ANIME & MANGA - Review
16:00 - 29th June 2014, by David West

Hakuoki: A Memory Of Snow Flowers OVA Collection

A Memory Of Snow Flowers is an addendum to the main Hakuoki: Demon Of The Floating Blossom series. The six episodes in this collection see heroine (or perhaps more accurately protagonist... she's not eactly Wonder Woman) Chizuru helping her friends in the Shinsengumi by posing as a geisha so she can eavesdrop on a group of anti-Shogunate samurai. In the chronology of the series, this all happens in December of 1866, putting it after episode eight of the original run. Therefore, nothing very momentous happens, and the status quo of Chizuru's life is unchanged.

Each episode focuses on a different character and their involvement in the events surrounding Chizuru's attempt at espionage. First up is Okita, coughing away but bravely trying to conceal his tuberculosis. Then it is Saito's moment in the spotlight, and he's one of several characters to be smitten by the sight of Chizuru in her geisha disguise (on that note - how is her hair suddenly long enough to be put up in such an elaborate and ornate style?). In third place comes Harada, who bonds with Chizuru over grocery shopping in one of the duller instalments. Heisuke provides a comedy episode as he too is lovestruck with Chizuru, but his constant buffoonery keeps landing him in hot water with Commander Hijikata, who is the centre of the fifth episode. Finally, one of the series' resident antagonists, Kazama, takes the lead in the sixth and final instalment. The guys are by and large cut from the bishonen dreamboat cloth and Chizuru, in the manner of anime heroines since time began, is blissfully unaware that they are spellbound by her when she is all dolled up in her geisha finery. Get a clue, girlfriend. On the plus side, she's less prone to swooning than in the main series.

The fact that all six episodes revolve around the same event means that there is a great deal of repetition in the material, but there is no attempt at a dramatic Rashomon style exploration of how each viewer's gaze changes the perception of the same subject. By the sixth go-round, the repetitive nature of the episodes starts to wear thin.
There is disappointingly precious little action in this batch too. The main series could generally be relied upon to deliver some swordsmanship in regular doses, but this time, director Osamu Yamasaki strenuously avoids extended fights. A confrontation between Kazama and Hijikata is interrupted just when it is about to get interesting, and the other action sequences are much too brief to leave an impression. The focus is squarely on character development and watching the hunky guys interact with Chizuru. This is definitely one of those situations where viewers need to have watched the original series to understand the events and relationships of the OVA. Anyone coming to the Hakuoki franchise for the first time will struggle to navigate all the plot threads referenced in the screenplay, but returning fans should appreciate the chance to spend a little more time with these characters.

Chizuru is the glue that binds this series and this OVA together. Fortunately, she's a sympathetic and appealing character. There is nothing revelatory here, but the episodes fill in a gap in the chronology of the story. It might be treading water in plot terms, but Chizuru's transformation from Plain Jane to stunning geisha is pure fan-girl wish fulfilment.
SCORE: 3/5
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