Seven Coloured Compass

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Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East

Having a demon live inside you sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Hakkenden season 1 logo

Name: Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East

Japanese Name: 八犬伝 -東方八犬異聞-

Air Date: January 5 2013 – March 31 2013

Studio: Studio DEEN

Episodes: 13


When their village was wiped out five years ago, only Shino Inuzuka, Sosuke Inukawa, and the girl Hamaji, who was raised as if she were their sister, survived. And both men inexplicably have the same peony-shaped birthmark. Genpachi Inukai and Kobungo Inuta were raised hundreds of miles away as foster brothers, but they too share the same birthmark. When they went north as part of the army three years ago, they went to confront demons and came back forever transformed. Now the Imperial Church has come for Shino and Sosuke and they must find eight mystical gems and their owners or face a fate worse than death at the hands of the Church.

[via Sentai Filmworks]

I’m going to start eliminating series off my backlog because, let’s face it, it’s getting bigger and bigger. If I don’t start now, that list will never get smaller! First off, I shall start with Hakkenden. Why? The animation is pretty to look at and… there’s two blonde haired characters who have caught my eye (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧. my blonde hair fetish has kicked in again. I don’t know who you are, but I will find out soon enough!

I’ve found more time to watch anime! Do you want to know why? Well. The United Kingdom is known for its awful weather and it either constantly rains or it’s extremely cold. Now in July, Mother Nature has decided to not be a bitch and gives us a heat wave that’ll last for two weeks, perhaps more. TWO WEEKS. I can’t stand the humidity and it’s impossible to sleep at night! So… I end up watching anime during late hours. Cheers Mother Nature for giving me this chance!

First Impressions

This… this is just confusing. What on earth is going on? The only parts I understand are *ahem* Shino and Sosuke’s village was destroyed prior to the series’ beginning because there was a disease was spreading. They currently live with two men of the Church and their childhood friend, Hamaji, who turns out to be a terrible cook despite being a health nut (like my mum except she’s not THAT bad at cooking). Finally Shino has a demon sword called ‘Murasame’ living in his body and Sosuke can… transform into a dog called ‘Yoshiro’. And because of this, the Church are after them? Ok, I get the gist of it… for now. There’s also something called the Four Houses of the Sacred Beasts or something like that. The Church takes in children who harbour a sacred beast and takes care or them, probably because they want their powers to themselves. Greedy priests and bishops and… *murmurs* why does everyone always seek power? It doesn’t make the world go round or anything ( ಠ_ಠ) is the Church here corrupt or something?

On the brighter side of things, I’ve discovered their names! I’ve discovered the names of the two blonde haired men! Their names are Rio Satomi and Kaname Osaki; the latter is voiced by Daisuke Namikawa while the former is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya. Kaname is from the Osaki family and is part of the Four House of the Sacred Beasts. Rio is also part of the Four Houses. But how are these characters involved and what part do they play in the story? At least all the characters are appealing to look at and the animation is stunning. When Shino summons Murasame, the way it comes out of his arm is bloody awesome. An eye appears on his hand (07-Ghost’s Teito Klein uses the same sort of summoning… does that jog your memory?) and then wings sprout out of his arm. The opening sequence, man don’t even get me started. It’s fast paced, smooth and dynamic. Plus I have yet to add two more men onto my list; one has glasses and the other has a birthmark on his cheek… I must find out your identities! Brace yourselves, I am coming for you my pretties!! (I mean this in the most politest way possible)ヽ(*´ー`*)ノ

ShinoThat’s just… awesome and creepy in every way O_O

So let me get this straight. There’s a talking crow AND a talking toad. Is it me, or am I seeing things correctly? IS IT ME, OR AM I GOING MAD?! Let me take my temperature first and see if I’ve got a fever… there’s nothing wrong with me which means… it’s real. It’s real. Right, I’ll get back to it. Both Shino and Sosuke each own a colourful bead with a character written on it i.e. devotion, duty etc. There are others and Rio has assigned a simple mission to Shino and Sosuke; they must find the other six beads and their respective owners. Reason… unknown (-___-) honestly, there’s a lot you guys aren’t telling me here.

Midway Impressions

Oh ho!~❤ so your name is Genpachi, eh? Genpachi has a peony birthmark on his right cheek which is similar to Shino’s on his right arm. I think Sosuke and Kobunga have peony birthmarks too. What is its significance? Does this mark link these characters together? Before I lose it, could someone be kind and perhaps explain what’s going on? Speaking of Genpachi and Kobunga, they’re demons. Well, not they’re not technically pure blood demons, but they can turn into them: Genpachi an transform into a lightning demon who devours supernatural beings and Kobunga can just transform into a demon. Three years ago, there was a war up north where civilians were kidnapped and kept as hostages. Genpachi and Kobunga were dispatched as part of a rescue mission with the military… until they came across human eating demons ∑(;°Д°) everyone was killed and the two were practically dead. Somehow, they managed to survive and came back as changed men… their bodies became immortal. Their lives were never the same. *Sob* they had such tragic pasts, and they share those memories together (ಥ_ಥ)

EEK!I’m pretty sure you’re not meant to feed it, Gen-san… (^_^;)

Actually, I’ve noticed a slight connection between several characters: Shino, Sosuke, Genpachi, Kobunga, Keno, and Dosetsu (the hot megane I was wondering about earlier), all have the word ‘Inu’ at the beginning of their surnames. Coincidence much? I think not. This point can’t be made any clearer because they all have a bead – with the exception of Keno and Dosetsu because it has not been revealed yet if they possess one. It must also be taken into consideration that all of them have experienced near-death experiences but were saved by supernatural beings at a cost. Shino and Sosuke were close to death when they were rescued by Rio, who offered Shino the demon sword Murasame. Shino accepted Murasame but lives with its curse: he is trapped within a child’s body… and Shino is meant to be 18 years old! I’ve mentioned Genpachi and Kobunga’s above. Keno had his heart ripped out (literally) by a mysterious man who has a similar appearance to Sosuke; he was rescued by a demon princess who gave him her heart. Dosetsu was out in the snow and was dying, contemplating about his long lost sister (hinted that it’s Hamaji). He was rescued by Yukihime – lit. snow princess. See, the dots are connecting somehow!

