in no time just wanting to know more, and what the outcome could be, well, at least I certainly am.
This animes good points are its strong story and presence, while definitely giving us some good characters to enjoy as well. The characters certainly bring the story together, and there is something real deep and mystified about each character, especially, Shino Inuzuka and Sousuke Inukawa.
I think you all will be very surprised, just how good the actually overall experience was like by the end, even if the start was such a drag.
For the bad points, well like I’ve said this anime literally goes nowhere for like 4 episodes, they then suddenly get sent off to another town and now have to look for beads, and you think this is where something begins but again, nothing. At first you really think something deep is going on, and shit is about to go down, but in the end it was a totally let down, seriously! You get all dumped, just for it to be all thrown away, I mean it had the entire plot there and everything and at first you think, “Wait? What? That it? Can’t be serious, right? They build it all up and even the atmosphere, just for it to end like this?” There was a real good plot, but the conclusion was very droll and boring. This is where you will strangle, because it continues to do this. There’s even a random encounter on a train and ends in them making a friend and leaving him, obviously the guy wasn’t any normal guy and there something more to it and all that, but still, makes you think “what exactly was the purpose of that guy? You know, forget that question, what was the point in the episode?” You need not worry, in the last few episodes everything begins to make sense, I can assure you.
Now I did say that this anime is solely story more than anything, and yes that is correct, but this anime has Action in it, I mean come on! It has *flupping* demons, swords, entities and bloody deities in it, and yet nothing really badass happens, or no real challenge at all throughout the whole thing, apart from this mysterious character that doesn’t get introduced until later in the series, and he is like the first and ‘only’ real threat that I know of throughout the whole thing. I wish it done it sooner, because I honestly think people could lose patience of just how slow it progresses. Also, the actual battles are nothing all that much either, pretty standard, none interesting stuff, if they were to have a battle, I wished it could have been more intense, like maybe bring the story into the fight, make it feel that little more intense and stuff, but what do I know, huh? In the end, I think you could count the number of battles there were on your hand. I would love to make an example, but then this review wouldn’t really be spoiler free, but you will see what I mean.
For shoujo side of things, well I couldn’t say any girl or man wouldn’t be disappointed at all, the characters are all hot guys and that main character when his curse was lifted, my god I think when I saw him, I think I was just as stunned as Kobungo Inuta was, haha.
In the end, it really just depends, if you don’t mind too much about a stories pace or anything like that, then this won’t be a problem for you, in matter of fact, it could even be fairly enjoyable and likeable as well. The story is certainly not perfect and it did have some real flaws. If you’re a person who saw Katanas, the genre, “Action and “Supernatural” and thinking it’s going to be some real fun and awesome battles, then again sorry, you are being totally miss leaded.
Art (9/10) Art was amazing! Recently, animes art and animation have been astounding, like they really have stepped it up a notch, to something suppose from like an anime like maybe 3 or 4 years ago and I honestly think nowadays our rating on art should be a little more strict, as there are less mistakes to point out now, due to all this HD.
Still again, this anime I just couldn’t bring this rating down any further than 9, because the art was (like I said) amazing. The entities were either, beautifully animated and well-drawn or damn right suited to their looks or name, take for example Shino’s Murasame, a crow with black feathers with this, like evil look to his eye. Then you have the deities, which look like what they were and yet so wonderfully drawn and animated, I mean you could tell them apart from maybe some normal entity or demon. Literally everything supernatural was, I would say, “stunning”, as simple as that really. That crow coming how of Shino’s arm, come on! That like creeps me out a little, what’s worse he doesn’t have any reaction to him whatsoever when it happens.
The actual characters were very well drawn as well, I wasn’t too keen on Hamaji’s art, but for me, I eventually didn’t mind, matter of fact I liked her art as well in the end.
Background was again well drawn, but nothing really special. It’s something you would expect from a 2013 anime.
(Ignore if you wish) Damn, I hate rating backgrounds because like, who has the time to read the subtitles, look at the screen and what’s actually going on, while trying to soak in the background, when nothing happens there, argh. (End of gibberish)
Reason not for a ten is that I had one problem, it just didn’t seem right and I’m sure you viewers will feel the same way, is that when you go into a wider perspective, when like Shino is next to Shousuke, and see just how small he is to them, it felt way too weird and off at the same time, like something just wasn’t right there, he looked like a midget. However, when I saw his real form (without the curse), I honestly think the art for it was magnificent, and I truly thought it was better and it definitely suited in the crowd a lot more than in his “small boy form”.
Shino: Eh? Naaaniii?!
Sound (6/10) – One thing this anime definitely falls in is the music, the music was simply just there, the OP theme song after listening to it once makes you want to skip it every time so you can just get right in to it, doesn’t want you to stay back and listen to it. I’m sure if you keep listening to it, you might not be bothered by it, but let me just say this, if you listen to ANY music long enough, you’re going to like it by the end of it all, until you’re just sick of hearing it, wait, that’s like that with every music, oh well. One thing the OP did have which was good was the chorus, with its hard beats and up-beat chorus was definitely nice, but that’s about it.
