What They Say:
Hakyu Hoshin Engi contains episodes 1-23 of the anime directed by Masahiro Aizawa.
The Hoshin Project is on a mission to seal away the evil immortals that infest the world and slacker Taikobo is the last person suited for the job! Or so it seems. He’s lived among the humans and is the only immortal who understands the devastation of the deadly fox demon, Queen Dakki. Taikobo, his devoted friend Supushan, and a few unlikely allies, vow to protect the human world!
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets a 5.1 boost. Both tracks are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec and the end result is pretty good across the board. The show has an engaging stereo mix in general with what it needs to do in using the action with the dragons and the riders to accomplish things and there are some more personal action sequences as well that helps to carry it through. The show is designed for stereo and it may not be a top-tier mix but it’s one that works very well. It also makes for a good 5.1 upgrade with the English mix as that adds more to the rear channels and some better impact with the bass, especially through the subwoofer. This mix ramps things up nicely without it going over the top, making for a very fun time for dub fans.
Originally airing in the spring 2018 season, this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-three episodes are spread across three discs with an eight/eight/seven spread that works well enough to give everything space in addition to extras, such as the OVA Animated by C-Station, the show has a bright and colorful look about it that really does stand out well with some great colors and really strong vibrant moments. There’s a lot of really interesting designs to the character here and that carries through well with the transfer as they come across cleanly, especially with the color definition we get here. There are a number of very fluid moments to the show and that helps it stand out from time to time. I really liked the look of this transfer and the materials themselves as it embraces what it wants to be while still not being this high-end production.
The packaging for this release is interesting in how it works to stand out with a lot going on with the front cover. The regular edition has an o-card with it that replicates what’s on the case artwork, though the slipcover looks better overall with the better quality material. The front cover goes for a bright orange background with a few shades around the edges and in the middle, it rotates a couple of the main characters. It’s a little awkward just for that but the logo with the font style used makes it practically unreadable, which is frustrating as it feels like so many bad design choices made that combined into one. The back cover sticks to the orange background (which is actually a nice contrast to the Blu-ray stripe above) and goes for some character artwork to the right while the left fleshes out the premise. There are a few shots from the show and a highlight of the extras running time – boosted by the OVA – but a clear listing of what’s included. The rest is the familiar technical grid that’s mostly legible with the black on orange even with small print. The case itself replicates the slipcover but we also get the added bonus of the episode breakdown on the reverse left side while the right side gives us the same character artwork as the back cover, just a bit larger. No show-related inserts are included.
This release has a couple of good extras to it that will work for fans of both sides of the language divide. The show comes with familiar pieces in the clean openings and closing as well as some of the Japanese promotional videos. Additionally, we get the OVA for it that digs into the Koh family.
Hoshin Engi is a title I never really thought would come around again, though with the reboots to work on completed projects it certainly made sense. The original novel series from Tsutomu Ano back in 1988 spawned a 1996 manga by Ryu Fujisaki that ran for twenty-three volumes. That got released in English and it saw a 1999 TV anime adaptation that ADV Films picked up and dubbed originally. After that, things fell silent until this 2018 two-cour series came out and had a brief single-volume manga run alongside it, bringing back Fujisaki. The original anime was all that I had seen at the time back in the day and it was a frustrating experience that left me wary of the property for a long time and avoiding the manga. So this new anime adaptation wasn’t exactly at the top of my must-watch list.
And that was, sadly, reinforced right by the first episode as it goes through so much stuff so quickly and at times in such a confusing manner that it’s completely counterproductive. Wasn’t this the show where some fans ran a protest petition to figure out how the adaptation went so wrong? Anyway, the show focuses on Taikobo, a young man that’s something called a Doshi, which is basically someone that’s part of a group of immortals. He’s been tasked to find and seal various spirits that are causing trouble all over the world and he’s aided by Supu, his flying spirit beast, and he has a specialized weapon to deal with this. The Hoshin List is long and it’s the kind of easy setup that you can run a long time with, sort of like Saiyuki, with big accomplishments along the way but always more and more to seal away until sales slip or you just want to be done with it.
With a bad loss in the early days of attempting to do this, Taikobo changes his approach from being the only one that can do it to building up a group of friends to work with him on it. That has them going forth from there together so that it’s not a solitary journey and he has people he can lean on. From what I can tell with some casual searches, the opening episode crammed in an entire volume of manga’s worth of material, which explains the frenetic pace it operates at and how it seems like we’ve got so much thrown at us that I didn’t talk about that you can’t tell if it’s important or not. It’s kind of a push to get to the good stuff faster than it might otherwise or as it took in the first adaptation, but that’s a hard thing to accept when you find out that the show has original episodes within it that basically serves as filler when it was supposed to be adapting the actual original manga itself.
What makes this series harder to connect with, to the point where I felt like I was just skimming it after the first couple of episodes, is that like Saiyuki it’s so influenced on the Chinese side that I had less of a connection to it and found myself trying to look up things at times and just missing out. But the reality is that with the way the show is paced and moves, it doesn’t allow time for things to sink in. That opening episode is very fast and future ones slow down a bit from there, but even still it’s just a chaotic mess that works a lot of action while trying to come up with ways to be creative in solving the fights. Part of the charms of the manga that I always heard from friends was the humor of it all, the playfulness that comes into the mix, but this one almost feels too serious at times and is just barreling through events had and fast.
The reality is that Hoshin Engi is a Shonen Jump title through and through. You can see the basics of its design in most of the episodes after the first in how it approaches things. It does try to change things up a bit in the way the fights are resolved, but fights are regular and a part of Taikobo’s mission so they’re a given. The trappings just don’t work for me with the Chinese elements and I struggled with that back with the 1999 version as well as it just didn’t click for me. What we get here is a mess at the start with how it just powers through so much material so fast with things that feel important but are basically made unimportant by execution. At this point, I can see those who are fans of the original work finding value in this and others some curiosity about it, but it’s a project that just does not come together well and suffers right out of the gate, unable to right itself again.
Hoshin Engi just isn’t for me. With a series done decades ago that I struggled with, I put some hopes into a more accurate reboot to tell the tale better but it just drops the ball hard right from the start and made it even harder to connect with. There are some good moments here and there, both visually and story-wise, but the design and execution of the show makes it so that I imagine a lot of viewers checked out within the first couple of episodes if not the first episode. It simply struggles under the weight of everything it wants to do and is unable to put together in the right way. I really like some of the visual moments of it all and there are some fun designs to be had, but the story is what drives it and here you don’t want to be in the vehicle with it. For fans, Funimation’s release hits all the right points so there’s no disappointment to be had here. A solid dub, a clean encoding, a largely decent package, and the inclusion of the OVA as well. It looks and sounds great if its story is exactly what you want.
Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD Language, English 5.1 Dolby True HD Language, English Subtitles, “The Blood of the Koh Family” OVA, Promo Video, Commercials, Textless Opening and Closing
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 30th, 2019
Running Time: 575 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.