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Title (English) The Hakkenden
Title (Japanese) Hakkenden
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Fantasy Novel

Notes 6 part OVA series, AIC/Pioneer LDC, 1993, 30m each
7 part OVA series ('new' Hakkenden), 30m each.
UK: Pioneer, vols #1-#5, 90m or 60m, cert 15, 8.99 or 12.99

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Synopsis
Review The dubbing of the first episode is rather so-so, compared with the US subtitled version, which I also own. However the dubbing seems less intrusive after one has watched a few episodes. The story takes some following, as there is a large cast of male warriors, all with complicated Japanese names. Persistence is rewarded, however.
The Japanese writer Bakin Takizawa (Kyokutei) (1767-1848) took almost thirty years (1814-41) to finish his NANSO SATOMI HAKKENDEN, one of the longest novels ever written in the history of Japanese literature. The title means "The Eight Retainers of the Satomi Family".
The story is an extraordinary one with fantastic, supernatural heroes, and one searches in vain for historical truth and accuracy. The only note of reality one may find in the book is a description of the conditions in fifteenth century Japan, when, because the shoguns of the Ashikaga family lost power, the feudal lords (daimyo) fought among themselves until 1567, when a powerful enough lord was able to pacify the nation.
This was a treacherous time when the Confucian morality emphasizing such virtues as loyalty, filial piety, and altruism ceased to be a universally accepted guideline of warrior behaviour.
The plot is the product of a time when heroes were believed to possess supernatural powers. Japanese people of the period were fascinated by such tales. (acknowledgements Herbert Plutschow Ph.D; Pioneer)

In episode 1, the year is 1457. Princess Fuse, daughter of Yoshizane Satomi, lord of Awa province, is forced into marriage with her dog, Yatsufusa. This occurs because when under seige by the neighbouring army of Lord Kagetsura Anzai and facing starvation, Yoshizane makes a desperate promise to the animal.
Ultimately the princess is killed, along with Yatsufusa, by a bullet from the gun of Daisuke Kanamari, who had come to rescue her. At the moment of Fuse's death, eight spirit beads from the necklace she was wearing disperse into the sky and the legend of the dog warriors begins.
In the following episodes, eight warriors are drawn together by strange circumstances. In a world ruled by greed and ambition, they are born to share a common destiny, Linked by eight mysterious beads which are symbols of their identity and purpose, each warrior carries with him the key to his own fate. Guided by an unseen mystical force on a quest to break a curse that threatens to destroy the Satome clan, they must search out a legacy they have chosen to inherit, discovering along the way that they are the Dog Warriors. (Pioneer)

In episode #2 a child called Shino is born. After he has come of age, his father entrusts him with a legendary sword, the Murasame.

These two tape volumes contain the first six episodes of THE HAKKENDEN anime, i.e. the original six episodes of the interrupted and resumed series. If your tastes in anime run to the historic, artistic or cultural, laced with swordfighting and high adventure, you should check this series out. THE HAKKENDEN does make unusual demands on the viewer, who has to contend with a large cast of characters, complicated Japanese names, labyrinthine clan histories, and obscure geography. American buyers received a 12"x24" poster-sized explanatory leaflet but British buyers probably will not have the benefit of this.
Much of the animation artwork is very fine but the quality of the animation is uneven with some sections being of "TV quality" only. The music is also good.
The dubbed edition (the only one available in PAL) is somewhat disappointing in that the voices, particularly the much-used voice-over, seem very flat and monotonous in the first episode. The U.S.subtitled edition sounds much more atmospheric. However the dub problems are much less obtrusive in the second and following episodes.

Overall, this is a great series with an action-packed story, interesting characters and some fine artwork and music. A worthy addition to any anime collection. Vol. #2 cover(G.C.)

The first half of the 3rd volume is just a recap of the story so far, and the "new" Hakkenden continues with the single episode in vol.3. Vol#3 (8.99) contains a digest of the first six eps. plus one other episode, while vols 4 & 5 (12.99) contain three episodes each.
On the whole, the "new" Hakkenden is just as good as the first 6 episodes made some years ago, and episode 10 is particularly striking, being made in a beautiful art style which defies description; you have to see it! Recommended, particularly if you like art or historical anime.
All 13 episodes of this historical fantasy drama are now available.

Credits Pioneer
Episodes 13
Release US:VHS, US:LD, UK:VHS, Jap:VHS, US:DVD
TV Showing See the whole series for free? This series may be syndicated to regional cable, satellite or terrestial TV stations. For Europe click here.
Date 1993
Production
Broadcaster
Animation
References & Help Look up the latest data on this title at:
Richard Llewellyn's Animated Divots, or
Anime News Network (see Encyclopedia section) ,
or in "The Anime Encyclopedia" (Clements & McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press, 2001).
Help & further information.

 

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