In the nineteenth century, we find Lydia Carlton living in Scotland, making a living as a fairy doctor. She is one of those rare humans who can see and communicate with fairies. But no one believes her. However, Edgar is in need of someone with a vast knowledge of fairy lore, and Lydia is just that person. After rescuing her, he becomes her employer, but there are many secrets and emotions that seem to follow Edgar, who claims to be the Blue Knight's Earl.
The one thing that always impresses me about anime and manga is the attention to detail that the japanese creators of individual stories have, especially when they utilise culture, history, folklore, etc, from other parts of the world as integral parts of their tales.
Hakushaku to Yousei (or Earl and Fairy in english), began life as a series of light novels written by Tani Mizue, which were serialised in Cobalt magazine. The novels proved to be popular given the japanese love of western folklore and mythology, allowing the novels to be adapted for two drama CDs and a manga which is currently serialised in The
Before I go any further, I should point out that the story is most definitely unfinished, so expect a second, and maybe a third season at some point. That said, this initial series was rather well done on the whole.
The story is set in Victorian England and follow the adventures of 17 year old Lydia Carlton, a "Fairy Doctor". She has the ability to see and communicate with supernatural creatures like fairies, pixies, brownies, and other members of the Seelie Court, and for this reason she is chosen to help one Edgar J. C. Ashenbert in his quest to become the legendary Blue Knight Earl, the human ruler of the fairy nation. He is accompanied by his servant, a boy of around Lydia's age simply known as Raven, whilst Lydia is accompanied by a talking cat called Nico.
The story doesn't follow a straightforward path though, as Edgar's quest is borne from a desire for vengeance, and he has some extremely deadly enemies to contend with, as well as dealing with fey creatures who can twist the meaning of words and promises to suit their needs. It's for this reason that he desperately requires Lydia's help, especially as he can neither see nor talk to fairies.
The art and animation for this series is very well done, especially if you like bishies. The animation is generally very smooth, however my one gripe with the character designs was that Victorian England had a lot more plain looking people than the anime portrays (it would have been nice to see this, but it doesn't really affect the story). The characters that are in the show are all well designed though, especially Tomkins, whose features hint at his ancestry as one of the Merrow (merfolk). The fairy creatures are also well designed on the whole, and the members of the Unseelie Court all possess a suitably ominous appearance.
The music throughout the series is actually rather well done, and generally matches the time period. However, there are moments when the music definitely spoils the mood of the scene, especially with the more tension filled moments where a more ominous piece of something classical would have served better than the J-rock/pop track from the OP. The VAs are generally very good, however there is sometimes a slightly one dimesnional note to the main characters because of a lack of emotion being projected through the voice.
On the whole the characters were fairly solid. I found Lydia to be quite likeable, although this may be because she reminded me of Kou Shuurei from Saiunkoku Monogatari. Edgar was also quite likeable, however I found the supposed lack of emotion to be odd, especially given his feelings for Lydia. This is something that, unfortunately, carries over to many of the other characters, especially the males. For some reason they all seem to be protrayed as cool, icy, bishounens, when it would have served the story better if they let loose once in a while. It could be argued that this is in keeping with the Victorian setting, but it's more likely to be because this is most definitely a shoujo anime.
I found this to be surprisingly enjoyable though, especially given it's flaws. I think that my enjoyment though, mainly comes from the fact that folklore is a hobby of mine, and I found that the numerous fey creatures and references were more closely related to what is in folklore than most people would believe (in other words, the old fairy tales where there's lots of blood, as opposed to the more modern version - the bedtime story). It shows that Tani Mizue actually referenced a fair amount of material during the writing of the light novels, and has used the information to good effect.
This isn't really a series that will appeal to everyone. It's not complete enough to be a true shoujo anime, however it does highlight the fact that fey creatures aren't nice on the whole. It won't appeal to action or sports junkies, and probabaly won't be liked by mecha and combat fans. Horror buffs may like it for it's portrayal of fairies and the like, but the ones who will probably enjoy watching it the most are fans of Angelique, Saiunkoku Monogatari, Gakuen Alice, etc, especially given the romance aspect between Edgar and Lydia.
