DVD Review: Hakuoki – Dawn of the Shinsengumi – The Complete Series

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It’s not often that a prequel series is released for an anime franchise, but that’s exactly the case with Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom – Dawn of the Shinsengumi, so what can we expect from this DVD release by MVM Entertainment? Well let’s take a look.

Synopsis:

The year is 1863 and as Japan’s long-festering wounds of political discord erupt into violent waves of street clashes and murder, the Tokugawa Shogunate sends a new force of masterless samurai called the Roshigumi to the aid of the Aizu forces in Kyoto. However, the new “police” are anything but a cohesive force and assassination has already split them into two opposing factions.

The stronger is led by the brutal Serizawa Kamo, and the lesser by the more honorable but less assertive Kondo Isami. It is into this pack of wolves that Ryunosuke Ibuki is dragged by the rabid Serizawa. Forced to be a virtual slave by blood debt, he hates the samurai and everything they stand for. But as he sees how the other half of the samurai live, he begins to believe that there may still be a chance, for both himself and Japan, if only Kondo will step up and take down the mad dog Serizawa!

Our View:

Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom – Dawn of the Shinsengumi, or more commonly known as Hakuoki – Season 3, is a prequel series that explains the origins of the Shinsengumi (currently known as Roshigumi) and how they came to be. As you’d expect it attempts to fill-in the gaps left over by the previous two seasons while at the same time sustaining its own story by introducing new characters and providing an interesting experience for both fans of the series and newcomers.

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As the synopsis suggests Ryunosuke Ibuki, along with the founding members of the Shinsengumi, are the main protagonists and the series follows Ibuki’s journey of being a member of the Roshigumi, a samurai clan which later became the Shinsengumi. While Ibuki is considered as the main character he isn’t considered the centre of attention, instead it seems he was created so that the viewers could become better acquainted with the main Shinsengumi cast and the battles that led up to their clans formation. The reason i suggest this is because Ibuki doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than to do his masters bidding and while he is on screen he is not the main focus, instead it’s developing story between the two rival factions. As you’d expect there is more to the story than the two rival factions, as both the birth of the Shinsengumi and the reasearch into the liquid that turns people into Rasetsu are explored within this prequel.

In my eyes Ibuki being forced as a member of the Roshigumi clan is a way for the viewer to experience this particular story from a ‘third-person’ perspective, as throughout the series of Roshigumi clan members interact with Ibuki to provide character information. For instance during one episode we see Ibuki being told how Saito initally met Heisuke as well as Heisuke passion for becoming a strong samurai warrior. It’s these episodes, along with some entertaining bloody fight scenes, which bring the best out of Hakuoki and make it a better experience than previous sets.

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If you’ve seen the previous Hakuoki seasons then you’ll already be aware of what to expect, as it’s pretty much the same expect for a few different characters and clans, but even then the familiar faces take up most of the screen time. The storyline of this series can be classed as self-contained (as it has a start and an end for a single character) but interestingly it even ties directly into the first episode of the original series, however this being a period drama it still focuses heavily on Japanese history and long discussions which can become boring for those who have little interest, that being said there is some beautiful battle scenes that lighten up the series.

Extras:

Unlike the second season DVD release of Hakuoki (Record of the Jade Blood) this third season actually contains some reasonable extra features, all of which located on the second DVD disc.

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As usual text less opening and closing songs are included, however more interestingly is the inclusion of trailers for a variety of other anime releases. Some of these titles have yet to be announced by MVM, and that’s because the disc is authored by Hanabee in Australia, but it’s nice that they are left on for our viewing pleasure.

Don’t expect too much from the trailers though, as most of them are the opening song edited together with scenes from that particular series, Kokoro Connect for instance starts the opening animation, has a variety of clips (with spoilers) and then ends with the opening animation. While it’s nice that scenes from the series are included it doesn’t help explain what happens in the series, just like in the trailer for Hakuoki season 2 which is basically just the opening animation in text less form.

Specs:

Media: DVD 9 x2
Region: 2
Running Time: 2:13:12 (Disc 1 & 2)
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 448kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps

Overall:

As I’ve mentioned previously this “Third Season” is a prequel series and as such attempts to fill-in questions left over by the previous seasons, namely the origins of the Shinsengumi and the Demonic characters that plagued the seris. However with that being said what makes this third season stand out from the previous releases is that newcomers can watch it without losing too much of the overall storyline and in some ways get them prepped for the original series, as other than Ibuki all of the main cast remain.

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The previous two seasons revolved around Chizuru Yukimura and the daily activities of the Shinsengumi, however in this prequel series the storyline is slightly different as it instead explores the origin stories of the main members of the Shinsengumi and how it became to be formed. Of course Ibuki’s daily lifestyle and experiences with the Roshigumi is documented within the series, but it’s the origin story which fill most of the timeline, hence the subtitle “Dawn of the Shinsengumi”.

In regards to this DVD release it’s another ‘text-book’ release from MVM, in other words 12 episodes spread over two DVD discs, two audio languages in stereo format and some minimal extra features to round out the package. There is nothing to brag (or complain) about either, as the presentation of the series is as you’d expect for a DVD release (with no pixilation or distortion), the DVD menu is easy to navigate and the Audio/Subtitle options can be changed without any restrictions. The style of menu also falls in line with previous sets, so there is some continuity to be had across all three sets.

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What you see is what you get with Hakuoki – Dawn of the Shinsengumi, it’s a series that has a ‘self-contained’ story that can be watched from start to end without any previous knowledge, however it still has the same issues as the previous sets, a rather dreary storyline of war and politics and poorly presented English Dub. If you enjoyed the previous series then owning this one is a no-brainer, however if you are unsure then I’d recommend giving this one a try before the others as i found it to be more entertaining than the others.

Score: review-stars-2

Hakuoki- Dawn of the Shinsengumi – The Complete Series, also known as Hakuoki – Season 3, will be available on DVD from the 7th April 2014.

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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