DVD Review: Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East – Season 1
17/07/2016 1 Comment
Are Eight Dogs needed to turn the world into something anew? Who knows but we take a look at MVM Entertainment’s upcoming release of Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East – Season 1 to see what it has to offer. Spoilers… not a lot so be prepared for reptitive notions and nothing make sense; but at least it will be available on Blu-ray!
When their village was wiped out five years ago, there were only three young survivors: boys Shino Inuzuka and Sosuke Inukawa and the girl Hamaji. Through a quirk of fate, both boys share the same peony-shaped birthmark. Genpachi Inukai and Kobungo Inuta were raised hundreds of miles away as foster brothers, but they too share the same birthmark.
When they went north as part of the army three years ago, they went to confront demons and came back forever transformed. Now the Imperial Church has come for Shino and Sosuke and they must find eight mystical gems and their owners or face a fate worse than death at the hands of the Church.
Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East – Season 1 is an animated series that teases you the possibility of mythical creatures, spirits, demons and beastly fights but in the end it’s nothing more than an animated story with no real purpose other than to disappoint its viewers. Adapted from a novel series created by Nansō Satomi Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East is a story which sees eighteen year old Shino Inuzuka, older brother Sosuke Inukawa and close friend Hamaji join forces with Rio Satomi, who coincidentally is the head dean at the church Sosuke is a part of, in order to track down other people owning a bead (or ball if you prefer) for an undisclosed purpose. Exactly what Rio Satomi is hoping to achieve from this quest is currently unclear; but it’s one that sees Shino and Sosuke venture across the land looking for those who may possess it.
In a nutshell this is the ‘general consensuses’ of what to expect from Hakkenden; but further down a potentially more interesting story is preparing to unfold. For starters Shino, Sosuke and Hamaji were the only three survivors of a plague which wiped out their entire village; additionally it’s believed that Rio Satomi, otherwise known as Dean Satomi in the church, bestowed unique abilities to Shino and Sosuke which sparks an interesting question of who did what and why. For instance Shino wields the incredibly powerful demonic sword known as Murasame, which binds itself to Shino’s arm and appears as a bird when out in physical form, while Sosuke has the ability to transform into a wolf for a more deadly attack. What’s more interesting is that Murasame’s curse prevents Shino from aging or dying through usual means; both of which leads to some interesting confrontations when newer characters are introduced. While Shino and Sosuke have powers Hamaji on the other hand has none and while she may play an important part of getting the characters together for Satomi she hardly has any screen time and is quickly whisked away into a boarding school; but even when this happens she somehow gets her own episode with a mysterious vibe to it. Interesting but just not entertaining.
Oddly enough despite these characters being the protagonists of the series their personalities and backstories are rarely disclosed or discussed to the viewer; which is a real shame as the storyline Hakkenden offers is a rather limp-wrist one at best. The idea is that Shino and Sosuke will use their influence to track down other members who own a bead and while this task proves eventful, as seen when two brothers who can turn themselves into demonic creatures appear, it’s actually the storyline surrounding a mysterious character that resembles Sosuke that proves to be the more interesting aspect of this series. As mentioned the main story is tracking down people with these beads; but you can’t help but wonder if the actual storyline is the untold grudge that this ‘unknown lookalike’ has against Shino and selective members of the church. It’s all pretty much a mystery and unfortunately nothing is explained… it just happens and gets on with it.
In some aspects Hakkenden may seem to offer an unprogressive storyline; as it may commit to one storyline aspect in one episode but the next will follow along in a completely unrelated matter, but look from a far and you’ll notice that story arcs are being presented to you; albeit in a terrible depraving fashion. For instance the first two episodes of the series act as an introduction to the world these characters inhabit, which is actually quite complex and confusing, the second arc of this season however will dig deeper into the two brothers which also posses unique abilities and the church which is out to kill them; the third arc meanwhile introduces a gorilla deity in the mountains, which sees Shino attempt to resolve it’s anger, while the fourth arc focuses on the unknown Sosuke look-a-like and his intentions for the world.
