Over the course of my anime watching pastime, I was fortunate enough to have been acquainted with anime that were high in both rating and quality and this never experienced a time when I watched an “underrated” anime, one which was a great anime but it’s rating didn’t justify it at all, or an anime that was not popular and deserved more attention, life isn’t always fair, and as such, Hakyuu Houshin Engi was sadly caught under the web of both these unfortunate situations mainly because of the manga elitists (or source fags as the casual internet term coined it).
Aired: Jan 12, 2018 to June 29, 2018
Genres: Adventure, Demons, Supernatural, Fantasy, Shounen
External Problems and Background
Before we begin, I’ll cover the external problems Hakyuu Houshin Engi faced before it even aired. Before I review the show, because I feel like it is necessary to let the readers of the review know that they should understand what the show went through and the unfair problems it had to face. Finally, they shouldn’t judge this show by its rating and this review will answer all of that. The manga elitists of Houshin Engi were quick to outright reject the anime and this isn’t surprising because the LotGH elitists quickly rejected the remake of the show as well.
For Houshin Engi’s case, the manga lovers complained that the pacing in the anime is “too fast”. (which was true for the first few episodes) “it deserves a 1 for doing so” which is definitely something that didn’t make sense since they didn’t look at the other things in the anime at all or heck. Give the show a chance and watch it through, because Hakyuu Houshin Engi did improve considerably from around the end of it’s first half and went on. As such, another problem that was unfair for Hakyuu Houshin Engi was that not many people decided to pick it up when it first aired (and before the elitists started giving 1s and 2s and the mean broke down completely) since the show was pretty niche outside Japan.
Unlike the monstrous popularity of Hunter x Hunter (a show Houshin Engi the manga is comparable to according to people acquainted with both series) which obviously was a great hit among the Western Anime market along with Japan as well and this is largely because the manga was still publishing around the time when the remake first aired and another fact being that Hunter x Hunter (2011) went on for a year with more than a hundred episodes, thus allowing the hype to go on and keep on increasing, Hakyuu Houshin Engi didn’t have that unfortunately. It’s manga ended long ago, it’s budget was a mere shadow of Hunter x Hunter’s budget and the elitists couldn’t swarm HxH since it’s casual view count steadily kept on increasing thanks to the benefits the famous show had.
My point of rambling on about HxH, a show I haven’t watched but have spoken to many readers/watchers about? It’s that Hakyuu Houshin Engi had a lot of problems to face even before it aired that were against its power or control and this sadly took over and let to the show’s drop in rating early on thanks to the manga fans. This ultimately led to casual watchers not acquainted with the series being discouraged from watching the show because of it’s unfortunately low rating and again didn’t help the show garner the attention it so deserved either. I’m not saying the show is a 10/10 at all, but I’m saying the show isn’t worth it’s average score on the site and needs a person to have a clear mind when watching this anime.
A last reminder, when reading this review, I recommend not having the prejudice about checking back with the show’s mean score and read the review with a clear mind
Fantastic world building
To begin with, Hakyuu Houshin Engi has a fantastic world. It’s world building is such that I haven’t seen most fantasy anime equal at such a scale before. The Sennin World, the Doshi world, the Human World, and the skies above it, and to get into detail, Kongrong Mountain and Yin. There were a lot of places covered in the anime and the way they were represented and created was done with intricate detail and much like other high fantasy shows, it made you think a lot. As such, the fleshed out world didn’t feel bland or empty and surprisingly made you feel at home or imagine that there might be such a place far far away, a lot like the Hobbit for you Lord of the Rings fans out there (as an example of course, I’m not comparing it with Houshin Engi mind you). But it had a vibrant feel that such a world could exist, and that it made you dream or imagine it as I mentioned above, which is why I related it to the aforementioned book (once again, it can’t compare to the Hobbit but it’s amazing in its own right).