I adore the interactions between the characters; they have a really strong bond which holds them together. Shino and Sosuke’s brotherly banters never fail to make me giggle and it’s amusing to watch Sosuke snap back at Shino bluntly! There is also the bond between Hamaji and Kaname. It’s hinted that he has feelings for her, and it’s fairly obvious to see that through his actions. I hate to admit it, but they look perfect together (-___-) but the best relationship has to be Genpachi’s and Kobunga’s. They’re not related by blood, but these two are unbelievably close, they have so much respect for one another, and they’re like brothers… it’s beautiful ゚+.(*ノωヾ*)ャン♪+゚ at this point, I think the series is more character driven. Studio DEEN are really digging in deep with these characters, and their pasts come to light. It seems that the plot has taken a back seat for now in order for the characters to shine. Because of this, a lot is learnt about each individual and that alone makes me love Hakkenden all the more!

Overall Opinion

Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East is a manga series by Miyuki Abe based on the epic novel series Nanso Satomi Hakkenden.

The plot is definitely unique (since I’ve never seen one like it), however there is an absence of a central plot or whenever there is something to work on, it tends to stray from it. What kept me interested were the characters, their backstories and interactions. With the introduction of new characters, there are minor arcs to keep you interested, however it is usually resolved within the following episode. The storyline tends to feel like a collection of stories that are somewhat connected to a central plot, however it feels mostly disconnected because barely anything noteworthy has occurred. But what’s great about the lack of central plot, is that you’re thrown into this series without any understanding and as the series slowly progresses, more intricate details are given to fill in the gaps.

The characters vary and their is variety. Shino, the protagonist, is very childish and loud, however he is sensitive and caring which makes him very lovable and difficult to hate. Sosuke, his childhood friend, maintains a calm and loyal attitude and is seen accompanying Shino almost everywhere he goes. He provides a balance to Shino, who would otherwise be an annoying and bratty protagonist. Hamaji is another childhood friend, but her presence in the story is not as prominent as the two mentioned beforehand. She appears to be immature and demanding but later displays a level of maturity; something a girl her age rarely possesses or lacks. Her maturity is sometimes greater than the older characters! She is refreshing, who although lacks a background story of her own, adds a realistic feel to the story. She is a main character but her role in the series pushes her back to supporting cast. Other characters are gradually introduced into the story and contribute with the plot’s progression (as well as leaving behind slight undertones of shounen-ai). Not only are their personalities in great variety and are incredibly diverse from one another, but their pasts help intertwine them to create a much greater story; setting in motion a second season.

Older ShinoWere you always this hot Shino?

The artwork and animation was definitely refined and delightful to gaze at. In fact, it was the animation which drew me to this series in the first place! The characters all have sharp features that are clearly noticeable and match the multitude of personalities presented. My focus went straight to the character’s eyes; you can always tell what sort of personality lies beyond them. Plus they’re strangely mysterious, yet gorgeous. You could stare at the characters for hours on end without averting your eyes… no seriously, I could not stop staring because they were THAT beautiful. Background settings were captured wonderfully and seemed almost picturesque. Each district, each of the places that the characters visited were like works of art. Masterpieces. Animation was the defining beauty of this series, and it’s easy to understand why so many have praised Hakkenden for being one Studio DEEN’s greatest works. I personally agree with those statements.

SPOILER: Sosuke suffers from amnesia as he doesn’t remember much about his childhood. In actual truth, half his soul is missing which has manifested itself into a lookalike of Sosuke possessing his memories, but can’t be seen by normal humans because he is a ‘shadow’. Sosuke’s shadow was the person responsible for taking Keno’s heart and murdering his family, thus Keno seeks revenge against him. The shadow steals Shino’s devotion bead. At the end of episode 13, the shadow claims that’s one less thing to take from Shino. What is his objective?

The soundtrack was an auditory treat and pleasure to listen to. The opening theme song- God FATE – by Faylan starts off as slow and gentle, but begins to pick up as the accompanying animated sequence features more fast paced shots and flurries of movement. On the other hand, the ending theme song – Strings of Pain – by Tetsuya Kakihara (who voices Shino) showcases his voice well, and I admit I didn’t recognise his voice when I heard it! The BGM was used well the enhance the atmosphere and mood, which comes as no surprise because the sounds are done by Hitomi Kuroishi whose notable works include Code Geass (which I am also watching at this point in time).

Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East isn’t for everyone. You either love it or hate it. Love because of the characters, hate because of the plot. I for one, loved Hakkenden and found great joy in watching it. Hakkenden is one of those series where you don’t expect much out of it, yet you find yourself engaged in it… and I did exactly that. In any case, Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East is probably one of the most visually stunning anime I have seen in a while and contained the right amount of humour, fantasy, mystery and adventure but lacked the action it initially presented itself with. Hopefully the plot kicks up a bit since season 2 is now airing; if it does, this will be one heck of a series.