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Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossomb – Wild Dance of Kyoto Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Hakuoki Feature 1 Blu-ray Front CoverA tale told again and again.

What They Say:
There’s a war going on in ancient Kyoto. A war fought in shadows, between the forces of the Shogunate’s armed enforcers, the Shinsengumi, and the vampire-like Ronin warriors known as the Rasetsu or Furies. And trapped in the middle is a young woman disguised as a man.

Seeking her missing father, Chizuru Yukimura comes to Kyoto only to find her fate forever intertwined with the destinies of Shinsengumi Vice commander Toshizo Hijikata and his elite force of swordsmen. Because Chizuru’s father has created a secret elixir that enhances the user’s strength, speed and healing, and the furies will do anything and kill anyone in order to control that power!

Historical fact and nightmarish fiction combine as the world of the hit series HAKUOKI returns in a stunning new epic feature film: HAKUOKI: WILD DANCE OF KYOTO!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is quite good as we get the original Japanese track as well as the new English language track, both of which are done with 5.1 mixes encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec This season is similar to the others in the series in that there’s a good bit of dialogue throughout it with little action overall When it does hit the action, it works well and comes across strongly even in the stereo format since it’s intense and short, giving it the right kind of design as the blades clash and the blood flies. The dialogue side of it is pretty solid as we get a good number of characters overall with some varied conversations throughout and a lot of back and forth. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released 2013, the transfer for this feature film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Studio Deen, the film takes the strength of the TV series, which was pretty good with its color design and detail, and nudges it forward just enough to stand out as better without becoming a radically different looking work, which is almost required unfortunately. Colors are solid throughout and with some good detail to the costume design and the various backgrounds – inside and out – it has a good lived in feeling to it with a lot of little nuance to savor and enjoy. The release has no problems with cross coloration or aliasing and is very pleasing to the eye.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc inside. The front cover, noting that it’s movie one along the upper left, has a great piece of artwork of Hijikata and Chizuru together with the mix of hair colors for him, a wounded animal expression from this viewpoint, and a protective nature that just clicks as the cherry blossoms float by. It’s an engaging looking cover to be sure with its color and detail and just the general look of it. The logo is kept along the bottom where it has to deal with the complicating layering of pieces to it, plus a little Japanese, so it’s just not going to look good no matter what because of how much text is involved. It does the best it can, however. The back cover lightens things up with the Shinsengumi coloring along the top where we get the premise covered while below it are two strips of shots from the film along with a breakdown of the minimal extras. A little Shinsengumi character artwork adds a bit more liveliness to it all while the remainder is standard fare material with the breakdown of production credits and the clean and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release definitely works well as it utilizes a very good piece of artwork with three of the Shinsengumi in full action mode here as they attack in different directions. It’s got a lot of detail to it and some really striking color work that separates it from the rest of the materials for the packaging itself and the show in some ways. The layout keeps the menu navigation to the lower right with a little themed block that has the basic submenus and selections you’d expect, all of which works smoothly and problem free both as the main menu and as a pop-up menu.

Extras:
The only extras for this release are the Japanese trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the video game series of the same name that started off on the PlayStation 2, Hakuoki has managed two main seasons that have delighted fans and then moved on to a shorter prequel series. This year saw the debut of a cute short-form series that added a little fun to things. But after the prequel series a few years ago, two feature films were put into production that essentially retells parts of the series itself, just with better animation quality to some degree and a tighter pacing to it. This first feature film gives us something of a condensed compilation feeling to it where it tells the tale that we got but without the quieter and more intimate subplots and interactions of the characters. Things that slowed down the TV series too much. But without them here we end up feeling more disconnected because of it. It’s like they just needed to find a middle ground in order to tell the tale in this form.

The show takes us to 1863 Kyoto Japan, at least to start, as the twelve episodes moves us through late 1867 as well. The introduction comes with a young woman named Chizuru Yukimura who has come there in search of her father Kodo, a medicine man who left their home in order to help out as the country is going through so many changes. What her life brings her is two different but very well connected stories that spans all these years, which is rather interesting to see since it’s not all compressed into a small amount of time. Through some threatening circumstances, Chizuru encounters the Shinsengumi and finds herself caught up in their situation since they can’t be too sure about what she’s seen. Of course, since she’s dressed up as a boy, some of them are a little surprised to learn that she’s actually a she.

With this being a tumultuous time in the story of the Shinsengumi, we see it covered as Chizuru gets to know this group as they deal with the shifting tide of history, from the battle at Ikeda Inn to the Choshu making more incursions and the loss of allies with the Aizu and more. The threat of Kyoto being burned comes into play and other very familiar stories for those that have seen series revolving around this group. It’s kept grounded and we see most of it through Chizuru’s eyes as she becomes the only girl to really work with them by taking care of the place and them. With them wanting to help her find her father because of his connection to the group, it works nicely and they become something of a family, though there are plenty of tensions at times.

While this would be a decent series in itself, the show has another angle that it brings into play at the start and mixes in carefully here and there until it becomes stronger. When Chizuru arrives in Kyoto, she encounters some dead white looking Shinsengumi and learns that there’s a medicine that they took which turned them into something that are called Furies, which her father is discovered to be involved with. That becomes one of the ties that binds her with the group, but there’s more as it goes along as there is an evolution to the medicine that some of the members get tempted by but also an intriguing background story for Chizuru that isn’t obvious at first where she’s part of something much larger that she was unaware of as well. It brings a supernatural aspect into the show that was done smoother in the TV series and here just feels like we barrel into it and all its ramifications. The condensing of the story in this form really makes its biggest impact here as the tone of the property just feels very different because of it. .

When the film does work this larger campaign, introducing the devils that exist in the world and how they view the normal people, it does feel a little convoluted and somewhat distant without enough connection for the viewer. As I’ve said before, I’ve found this time period to be convoluted to begin with since ideologies change with the wind and everything is in a state of flux, never mind having seen so many variations on the reality that it all blurs now and it just gets more confusing. And then when you streamline it without digging into the bigger meaning behind some of it, there’s a superficiality to it – at least for the casual or first-time viewer that isn’t aware of what’s coming..

In Summary:
Hakuoki takes a familiar premise by dealing with the Shinsengumi and bringing a young woman into the mix on her own journey, yet having a connection between them. What’s unknown is just how big the connection really is and what her own back story truly is as she doesn’t know herself. Much of the film works the traditional Shinsengumi story with tweaks and changes along the way that work nicely without distorting key moments too much. But there are changes as it goes along because of the supernatural nature and that definitely has a lot of appeal in providing something different but not having the time to really let it unfold, instead hitting us with it hard and fast. The film is just the first half of the story of course and it works the setup and foundations as well as it can with it being as condensed as it is. Like a lot of films of this nature, it’s certainly interesting but I’m still uncertain of what the real target market is here and how well it works..

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: b-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P 3D HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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