If you do happen to like this because of the fairies though, then you may want to check out the following books:
"Faerie Tale" by Raymond E Feist
"Lords & Ladies" and "The Wee Free Men" by Terry Pratchett.
Hakushaku to Yosei is a delightful romantic shoujo fantasy. However, for one to enjoy it, expectations have to be set. The 12-episode anime is based only on a few volumes of the light novel series. Therefore, do not be surprised that at the end of the anime, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered. It is because the story still continues in the novels. Perhaps the producers are still planning or are leaving the door open for a second season.
The characters are beautifully drawn and the designs, in fact, are slightly better than in the manga. The music, on the other hand,
is average. The opening theme is an upbeat rock song that is tolerable enough to listen to, but not very appropriate to the Victorian theme. The closing soundtrack is a sentimental love song that fits the mawkish ending sequence well. This gratuitous scene that features the male characters lying in bed half-naked is likely conceived in an effort to pander to young female audiences. They even made Edgar’s seiyuu sing it, even though his singing voice isn't as pleasant to hear as his speaking voice. (I may sound so negative, but I'm not exactly complaining).
The two main characters of this anime are quite endearing. Lydia isn't exactly an extraordinary character but she is enchanting, graceful and kind-hearted, unlike the stereotypical shoujo heroines who are plain looking, dumb, clumsy, shameless, and whose only merit is their genkiness. She is a female protagonist who has self-respect and will not immediately throw herself to the guy she likes.
Edgar is an intriguing character. While his bearing is not mysterious because of his rather pompous personality, everything about him is a mystery: his past and identity. But despite his shadiness, he is a sympathetic character. The others (including the villains), unfortunately, are somewhat boring and forgettable. They are incredibly generic and we get to know very little about them.
If the other guys weren’t so flat, the romance would have been a lot more exciting and complex. Unfortunately, it is so obvious who Lydia will end up with even though she is surrounded by hot guys who are all interested in her. Raven is too loyal to Edgar to be his rival. Paul is such a dull character and too passive to challenge Edgar. Kelpie, on the other hand, though handsome, is rather charmless. But it seems the question this story is trying to answer isn’t who Lydia is going to choose, but how Edgar is going to gain her trust and love.
Although this is definitely not one of the best anime I’ve seen, I truly enjoyed watching this series. It is a good romance anime: charming and entertaining enough to engage shoujo fans.
If you are already a fan of the anime, I suggest that you read the light novels (the translations), so you'll know what happens after episode 12. They are also detailed and therefore more satisfying. The supporting characters are also more fleshed out and not dull as in the anime. I also recommend reading the manga since it is a more faithful adaptation (than the anime which is so condensed). It's also darker, whereas the anime is a little too girly.
I have to admit that this anime had failed to impress. I was expecting much more from the plot and the characters, but to my misfortune I had only ended up disappointed. Once I finished viewing the entire series, I was not satisfied with the overall outcome of the characters' journey.
There is still so many questions the anime has left unanswered. The viewer knows little of the Blue Knight Earl. The plot itself is mainly concentrated on Edgar's need to bear a name with a powerful presence, as well as to fight for his love for Lydia whilst others are after her. There was
still much to be told of the fairy world, but due to the focused romance between Lydia and Edgar, all other information of the anime becomes lost. Hence the reason why the anime became more choppy rather than bearing the fluent motion that other wonderful animes had.
The art could've been done better. A fairy world is meant to be magical and enthralling. Matter of fact, if the creators had done their art in an inconspicuous way as to make the viewer imagine they are in a fairy world indirectly [similar artistic appeal to EF - Tale Of Memories and 5 Centimetres Per Second], then they would've received a higher grade. I do praise the art done in O'Neill's paintings though. It almost suits the time setting of the story.
I bestow a 7 upon the sound because not only does some music pieces relate to the specific time period of the story, but even the suspense scenes can allow the viewer to understand that there is critical observation involved between characters [e.g. Nico helping Paul search for Banshee, Lydia and Edgar figuring out Ulysses' motive, etc]. Thus, the sound was not too bad. Allow me to point out, if you will, how the theme song sounded like a Japanese version of Yellowcard?