Each arc is different and while some relate to the task at hand; others do not and its probably why I didn’t like Hakkenden as it hardly ever keeps on track with its true motive. Is Shino’s condition the topic at hand, is it Rio Satomi’s quest or more importantly is it the look-a-like? A definitive answer isn’t given and a conclusion isn’t had so one would expect the second season to provide the answers – which is a real shame as I just wanted to give up on watching this series.
Unlike past Sentai Filmwork mastered releases Hakkeden: Eighjt Dogs of the East provides a rather nice mixture of bonus content ranging the usual to more obscure content; all of which is presented through the three DVD discs.
Majority of the bonus content is located on the first DVD disc, with a selection of Japanese Audio Commentaries provided for you listening pleasure; however do not get too excited as instead of discussing their roles and the character their are trying to portray its mostly general conversation. In addition to these commentary tracks we also have a selection of trailers; some of which have been licsened by MVM Entertainment while others have not.
The final selection of bonus content comes in the form of textless opening and closing songs; all of which are located on the second DVD disc of this series. The third DVD disc does not feature any bonus content; but it does feature more episodes than the rest so it’s nice to see Sentai Filmworks spreading out the content for maxim quality and presentation.
Media: DVD 9 x3
Running Time: 1:42:48 (Disc 1 & 2), 2:08:25 (Disc 3)
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 720 x 480 (480p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 30 fps
Saying that I disliked Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East – Season 1 is an understatement; the opening first episode highlighted to me everything that I may enjoy from the series – mystery, suspense, magic and action – but by the second episode it had all disappeared. The element which sees Hamaji kidnapped, which added some suspense, turned out to be false and was more of a way for Rio Satomi to draw out Shino and Sosuke so that they could do his bidding; and when Shino and Sosuke do start to investigate his wish it becomes so derailed from the experience you expected to receive that you just want it to end. Fortunately some good storyline within this series can be found, such as the arrival of the two demonic brothers, the girl with the golden eyes and the person that looks a lot like Sosuke; but nothing is ever acted upon them that it feels like a wasted opportunity. Too many secrets, not enough moving forward – it’s a stalemate that never wants to end and when it does it’s nothing great.
My perception of Hakkeden Season 1 is one that sees Shino and Sosuke recruited by Rio Satomi to track down beads that he will later use for his own purposes; and as such both characters look to find the people who own these beads in an attempt to turn them to their cause. Of course along the way a variety of things happen and their journey of discovery gets derailed slightly. To me this is pretty much what you can expect and while it should be an interesting story it’s not. I found myself waiting for the good bits to happen and while I may have missed crucial plot points its safe to say that I just wasn’t interested in what I was watching. Hence my complete nagging; but each to their own.
This DVD release on the otherhand is pretty much what you would usually expect to receive; disc masters authored by Sentai Filmworks with MVM simply distributing it through the UK. As mentioned the content is spread across three discs and as such the quality remains consistent through the sets. An English Audio track is available and it’s not half bad but as with all sentai filmwork dubs it’s best avoiding and focusing on the Japanese audio track; besides with so much different variations of dialogue being thrown around (especially different cultures of churches) it may be best focusing on the subtitle version to avoid any confusion. Speaking of subtitles there are some dialogue elements which raise concerns; for instance multiple characters often refer to shino’s sleeping as “Like a babe” which, according to an American friend, is an American way of saying “like a baby”. Personally this difference in cultural differences is discouraging for a UK release and it slightly makes you question the rest of the subtitled dialogue being presented to you. Of course if you are already familiar with this saying then ‘fair enough’ but in my eyes the translated dialogue should’ve been “like a baby” as the alternative just sounds bizarre. It’s also worth noting that this “like a babe” isn’t just in the subtitles either as it is also part of the English Dub produced by Sentai Filmworks.
Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East – Season 1 is a mediocre release at best; it’s a generally great product – in terms of quality, presentation and materials – but in terms of the show itself then it’s nothing but a disappointment that never seems to end. Was I expecting anything from it? No; but put simply this show isn’t just for me and offers more of an otome styled show rather than one that focuses on telling its story.
Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East – Season 1 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray within the UK.