Saturday, 19 March 2011

Peace Maker Kurogane

PMK was one of the anime broadcast in that era, around 2003-2004, when just about everything I watched was great. And while it isn’t the anime I remember most fondly from back then, and nor is it Gonzo’s finest moment, I still love it and have been interested in the historical Shinsengumi ever since.

Indeed, Peace Maker Kurogane is based on historical figures: the Shinsengumi were a group of rōnin who came together in the mid-1800s to police Kyoto and protect the shōgun. This put them on the wrong side of the Meiji restoration and placed prominent members into key battles of that conflict; in the years since their struggle, they have became romanticised and are generally considered some of the last, greatest swordsmen of Japan’s history.

Ichimura Tetsunosuke, along with his brother Tatsunosuke (no, really. You couldn’t make those names up…) are historical figures, too. Tetsunosuke was just 12 or 13 when he joined the Shinsengumi, and became an attendant to the formidable Hijikata Toshizou. PMK ages him up to 15 (to time historical events with better pacing, I suppose), makes him very much adorable, and then turns life in the Shinsengumi into a strange mixture of silly fun and deep melancholy.

All the characters turn out fascinating in their own ways, even if they may not quite sit right with their historical equivalents. Tetsu’s coming of age is achingly compelling, and the silly pig mascot is surprisingly never unwelcome. The music is catchy – although one of the sillier episodes using the can-can was a step to far – and the voice acting superb.

A lot of viewers were turned off by spewing blood in the first episode, far over-the-top. But that was never again an issue, and there’s a realism to the violence here that makes it compelling and actually meaningful.

What starts out seeming to be one of Gonzo’s least mature actually develops into one of their most sincere and compelling pieces. And the characters are just so good that whenever they – or close equivalents – crop up in the likes of Kenshin or Gintama, it’s these designs I think back to.

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