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 audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounded wonderful in my surround sound. It definitely makes it feel like you are watching a feature film with the quality audio instead of watching a single episode of the anime. Also, as this had a lot of action, the sounds such as sword clashing was distinct or feet clattering of floorboards added to the overall presentation. In addition, the soundtrack was very good, both the instrumental score and theme songs.
Studio Deen is the animation producer and always does well when it comes to bishounen oriented anime. The color and light usage is superb to create breathtaking scenes both during the day and at night. They capture the feel of the samurai era in Japan and the transformation it went through with detailed backgrounds and meticulous attention to costuming. There is also considerable use of texturing, specifically in flashbacks. I would have liked to see how sharper the images were on Blu-ray versus the DVD release.
For this DVD version, it’s fairly simple. The images chosen are well representative of the film both on the case and the disc. When looking at the back of the case, it does display much like a featured film would with screenshots tiled towards the bottom. The screenshots are very action oriented, but do tend to show a lot of Chizuru who does not participate in much of the action. Though the images are stunning they do seem a little softer in color and less crisp than expected.
The menu cover is the same as the case cover with easy to navigate selections of movie, language, scene select and special features. The theme song plays on repeat during the menu screen. The colors and design from the packaging carries over into the menu.
Japanese and Sentai trailers. A one-page glossary is included in case.
In this compilation film, it begins just as the first animation series does. It begins in June 1854 featuring Chizuru as a child as her home is attacked. It flows smoothly into the current setting of the story, which occurs in Kyoto, April 1864. She is being chased again, this time by samurai for a reason that is not given. It is here that she first meets a “fury”, a red eyed, white haired bloodthirsty samurai. It is this incident that introduces her to the Shinsengumi.
After the opening credits, a flashback shows Chizuru seeing her father off on a journey, but it is only a dream and the Shinsengumi have captured her. The Shinsengumi find out that they have something in common and that is they both know Chizuru’s father, Kodo. Because of this, they ultimately keep her in the folds of the organization.
At first, the Shinsengumi are not very friendly to Chizuru, but Heisuke is the first one to be kind to her. The rest follow suit in turn and all become fond of her over the course the film. The Shinsengumi’s generosity initial stems from a mutual concern, which is the missing Kodo, who is known for his knowledge in Western medicine.
Chizuru becomes Hijikata’s servant and is treated like a man, though not a soldier. She wishes to go on patrol, but is given a skill test with the talented swordsman, Hajime. She doesn’t do well, but was acknowledged to be able to take care of herself and allowed to tag along on patrol in the future.
By July 1864, the political climate starts to change. The Shinsengumi target the Ikeda Inn with intel that rogue samurais are gathering. Chizuru hears that her father might have been sighted in that area and rushes to see if she can find him. The raid turns bloody, almost one-sided for the Shinsengumi, until they meet some unusually strong opponents. These men are no match for the Shinsengumi and clearly are not ordinary men and definitely not human.
During this battle, Chizuru jumps into save Okita, and is asked why she is siding with the humans. This man, Kazama, interest is peeked, but doesn’t pursue taking Chizuru with him. Hijikata remains silent as he notices Chizuru’s wound healing unusually fast.
After the Ikeda Inn incident, she is brought into the inner folds of the Shinsengumi and praised for her efforts, particularly her medical skills. Kazama and his comrades remain a mystery to the Shinsengumi and believe they may be some kind of fury. Hijikata decides to keep a closer watch on Chizuru.
In October 1864, a man named Itou is welcomed into the Shinsengumi with mixed feelings. By February 1865 he is immersed into the day-to-day activities of the Shinsengumi, including planning and moving troops. This causes unrest from many and clear dislike of Itou cannot be disguised. During this unrest, Sannan shows Chizuru the furies and that they are a part of Kodo’s research and shows her a vial that contains the “Water of Life”. Sannan hopes to heal his injured arm with this medicine even at the risk of being fury. She tries to stop him, but can’t. Instead, he attacks her, but her own powers are enough to stop him for now.
Hijikata finally confronts Chizuru and asks what she is and if she is a fury. She states her quick healing power is something she has always had, but pleads to continue to stay with the Shinsengumi to look for her father. Hijikata chooses to keep her secret and promises to protect her, as Sannan now knows she is not human either.
Sannan’s death is faked as the water of life is success and his arm heals. He seems to be in control unlike the other furies. The Shinsengumi keep the furies and water of life a secret from Itou and his comrades.
