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The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
Shine on! Bakumatsu Bad Boys

How would you rate episode 1 of
Shine on! Bakumatsu Bad Boys ?
Community score: 3.4

What is this?

The story is set in the era when samurai rule Japan. However, the Shinsengumi police force has been all but wiped out by an unknown foe, save one survivor. Seven criminals have been chosen as substitutes for the Shinsengumi. To ensure law and order in Kyoto, a top-secret replacement operation is set in motion.

Shine on! Bakumatsu Bad Boys is an original anime and streams on Crunchyroll on Fridays.

How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore

Shine on! Bakumatsu Bad Boys is a fun watch, especially when enjoyed with others in the room to hoot and holler along with you, but that lies almost entirely in its style. If you're the kind of person who pays attention to staff credits (which, of course you are, because what anime fan doesn't pore over lists of animators?), you may have noticed that it's an original series directed and written by Tetsuo Hirakawa. Hirakawa has accumulated a lengthy resume as an animator and storyboarder, but has only ever written scattered scripts for adaptive works. Little about his list of credits suggests that he's ever been much of a story guy.

The script did little to disabuse me of my impression that Hirakawa is more of a visual director than a storyteller. My viewing companions and I called every single plot development well before it happened. Boring-looking dude with black hair surrounded by colorfully-designed characters with unnatural hair? He's definitely going to be painting the walls with his blood in a matter of minutes. Main character assumes his whole family is dead but never saw the bodies? His little brother, who was an infant in the flashback, is undoubtedly a major antagonist. Oh hey what do you know, there he is right in the OP. Of course the hotheaded red character squabbles constantly with the cool-natured blue. Also the girl is pink and the fat guy thinks of nothing but food.

But at least the visuals are cool! The designs, courtesy of Shaman King's Hiroyuki Takei, are memorable enough that I have a clear image of pretty much every single one of the sizable main cast in my head already. Their faces and bodies have a lot of variety instead of just being a group of generically pretty people, and their fighting styles are just as unique and suited to a group of scofflaws like them. Who doesn't love a rebellious hero with a fiery red pompadour who throws his sword aside to fight with anachronistic breakdancing moves?

While I can certainly appreciate it, without a semi-decent script, the novelty will wear thin faster than the assassin wields his sword. But then again, this is the weakest season in years. Maybe some visually engaging shonen silliness will end up having to do the trick.

Richard Eisenbeis

Like many a 90s anime fan, I was first introduced to the Shinsengumi through Rurouni Kenshin. Since then, I have seen more than a few anime, films, and TV dramas centered around the group in its final days during Japan's last civil war. What I have not seen before is a story where all of them are killed and replaced by criminals—so that's one thing that Bakumatsu Bad Boys has going for it.

Beyond that, however, a lot of what we get is pretty cliché. Ichibanboshi is your standard hot-blooded and under-educated shōnen protagonist, and each of our other Shinsengumi replacements is likewise a character archetype you have seen before. We've got everything from the immoral priest and the unethical doctor to the fat strong guy and the cool, calm assassin. (And the Fate franchise has long since prepared me for a female Okita Souji.) That said, they are all quite distinct—even in just this first episode—and watching their interactions is actually rather enjoyable.

But the real reason I've rated this premiere above average is its sense of style. Each of our main characters appears different in size and build to the point where there is no way you could mistake one character for another. Moreover, each is color-coded with vibrant highlights on their clothes, hair, and weapons that simply pop off the screen. They look even better in motion thanks to the top-of-the-line fight choreography paired with directing that knows how to best show it off.

In the end, I haven't decided if I'll be back for episode two or not. Something tells me the story isn't going to wow me (gee, I wonder if the blond bad guy might just be Ichibanboshi's presumed dead younger brother) but it might be worth it to come back for the eye candy alone.

Rebecca Silverman

Stick around this subculture long enough, and you'll find all sorts of weird takes on the Shinsengumi. Shine on! Bakumatsu Bad Boys isn't my favorite iteration – that would be Kaze Hikaru, followed by the Hakuōki games – but it's definitely one of the more interesting. Its premise, that a group of evil masked samurai killed the entire Shinsengumi leadership except for Todo Heisuke, is a pretty good setup for total bizarreness with a mild historical edge; from its spaghetti western opening scene to genre staples like the one lady hidden amongst the guys, it's surprisingly solid in a very silly way.

