Video games always translate well into movies and tv shows, right? Just look at Hitman, Wing Commander, and House of the Dead. Ok, ok, but there was also the satisfying Mortal Kombat and the well-regarded Street Fighter II V. So, where on the scale do we wind up with Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom?
Good question. Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom is season one of a TV adaptation of a large, successful video game series. The Hakuoki series is an otome visual novel series. That is to say, it is a series of story-based games built around developing a romantic relationship between the lead female and one of the other characters. Admittedly, not a genre of games I’m too familiar with beyond just knowing they exist.
Set in 1863, Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom focuses on a particular young woman, Chizuru. As Chizuru searches for her father, ronin pursue her. It just so happens that Rasetsu attack the ronin chasing after her as they are about to attack her. At the last moment, the Shinsengumi save her from the Rasetsu and take her in. Through the season, she begins to work her way into the culture of the Shinsengumi and develop relationships with the others in the clan.
What follows is a web of plots that threaten the society the show is set in. Meanwhile, there is a potion that will heal people from grave injuries. Unfortunately, it turns the patient into the Rasetsu, making them weakened by light, silver and subject to a blood thirst and demonic state. As the show goes on, more of the Shinsengumi take the potion and become one of the Rasetsu.
Studio Deen put together this anime series. They also put out part of Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma ½, and Rurouni Kenshin. With so many quality anime titles under their belt, how could this go wrong? I’m really not sure, but it did go wrong. Very wrong.
Why do I say this? Well, this is an adaptation of a game series that tells an interactive story. With that knowledge, I would expect two things from this show: drama and lots of conversation. As someone who is only fleetingly familiar with the genre of otome, I expect it would have a lot of dialog to tell the story of how the relationships develop. And for the most part, that certainly happens in this TV series. There is a lot of dialog between characters and a lot of drama.
So, if it meets that expectation, why didn’t I like it? Well, the pacing was awful and the dialog that filled the runtime wasn’t interesting. Outside of maybe two or three episodes, the shows just drug on every time. It is possible I would feel differently when it was first broadcast with a week between episodes. As it is on this set, it just plodded on from episode one. Yes, there is time spent on dialog between characters and a lot of it is necessary. At the same time, a whole lot of the dialog and drama is just overextended and unnecessary. So much of it just eats time. The dialog isn’t witty throughout the show or anything like that. It is just there filling out the runtime.
While some of what happens is interesting, it just should have happened more quickly with less filler. Probably, more fitting would be along the lines of four to six episodes instead of twelve. Maybe, maybe maxing out at 8 episodes. This would have put the events closer together and with less downtime that clearly didn’t have the dialog or the quality of characters to merit. Maison Ikkoku never moved that quickly, but it kept attention much better by having better characters and dialog. Hakuoki needs one of those three improved from what we have.
I wanted to like this because the concept of the demon warriors is a pretty cool idea, it just takes too long to get anywhere. If I come back to watch the second season, I sure hope it moves at a snappier pace. At the very least, I want to see better dialog. As it is, I just can’t recommend the show.
Picture Quality: 3.5/5
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom features a really nice transfer. The image is clean pretty much all throughout. On the other hand, lines are occasionally noticeably soft. Colors look very good and the beautiful images are well-represented. If only the pacing kept up with the visuals.
Audio Quality: 3/5
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom features DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. It includes both the English and Japanese, so it gets a slight bump for that from me. It isn’t terribly active, but is properly clear. For a show that relies so heavily on dialog and drama, this track needs to be clear. On that front, the track performs well.
Special Features and Packaging: 2/5
Hakuoki Sweet School Life – Dancing Cherry Blossoms! Offense and Defense at the School Gate: This looks to be a bit taken from one of the games from the Playstation Vita. Gives you a concept of where the show came from.
Extra Chapter – Kyoto: Extra half episode added in to give more detail to the events. And surprisingly, more dialog that wasn’t necessary to tell the story.
Trailers for other titles from Sentai Filmworks
Pretty standard two disc packaging here. At least there is a little bit of effort put into the supplements.
Hakuoki Overall: 1.5/5
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom just wasn’t very good. It is a misfire and certainly not worth the $70 list price or the $50 it is currently selling for on Amazon. The video and audio are perfectly fine, but there isn’t anything here really worth your time. Add to that no special features of true interest, not that I would recommend wasting any time beyond the show anyway. Honestly, if you like the games, just go play the games and don’t spend the money on this.
Note: This Blu Ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.