What are the ends and means of honor? — A Case for “Hakuoki Reimeiroku”

Hello! If you’re new here, welcome! If not, you may already know all this, but I’m a lover of reverse harem romance. I mean, honestly, what’s not to love? Poke fun if you want, but I’m aware of my own proclivities. (And handsome men? I mean… bonus!)

But this isn’t a post about reverse harem romance!

“Shoujo!” you might exclaim, “Aren’t you talking about Hakuouki?? Isn’t that the otome that blew up overseas??” Well… sort of??? But we’re not talking about classic Hakuouki (otome or anime) today!

I’ve been watching anime since… 2015? 2015! I normally watch romance/shojo/josei, and my favorite show is either… goodness, favorites are hard! I like Hakuouki, Fruba, Ouran, MDZS, FMAB, My Love Story… a lot! But we’ll say my favorite is Fruba or Hakuouki. Long time followers will note, I talk about Hakuouki… would it be generous to say “regularly?” Point is, I’m not the senpai of much, but when it comes to Hakuouki, I know my stuff. It’s right up my alley, and I’ve sort of become (by default lol) the local blogosphere expert in that regard.

Thus, before I explain why you should watch Reimeiroku and what makes it different than the original Hakuouki, I should probably explain what Hakuouki is for those who don’t know:

Hakuouki is the short-form title of a Japanese franchise which consists of several anime seasons, OVAs, otome games, movies, and a third person action series. (Manga has also been adapted, although—unlike the other media—it is not available in English.) It is widely considered one of the most popular and well-constructed otome for the English market. The anime synopsis is as follows:

Based in the late Edo and early Maji Periods of Japan, this historical/ supernatural piece of creative fiction on the Shinsengumi is grounded in fact but heavily spiced with unexpected fantasy.

The group record of Kondo, Hijikata, Sannan, Okita, Saito, Nagakura, Harada, and Heisuke is told through the eyes of young Yukimura Chizuru, a 16-year-old girl who leaves home in search of her absent father, Kodo, who is well respected for his role as a doctor of western medicine. Her journey quickly leads her into the hands of the Wolves of Mibu; in a twist most unexpected, Chizuru becomes their ward, acting as their housekeeper while falling deeper and deeper into their lives in a way that proves that all our stories have the potential to intertwine. The most seemingly chance encounters can alter us irrevocably.

-my old, honestly subpar Hakuouki review

Hakuouki, while a wildly popular franchise in Japan, doesn’t get enough love in the west. (Just ask Greg Ayres, English voice of Heisuke! He confirmed it to me himself!) It often doesn’t get taken seriously enough by audiences because it’s based on an otome game, but it’s one of the best (if not the best) otome to anime adaptations out there! Reimeiroku ISN’T an otome adaptation/reverse harem, however. It’s a character-focused prequel series that digs into trauma and elaborates on character motivations. It can be watched as a stand alone, but shines in context.

In the year before Yukimura Chizuru enters Kyoto, Ibuki Ryunosuke becomes unwittingly indebted to Serizawa Kamo, head of the Roshigumi’s strongest faction. Taken into his service, he finds himself at the heart of this fledgling police force set to keep peace in Kyoto as it integrates two factions into one: Serizawa’s larger, more brutal camp, and Isami Kondo’s gentler, smaller one.

Ryunosuke is running from his own demons, but stumbling into the troops’ complicated dynamic opens his eyes to his own desires to live. Meanwhile, the Edo crew of Kondo, Hijikata, Sannan, Okita, Saito, Nagakura, Harada, and Heisuke have to tackle the depths of their own determination. How dirty are they willing to get their hands? What are the ends and means of honor? Souji, he’s not well, and his sword… there’s so much blood.

Hijikata wasn’t a demon from the get go, but someone has to take up such a mantle if they’re going to make it in a dog-eat-dog world.

Frankly, I think that anyone who ISN’T interested in reverse harem romance should STILL and firstly watch Reimeiroku because of the great way it depicts characters and provides context for the rest of the series. Nothing about Reimeiroku is black and white, and its considerations make it stand out among its peers. Without the love story, its more universal appeal make general viewers more likely to watch the rest of the franchise, which can admittedly be harder for people without tastes like mine to appreciate. The title manages to be funny and charming without sacrificing any of its serious, darker themes. Objectively, I think Reimeiroku is the most widely alluring part of the anime series.

Hakuouki was one of my first few anime, but it has stuck with me and held up over time. I vividly remember the feelings it brought out the first time I watched it, and even without any rose-tinted glasses, I can easily make a case for Reimeiroku. The art is that Studio Dean bishie-ism that I so love, rife with light and shadow work. As stated, the plot provides Shinsengumi backstory fully focused on our main male cast without a reverse harem involved. Thus, it has time to elaborate on WHY the men are the way that they are–why they behave the way they do, how their relationships formed, their hard choices, lives before the Shinsengumi, etc.

Knowing what comes next, Reimeiroku makes me want to cry. Have you seen Reimeiroku? If so, what did you think? Did you watch the dub or sub? (I love the dub!!) Let me know in the comments below, and until next time…

…wash your hands, wear a mask *or two,* stay home when you can, and get that vaccine!

❤ Shoujo 🌸

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