Final Review: Hakuouki Reimei-roku

DISCLAIMER: Anime reviews on this blog will attempt minimal to no spoilers unless otherwise noted. If a review seems dull or shallow, it’s because I’m trying to make sure not to go into too detail for those who are actually interested in the show before or after reading the review or those who have yet to finish the title. If you want further details, there are usually tons of reviews that can be found elsewhere on the internet. Furthermore, anime reviews in general are the sole opinion of the author writing it and thus differ across the users. There is no such thing as a “right answer” only a majority agreement. You are free to have your own opinions and thereby free to state and/or argue/debate in the comments section below or on the Fansub TV Forums. The review is not necessarily meant to serve as a recommendation but rather a personal opinion of having completed the series.

Hakuouki Reimei-roku is the fourth adaptation and the third TV series of the Hakuouki franchise. Hakuouki Reimei-roku is an original work that takes place prior to the events of the 2010 TV series featuring events before the official formation of the Shinsengumi as well as the stuff about the Rasetsu. The show features the same staff and cast as the original series as well as new characters such as Ryunosuke Ibuki and Kamo Serizawa. Hakuouki Reimei-roku aired during the Summer 2012 anime season, was simulcasted by CrunchyRoll, and licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

Prior to the airing of Hakuouki Reimei-roku, this show had some decent potential. With the potential lack of Rasetsus as they were the main focus of the 2010 titles as well as characters based on actual historical figures (e.g. Serizawa), this show had the setup necessary to become a decent historical samurai title. Unfortunately, Hakuouki failed to do so in a number of ways with its mediocre story. To start, the introduction of Ryunosuke was probably the worst idea possible. He was the most annoying character in the show and complained non-stop. Second, the significant lack of action really drove this show to the ground. There was a lot of dialogue, which is fine, but I should note that most of it is repetitive for several episodes. The series falls into a rinse and repeat mode for quite some time where Serizawa acts arrogant and stirs up trouble, Hijikata gets mad, yet Serizawa gets let off the hook. Lastly, the reintroduction of the Rasetsus really took any other hope out of this show. Granted that it’s a prequel and should have been expected, I was hoping for something more down to earth like the Hakuouki Sekkaroku OVAs. Those OVAs, while purely character development, didn’t involve much of the supernatural if any at all. Here, you could tell the Rasetsu story was building into the main TV series. While not a bad thing for fans of the franchise, those who are not interested in the original story will probably be turned off by this. The show is certainly standalone for the most part, but it could be even more so if it had not fallen into this trap, which resulted in predictable conclusions.

Art and animation remain absolute garbage for this show. Details are slightly better for backgrounds and animation remains basic but for a franchise that has had 2 years to improve now, I had expected much better from the staff, especially from Studio DEEN. Studio DEEN has clearly showed they can at least produce satisfactory animation with Sankarea and Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? Of the Dead last season. However, that quality didn’t carry over into this title for some reason. For a show that has four adaptations, you would think they would get a better budget at this point.

OP theme is no longer by Aika Yoshioka and is now by Maon Kurosaki. While not one of Kurosaki’s better songs, especially when you consider what she has been doing for ALTIMA, it’s still a fair song. Personally, I prefer Aika Yoshioka’s previous themes over this series’ OP though. The ED theme is also okay at best. Background music and sound effects remain average at best and with seiyuus effectively staying the same, they remain average. I will say, however, that I never thought I would be annoyed so much by Tomokazu Seki as Ryunosuke, especially when you consider Tomokazu’s previous roles.

Enjoyment? The series ended up being significantly more boring than I had expected. The series did a lot of good work with character development to tie in with a few events and changes in the original works, but outside of that, there really is not as much value as I would like. It doesn’t have that big of a hook aside from it continuing to be in a unique era of Japan, an era that surprisingly no other anime series has explored, or at least none that I’ve seen (maybe Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto?).

Overall, the Hakuouki franchise continues to be a franchise that has yet to truly impress. Its first series started off fairly decent with a unique premise and has effectively deteriorated ever since. It continues to fail in capitalizing on the unique era, in which Rurouni Kenshin is probably the next closest thing. It’s rewatch value is little and even those who are trying to get into the whole bishounen aspect, I find it hard to see why this could be that much more popular than a number of superior bishounen titles out there.

 

Story and Character:

  • Premise (0.5/1): Okay setup due to the lack of any supernatural initially.
  • Character Personalities (0.5/1): Same as the previous Hakuouki series. Ryunosuke is annoying.
  • Character Development (1/2): Shallow. If you watched the previous series, it’s nice to see how some of the Shinsengumi gradually change.
  • Character Usefulness/Presence (1/2): Shinsengumi is still large.
  • Pacing: (0/1): Slow and not much actually happens. Episodes feel very rinse and repeat like.
  • Reasonable/Plausible (1.5/2): Up until the reintroduction of the rasetsu, the show stays pretty close to traditional Japanese samurai stories.
  • Conclusion (0.5/1): Predictable but okay ending.
  • Total: 5/10

Art and Animation:

  • Backgrounds (1/2): Detailed but cheap in design.
  • Character Designs (1/2): Same old same old. After 2 years, the show still hasn’t upgraded in quality.
  • Fluidity (1/2): Basic animation.
  • Visuals/Special Effects/Flashiness (0.5/2): Mostly dark scenes and the action is basic for the most part
  • Art and Animation “Expectation” (0/2): DEEN really needs to get their act together. This is 2012 with most shows airing in HD, yet the native resolution of this show is still 576p at best.
  • Total: 3.5/10

Sound and Music:

  • OP/ED/Insert Themes (2/3): Aika Yoshioka is no longer doing the OP theme and is replaced with Maon Kurosaki, which is still fine. mao continues to do the ED theme, which is okay at best.
  • Background Music (1/2): Average Background music.
  • Sound Effects (1/2):  Average sound effects
  • Seiyuu (1.5/3): Same seiyuu cast. I never thought Tomokazu Seki could be so annoying after being the amazing Gilgamesh!
  • Total: 5.5/10

Enjoyment:

  • Amusement (1/2): Had some interesting aspects. Ultimately returned to being a direct prequel rather than a prequel spin-off.
  • Weekly/Next Episode Anticipation (0/2): None.
  • Presentation (0/2): Too repetitive and slow. Not enough action. Weak story to keep people hooked.
  • Re-watchable (0/1): Zero.
  • Recommendation (0/2): Rurouni Kenshin is still a better samurai work. Not to mention the two main Hakuouki series from 2010.
  • Value (0/1): None
  • Total: 1/10

Preliminary Score: 5/10

Final Score: 4/10

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