It also had an amazing set of characters with varied and detailed backstories. Be it Taikobo the MC, Yozen, Bunchu, Genshi Tenson among others. Everyone had an important story to tell. Taikobo’s tragic (and obviously non-cliched) past was a highlight since we’ve been used to seeing the pathetic MC type nowadays (more on Taikobo below), but then again, the Houshin Engi manga first released in 1996 so we can’t say he’s a good MC among MCs in this decade (even though he may be close) since his original appearance was around 2 decades ago obviously. Yozen’s backstory was interesting since it had a dark feel to it especially when his mere existence is dark for that matter and his backstory is the same. You’d make a huge mistake if you wrote Yozen off as the happy go lucky type. And Genshi Tenson wasn’t exactly as good as you might think either. He was involved in some shady dealings which came back to bite him and you’ll find out more about this seemingly very good man later on in the show as well.
Bunchu as well set a different tone and you couldn’t exactly label him a villain as well surprisingly, since he wasn’t invading a place for personal gain, he was protecting the place he loved but took a strict stance on protecting it at all costs and the reason behind that has to do with a very important part of his past. All these were examples of characters who do change and have distinct changes within them that set them apart from other shows as well. A villain who isn’t necessarily bad? Your master lying to you? Your existence being used for someone else’s gain? These were examples of how deep the story was with it’s explanation and representation of it’s said characters, and there are a few more of them as well who I can’t cover due to them coming later in the show which could mean a spoiler and I’m trying to keep this review spoiler-free.
Making characterisation look easy
As such, you see the development these characters had as well during the course of the show and how they deal with the questions I gave as examples above. How will you deal with powerlessness? Can you really save the world as you thought you could? Are you prepared for losing companions and friends if there’s war? These were all questions Taikobo was faced with throughout the series and boy do they feel unfamiliar since they’re rare to see in Shounen shows of today because Shounen today is all about the MC defeating your enemy without any major losses and winning because of the spirit of your nakama and you.
Houshin Engi shows us the harsh reality that you can lose much more than you thought in war and that spirit alone isn’t enough to win a battle. You need power, and if you don’t have it, you lose. Emotional and physical strength both are necessary. As for other characters, we saw Yozen deal with his story and his existence, Genshi Tenson deal with his past mistakes, along with that, Bunchu try his hardest to keep Yin alive, Dakki control over the kingdom. These all are examples of what the aims and efforts of characters were and how they dealt with their problems. As such, development was most certainly seen in the show and I covered this in detail in the paragraph above as well.
Despite that, Houshin Engi knew how to cleverly hide a few important details in the beginning and show them in the later episodes, making for a decent surprise. Another thing I want to cover is the art. It being a remake obviously gives it a chance at having a better artstyle than the previous adaptation and so far Hakyuu Houshin Engi does really well for it’s time. Character models looked great, the world and backgrounds were great and the fight scenes, arguably the most important, were done well.
Speaking of things done well, what was REALLY fantastic was the BGM (Background Music to those unfamiliar with the term). It had a distinct Chinese root to it as was the show’s theme for that matter and not once did I feel like it was bland. The same could be said for the OPs and EDs of which a very clever selection of songs were chosen, a hype OP by none other than Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and peaceful EDs to balance it out and to be honest it wasn’t at all underwhelming. It was a fantastic choice of music to go with the brilliant BGM as well.
Setting itself apart
Hakyuu Houshin Engi does a few things that set itself apart from other anime in the genre. Aside from the one I mentioned above, a very important example is that Hakyuu Houshin Engi shows us character deaths. And no, I’m not talking about minor character deaths. We see important characters die. A LOT. After receiving the development they need as a character some of them were killed. Why is this important? It’s important because it signifies that Taikobo’s side is not strong. Many Shounen anime try to paint the MC’s side as weak but they don’t FEEL weak because they usually win every time with no casualties but Houshin Engi was different. It as mentioned had a set of important characters who died perhaps horrible deaths while some died honourable ones, giving the viewer a sense of gravity that the world of Houshin Engi especially Taikobo’s side suffers from.
Speaking of Taikobo’s side as well, Taikobo isn’t a slacked of an MC either. His tragic past is clearly shown and his past is reflected in the present and as his brother said, it shows in his future as well. He might seem like the happy go lucky type as most other Shounen MCs are but Taikobo’s sudden tense behavior when he’s going through a tough time (like for example dealing with the death of a close companion?) isn’t something you’re gonna see so often in other places. Yeah the bright world is shown as being a colourful and happy place and yeah we have a wide variety of characters but Taikobo is the MC for a reason, and his character clearly deserves to be called a good MC as a result of his actions. He makes you root for him. Not because he has more screen time, but when we see him interact with everyone else and vow not to let more deaths happen you really root for him because you get attached to the vibrant characters as well. That’s what Houshin Engi is all about. The world, the characters, the harsh realities of the world as well and of the people involved too.
