Thoughts on Hakuouki and reverse harem anime

I wanted to do an Escaflowne review by now, but there is a secret project in the works on that show, so I’ve had writer’s block for a couple days. That all changed when (the fire nation attacked) I started watching Hakuouki because it was suggested to me by Shoujo Thoughts. Admittedly, I was in the middle of another show (Heroman), but that one was doing nothing for me at all. I mean seriously, it’s too western feeling and way too familiar for me to want to continue watching it because it just seems like another alien invasion thing and  I’ve watched too many of those kinds of movies of shows in my life. I dived into Hakuouki knowing that it was something completely different then my usual fair. I mean, it’s not the first reverse harem I’ve ever watched. I can honestly say that it’s the third. The other two being Ouran Highschool Host Club and Yona of the Dawn. Yes, Yona is a reverse harem show. I’ve had arguments about this before and I will probably have arguments over this later on too. I’ve watched six episodes of it now, and I’m already having some deep thoughts about it. No, this is not a review. That will happen later. Also, does anybody know where to legally stream the second season? It’s not on crunchyroll.

So my first thought was a very important question. Why are these so much better written then normal harem anime? Now I know this isn’t a completely comparison because I’ve only seen two and half reverse harem anime versus a lot of harem series when I was teenager, but the question remains. Most harem series are just fanservice vehicles. The main character of a harem anime is incredibly bland. Like, the guy is as uninteresting and normal as possible, yet has girls falling all over him or the other way around for some reason. There are endless amounts of scenes in which the guy walks in on one or more girls naked, he sees their underwear in one way or another, or he trips over one or many of them in order to create as much of a fanservice moments as possible. If there is a plot, it’s as bare bones as possible and there just to make sure the show keeps going. The girls in question are little more than archtypes without barely any character to them.

I haven’t seen as much of that in reverse anime so far, but it’s far from the exact opposite. Even though there are hot guys around the girl protagonist, she never encounters them in any fanservice sort of situation. Even if they do, it’s never sexualized in the same sort of way that harem series are. (I haven’t seen Fruits’ Basket though and I hear some shenangins happens in that one). All characters are well developed, including the main female protagonist and there is a good and well developed plot. Even Ouran High School, which makes fun of a lot of character archetypes in an incredibly funny and self-aware way, has multitudes of layers behind its humor. The only answers that I can come up with to this question in the beginning is “Females are smarter” and they look for something more than most males do in the opposite gender. These are truths that I’ve known for a while, but have become truer over time with some inherent observation. Then again, sports anime exist and I’ve seen some interesting fangirling stuff happen over those, so what do I know? Those also aren’t what I call reverse harem series though, even if the manager of each team happens to be a female for one reason or another. So nobody is perfect. It happens.

As for Hakuouki itself, I find myself liking it a lot. There are a lot of interesting plot developments going on and it’s going to be interesting to see them all resolved. The political landscape is interesting and the super natural part of the story is being slowly introduced with incredible nuance. Especially the cut that healed on our protagonist or that mysterious red liquid which does horrible things to people in order to make characters stronger and/or better. I’m guessing the philosopher’s stone or a substitute snuck into this series in one way or another to add more drama to what is already going on. It happens. I also like seeing how the shinsengumi are treated compared to everybody else. So many good things going on. I do have a couple complaints though. I wish the anime wasn’t as fast paced as it is so it could allow the series to breathe a little bit. Another one is I wish Chizuru was developed a little more. Maybe that will happen with reveal of who and what she is, but I don’t know. I also laugh every time I read crunchyroll’s comment section with the fangirls doing their fangirl things. Considering these aren’t things that I have thought about while watching the show, it’s interesting to see the fangirl point of view.

In closing, I can’t but highlight, underline, and add exclamation points to the idea of “watching shows outside of our own comfort zone”. I’ve found so many of my favorite shows this way and I don’t really feel bad about it. Watching different shows has given me a great wealth of experience and knowledge of how each genre works. Hakuouki being yet another one of these shows. I’m not sure if I would call it a favorite show at this moment, but it is incredibly interesting. I just expect to Kenshin the Battousai to appear anytime now. He fits the time line and might even fit the tone of this show.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. When someone mocks me for watching reverse harem anime or shoujo in general (especially anime based on otome!), I always point them to this title. It takes a few episodes to really pick up for someone sampling (I mean, I loved it at ep. 1, but I digress), but I think that almost anyone can fall in love Hakuouki. Based on what you’ve said thus far, I am confident that you’re going to only become more impressed as the show runs on. Honestly, the features that you seem to enjoy only get better and the concerns you have… well, I can’t say that the pace slows, really, but you will learn more about Chizuru as time passes. And season two… phew. Man, it’s incomparable. I refuse to spoil anything, of course.

    You can watch Record of the Jade Blood here: http://www.theanimenetwork.com/Watch-Anime/Hakuoki-Season-2-Record-of-the-Jade-Blood

    Speaking of Fruits Basket, it’s not sexaulized at all (with the exception of a few purely joking comments by Shigure that generally poke fun at himself and a little Ayame nonsense), so no worries. It’s also wonderful and another title that had shoujo crossing over into the general anime consciousness. You should watch it when you get a chance!

    I clicked on this link so quickly when I saw it on Twitter! Lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Yay, thanks for the link and cool, look forward to seeing more of it.

      Yes, Fruits Basket has been on my list to watch for a while. I might do that after Hakuouki or maybe a little later.

      And for future reference, you don’t have to hold back when you recommend shows to me. I’ve watched some good shoujo stuff before and like watching a romance series from time to time. I mean, I mention kyoko from Skip Beat as my favorite female characters during my thirty day challenge thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, dude, no worries; I don’t hold back anyway, lol. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Scott says:

        Good. Lmao.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ok, so you’ve peaked my attention. I’m going to check this out. Like you, I’ve only seen 2 reverse harems (the same ones as you) but wondered the same thing. I enjoyed much more thoroughly than I have regular harems. The character development and story line seem to be much better written and enjoyable. By the end of Ouran Highschool Host Club, it was really pulling at my heartstrings. Anyway, thanks for your review. I can’t wait to start watching this!

    Liked by 1 person

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