Hakuouki S2 - Hakuouki Hekketsuroku
After being defeated by the new government army, the Shinsengumi and Chizuru retreat to Ezo (modern-day Hokkaido) to continue the fight. But all that awaits Chizuru is further tragedy as the members of the Shinsengumi sacrifice themselves, one by one, for what seems to be a doomed cause.
Anyone familiar with the real-life history of the Shinsengumi knows that there is no way the majority of this cast is leaving the series alive: even with the superpowered fantasy action of this series, historical events will play out as they did in our world, because otherwise, what would be the point of setting this in the time period? As in so many series, it's not what Hakuouki is presenting that matters, but how it does so: this may be essentially a prettied up, warmed-over history lesson, but the core story is compelling enough to begin with, and so it follows that this chronologically concluding chapter of the Hakuouki saga is enjoyable melodrama.
Many of the same caveats that apply to the first series also apply to this one. The animation quality, for example, never quite keeps pace with action sequences, but is suitable for quieter scenes where the always attractive art style is better showcased. Any hope of improvement in the visuals from the first season is essentially dashed - Studio Deen always struggles to maintain even the minimum of acceptable standards, and while the art never quite looks awful, it's safe to say you won't be impressed by frame rate or technical specs here. The pacing remains somewhere between glacial and sedate - there is clearly more emphasis here on drama and beauty than on action and detail.
The strength of this series then remains the characterization, with Chizuru continuing to find more and more confidence as the story progresses, and we get to see each of the Shinsengumi really come into their own - any serious character flaws are those of the real person they're based on. This essentially being a story of hubris and pride as much as sacrifice and honor, you'll see a lot of character flaws, made a good deal more forgivable towards its intended audience by making these men very, very pretty.
Being that this is the resolution to the previous series (Shinsengumi Kitan), all you really need to know is that if you enjoyed the first series, then the second is mandatory viewing, and if sparkly vampire samurai or historical war dramas aren't your thing, then it's your prerogative to look elsewhere. That being said, I was very satisfied by the end of this series run, though diehard fans of the franchise will undoubtedly want more - that's another review for another day.
While most of the characters of Hakuouki Hekketsuroku inevitably come to a tragic end, this franchise is hardly a tragedy for its viewers, combining beautiful art with compelling historical drama. As with the preceding season, this will appeal mostly to female audiences rather than action fans. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Strong violent content, including a fair amount of blood and onscreen deaths, including in this case most of the main characters. One character suffers from a chronic debilitating illness whose effects are shown onscreen. Female-oriented fan service galore, but no nudity. Some implied adult situations. Recommended for older teens and above with parental discretion.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (10/10)
Hakuouki S2 - Hakuouki Hekketsuroku © 2010 Idea Factory / Design Factory
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