Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun Review

This is review number one hundred and ninety two. This anime is part of the Winter 2013 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun or “Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East”. It’s a twelve episode anime full of hot guys. Like seriously, there are a lot of hot guys in this anime. Super hot guys, like mega bishies, staring you in the face with that familiar fierce look telling you that they’re here to “f*ck your innocence”. Yeah, it’s a supernatural anime though and it’s really good. Let’s read on.

Story

The anime is about this boy named Shino Inuzaki. He is one of the survivors when his village was wiped out some five years ago. He is now with the other survivors Sosuke Inukawa and Hamiji. Shino has a secret. He looks like a young boy but he is actually eighteen years old and he wields a powerful sword called the Murasame. The sword has fused with his soul and it placed a curse in his body. The Imperial Church finds Shino fascinating and decided to invite him over to the capital. He seems to be associated with the supernatural like demons and monsters. Some series of strange events will now befall Shino and his friends where they will find themselves right in the center of it all.

Taking the Pants Off

I can pretty much summarize this anime into this familiar word I seem to be spouting at my reviews a lot: hot guys. My soul went a bit cold when I saw the staggering amount of bishies in this anime. Most anime with eight or so hot dudes pretty much has potential to suck. I’m not even talking about Otome anime. I have a very sour experience with manga adapted hot dude centered anime as well. It’s pretty much torture for me at this point that I seem to enjoy enduring. Anyways, this anime is not one of those sucky anime with hot dudes though. I was actually surprised that it was so damn good. It was able to be interesting thanks to its rich supernatural element and the original idea it adapted. It has some minor flaws but if the story doesn’t appeal to you then I’m sure the shounen ai can raise some alarm bells. Yeah, don’t ask. I’m a guy but I seem to have built an immunity for this kind of anime at this point.

First of all, this anime is adapted from a 1990 OVA anime called THE Hakkenden. The 1990 anime is actually based on a Japanese epic considered the longest classic Japanese literature. The epic is about a princess giving birth to some warriors. They all have “inu” in their names because their spiritual father is apparently a demon possessed dog. Anyways, they got scattered, gathered and then kicked some evil ass. This anime is pretty much standalone though since I think the manga was inspired by the epic. You don’t need to be familiarized with the epic to enjoy this anime. However, it does help to know a bit about it. The reason is because the anime started out a bit confusing. The storytelling is a bit disorganized with the anime starting out on an already established status quo with no explanation of it. The story just flowed by itself without any narration to let the audience catch up. It just opened with the three survivors and an apparent threat from the Imperial Church. It will most likely not catch your attention immediately. The supernatural element was intriguing but the story was a bit intimidating starting out. The anime took three episodes to actually make sense so a little bit of patience is required. To be honest though, you’re staring at a lot of pretty people during the first three episodes and that basically made me watch.

The premise of the anime is actually pretty simple. It’s about Shino and Sosuke being involved in some supernatural encounters. They go on adventures involving spiritual creatures and demons. Along the way, they meet some of the eight warriors and they help in some of the adventures. As the anime progresses, the cast grows and the supernatural encounters becomes a bit more complex. The anime also explored the Imperial Church and their structure. Throughout the anime, we are also introduced to some authorities involving the supernatural and the “Sacred Four Beast Family” that has some significant power in the supernatural world.

The anime sounds a bit intimidating but it is actually nicely formatted. The anime has two plot points. The first one is the supernatural adventures of the main characters. They mostly meet some strange demons or monsters or deities and get involved in their conflicts in some way or another. This part of the story usually lasts one to three episodes. A problem arises, the characters get involved and then they do their best to resolve it. This was the intriguing part of the anime because it was able to incorporate some really fascinating supernatural elements into the individual stories. These are not limited to Japanese folklores that you often expect in anime. There are the usual creatures like kappas, snow princess and creatures that hide in the forest but there are also some western ideas in the anime like the existence of ghosts, demons, angels and other kind of religious tropes not limited to Japanese ones. In fact, the incorporation of Christianity seems to be prominent in the anime. There are priests, nuns and archbishops in the anime and the number one religion seems to be the one involving a cross.

