DVD Review: Hakuoki – Demon of the Fleeting Blossom – The Complete Series

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How well do Samurai clans, a girl and demonic characters get along with each other? Well to put it bluntly they don’t, so what exactly did we think of the series and MVM Entertainment’s UK DVD release of Hakuoki – Demon of the Fleeting Blossom? Find out in our DVD Review of Season 1.

Synopsis:

Disguised as a man, Chizuru Yukimura has come to Kyoto searching for her missing father, a doctor who developed a magical elixir that increases the drinker’s speed, strength, and healing abilities. Instead of her father, however, she stumbles across a battle between the Shinsengumi and the Furies, evil vampire-like creatures of their own making.

It turns out the Shinsengumi are also searching for her father, and when they discover who she is, they decide to take her into their custody for safekeeping. But her sex is not the only secret Chizuru has, and as more and more Furies begin appearing in Kyoto and the situation becomes ever deadlier, the Shinsengumi may find that the Furies are the least of their problems!

Our View:

Hakuoki –The Demon of the Fleeting Bossom is the first anime series based upon the visual novel games developed by Idea Factory, a franchise which follows the events of the Shinsengumi clan. While this initial season release may seem slightly unentertaining (mainly due to the unsteady flow of action and poor voice over work) it does provide a constantly evolving storyline that will grab the attention of viewers and keep you coming back for more, even if you do not want to. It’s a series that starts off slow but then the further you get into it the more the story starts to unravel and shows its true colours, this is what keeps the attention of the viewer, rather the characters actions and motives.

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As the synopsis suggests Chizuru Yukimura is the main protagonist of the series and after a chance encounter with some rougue samurai she ends up being taken captive by the Shinsengumi clan. At first the Shinsengumi intended to keep her as a prisoner for witnessing an event she should not have seen, but once Chizuru explains her motives for being in the city, which is to search for her missing farther, the Shinsengumi agree to offer her protection and look out for her, and this is where the storyline starts to evolve and in more ways than one.

Throughout the 12 episodes, which span over several years, Chizuru grows from a helpless young girl into a budding samurai warrior and even becomes an official member of the Shinsengumi clan, however in the background the Shinsengumi’s real motives for protecting the girl are revealed. The motive (or secret) in question is that the Shinsengumi previously worked with Chizuru’s farther in an attempt to create a powerful elixir, that is until he disappeared and since then other members of the clan have been attempting to carry on his work, with disastrous results.  It’s not just the Shinsengumi that has secrets either as many characters within the series have their own alternate agenda (especially the high ranking officers) and when new enemies appear, some more deadlier than others, a whole new battle takes place, with Chizuru right in the centre of it.

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This is only a taster of what to expect from Hakuoki, as while Chizuru and the Shinsengumi are the main talking point of the series there is additional storylines, such as the Shogun War and the politics that go along with it, but more importantly it is the power struggles between various clans that keeps being brought up – most of which result in a bloody battle with simplistic swordplay. Of course all of these events tie into the main storyline but at times they do feel like its trying to avoid the real objective and stretch out the series, but at least it provides some realistic (and possibly historic) backbone to a rather unentertaining series.

Extras:

Hakuoki– The Demon of Fleeting Blossom includes the usual suspects of extra content, namely the text less opening and closing videos and a selection of trailers.

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All of the trailers except Inu X Boku SS and Hiiro No Kakera provide an insight into the series, such as a storyline and backdrop, however Gyo’s trailer is presented in Japanese with no English subtitles so you’ll have no idea what’s going off meanwhile the Inu X Boku SS and Hiiro No Kakera trailers are just the textless opening, yet again not providing much insight into what you can expect from the series.

There isn’t much, in terms of additional content, but at least it is better than other MVM and Manga releases which do not contain any and, more importantly, the trailers allow anime fans to see what a show has to offer before picking them.

Specs:

Media:  DVD 9 x2
Region: 2
Running Time:  2:22:57 (Disc 1),  2:22:59 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps

Overall:

Hakuokiis a marmite series, some will love it and some will loathe it – for me I have mixed opinions, some elements of the series, such as the demonic enemies, secrets between allies and bloody fight scenes are entertaining but the slow progression of the story and it’s awkward pacing make it a dull viewing experience, a factor which is backed up by the poor English dub quality.

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Majority of the English voice cast don’t seem to provide any enthusiasm or emotion into their role, it’s the same old stale voice acting that never changes from scene to scene and their voices do not seem to fit the roles they have been assigned. Luckily some English Voice Actors do fit their roles, so it is not a complete disaster but it is rather painful to watch.  Another issue I have with the English Dub is that Sentai seem to force (I assume) their actors into saying –kun, -Chan, -San at the end of a character’s name, now while this is true for the Japanese audio track it seems slightly unnatural when watching it in English. It is something I’ve noticed in a fair few Sentai produced dubs, especially when characters are being (in)formal to each other but it just seems odd, especially in this series when characters are constantly saying each other’s names.

Interestingly this Hakuoki DVD release automatically defaults to the Japanese Audio Track (with English subtitles) so it seems even the DVD is guiding viewers towards the better audio track. I Don’t have a vendetta towards Sentai, I just wish they were better produced like Aniplex’s or FUNimation Dubs. English Dub issues aside both the English & Japanese Audio track are provided in 2.0 Stereo sound with the(optional) English subtitles available in clear white text. In regards to the DVD and it’s picture quality then everything is as you’d expect it to be, with the menu easy to navigate and the picture quality being better than most DVD Releases – not to mention it looks superb when up scaled on a Blu-ray player.

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Like I mentioned Hakuoki is a marmite kind of series, it has a lot of elements that people will enjoy, such as a continually evolving storyline, and elements that people won’t enjoy, such as the strange pacing and progression of the show, but with two additional seasons (and an OVA Collection)in the pipeline hopefully the overall series will evolve into something much more satisfying and far less confusing. So who exactly does Hakuoki apply to? Well in my opinion those who like Samurai stories, Shogun Wars and the bonds of friendship (not to the extent of Naruto Shippuden) will enjoy this series but prepared for talkative sessions that don’t seem to go anywhere other than to fill out the timeline.

Score: review-stars-2

Hakuoki- Demon of the Fleeting Blossom – The Complete Series, also known as Hakuoki – Season 1, will be available on DVD from the 3rd February 2014.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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