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Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom – Spirit Of The Blue Sky Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Hakuoki Movie 2 Blu-ray Front CoverBeautiful people, beautiful battles, empty souls.

What They Say:
The battle at Koufu Castle has been lost, the Furies are no longer restrained by daylight, and while the individual members of the Shinsengumi still survive, the links that bound them together have been torn and shattered. As Harada, Shinpachi, and Saito try to fight their way out of Koufu, Chizuru holds true to her oath to Hijikata, standing guard over Kondou, while he and Okita fight to recover from their gunshot wounds. And Hijikata faces the greatest test of all. Having partaken of the Water Of Life, he must now balance his humanity against a need for blood and the deeds the Fury’s power makes possible.

Is saving the lives of those he cares about worth the ultimate sacrifice? Because no matter how skilled they are, no matter how brave, not everyone will survive the epic conclusion of the Hakuoki saga. Swords flash, heroes die and the fires of war ignite in the thrilling second motion picture of Hakuoki Warrior Spirit of the Blue Sky!

The Review:
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.

Originally released 2014, 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.

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 lower left, has a great piece of artwork of three of the primary characters once again set against the cherry blossom design. It’s definitely a light and appealing cover that draws you in and it has some solid detail to 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 keeps to the light style 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. In a bit of rarity, we do get an insert this time around that has liner notes and key names/places on both sides in small print as there’s a lot to cover here.

The menu design for this release definitely works well as it utilizes a very good piece of artwork with the two main characters from the front cover placed against each other here while still adhering to the cherry blossom background to give it some additional pop of color and atmosphere. 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.

The only extras for this release are the Japanese trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With three main TV series, an OVA series, and a side TV series of shorts, the Hakuoki property brings out the second and final part of the film side of the project with this release. And it’s a film that while it appeals visually in a great number of ways, hence upping the content grade below for me, the work as a whole is just another piece in the cog of familiarity. Having enjoyed the TV works for the most part, I ended up with these films by feeling like they were mostly unnecessary, which is the case with a lot of films of anime shows that essentially rework what we had seen before. There are some new sequences along the way and certain character motivations feel like they connect better theatrically, but there’s little here that really makes a big impact on me after seeing variations of this, not only in the TV material before but in other interpretations.

Frankly, the whole Shinsengumi era of material needs to be put in a vault for at least ten years before being tackled again. There’s simply been so much of it in the last couple of decades that it’s turned the whole thing into a blur. This property, coming from the otome game side, at least worked an interesting angle with the Furies and what they represents but even that felt like it wasn’t followed through on much when it came to the films. They weren’t exactly the richest of characters storywise in the TV show but it at least felt like their motivations and reasoning were based more in the events and feelings of the time. Here, they’re essentially the faceless villains to be dealt with, the other that the Shinsegumi and its dwindling numbers have to deal with. The larger questions of those that partake in being a Fury are mostly kept to the side, though this feature tries to have it both ways as Hijikata ends up drawn into it.

A lot of what we get here is also basically all about survival as the whittled down forces are trying to figure out their best approach while getting hit hard repeatedly, some from Fury’s, some from normal wounds, and just plain attrition of forces as things turn ever bleaker. What it becomes, however, is mostly a story about Chizuru and Hijikata as he swears to her above all else that he’ll make sure she survives. Of course, their love takes a disturbing turn along the way when he tells her that even if she wants to run away from him he won’t allow it, but I can see why that would be part of the swept up in the moment romantic element of the era and the characters at hand. But mostly it just reinforced the odd and somewhat unhealthy at best relationship that the two have, particularly as he ends up becoming a Fury along the way himself and new details about the Fury’s surface as well. But that’s not the driving force of the story as it’s all about these two and what they’ll do to survive.

The saving grace for the release really is the animation and I can definitely appreciate it for that. There are some beautiful moments to be had that play to the otome genre here as we get fantastic looking characters with all the moodiness you’d expect combined with some great locales, even if the whole cherry blossom thing is so played out to the point of absurdity at this stage of the game. The visual quality of the TV series was strong itself so it’s no surprise that it’s good here, but it’s definitely elevated the notches it needs to in order to be something stronger and more engaging. I can imagine just how appealing this would be on the big screen to see as there’s some wonder fluidity in the action sequences and some striking backgrounds that really set the mood well.

In Summary:
Fans of this property will find themselves delighted with what they get here as it’s appealing across the board with a strong transfer and technical aspects while also receiving a very good dub from a talented team familiar with this era in a big way. This particular era is very played out for me and even more so with this story as I think the TV and OVA material was better suited for it in order to really expand the characters, connections, and the growing threat that becomes the main action that this film captures. There’s a lot to like in a general sense but for me I found the work simply underwhelming and empty at this point, saved only by some technically beautiful animation and design work.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Trailers

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 23rd, 2016
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 80 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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