by Lauren Orsini,
I originally wanted to review Bakumatsu Rock because I am a huge fan of musical anime. From Gravitation to Nerima Daikon Brothers, and of course, the musical episode of Excel Saga, it's easy to forgive a lot of shortcomings if the music is good.
That's why I'm starting to warm up to Bakumatsu Rock. If you think of it as a sort of music video come to life—and based on a rhythm game, that's essentially what it is—it's much easier to enjoy the ride.
In this episode, the government has decided that rock music isn't so bad after all, and hires a thinly disguised Ryouma and friends to rock out with the government sanction. Yes, even though the entire plot until now has been that the government promotes pop idols while jailing rock musicians. To make matters worse, Ryouma and his friends remove their disguises during a government-sponsored concert, and somehow they don't get in any trouble at all! Yes, despite their faces being on wanted posters all over Japan, they are free to go home at the episode's conclusion without any jail time.
This plot is held together with Scotch tape. It's not deep or thought-provoking. But if you're here for good music and great character design, you'll find it. Like with most anime musicals, there's just a handful of tunes that get replayed over and over, but they're an irresistible rock-pop blend and I'm not tired of them yet.
Bakumatsu Rock didn't become a popular video game for nothing—it has compelling avatars and a fun soundtrack to make it stand out. The anime has done a great job building a gorgeous world around them, too. The juxtaposition of producers and contracts with samurai and palanquins create a captivating, if ridiculously inaccurate, backdrop. The anachronisms become more and more bearable each week due to their tongue-in-cheek nature.
Bakumatsu Rock isn't taking itself seriously, and you don't have to take it seriously either. Enjoy the boys and music and feel free to turn your brain off whenever the plot takes center stage.
Bakumatsu Rock is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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