The supernatural encounters are usually about evil creatures hurting humans, deep rooted superstitions affecting the lives of humans or the various authorities of the supernatural world flexing their muscles in unsettling ways. The wonderful thing about the individual stories is that they are very complex. They aren’t just about the main character kicking some evil ass. Most of the stories are about the demons themselves and their circumstances. There is a huge theme of morality that the stories greatly share. Malignant beings feeling the pain of betrayal, deities admiring humans and walking the same path as them, demons resisting their urge to kill and clinging onto their little sliver of hope and other interesting stories that feature both sides of the coin are among the great subject of the anime. They’re deep and they are wonderfully executed.

The second plot point is about overall story of the anime involving the eight warriors and their circumstances. Each and every “Inu” had their own story to tell and their own sub-plot to explore. These little subplots are spread all across the anime with varying lengths that gives us a deeper understanding of the characters. The most common one and the most heavily featured is the relationship between the two characters. Shino and Sosuke survived the destruction of their village and now there seems to be some tension between them. One of them is suffering from a curse that prevents his body to age while the other is apparently missing his “other half”. Their lives have not been normal ever since that incident at the village and a lot of people has seemingly taken an interest in them. The fact that supernatural things attract them is also a bit troubling.

There is a problem with the second plot point though. It is that the whole anime was about introducing the overall story. There was no pay off to the second plot point yet. You will see a lot of characters introduced, circumstances explained, backstories explored and subplots slowly setup but nothing happens afterwards. It didn’t come to an exciting climax and it hugely affected the pace of the first plot point. The reason there was no pay off to all these thing is because the anime decided to do it all on the second season. Basically, this first season just laid all the groundwork for the second season. It was explaining all the crucial details before commencing to the actual focus of the overarching story the anime presented. The approach would’ve been massively boring if it was the only thing the anime was concerned with. Thankfully, the introductions and crucial details were easy to digest because the first plot point was able to carry the show. Of course, the characters did a lot to make the anime interesting as well.

The characters started out pretty generic and the story did most of that damage. It started with an established status quo so you had to catch up to the rhythm of the anime. The characters are all pretty plain though and it was really just their supernatural aspects that made them interesting. It was good enough for me though. The main character is Shino. He is the typical loud kid that complains a lot. The thing that made him unique is that he wields the Murasame that comes out of his freakin arm. The other main is Sosuke. He is the typical kind guy that scolds people only because he cares about them a lot. The characters really didn’t have time to develop because there were a lot of things the anime was presenting to you. Laying the groundwork for the second season took precedence. The rest of the recurring cast had the same setup. They had plain generic personalities and their unusual traits make them stand out. There are two half demon brothers, a man without a heart, an Imperial Church officer that has a huge dog as a guardian and another officer with five fox guardians are some of the regular cast.

The one shot characters are very nicely rounded though. The individual stories are pretty complex so the characters really undergo some nice transformation as the show progresses. They often start out pretty one dimensional but the show takes the time to present their backstory and fleshing them out to match the development of the story. After all, you can’t really admire a demon that just kills people. How about making him more human where he is actually fighting his urges? It does wonders to the narrative of the show. It’s also funny that the one shot characters had more development than the main characters.

You may be asking though. Why would I watch an anime that purposely have a second story to actually get interesting? If the great individual stories don’t appeal to you then I have one more thing to tell you. BL undertone. The show pretty much understood that it had a lot of hot guys in it and it pulls some comedy from time to time. There are scenes where characters are hugging, being on top of each other and doing some teases that are funny, but dangerously fan service~y. This is a great strength to the anime as well though. The character interaction is pretty amazing. They may be one dimensional pretenses but the way they interact is pretty interesting. Some of them do fade in the background for a bit because of the large cast but they still manage to do something worthwhile at every scene.

The fact that the anime had another season to properly tell the story didn’t hurt it that much. This is a really great show and considering that most bishie filled anime sucks, I am amazed at how wonderful this one is. Some things are still left wide open and some things are begging to be properly explained but you’d have to wait another season. A supernatural anime with hot guys and a great theme of morality is still something I’d urge everyone to try.

