I can’t help but think that when I see ‘reverse harem’ among the genre aspects of an anime that I am in for quite a stereotypical series. This also appeared to be the case with Hakuouki. I am dumbfounded that characters like Chizuru exist: how can you possibly completely ignore the fact that you are surrounded by lots of handsome young men? And instead of acting like a responsible girl, Chizuru calls upon the protective feelings of those men by being helpless and naive… Way to go, Chizuru.

After Yukimura Chizuru’s father, a doctor, has disappeared, she decides to look for him. She gets involved in a fight, and is then rescued by the Shinsengumi. They want to help her search for her father, who seems to have held a lot of secrets… But Chizuru seems to be having some secrets herself as well.

12 episodes
Shoujo, historical

Due to some plot twists, the story changes from being mostly historical (even though it is not very loyal to the actual historical facts…) to a vampire-like fantasy anime. Sometimes information about the Shinsengumi and the battles they fought are thrown in, and I feel that for the Japanese audience, being familiar with these historical facts, these information is not hard to follow. Unfortunately I don’t know a lot about Japanese history, so I ended up being rather confused with all these dates and places. I noticed, however, that it is not essential that you remember every single piece of information given on the Shinsengumi battles. At the time I watched this anime it was not yet known that a second season would be made, and therefore I thought the pacing was a bit slow. The first two episodes were rather uplifting, but after that the amount of action decreased, while the talking of politics increased drastically. Now we know a second season is on its way, though, I no longer complain about the pacing. If the second season will have 12 episodes as well, that will make an anime of 24 episodes in total, and with that number of episodes a slower pacing is certainly allowed.

The art is typical for a shoujo-anime: the girls have big eyes and the men are bishounen. The art surpasses the standard shoujo standards at some points, though: the backgrounds for example are drawn in a very elaborated style. The colours are nice to look at and fit the sceneries. It is clear the makers wanted to give this anime an aesthetic look. The character designs are very neat: even though there are a lot of male characters in this anime, they are all very distinguishable and recognizable. The clothes are rather simple, but they look convincing.

The main character is Chizuru Yukimura. She doesn’t appear as a very strong character to me: she needs the Shinsengumi members to fight for her whenever she ends up in dangerous situations. The male characters are equally flat characters*; they don’t really stand out and even seem to have the same kind of personality: they are all brave, manly and even friendly when they need to be.

The music is composed by Kou Ootani, who also composed the music for for instance Wolf’s Rain and Haibane Renmei. I liked the opening and the ending theme very much and they fitted the mood of the show. The music in the anime was enjoyable. Every character had their own theme song.

This was the first anime I followed while it was still being aired in Japan. Therefore I couldn’t choose when I would watch another episode, I had to wait for a week before I could see the next one. This was a good thing, though: I don’t think this is the kind of anime you should rush and finish too soon. Hakuouki encouraged me to learn more about the Shinsengumi, because I wasn’t even aware of this phenomenon in Japanese history before watching this anime. I wouldn’t dare to claim that this anime is historically correct though (far from it, I’m afraid); yet I noticed some details in the anime correspond with what is known about the historical Shinsengumi.