Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun (Studio DEEN) – Genre: Action, Fantasy
Episode 01 – “Boundary”
So far, this season had me watching shows that generally centered around female characters, but Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun has totally switched that around for me. Set in a fantasy world with four powerful families, a corrupt church, and Japanese mythical creatures abound, Hakkenden is proving to be an interesting action series with some hopeful potential.
The episode begins with a scene five years before the present, in which Ootsuka village is completely decimated save for three miraculous survivors. We go on to learn that they are Shino Inuzuka, Sousuke Inukawa, and Hamaji (whose last name hasn’t been revealed yet). The show’s title translates to “Hakkenden: The Eight Dogs of the East,” and the main characters’ last names (“inu” meaning “dog”) are a clear reference to that. The method through which they were able to survive the attack is unclear at this point, but apparently they were granted special abilities. Shino is infused with the crow spirit, Murasame, which can transform into the powerful Blade of Life, while Sousuke can transform into a dog.
We are also introduced to a power struggle between the Church and the Four Houses of the Demon God. Even though the Church puts on the guise of only believing in one God, it acknowledges the power that is held within these four family bloodlines. For this reason, they kidnap children with these special abilities from these houses for their power. Alliances are built behind the curtains too, as five members from the Osaki Family kidnap Hamaji, in order to take her to the Central Church. The episode ends with Shino and Sousuke embarking on a train to track down Hamaji, with a very familiar voice singing in the background.
The animation is fairly standard quality. The action scenes are passable and are what you would expect for the most part. There’s some noticeable usage of CGI, particularly with some of the creatures. The backgrounds look nice, but the buildings in particular have that odd pre-rendered feeling to them. Almost the entire main cast is bishounen, which may explain why MyAnimeList categorizes this show as a “Shoujo,” even though it shares more aspects with Shounen series.
Speaking of which, you’ll hear some familiar voices like Tetsuya Kakihara (Natsu from Fairy Tail) as Shino, Satoshi Hino (Yuuji Sakai from Shakugan no Shana), and I swear Kenta’s voice actor is the same as Naruto’s but I can’t find confirmation. The BGM is stunning, with lush orchestral passages which, to my slightly trained ear, is most likely performed by a real orchestra. If the style of music seems familiar, it could be because Hitomi Kuroishi (composer for Code Geass) did the music!
I really wanted to limit the amount of new anime that I watched this season, but shows like this make that difficult for me. While Hakkenden isn’t anything absolutely extraordinary at this point, it definitely has some serious potential to be good. Though, 13 episodes is a constrained time frame to really flesh out the huge story it seems to want to build towards, but hey who knows?
If action series that deal with religion and Japanese mythology are your thing, then Hakkenden may be up your alley.