Anime Review: Hakuoki
Yukimura Chizuru’s father holds the key to Japan’s bloodshed. She must find him!
The Hakuoki series, which includes two seasons and a third season that acts as a prequel, is a romantic take on historical characters and events, with a bit of vampire/mysticism thrown in for good measure. The mystical nature of the show is not an unusual turn for anime to take, but this series manages to be both intriguing and action-packed while remaining semi-historically accurate.
The Premise of the Series
At the center of Hakuoki, is a young woman named, Yukimura Chizuru, who is the daughter of a renowned doctor. Chizuru’s father leaves her behind while he travels to Kyoto to do some medical research. As time passes, Chizuru becomes concerned about her father’s safety and sets out to find him.
During her journey, she is attacked by criminals and witnesses the battle between an oni (demon/a devil) and the Shinsengumi. Chizuru is taken in by the Shinsengumi, who are concerned about her witnessing their battle with the strange demon. Upon learning that she is the daughter of the very doctor they have been seeking, they decide to look after her and help her locate her father.
This series involves a look at historical events and characters through the eyes of Chizuru. In time, she learns a great deal about her new companions. Chizuru also uncovers unexpected truths about herself and her father.
The Inspiration for the Hakuoki Series
Much of the series centers on the Shinsengumi, who were considered among the last of the samurai. They existed during a time when to wear a sword was against the law. Disrespectfully called the “Wolves of Mibu” by many Japanese locals at the time, the Shinsengumi dedicated themselves to the service of the crumbling Tokugawa Shogunate. It was a turbulent time, as Western imperialism would forcibly change Japan forever.
Because the Shinsengumi existed during this unique and intense window of time, it’s inevitable that they are featured in various movies, manga and anime shows. The cultural obsession with this group of young, highly-skilled swordsmen is prevalent both in modern day Japan as well as overseas. Though the perspective of the Shinsengumi tends to change with each anime or movie, in the case of Hakuoki it’s definitely romanticized with vibrant colors and mystical elements, although many of the characters and battles in the show are historically accurate. And speaking of the vibrant colors, you’ll definitely want to watch this series in high def to get the most out of the artworks. I’d suggests watching it via the Crunchyroll consol app on a TV that gets video over CAT 5.
The Difference Between Hakuoki and History
One major difference between the anime and the actual Shinsengumi is the inclusion of the characters called “Furies” or individuals with enhanced abilities that were the creation of the Shinsengumi themselves. These beings are vampire-like, fierce and largely out of control. Confronting such a person as seen throughout the series can be utterly terrifying and potentially fatal. Of course, such beings didn’t exist in the real world of the Shinsengumi, but there are plenty of dark Japanese folktales and superstitions that support the potential for such demons to be created. Really, this aspect of the show just offers a deeper look into Japanese culture by rendering old superstitions into a historical series.
It is the mystery surrounding the supernatural in this show that causes the series to deviate a bit from the history of the Shinsengumi. Of course, there are political and historical events that are touched on, however, much of the more interesting aspects of the anime involve the mysterious nature of Chizuru, her father’s work, and how the Furies came to exist.
The Girl-Centric Harem Anime
One majorly noticeable aspect of the show is that it is somewhat a “harem” anime. This is when an anime tends to have a character of one gender surrounded by attractive characters of the opposite or same sex who are in their own way connected to or in love with that character. While the Shinsengumi and Chizuru have no romantic connections whatsoever, they do share a strong connection as they search for Chizuru’s father and battle the Furies together.
Hakuoki is an anime that manages to be both an interesting story about an adorable girl surrounded by intriguing men and a look back at a turbulent era of history done in a really creative fashion. Even for those anime fans who aren’t huge history buffs, this show is certainly worth watching.
Kayla Matthews is a Diverse Japan blogger, anime nerd and Japanese cultural enthusiast. You can check out her productivity blog at ProductivityTheory.com and follow her on Google+ and Twitter @KaylaEMatthews to get updates on her latest posts!