7 Super Shinsengumi Reimaginings
by Lynzee Loveridge,
Japan's Shinsengumi are synonymous with the eruption of political turmoil within the country in the 1860s, spearheaded by Matthew Perry's black ships and disagreements over isolationism and foreign trade. The group served the Tokugawa shogunate and despite only existing for five years, they carved out a legendary status for themselves, especially prominent members like Saitō Hajime. The group is depicted numerous ways in anime series, from handsome and dangerous swordsmen to rockstar idols. Those looking for a truly historical rendition in anime will have a hard time, but you can read a great article by author Jasper Sharp about the military police group at UK licensor Anime Limited's blog. Below you'll find some historical but mostly fantastical versions of the Shinsengumi.
Peace Maker If the above intro wasn't obvious enough, issuing a military police to protect politicians and ousting other prominent families in a bid to maintain isolationism and control of Japan led to a very volatile period. There were tragedies as masterless ronin began killing one another, the Shinsengumi participated in brutal interrogation techniques, and at one point Kyoto was lit ablaze. Peace Maker stars two brothers who find themselves orphaned during the chaotic period. One brother, Tetsu, is determined to avenge is parents while his older, pacifist brother Tatsu supports the Shinsengumi as an accountant. Tetsu and Tatsu's methods differ, and Tetsu is set on earning his way up the ranks. He encounters all of the Shinsengumi's major figureheads but also discovers that the power he seeks has a very high cost.
Hakuouki All the drama and intrigue of historical fiction but with a shiny, hunky coat of paint. The Hakuōki series is based on Idea Factory's otome romance games. Our hapless heroine Chizuru heads to Kyoto in search of her absentee dad but instead finds marauding criminals. She's rescued by gorgeous Shinsengumi who find out that the criminals roaming the streets are actually empowered by a magic serum Chizuru's dad concocted. So yeah, that's weird and it only continues from there and Chizuru and her band of handsome samurai have to put a stop to a plot to wipe out the human race.
Rurouni Kenshin Most of Rurouni Kenshin's story takes place after the end of the Bakumatsu era. The Shinsengumi is disbanded and one of its heads, Saitō Hajime, has found new employ as a police officer and long-time Kenshin adversary. His role as a Shinsengumi captain are focused more closely on in the Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal OAVs which also depict the Ikedaya Affair. Saitō and the Shinsegumi prevent rebel groups from burning down Kyoto, but the anime leaves out the torture scene where a guy has giant spikes struck into his feet that are then filled with hot wax.
Gintama if you're looking for a counterpoint to the heroic renditions of the Shinsengumi, look no further than Gintama which features Hijikata Tōshirō as a mayonnaise-gulping demon commander with a split otaku personality. His Shinsengumi compatriots include Kondō Isao (aka Gorilla) who is a serial nervous pooper, Okita Sōgo the lazy sadist, and Sasaki Tetsunosuke who speaks in rap. These aren't the Shinsengumi of history but they're definitely interesting.
Bakumatsu Rock Bakumatsu Rock casts the Shinsengumi as the bad guys, employed by the Tokugawa shogunate to...sing...brain-washing...music? These "Heaven's Songs" are meant to keep the people of Japan in a lull of subjugation and only the totally rockin' tunes of a new idol group can break the spell. The anime then recasts the prominent figures and Shinsengumi's foes from the Chōshū and Satsuma clans as the heroes led by Sakamoto Ryōma, playing their subversive rock and roll to wake up the people. The anime kind of got lost in the wave of idol shows but actually has some decent tunes.
Chiruran 1/2 No relation to Ranma 1/2, Chiruran 1/2 is a spin-off of a more serious Shinsegumi manga, Chiruran: Shinsengumi Requiem. This comedy spin-off doesn't bother with much of the action the group got up to and instead focuses on a slice-of-life approach (a weird concept, given the historical period). Hajime Saitō and pals laze around and discuss what's the best thing to eat for lunch, dress up in costumes, and field love letters from admirers. This anime is a series of shorts streaming on Crunchyroll, so you can easily blaze through it in about an hour if you want your military police without any blood.
Francesca Francesca and her shenanigans with the Shinsegumi has pretty strange origins in its own right. Intially, the zombie character wasn't much more than a Nico Nico Douga and YouTube idol with some animated music videos and tie-in CDs to promote Hokkaido. Somewhere along the line, staff decided to get Francesca her own television anime. Monster girls are plenty popular but when it came time to explain why a zombie girl is roaming around Hokkaido, the writers created an even more outlandish scenario. There's lots of zombies and Francesca has to help an exorcist get rid of them. Also those zombies are the Shinsegumi. Welcome attractive Frankenstein types Tetsunosuke Ichimura and Toshizō Hijikata.
The new poll: What's the best ED of the Winter 2018 season?
The old poll: What's the best OP of the Winter 2018 season?
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When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.
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