The story then skips to March 1867 revealing Itou is not a loyal man. Kazama and the other devils decide to take action and go after Chizuru while another woman, Kaoru, who looks a lot like Chizuru shows up. The meeting is brief, but Chizuru is more concerned about Okita’s tuberculosis. She encourages him to rest and try to recover, but Okita refuses. His pride as a samurai is too great.
Itou decides to split up the Shinsengumi, and they are left with no choice as Itou has intel on them that can’t be released. The trade off is a bittersweet one with Hajime and Heisuke leaving the main the group. Spirits run low as the story flows into August 1867.
Kazama chooses to strike the Shinsengumi camp with one goal. And that is to bring Chizuru back with him. A full scale attacks ensues with Sannan showing of his fury abilities. Kazama reveals that Kodo is not Chizuru’s father a she once believed. Hijikata takes Kazama on directly and reveals that Chizuru is one of them (a devil). The battle is severely one sided, but again Chizuru jumps in front of Kazama’s blade and this time protects Hijikata. Even though Hijikata is injured he jumps up and proclaims that no one can take Chizuru away from him even if she is not human.
Hajime returns to the Shinsengumi as a spy against Itou and relays that Itou and has plans to kill Kondou, the leader of the Shinsengumi. During this, Heisuke is mortally wounded with his only choice, if he wishes to live, to drink the water of life. It’s a choice Heisuke makes, so that he will continue to be of use to others in the future. His choice is not hidden and Chizuru is fully aware of what he is.
In December 1867, the Shinsengumi prepare to march into the final battle. During preparation, Chizuru is lured by Kaoru away from the men of the Shinsengumi and finally sees Kodo face to face. She still believes him to be her father, and pleads with him to return those in the Shinsengumi who are furies back into humans. He tells her the truth that the water of life was intended to create an army of devils and that he is not her father. He also tells her directly that she is a descendant of devils as well. Kodo and Kaoru wish to take her away, but she adamantly declines and the Shinsengumi come to her aid.
Hijikata pledges his protection of Chizuru even after knowing that she is not human. Before more words could be exchanged, the Shinsengumi’s leader, Kondou, is returned to camp severely injured. Okita is also getting sicker and sicker as his tuberculosis takes a deeper hold. He also decides to drink the water of life and find those that hurt Kondou. When taking his revenge, he meets a young boy who is also a devil. A fight ensues with Okita seemingly the winner until the boy shoots him with a silver bullet and gets away.
It is now January 1868 and the war has escalated with the Shinsengumi in the thick of it. Those that have turn into furies struggle with their humanity and thirst for blood. Those that are not furies are given the water of life as an option if they need it during the war. Hijikata is now in charge and allows people to make their own choices while Chizuru supports the Shinsengumi and their troops by serving food and attending the wounded.
Chizuru goes as a messenger with an escort, but is ambushed as they try to leave the village. She escapes with the aid of Hijikata. It is here that Hijikata and Chizuru have another run in with Kazama forcing Hijikata to use the water of life. Their battle is stopped by another devil and the story ends with Hijikata and Chizuru united and ready to fight the humans that have stepped after Kazama left.
If you didn’t know, Hakuoki is based on an extremely popular otome game(s) from that had an English release from Idea Factory. The franchise has spawned several anime series and films over six years. This film is just a small slice of the Hakuoki universe.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say the biggest reason I like the film and the Hakuoki universe is because the men are beyond gorgeous. The character designs in most otome games are usually phenomenal, but Hakuoki is top notch. They are definitely the main attraction of the story with eye candy in every scene.
But, I don’t just like good looks, there does have to be a story to go with the beautiful men. I have always loved Japanese period pieces, especially those that are set specifically during this time frame. The settings and costuming are exquisite and a feast for the eyes. I’ve always loved stories about the Shinsengumi even if the male characters are not as lovely.
What I didn’t like about this story is that Chizuru remains rather skittish and helpless despite being a devil from a prestigious family. I understand this is based off an otome game, so the point is to go through the routes and meet all the boys, but she simply doesn’t come through as a primary character. The story is so strong that she is a side attraction. I’d love to see her have a little more power displayed in the anime/film.
English Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, English subtitles
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung HLS5687WX/XAA 55″ 1080 DLP, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Kenwood 600 watts 5.1 surround sound.