Mostly this episode works because it doesn't take itself too seriously. Ichibanboshi, who becomes Kondou Isami, has a chip on his shoulder the size of California, and while he's got a legitimate reason for it – his family was also murdered by the Masked Demons who wiped out the Shinsengumi – it also has made him into something of a vengeful doof: he's determined to kill samurai for what they did to his family, but he's also going about it in the most ridiculous way possible (because apparently becoming an orphan infuses you with swagger and the unstoppable urge to dress your hair like a two-bit thug from a 1970s manga and to continually sweep your hands along your pointy pompadour). He only signs on to the plan because of the Masked Demons, in fact, and even though he's promised to become Kondou, he's going to do it kicking and screaming the entire way, often literally. This contrasts him with the other walking stereotypes who make up the rest of the cast, mostly Sakuya, an assassin who becomes Hijikata Toshizo and is oddly keen on following rules for a guy who enjoys murder. Possibly he's just not into the idea that his second chance at life could be taken away from him, or maybe he's just used to following orders as an assassin for hire. Either way, he's the most direct foil to Ichibanboshi, with Akira – the lady version of Okita Soji – coming in a close second as the straight-laced swordsmanship teacher.

Although this episode is plainly setup for what's to come (and I'll be shocked if Ichibanboshi's little brother isn't the lead bad guy), it does a decent job of being at least mildly intriguing. It certainly helps that, deliberately odd and colorful character designs aside, the action is fast-paced and interesting to watch, and Todo's increasing exasperation puts the other characters' actions into context. I'd hesitate to call this a flat-out good episode, but it held my attention and is at least a slightly different approach to the Shinsengumi-inspired story. It probably won't be replacing my favorites anytime soon, but if you like sword action and lightly historical fantasy, this is worth at least giving a chance.

James Beckett

What a pleasant surprise! I knew nothing about Shine on! Bakumatsu Bad Boys going into it other than the general subject matter indicated by the Bakumatsu time period. I figured I was going to end up enjoying the heck out of the show within its first few minutes, though, since I am always a fan of shows that can make skillful use of the vibrant colors, stylized comic panels, and bold outlines that are so prominent in Bakumatsu Bad Boys' art style. It gives you the immediate sense that the creative team at Twin Engine is really having fun with this project.

Not to mention that it manages to be one of those roll-call episodes that introduces a fairly large cast of characters while still telling a fun and coherent story. A part of that is probably due to how playful and broad the show can be with its would-be heroes, since they're all ostensibly playing highly exaggerated and mythologized versions of famous members of the Shinsengumi. The fairly one-note personalities wouldn't really do much, though, if the characters simply stood around the whole episode doing nothing but mugging, and while plenty of lazier shows have tried to get away with just that, Bakumatsu Bad Boys remembers that its action-adventure romp actually needs to be, y'know, entertaining.

That doesn't have to be complicated, either. Simply giving every character something meaningful to do in the plot is enough. Okita uses her skills to teach the team about swordsmanship; Sogen and Suzuran use their more practical skills to tend to the wounded; and our main protagonist (who eventually takes the name of Kondou Isami) has to learn to cool his jets and work with the team while he seeks revenge against the samurai who killed his family. It's standard stuff, but it's perfectly okay to make use of familiar tropes when they're executed in a fun way.

So, yeah, count this as one of the better premieres of this summer season. Shine On! Bakumatsu Bad Boys isn't trying to reinvent the wheel or shatter its audience's expectations, but it's also going to make darned sure that audience is never bored, either. I highly recommend that you check it out if you're looking for a show that perfectly embodies that breezy summer fun we're probably all looking for right about now.

Nicholas Dupree

I really wish I could like this one more than I do. In a season where “above average” is the high water mark for most shows, this one has a lot going for it. A unique aesthetic with bold and brash character designs by Hiroyuki Takei, solid action animation that brings its colorful sword-fighting to life, and a simple but effective premise of a ragtag group of criminals having to suddenly replace the Shinsengumi. But it seems like every creative decision made beyond those had the goal of making this premiere as annoying as possible.

A big part of that is the characters. With a cast this large and color-coded you're almost certainly going to start off with very archetypal characters, and that's especially true here. Everyone has one trait, which they loudly and exclusively display every time they open their mouth. You've got the hotheaded one, the stoic one, the girl one, the flirty one to hit on the girl one, and of course the big dumb fat one who loves to eat because he's faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat. They're all tired tropes with swords strapped to their waists, and without any sort of clever dialogue or entertaining interactions, it makes any sequence that isn't a sword fight an absolute chore to get through. The writing and visual coding are so on the nose that I immediately picked out who of the eight criminals would die first based solely on him having the most boring design out of the lot. That might work alright if the characters themselves were entertaining, but the script mistakes “loud” for having a personality. Our red-headed protagonist exemplifies this, hollering and growling damn near every line he's given, until I was begging for him to just shut up by the halfway point.

All that is enough to slice down any interest I might have in following this for the season. The sword fights are fun, and the idea of our band of misfits hunting down cursed swords is a neat concept to build an episodic adventure series around. Samurai Suicide Squad should be a slam dunk idea for a show! Hell, I loved Akudama Drive, and this is basically just a more sword-y version of that premise. But I've got no interest in following adventures with characters this lacking in charisma or interesting personalities.

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