To spin around the monitor, as it were, I’ve got to confess that writing up shows that spike on either end of the Rock/Suck meter is a lot easier than writing up mediocre ones that hover somewhere in the middle of it. I’ve really been struggling to think of anything worthwhile to say about HAKKENDEN, and that’s been a little strange, since it actually does have a few things going for it.
It’s somewhat of an update of PRINCESS MONONOKE, showing us a Shinto-esque, animal spirit mythology that’s struggling against the encroachment of the modern world (except this time it’s a vaguely-defined “Church” instead of an industrial iron town, natch). There are some real surprises about orphan pariahs and wolves-in-disguise, and there are a handful of spectacularly animated magic battles...
…but it’s also rather messy. As in, it's the kind of mess you try to grab at, and it still manages to squish out through your fingers.
It really isn't the sort of train wreck you’ve seen in many a front-loaded unto-over-stuffed pilot. It just feels like a number of small, but relevant, details have been clumsily forgotten. The omissions aren’t that noticeable on their own, but they do keep adding up steadily until you get to some dramatic reveals (particularly the one with the twins?) and are suddenly confused about how exactly you got there.
The best analogy I can think of it that watching this pilot was like listening to a song where the drummer is maybe a ¼ step off-beat with the rest of the band. You can sense that something isn't in sync with the rest of the work, even if you can’t perceive what it precisely is.
Any of you lunatics feel the same way about this? Or am I just missing the brilliance here?
Watch this episode, "Borders" here and decide for yourself.