Following up last week’s post, Hakuouki Hekketsuroku (Demon of the Fleeting Blossom: The Record of the Jade Blood) (2010), is the ten-episode sequel that follows Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan. (This review will contain spoilers for the first series).
What’s it about?
After their defeat in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, Chizuru and the Shinsengumi have left for Edo, aware that if they are to survive, they have to embrace the new ways and technology. Changing up their traditional garments for Western clothing, the Shinsengumi now have to navigate the strife between the new government soldiers and the remaining supporters of the fallen Tokugawa Shogunate. The stress placed on the Shinsengumi will eventually lead to its collapse, so what fate awaits the surviving members?
The art remains as good as it was in the first series, with the emphasis remaining on pretty backgrounds and the main characters. I really liked the new Western styled clothes, and character styling remains a strong point. The music of the second series is even less memorable, but is still incorporated into scenes well. Just like the first series, you still have the fusion of history and the supernatural. I really liked how the second series looked at the different reactions to incorporating Western themes and cultural aspects into the Japanese way of life, from clothes to shaking hands. The violence and fighting is much more prolific in the second series.
Although there is nowhere near enough character exploration going on, you do get to learn a little bit more about the male characters in the stories. The second series is very good at highlighting the common beliefs that are shared by the men, but also what lines they differ upon. The final appearance for each character does a great job of characterising who they are and what the stand for as an individual, making the characters much more memorable than what they would otherwise be. Sadly, though, Chizuru remains the same bland character that she was in the first series.
Finally, I thought that the ending was quite a satisfying closure to the series. Although not every characters’ future is explicitly shown, a lot is implied, and overall, Hakuouki Hekketsuroku is rather bitter-sweet. If you know the fate of the actual men the characters are based on, you’d already have an idea of what sort of ending we’re looking at. I thought it was handled sweetly and touchingly, and brings about a nice conclusion.
I found that the plot of Hakuouki Hekketsuroku was a little more in disarray compared to the first series. This is mainly a result of the pace. Whilst the characters who leave the Shinsengumi get their stories wrapped up quickly (in some cases, way too quickly, as the plot moves like lightening to get through it), Chizuru and Hijikata’s story feels like it drags on forever. And they somehow manage to accomplish this without as many ‘staring thoughtfully into the sky’ scenes as there are in the first series. I understand that the writers only had ten episodes to work with, but I am sure this could have been handled better.
Finally, the love-story between Chizuru and Hijikata really seems to fail. Not only does it take the ENTIRE TWO SERIES to start to get anywhere, it feels like too little, too late. I know it goes against Hijikata’s character to you know, actually have emotions and be human, but it wouldn’t hurt if there was some meaning behind Chizuru’s extreme patience in waiting for him to acknowledge her.
Art: 8.5/10: The art remains very similar to the first series; pretty backgrounds and even prettier characters.
Story: 7/10: Whilst the plot gets upset by the pacing of the anime, it does provide good closure to the series, and ties up all loose ends.
Characters: 7/10: You get a little more character exploration in the second series, helping to cement each male character. However, big points are lost thanks to Chizuru remaining bland.
Whilst this series may not have the happy ending you’re looking for, its bitter-sweet ending is handled really well, and the characterisation of the male characters makes them hard to forget. If you liked the first series enough to even think about watching the second, go right ahead and do it. It is a good closure for the series, although not without its faults. Overall, I give it a 7/10, same as the first series.