The problems (not as much as you think)
With that said, Hakyuu Houshin Engi isn’t perfect by all means. I spent the first paragraphs explaining the manga fans problem and how they overblew the issues with the anime but what is true is true, the anime DOES have it’s set of problems (although not to the way the manga fans over blew it) and most of those have to do with the remake more than the actual story, again, it’s not as huge of a problem as it may seem to be to hear, else I’d be contradicting myself and the entire purpose of the review, which is to give you an honest look at why this anime should be watched instead of take the easy route and bash it from every angle to the tune of the manga fans. The first half’s pacing was indeed fast.
Things happened all to quickly without letting the viewers understand what’s happening unless they have the ability to read fast (or watch the dub) and comprehend the situation fast and not need to backtrack. Unfortunately, if you were not a part of that group, you were out of luck. You’d have to backtrack for around the first 10 episodes since their pacing was on the fast side. On the other hand, if you’re someone who likes J.C Staff you’d probably be able to handle this C-Station.co Production (the other much more popular show C-Station.co did was Yuru Camp or Laid-Back Camp for you English name fans out there). In contrast, the second half was nicely paced.
I think the studio felt that the pacing was fast and decided to cut on the pace which led the speed in the second half to be a huge improvement since everyone could understand what happened and how without needing to backtrack at all which is definitely something to be happy about, now if you’re bingeing the anime, the sudden shift from fast paced to normal pace may make you feel like the second half is slow but I can assure you that is not the case, with binging it may seem so but thankfully it’s not that big of a contrast.
What did seem to be a problem though was that Dakki is largely unexplained apart from a one episode backstory that leaves out some important details. This is something to be concerned about since Dakki is the main villain of the anime and obviously she needs development or at least backstory to make her seem so. As mentioned she DID get an episode solely dedicated to her backstory and it did serve most of its purpose but viewers may realise that a few questions were left unanswered, the biggest being where did Dakki come from? They did show a bit of what she was doing before she became the villain she is known for but they didn’t show how she interacted with the world as a child or her as a child for that matter as well. Apart from her though other villains were covered well.
Bunchu was sort of like a villain and his backstory was covered and his purpose was repeatedly explained whenever he made his appearance, Ou Tenkun’s backstory was dark and eerie and was a surprise since I thought he’d have more of a villain-like backstory but instead his backstory was interestingly different, which is reflective of the anime since when you expect something you get a different point and it serves as a great idea to keep things fresh. The last problem is a subjective one. Bunchu’s obsession with Yin was repeated and reminded a lot and many people could be frustrated with listening to him preach about Yin again and again. But the last arc opened everyone’s eyes on that matter, along with the important fact that we do get to see Yin and its history earlier on in the second half so that’s that I suppose.
Overall, my purpose for writing this review was very different from my other reviews generally, the purpose of this review was to let the readers know that Hakyuu Houshin Engi isn’t a show that should be written off just because of it’s mean score since it’s mean score isn’t affected by casual viewers giving it a low rating but instead the manga fans voicing their frustration because “this didn’t happen” and “that didn’t happen” as strict manga fans usually do not like anime versions or remakes of what they hold to be the original but I don’t see that as a bad thing 100%. It’s because if you liked this anime, you’ll love the manga even more.
That’s the most of what I could say which mirrors the manga readers but if I’m asked to offer my personal opinion, try this show without any prejudice on it’s mean score and just relax and watch. I’m sure you’ll like Hakyuu Houshin Engi, or at least it won’t be a “1/10 or 2/10” show as the manga fans describe it and the criminally low mean it sadly has to put up with. It’s never a good idea to judge a show by it’s mean score since a high rated anime can be bad and a low rated anime can be good (as is the case with Hakyuu Houshin Engi) so to end on a positive note, I hope you get to enjoy Hakyuu Houshin Engi the way the creators intended it to be enjoyed
Read the original review: AniList Review | MyAnimeList Review
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