As for the sounds in the anime, they were fairly good, they did add to some scenes and scenarios, so they definitely did a good job there.
The EP Theme Song is a little worse than even the OP, as for the OP had a nice Chorus and instruments and so did this instrument wise, but as for the lyrics and the song itself, just didn’t seem right, I ain’t going to say that it didn’t fit because the lyrics and the song is meant to resemble the anime itself.
So, I definitely will say for sure that the worse side of this anime is the music by far; this is something I’m hoping was done better in season 2. Also the reason for the 6 and not a 7 is purely because of the fact the year of this anime is 2013 and I honestly think music since last year has really been kicked up a notch, nearly every new anime I’ve seen has had outstanding quality of music and it’s getting harder and harder to rate, so this is the reason and I compare to today’s animes and this just isn’t up there with them on this department.
Characters (8/10) – The characters were surprisingly very well done, they weren’t boring, very far from it. And I’m leaving everything about the characters up to you, because this story revolves around them, but mainly the main character, but don’t they always, argh, so cliché, haha.
Anyway, the characters are all likeable, and you knew which ones were mysterious or ominous beings. They all have something to them, and every character seems to have a part of the plot, even though it centres around Shino, which is nice to see that it ain’t just all about the main character all the time. I find that so refreshing.
There will be still characters that feel a little off, or know nearly nothing about, which is sad, as I wished it went it to that a bit, well I guess it did, but I just thought maybe a little more, still hopefully that gets all explained in season 2.
There was a problem however, it’s when a certain characters arc ends, all of a sudden what we saw in the arc, turned out to be totally different in the end, matter of fact even joking and having a laugh to make the comedic moments, which it did poor at if I might add. To be honest, it confused the hell out of me, that they turn to what they were in the arc to suddenly not giving a crap or continuing like nothing happened, I just found that so weird. Meh, it’s nothing mager but it just bugged me, so I thought I should point it out.
Enjoyment (7/10) – Beginning stint was just a little confusing and weird at times, but they were still fun episodes to watch, just seeing how everything unravels is a nice thought. Basically this anime I don’t think was meant to be all this fun fun times, but more to immerse you within its storyline to get you to understand things, what the characters are like, their pasts and what kind of plot the series be going after, that sort of thing, and have you noticed it’s either about the story or the characters which make up the story as well. It centres around story, not action. So, if you are that kind of person, then I suggest just giving this a miss. The beginning was a drag and could make you feel a little bored, but I still think you will find yourself marching on further and further through this anime.
For the later stages of the anime, it kicks it up a notch by bringing an unknown being into the mix and showing us some new stuff, it was certainly a joy to watch like I’ve said so many times already throughout this review. So, if you’re watching this, just hang in there and you will be REWARDED.
Overall (8/10) – The anime was just too slow to begin with and the viewers could well be fed up and just give up on the show, due to nothing really happening at all, and seeing even nothing during even the action doesn’t help this anime by any means, matter of fact makes it worse. Weird characters also just forgetting what just happened to them during the series and now just seem to act normal and jokingly, which is nice to see that they are doing well, but it just doesn’t seem right the way they act as if nothing has happened to them at all.
This anime however, is good at telling a story, it gives you lovely backgrounds on characters, gives a deep storyline that is slowly but surely coming together, which longs the enjoyment for more content, amazing characters and meaning. Even the connection with the whole bead business, it really does make for an interesting show to watch, and when you finally get the last few episodes, then you’re going to enjoy this anime even more and makes you feel like you understand what was going on earlier and why they went the way they went with the show, and it doesn’t make It all that confusing anymore, not only that, it actually gives you more good times than anything, it’s dark, it’s deep and it’s mysterious, how about that, hey?
I’ve said quite a few times already, but I will say it again, this anime is NOT for people who are looking for just some awesome action and good fun fun times because you’re not going to get it, however if you are a person who wants to have a real story based, then this is it, or just want something that is a little mysterious then this has it as well, or just want a deep story and awesome characters, then again this anime has it. It’s simply about the story and the characters, nothing more or less.
I recommend this to anyone, who is anything about story and for people who like shoujo and all that, I also would recommend this to people who like a deep mystery with mysterious characters. And I don’t recommend to anyone who want something less serious or action and beefy time, because it just ain’t going to work out for you.
Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East, But Went South Fast
This is one of the rare occasions where I'll say a series fascinated me but bored me to death at the same time. I'm not sure how that's possible, but Hakkenden managed to pull it off. This series is slightly misleading from the get go and it never really got off the ground.
