Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman was my last pick in the Winter 2012-2013 Anime Season Draft. I wouldn’t even call it a pick. There were two series left for the three of us and the whole fighting in old school Japan thing seemed to fit me more than Bryan or Daniel. The creator of Lupin III did the art for the series and TMS Entertainment does put out some good stuff, but the whole Japanese Robin Hood thing that the original description put out there made me a little apprehensive about watching this series. However, anyone that knows anything about late round draft picks in the NFL knows that they will surprise you. The first episode was fun and we started to see what this series was going to be like, but it was the second episode that started to give me a true feel for the series. We got to experience the opening theme which is definitely my favorite opening from this season.
Times are changing in Japan. The Edo Period is coming to a close, human trafficking is a big time issue, and foreign nations are adding to the internal turmoil that is making the nation very unstable. Corruption brings with it a great distance between the rich and poor. At face value, the nation seems fine because its representatives are prosperous, but poverty continues to affect a majority of the populace. This sounds like a job for Robin Hood. You know, the guy with his merry band of men that steal from the rich and give to the poor. Is that figure a little too western for you? Well, how about Roman the second Nezumi Kozo and the Helpers? Things aren’t going well in Japan and Roman is out to conduct his lavish banquets. A lavish banquet happens when Roman fires the gold that he steals from dignitaries into the air in order for it to rain down upon the local people. Everything seems simple enough until you get to the part about foreign and internal entities trying to uproot the current governing body in Japan. Roman and the gang end up getting involved in the struggle because the second generation Nezumi Kozo cannot watch bad things happen and not offer a helping hand. The majority of the story is pretty tame as we watch Roman help various people with things that require his skills and you can expect quite a bit of comedy along the way. There is very out-of-place technology in this series from zombies made out of flour to the power suit that Roman uses for extremely tough jobs. There is a shift in tone as the jobs get bigger, but the series never really loses its comedic charm.
For such a short series, we end up getting quite a few recurring characters in Bakumatsu. These people can be sectioned off into three main groups even though two of the groups really only have one important character apiece. Roman is the second generation Nezumi Kozo who makes a living by helping others with various requests. Although Roman is a jokester, he has a strong sense of justice and a desire to see smiles on the faces of his clients. Even though he is naturally athletic, Roman uses a power suit that was past down to him by his father, the first Nezumi Kozo, when he has a tough job to do. Along the way, Roman is aided by the Helpers in jobs where they split the cut. Koharu is Roman’s sister. She makes money by selling decorative chopsticks, but she also helps stake out job spots with her dog Sakura. Hans is a foreign-born doctor that handles medical treatment for the team. He also has a fascination with zombies so he enjoys experimenting on dead bodies even though he can make zombies out of flour. Gennai is an old man who is in charge of technology for the group. His inventions range from simple bombs to giant robots. Gennai’s inventive genius is only outdone by his love of young ladies. Kanade is a shrine maiden who specializes in disguise and information gathering. Outside of the team you have Suzuki who is a member of the Oniwaban Group. Although the group is famous, they don’t get a lot of screen time in this series. Suzuki is a very skilled fighter that wields two oddly advanced pistols. Not a lot is known about his true purpose and fighting prowess early on, but he doesn’t seem like a bad guy. Okuni is a member of a big time brothel and she is the idol of many men including Roman. However, this is no simple lady. As the series progresses, we learn more and more about her very dark past. Along the way we meet various other people, both good and bad, but none of them are as important as these individuals. I would reveal more regarding the characters and also the main villains, but that information is full of spoilers.
It took me a while to get used to this series. It was goofy in the beginning and there was the whole giant robots in old school Japan thing, but Bakumatsu really hit its stride when it got more serious. This season really lacked a true action series when it came down to new material and that made me want to see this series take that role. It never really did, but that wasn’t a bad thing. I got used to the out-of-place technology and cliché moments because it all seemed to work out. It took me until the final episode to truly appreciate this series for all that it is and that makes me kind of sad. When I have the time, I want to watch it again. I will say that it took that long for some good reasons. At times, the episodes were stale and not so entertaining. I feel like it took too long for the series to get to its serious material and that we could have done without a helping episode or two, but it wasn’t the biggest problem in the world. The mix of comedy and action gave this series a charm that would make fans of Lupin III feel nostalgic. All of the characters were very entertaining and they hit on some very tough issues with life in not so developed areas. The whole human trafficking thing is still an issue today which is infuriating to say the least, but that isn’t all that went down. The art style wasn’t too bad either because it felt more real than your typical anime which is nice every once in a while.I will warn you that there will be quite a few moments in this series that will leave you scratching your head due to their ridiculous nature. I still don’t understand exactly what happened in the final battle, but that is mostly due to execution. Just walk in with an open mind and you will be fine.
Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman is a very interesting show. I will say that it is an acquired taste for anyone that isn’t used to this style of anime. The mix of historical, action, comedic, and supernatural elements can be a bit much for some people. However, the story is very good and it is definitely worth your time. I don’t know if there will be another season, but the ending was pretty perfect in my opinion. It wrapped things up in a way that was conclusive enough to end a series, but it left just enough mystery to allow more material and it not be a surprise to fans. This series will not appeal to everyone. In fact, unless you think you can handle a series with the mix of genres that I threw out before, then you may want to avoid this show. I know that it is only about a minute and a half of your time per episode, and a lot of people skip it, but the opening theme in this series is something that I really enjoyed. The musical style is pretty unique when compared to other anime openings and its high energy really fits the series well. I enjoyed Bakumatsu and I think that you will too. Just don’t let stuff like the zombies get to you.