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Hakkenden shin sho Review

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by AVForums Jun 1, 2004 at 12:00 AM

    Set in 15th century Tokyo The Legend Of The Dog Warriors: The Hakkenden begins with a tale of two families - The Satomi and The Anzai. The Satomi clan are in a state of near starvation and call upon the Anzai for assistance... but instead of helping, Lord Kagestura Anzai sends two thousand troops to attack the Satomi. To make matters even worse the Anzai are aided by some strange and devilish power; in the end, and after many fruitless counter attacks, all the Satomi can do is barricade themselves in at Takita castle. With provisions near depletion and countless of their brethren dead from starvation the entire clan is on the brink of extinction. In one last act of desperation, a small group of Satomi warriors, including Daisuke - Princess Fuse's finance - is sent out to find and kill Kagetura Anzai; but their quest ends in yet another failure and Daisuke, shamed by his own survival, leaves his clan - and his wife-to-be.

    Dying and with all hope fading, the Satomi people have one, final choice - surrender to their enemy... or take their own lives. Depleted of energy and resigned to impending defeat, the head of the Satomi clan half-heartedly promises food and riches to, of all things, Yatsufusa, the family dog - if only the fearsome-looking mutt could bring them Kagestura's head. As would be expected the dog merely looks up at his master with a quizzical expression! But when he then promises the canine his daughter's hand in marriage, the dog takes off - looking decidedly determined. Amazingly, Yatsufusa returns with Kagestura's head hanging from powerful jaws.

    With their plight finally at an end, the Satomi clan rejoice; Yatsufusa is treated like a Lord - fed the finest food and given anything his heart desires. But the dog's character has changed, and it's not long before even the finest cuisine can appease the now wild and snarling animal. When Princess Fuse learns of what has transpired she understands what the dog wants and makes good her father's promise, leaving her family and heading for the sacred Tomi mountains with her new “husband” - Yatsufusa. Soon after, Princess Fusa has a frightening premonition - she dreams of a curse that has been put upon her and the whole Satomi clan. She also dreams that she will give birth to a litter of eight of Yatsufusa's offspring. Her dream may be a simple expression of an inner knowledge of her own destiny - a destiny that is inexorably linked to the power of her necklace, given her as a child.

    When Daisuke hears of his fiancée's plight he tracks their whereabouts and shoots Yatsufusa dead. Unfortunately a bullet fatally injures Princess Fuse, and as she utters her final breath the eight symbols etched into the beads of her necklace begin to glow and spark, spewing forth representations of eight “Dog Warriors” whose fate is to be drawn together in one final attempt at saving the Satomi clan. So begins: The Legend Of The Dog Warriors: The Hakkenden.

    Continuing with a further 12 episodes of far reaching and, at times, somewhat complicated Japanese Anime storytelling, The Hakkenden is a wonderfully rich and intricate tale of sorcery, deception and honour. This is the first time I have really enjoyed watching this type of animation - if it weren't quite so long I would have devoured all thirteen episodes in one sitting! Interestingly the rear cover shows an image of the region globe indicating that the DVD is encoded for regions 1 and 4. My computer seems to agree, but WinDVD suggests this is an NTSC disc...