This series is about a pair of friends, who consider themselves "brothers" that each possess a special power after their lives had been saved five years prior to the current plot. Shino Inuzuka is a boy/young man that possesses the sword Murasame in his
body and takes the shape of a crow. However, as a result, his body does not age and he remains in the form of a 12-year-old boy. Sousuke Inukawa is a young man the same age that takes the form of a dog and it is later discovered in the series that there is a problem with his spirit (which I will not spoil). Together, they live with another girl they consider to be their sister named Hamaji, who also faced a tragedy from her past that brought her together with Shino and Sousuke. The three of them are taken in by Rio Saotome, a priest from the high church and while in his custody, Shino is on a mission to collect the eight beads that are the same as his and Sousuke's beads. Each bead has a different passage on it, what each means...is yet to be determined.
There isn't much I can say on the positive side of Hakkenden other than I found the premise to be pretty interesting and the music to be downright awesome. I'll admit, this series did keep me interested in what these "Eight Dogs of the East" were and what powers they shared. This series was captivating from its OPs and EDs, giving the impression that this series was going to have an interesting story AND excellent shounen elements...even if it is somewhat shounen-ai. I found the music to generally be pretty good, especially with its OPs and EDs. The OP is a song called God FATE performed by Faylan, who I consider to be one of my personal favorite J-pop artists in the industry right now. My only beef with the OP in regards to the song choice is that it does not fit the vibe of the series very well. Hakkenden is a very slow-paced, character driven series with not a whole lot of action. However, the upbeat song with flashy OP visuals gives this series the impression that its a fast-paced shounen series. While the OP is enjoyable, it's a bit of a false advertisement for what you're going to get with the series. The ED is actually one of the better EDs I've seen in a while. While it isn't visually stunning, it is pretty to look at with a pretty cool song to boot, "String of Pain" by Tetsuya Kakihara. It's actually kind of funny in retrospect when you realize the person singing the ED song is also doing the voice of Shino...and sounds almost nothing like him. The ED does a nice job showing off each character...but that's about all it accomplishes. Otherwise, the music by Hitomi Kuroishi is pretty solid and fits the theme of the series...which are a couple things I'll give her props for considering her most notable works outside of this series are Code Geass and Last Exile.
As for the negatives, when I said this series bored me to death, it was because there is almost no story progression whatsoever. If you just watched the first three episodes and the last three episodes, I'd almost be willing to bet you'd be able to pick up on everything that's happened throughout the series. It felt like this first season focused more on character introduction with some slight development around the two leads. It's a little hard to explain, but while I found the characters to be at least somewhat interesting, the pacing of this series didn't reveal a whole lot about them besides their exterior personalities. While yes, I'm aware each character that was introduced did come with their own internal monologue, the way this series was paced felt too slow and didn't really dwell on each character enough. It didn't seem to implement the supporting characters into the over-arcing story very well either. From a production standpoint, there wasn't anything very remarkable about the animation or voice acting. There are quite a few familiar seiyuu's, like the aforementioned Tetsuya Kakihara (Natsu from Fairy Tail, Gaul from Dog Days, Simon from Gurren Lagann), Satoshi Hino (Akito from Bakuman, Koukin from Ikkitousen, Yuji from Shakugan no Shana), and Hiroshi Kamiya (Yuzuru from Angel Beats, Koyomi from the Monogatari series). However, I wouldn't call their performances in this to be all that compelling.
All-in-all, I'm really not sure what's going on with Studio Deen. It seems like they keep pushing out mediocre series after mediocre series with a hidden gem here and there. Unfortunately, I have to put this series along with the blandly average. It's really a shame because this series did have a ton of potential. It had a very interesting plot and the production values are pretty good on the OP and ED, although a bit misleading. However, again this story seems to struggle due to its horrifically slow pace with a non-existent story progression. While I tend to enjoy animes that are more character driven than story driven, this was one of the few rare occasions where I felt it put a little too much focus on certain characters, not enough on others, and had moments where it felt like there was unnecessary padding. As far as a recommendation for this series, I'd have to say to wait until the 2nd season comes out this summer. The series does a nice job of introducing the characters but is extremely slow with its story progression. I just have the impression that this whole series (including 2nd season) would be easier to marathon than watch and wait for a 2nd season. If you enjoyed something like Katanagatari or shounen-ai animes, I might recommend this...but again, I'd say wait for the 2nd season to finish first to see if it's really something you'd want to invest your time into.
Hakkenden is a seriously underrated fantasy series that has extremely vivid, beautifully animated characters with distinctive designs and storylines. I was personally drawn by how every character had such an extensive backstory and how all the characters were woven together in a charming, intriguing way through the main protagonists. There's a good balance between magical elements as well as emotional, romantic, and comedic moments. The main plotline does tend to stray, but the individuality of each sideplot is fascinating enough that the series continues at a good pace. Again, the art is possibly this show's greatest strength--there's a stunning use of color in both the
character designs and the settings, and the style is smooth and consistent throughout both seasons of the show. There's a little bit of everything within this story, with almost all types of characters touched upon.