ANIME & MANGA - Article
16:30 - 8th May 2014, by David West

Hakuoki: Demon Of The Fleeting Blossom

Samurai battles. A mysterious potion that transforms men into bloodthirsty beasts. A nation in revolt. Sounds like the ingredients for a mighty macho shonen adventure, but it's actually the premise for Hakuoki: Demon Of The Fleeting Blossom, an anime based upon an otome video game aimed specifically at female players. Because sometimes otaku girls want samurai duels with their romance.

The heroine of the story is Chizuru Yukimura, who, in the year 1864, travels to Kyoto searching for her missing father Kodo. To avoid unwanted attention, Chizuru disguises herself as a young man, but she hasn't been in the capital for long when she witnesses a fight between a group of samurai and some feral warriors who have white hair, red eyes and long teeth... In fact, they seem to be no longer human...

The samurai turn out to be members of the Shinsengumi - the peacekeepers and police of the Shogunate - and they take charge of young Chizuru without waiting for permission, as she has unwittingly discovered a secret they wish to keep hidden. Their members include aloof and intimidating Vice-Commander Hijikata, young and spritely Heisuke, rowdy Shinpachi and the always feisty Okita. The more time she spends in their company, the more Chizuru draws closer to the Shinsengumi swordsmen, and they decide to help her search for her missing pop. However their motives are not entirely altruistic, for it appears there is a connection between Chizuru's dad and The Water Of Life, the elixir responsible for the inhuman samurai, known as Furies. There is more to the diminutive heroine than meets the eye - Chizuru appears to have the ability to heal any wounds in an instant. Where did this little lost girl really come from?

Hakuoki started life as an otome game, which is a genre aimed at female players with a strong emphasis on romantic plotlines in the manner of dating sims. So as Chizuru joins the Shinsengumi and continues to look for her father, she is surrounded by a squad of attractive guys, all of whom offer the potential for romantic entanglement. In Hakuoki, the members of the Shinsengumi are given makeovers from the dour samurai of history into dashing loveboats, whether they are rugged, muscular hunks or bishonen with long hair. Either way, they bear precious little resemblance to their historical counterparts. Their hairstyles are highly anachronistic - traditional-minded samurai of the period would have worn their hair in top knots, not as flowing manes, unless they were still in their teens.

Join Chizuru and the dashing swordsmen sworn to serve the Shogun in Hakuoki: Demon Of More historically accurate than the hairstyles in the anime is the Shinsengumi's devotion to the ideals of bushido, and in particular, to the notion of a worthy death. The book Hagakure is a collection of the thoughts of a retired samurai called Tsunetomo Yamamoto who wrote, "The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death."

For a samurai, the best death was to be killed in battle or to kill oneself to preserve one's honour. These ideas are wholeheartedly endorsed by the Shinsengumi in Hakuoki. 'If you instigate battle without the readiness of death, you are not worthy to be called a warrior,' says Vice-Commander Hijikata. Later, when they discover a group of samurai who have committed seppuku - ritual suicide - after a failed attack they remark, "Suicide, eh? That's a splendid way to die."

The Fleeting Blossom on DVD from MVM, or try to find love in Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi out now on the Nintendo 3DS from Rising Star Games.

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