by Lauren Orsini,
If you've been into manservice shows for a certain age-revealing period, as I have, you might be familiar with Gravitation. Gravitation (2000) was a pioneer in the cute-boys-rocking-out genre, but it was also very silly and full of visual gags.
As Bakumatsu Rock progresses, it becomes clearer that the show has learned a few lessons from its most well-known elder in this extremely niche genre: don't take yourself too seriously, don't kill yourself over the plot, and focus on the music. Don't try to fix what isn't broken.
Like the rest of the show, this episode's story can barely be believed. After briefly embracing rock music, the vague yet menacing government entity is back arresting rockers with renewed vigor. A disenchanted Ryouma hears the sob stories of the townsfolk whose families have been torn apart by rock (yes, really), and loses his mojo big time.
But even as Ryouma loses his cool, the show never loses its clumsy charm. There's more angst than usual here, but not enough to distract from the joking camaraderie between the characters for very long. The dialogue becomes especially cheesy as Ryouma and his friends navigate the new obstacle that is Ryouma's newfound guilt over rocking out.
The climax of the argument is a great example of Chekov's gun, literally—let's just say that during this episode, bassist Cindy is packing heat. Still, it'd be easier to relate to the character drama if everyone didn't say “rock” and “rocking out” every other word. The repetition takes away the passion and makes it sound especially scripted.
This episode also saw some new music in the form of the government's latest boy band, a group of 15-year-olds who sing in autotune. Par for the course, it's a pretty catchy tune, and I would have liked to hear more of it before Ryouma and co. butted in.
The preview for Episode 11, ostensibly the climax, promises “the setting's historical accuracy will be as sloppy as ever.” Bakumatsu Rock is trolling me, but before that line, I didn't realize how much. I've made fun of Bakumatsu Rock's anachronisms in the past, but the joke's on me. Clearly the show is highly self-aware.
Bakumatsu Rock has made its strengths and weaknesses pretty clear by this point. The music's great, the plot's a mess, and above all, it doesn't care what anyone thinks. The show is nothing but a silly good time, but as it trundles toward a conclusion, we're learning one important thing: don't expect anything beyond what it's offering right on the surface.
Bakumatsu Rock is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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