There is a lot of rewriting history going on in anime and manga, generally you would call it alternate universes or alternate realities. The what-if approaches where you take real historical figures or events and make something completely different happen. But that’s not enough. What about rewriting geography too? Like in Meine Liebe, where a huge Germanic-Prussia-like island is placed somewhere in the vicinity of England, in the turn of the 19th century, or a time slightly resembling that. No problem. Making historical figures, like war generals, female instead of male? Placed in a high school setting? Or making them vampires? Or robots in space? That limitless fantastical approach to history, religion and fairly tales is so great.
Hakuouki is following that tradition. Taking real historical figures and follows the actual history in some ways, but adding characters and events that have nothing to do with reality. And doing it well. The historical figures are the Shinsengumi. Sword-fighting heroes going against overwhelming odds and prejudice in the last days of the samurai. The Shinsengumi are portrayed in numerous movies and a lot of anime and manga. I have only watched the different parts of Hakuouki, Peacemaker Kurogane and Gintama (where the names are slightly changed). I got Runroni Kenshin a while ago, but haven’t watched it yet.
Hakuouki is based on a video game, a so-called otome game, directed at a female audience, where the goal is romance. It’s a romance, all right, but with swords, battles and whatnot. It’s really stunningly drawn, though, both the characters and their surroundings. The protagonist girl is really likeable and there are some other good female characters too. I would have liked it more if Chizuru, the protagonist had been a real member of the force, but hey, I can’t always get what I want. (If so I would have liked it to be full out BL. well, it probably is, but not just shown…) Obviously the Shinsengumi men are all charming and stunningly pretty. Even the antagonists are stunning in some cases and fun to watch in others. Fanservice fact: Almost all of the leading characters have really long hair, flowing in the wind… while the rest have the traditional samurai chonmage, shaved on top and the rest long and twisted into a topknot.
And there are vampires and demons too. Here, the vampires here are kind of a failed making man-made demon experiment. And it’s a really cool backstory, both the real one and the fantasy parts. It’s not a peaceful part of Japan’s history (the battles mentioned are mostly real, except for the demons participating) and it’s not one of those stories where people aren’t really dead until they die, no matter what, and probably not even then. People are actually dropping off like flies, even main characters, especially in the second season. It doesn’t really follow actual events and deaths but if you know the real history you will get some hints. Let me just say this, your tear ducts will work overtime when you watch this one. At least if you are like me, easily moved.
These are the series so far (I’ve added the Japanese names, since I’ve found it really hard to keep them apart):
Hakuouki (Shinsengumi Kitan) 12 eps
Hakuouki: Record of the Jade Blood (Hekketsaroku) 10 eps. Season 2. This tearfest follows the first season.
Hakuouki: A memory of snow flowers (Sekkaroku) 6 eps OVA taking place between ep 6 and 9 in the first season). It’s good to see this one after Sekkaroku.
Hakuouki: Demon of the fleeting blossom – Dawn of the Shinsengumi. (Reimeiroku) 12 eps. Prequel. I like this one, it’s before the first one and the Shinsengumi is still called the Roshigumi. The protagonist is a young boy in this one (not a historical person). But the others are in it. I watched this after all the others and it felt like a good choice.
There are also two movies, which I haven’t seen yet:
Hakuōki Dai-isshō Kyoto Ranbu (2013)
Hakuōki Dai-nishō Shikon Sōkyū (2014)