Like Romance Novels On A TV
In American culture, a “chick flick” is a romance oriented movie that occurs from a woman’s perspective and is meant to play to a woman’s tastes.
There is anime like this as well, and Hakuouki: Hekketsu Roku (the sequel to the first Hakuouki) is a leading example.
To make a long story short, this is a historical drama with a fictional supernatural twist, with a female lead who comes to be with the Shinsengumi, “New Select Group,” an elite special police force, during the death throes of the Tokugawa shogunate (i.e. the battles that gave way to the Meiji Restoration). The pretty, but not idealized, female lead is therefore surrounded by handsome, very much idealized male leads and supporting characters.
Also, she happens to be on the losing side, essentially witnessing a tragedy in progress as lives expire; indeed, an entire era and a whole way of life is expiring as the best swordsmen Japan could hope for in that day and age found their blood and heroics for nothing.
Now, without getting into the niceties of plot, that’s essentially the whole show. Last season, the members of the Shinsengumi were still in “wafuku” (Japanese-style clothing,” and this season they’re in snappy Western uniforms as things get really bad, but anyway, that’s the essence of it.
This is not a show to observe military tactics at work, or for swordfighting (there’s lots of edge on edge katana fighting, which is fine for a “chick flick” where women don’t know the niceties of swordfighting, nor do they care). It is a show for seeing a lot of male leads that girls might like to fall for, imagining themselves in various roles and scenes on the side while the television show itself (for at this point, this being anime is quite irrelevant) proceeds towards some kind of historical finality and plot conclusion. The show is mid-way through its second and final season.
I presume final, because there’s not much of the Shinsengumi left to collapse.
A Leap Into “Fantasy”
The point of this is that even though the events portrayed are barely a hundred and forty years ago, they might as well have taken place a full thousand years ago considering the cultural, technological, and psychological chasm between that time and the time modern Japanese (or Western) viewers live in.
In other words, this is a leap into a world of fantasy. It may be fantasy that resonates on a cultural level, but it is no less fantasy than magic spells, swords and flying dragons.
There is also the fantasy of a girl who is not hot, but who is pretty, being sincerely cared about by so many dashing young men, even if fate is against them all. This is very much reflective of romance novel character design.
In this case, the show was merely based on a Playstation 2 game. While most games surrounding romance are explicitly geared for males, this is one of the notable exceptions. Also, it covered a period rich enough in history to provide a platform for well developed characters, settings, animation, and so forth. Obviously, the plot (which I am not getting into) also made a leap in the process.
While hardly a mainstay of Japanese anime, the “chick flick” style represented here does exist as part of the mosaic of entertainment in Japanese society. This show will never approach Naruto or Bleach status, nor was it designed to; however, it offers an opportunity to get a feel for the era, just as Seven Samurai offers us a window into the samurai as they lived, and died, in the wake of the end of the Civil War era.
Hakuouki represents the end of the era that followed the Civil War era, and represents the dawn of Japan’s modern era, which lasted until WWII. There is something of a pattern here.