Indeed a 4 does seem pretty low, but I do have my reasons. Firstly, Edgar. The ash mauve eyes gave him a mysterious appeal. Yet his eyes implied nothing extravagant about his persona. Throughout the progression of the series, it felt to me that Edgar was a phony. The sincerity of his character was questionable. Was he a killer? Is he playing Lydia? What's going on? He didn't seem truthful enough. I had assumed he was only playing smooth as to win Lydia's trust in order to help him obtain the marrow sword. But as the plot proceeded, I wasn't too sure. Furthermore, his reactions are downright dull. When he saw Ermine for the first time, it was as though he either kept on the smooth facade or was expecting her. What? Wasn't she dead? Wasn't he mourning her absence of some sort? It was ridiculous. Not to mention the cheesy romantic remarks made towards Lydia that further aggravated his reputation.
I did take interest in Raven's mysterious, composed aura. Though I was left dissatisfied when he only mentioned his personal character in less than 2 episodes. I was craving for answers to the truth behind his sprite species, like what they were like and how it could be more of a disadvantage aside from the fact that possessing a sprite spirit caused him to kill on impulse. It's too bad though. Especially when he and Lydia shared their similarities, I was expecting the similarities to be elaborated. Oh well.
As for Lydia, we know more of her profession than we do of her personal character. It's understandable on how she is a fairy doctor, which is good for the series. But how do we know how she was able to become a fairy doctor aside from the fact that she inherited the gift through her mother's genes? What did she have to go through? Was it difficult to be a fairy doctor at first aside from others believing you have crossed the brink of insanity? And what was the mother like in order to win the heart of a human professor? Her emotions are also puzzling. We understand that her heart was meddled with by mischievous boys as a child. Still, is she insecure? Is she afraid? Even Edgar asks those questions and yet she has failed to answer them. But overall, Lydia is rather cute [more in nature than in appearance] and has great knowledge of different worlds. But that is only one slice of the cake. If she were to show her personal side a little more, the viewer would have the whole cake and eat it too.
I am not much of a fan of Shoujo animation. Nonetheless, I have encountered with Shoujo material that has caught my interest. Unfortunately for Hakushaku to Yousei, it failed to do justice. The corny romantic remarks made me laugh to a point where I questioned the seriousness. I am still sitting here questioning about over matters the series has not covered. The only thing good about the anime was its comedic nature. Truth be told, there isn't really anything unique about this anime. We've seen young, cute, silly girls attracting the attention of the dashing higherups. We've already seen supernatural matters that have brought two people together in holy matrimony. We've seen talking animals and non-human creatures causing trouble. At first glance, an Earl and a Fairy Doctor does sound different amongst the array of stereotypical Shoujo animes. But once peering through the depths, there isn't as much difference as I had initially perceived.
Keep in mind, if you will, how I am not bashing the series at all. I have seen worst. But I can admit that this anime wasn't as good as I had expected. I am giving the series a "fair" 6. It did leave me wondering, as most animes should. If this series could've done better in the growth and development of both the characters and the plot, the anime would have done justice to all. It did not. C'est la vie.
This show starts out with a decent premise: a Victorian romance with a touch of Celtic Twilight mythology. The heroine is a "fairy doctor," and throughout the show she demonstrates a touch of folklore, plus the useful ability to see fairies that are invisible to ordinary people.
However, the folklore and mythology references, which could have carried the show, are under-used. They are sprinkled over the top of a story which plainly is trying to drag itself out into the maximum number of episodes. Unlike better stories (such as, say, Tweeny Witches, or Magical Shopping District Abenobashi) the mythology and folklore doesn't seem
internally consistent. Thus the setting seems painfully generic.
The character designs are decent; the scenery has a lot of eye candy for folks who like the visual trappings of Victorian mansions.
The animation is painfully sparse; pan-and-scan tricks are over-used. I give it a 6/10 for design but a 4/10 for animation, thus a 5/10 for overall art. I enjoyed the initial three or four episodes, but I started to notice flaws by the middle, and by the last third I was painfully bored and waiting for a plot resolution that failed to arrive. The ending seems to indicate that the producers would like to make a second season, but I don't know how much of the audience would stick around to watch it, were that second season to appear.
Hey! Listen! Legends of the fair folk go back hundreds of years and continue today with all sorts of depictions. Some fairies will help you while others are wicked creatures and you can see both kinds here!