Sight and Sound

The anime have hot guys. HOT GUYS. The typical tall, dark and handsome type of characters that looks fierce. They’re the type that’ll pin you down and force you to take it. They have broad shoulders, a lovely waists and long limbs that look pretty damn sexy. The characters have the same body build and they mostly differ over the normal things like hair and the outfit. The hairstyle has a nice range to it. From simple clean style to rough messy hair, it adds a lot of personality to the characters. I’m a bit conflicted with the outfit though. They do look good on the characters but most of them don’t really fit the era. I think the anime is set in the 1930s where technology was on the rise while the people still stick to their feudal customs. Things like the stylish uniforms of police and the priests are pretty OK but I don’t think shorts and leather was a thing back then. Shino mostly wear flashy outfits and clothes that tightly fit his body and the 1930s isn’t really that liberal. The fact that the background characters stick to the trend of the era while the characters don’t is pretty iffy. It’s like having hot guys isn’t enough. We have to make super stylish because goddamn it, we can and we will. The character design is pretty great though especially when you consider how girly the dudes are. If you give them long hair then they can pass off as girls and the anime pointed that out themselves. It’s pretty amazing. The girls are nicely designed as well though. They have the same eye candy appeal as the hot guys and their outfits stand out as well.

The supernatural creatures are nicely designed as well. I love how they retain their menacing look and their dark appeal. The demons are especially nicely designed with their awesome muscular bodies and devil-like features. Most things are done in CG like the eye ball monster that appears in the show a lot. The creatures in the anime really look great and they are often depicted as really dangerous creatures as oppose to the current mentality in anime where they are cute and harmless. Nope. They tear humans apart in this anime and they abide by their gruesome roots. Trespassed their territory? That’s OK. Cut off your arm and they’ll let you go.

hakkenden15

I am a huge fan of the face shots. The anime does it a lot. They would focus on the face of the characters and their beautiful features just shine bright during these scenes. Almost every character does it and the anime limits the animation here so the beautiful faces are intact. The animation is pretty decent but you’d often see that only the mouth moves and the eyes don’t blink. Hot guys don’t blink their eyes, I guess. The animation is pretty decent. There aren’t a lot of standout moments but the anime was able to retain the flashy quality of the characters and the menacing appeal of the monsters when they fight. Some of the effects are nicely animated like the large guardian dog appearing out of thin air. It adds to the awesomeness of the characters and the creatures.

The fight scenes are pretty horrible though. The characters just swing their sword or punch people. There is no decent storytelling in the fight and they are badly paced. It’s a good thing that it’s not the main focus of the anime. It was more dialogue heavy so as long as the characters look pretty then it’s all good even if they fight like pathetic cardboards.

The anime’s OP is “God FATE” by Faylan. It’s a flashy pop rock song that does fit the anime nicely. It’s the typical kind of OP though. Faylan’s voice is great and the energy of the song is pretty awesome but it doesn’t really stand out that much. The OP sequence is a short montage of the events in the anime. It teased a lot of things that you might expect in the anime and I think even had some things pivotal to the second season. The OP helps and confuses a bit but it looks pretty flashy. It introduces all the important characters and a teaser of the events in the anime.

The anime’s ED is “String of pain” by Tetsuya Kakihara. He voiced Shino in the anime and he does have a handsome voice. The song is the typical ED kind of song though that highlights his voice and nothing more, really. The ED sequence features all the characters in some still poses. Nothing complex.

Overall Score

6/10 “It entertained in two fronts: the hot dudes being hot dudes and the supernatural element pretty much giving the anime its great personality.”

This is a great anime. The fact that it baited the second season does hurt the anime a bit because it setup a lot of things that ultimately led to a cliffhanger. The anime is still great though because of the great individual stories it possess. If you like supernatural anime with a serious tone then you’ll enjoy this anime. I recommend it.

4 thoughts on “Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun Review

  1. I could actually agree with what you’ve said about the fight scenes. For me, if it is a shounen manga, that would be a turnoff. And yes. Lots of HOT GUYS. It’s impossible for me as of now to get bored with the scenery. :D I’m just saddened with the fact that some viewers tend to judge the anime already even without actually watching the entire season just because of some hints of BL though it really isn’t a big deal and doesn’t even affect the flow the story.

    • a lot of viewers judge anime without fully realizing what the has to offer. that’s why I try my best to convey what an anime tries to deliver. i’m overly positive though but i’m fixing that. :)
      the BL is one of the biggest selling point of the anime though so you can’t blame them if they aren’t into it. it’s just one of those things. i guess.

      • I agree, and I could say that I tend to be someone like that as well. I just feel like, it’s a shame. It’s a good anime. If they could just leave the BL stuff as it is. Haha. Also, I would like to commend the review as it points out some of the inconsistencies of the story. There’s even a time when I actually got a headache just to figure out what was happening. I mean, there are some scenes that doesn’t make sense and all. Plus the horrible action scenes that thankfully, as what you’ve said , it didn’t affect the entire anime.

Thoughts~

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