Posted by psgels on 25 March 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews




The Hakkenden is an OVA that I decided to check out because it’s something like an animation fan’s wet dream. Seriously, it was a series that just kept returning on the resumes of famous, well known and very talented animators. To just name the most notable people who worked on this thing: Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, Kaiba, Yojou-han), Takashi Nakamura (Fantastic Children), Shinji Hashimoto (Kid’s Story, Black Heaven’s OP), Satoru Utsunomiya (Animation director of Gosenzosama Banbanzai), Shinya Ohira (Wanwa the Doggy). And if that wasn’t enough already: among the key animators were Mitsuo Iso and Takeshi Honda (Dennou Coil) and Kenji Kamiyama (Seirei no Mobirito, Ghost in the Shell SAC) was one of the art directors.

Seriously, outside of anthologies like Genius Party, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large amount of ridiculously talented animators and animation directors come together on one project. The producers really took both up and coming talent with the intention to make an incredible visual masterpiece.

And indeed: the animation in The Hakkenden is exquisite. It’s got thirteen episodes in total, and just about every scene looks gorgeous. The amount of still frames is kept to an absolute minimum, but what makes this show really stand out is its truly excellent inbetween animation. Let me tell you: this OVA has been one of the first, if not THE first, that managed to successfully and consistently animate small armies, never giving up any kind of detail on even the most insignificant soldier.

Beyond that, the animation also manages to bring its characters to life. The amount of detail that is in their movements is just completely amazing throughout nearly every episode, but the ones that really stand out are episodes 4 (Masaaki Yuasa and Takashi Nakamura actually worked together on that one), 9 (Satoru Utsunomiya has a unique style that focuses on many subtle movement and incredibly fluid framerates and gets total freedom to use it here) and 10 (Shinya Ohira and Shinji Hashimoto are both wild and vivid animators and show this off in an absolutely stunning episode) are absolute visual masterpieces.

As for the story and setting: the Hakkenden is a very authentic series: backgrounds are all excellent, the stories that it tells about its characters create a wonderful atmosphere of the darker days of Japan’s history.

This OVA basically has two major problems. The first is that it is a fervent supporter of a guy named Murphy. Seriously: whenever you find yourself thinking “this could go wrong really badly”, it does. This show really tries to drag its characters to hell over and over, and that does get a bit one-sided after a while. Especially considering how it paints the picture that anyone who held even the slightest amount of power in Japan was a total bastard over and over.

The second flaw is that sometimes, it really feels like complete scenes are missing. There are parts that this series refuses to explain, leaving huge holes in the story. The story jumps around way too much: at one time the eight titular dog warriors are together, then they’re split up again, then they magically are together again. The worst is how it just refuses to explain how they all meet each other: they just get introduced, they tell their story, and suddenly they’re all travelling together.

It’s definitely worth the watch, though. I’ve seldomly seen animation this consistent and this good at bringing its characters to life. The Hakkenden was an incredibly ambitious project, especially when you consider what some of the people involved all ended up accomplishing after they finished their work on this series.

Storytelling: 7/10 – Great atmosphere, but a bit disjointed and one-sided in terms of the big picture.
Characters: 8/10 – Solid characterization (also really helped by the animation).
Production-Values: 10/10 – Absolutely fantastic. Amazing and life-like animation.
Setting: 9/10 – Very authentic picture of the old days of Japan, with roots deep inside folklore.

Suggestions:
Genius Party
Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto
Robot Carnival

2 Responses

  1. signorRossi says:

    Wow, you actually reviewed this (have it on DVD). But AFAIK the production of ‘The Hakkenden’ was quite a roller-coaster, e.g. the character design gets very inconsistent in the middle of the series, so much that you have difficulties recognizing some characters again. And you are right, after a while you know that any character involved with a dog warrior will die a terrible death. ;)
    Ah, almost forgot, I like this show too. :)

  2. Tan-Tan says:

    Well, what I watched is Shin Hakkenden, the one based on this one xD But seems like this one ain’t bad either.

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  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:59 AM)
    People’s attention spans are incredibly limited, you have to get to the point and hit ‘em hard.
  • afgm
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:59 AM)
    It’s a very delicate balance to find the happy medium between High School English Essay and water cooler chat.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:57 AM)
    @afgm: I think the consensus is in favor of much shorter posts, not less yet even longer ones.
  • k-off
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:56 AM)
    @afgm I agree. Perhaps he can do them in groups of 2 though, because he can keep his long reviews while moving his attention away from the wordy bits a bit more.
  • afgm
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:53 AM)
    I feel that’s a good compromise.
  • afgm
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:52 AM)
    @Ninjarealist: I like the depth of your reviews, however I think you would be better served doing reviews on episode groups rather than individual episodes. Episodic reviews rely a lot on speculation, however over the span of 3-4 episodes you are more likely to make observations that are relevant. I suggest doing abridged episodic reviews and doing progress reports every 4-5 episodes that go more in depth. That way you will have a larger body of evidence to support your arguments.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:44 AM)
    Not that you don’t have to restrain your longer thoughts on these shows realist, by all means include thoughts that are too long for a review in a shoutbox discussion or the comments section.
  • reaLjustified
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:31 AM)
    300-500 words should be perfect. I don’t care about the rating system myself.
  • ninjarealist
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:31 AM)
    @reaLjustified Thanks for the criticisms. I will definitely take your opinion into account. I can see now how my point about Psycho Pass 2 being thematically a lot different than Psycho Pass 1, could have come across as confusing or esoteric when preceded by the introductory sentence you took issue with.
  • reaLjustified
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 12:29 AM)
    I agree with Hal, I want to read a brief and to the point review rather than a three page essay on a single episode. It does you as much harm as it bores us. I tried to read the whole thing, but found myself zoning out pretty quickly.

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