Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto (幕末機関説 いろはにほへと), usually translated as Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto, is an original 2006 TV anime series by studio Sunrise and director Yoshimitsu Oohashi. It is one of the many Japanese titles, focusing on the events between the years of 1853 and 1867 (manga, light novels and anime all pay a huge attention to the period). The Bakumatsu is a rather brief period in the Japanese history, but also one of the most prominent moments in the local history.
Let me tell you just some things that come from then: Shinsengumi, Tokugawa shogunate dusk, Ishin Shishi, the Mieji era.
Read below my review for the anime, which was born for the sole purpose of creating a different telling of the story. More realism than I expected and a number of fun moments, slightly similar to the feeling Peacemaker Kurogane left, but with a much more serious tone.
The plot can easily be divided into two lines – fantasy and realistic one. At least for me, they went along pretty smoothly. Let me start with the basics and the more fantastical side of the akumatsu, as depicted in Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto.
We follow the last moments of the Tokugawa period in the Japanese history through the eyes of couple of characters. One of them is a famous hitman, a hired assassin who used to be a friend of the late Sakamoto Ryouma. Now, the so-called eternal assassin (Eien no Shikaku) is travelling across the world in search of the Hasha no Kubi (the Conqueror Head). This is a mythical and mystic persona who may change its body, but is always the same mind, strategy and ideals. While evil spreads through the world, Yojiro Akizuki, the assassin, owns the only blade that could end Hasha no Kubi’s madness – the Getsuruitou. Akizuki is played by famous seiyuu Daisuke Namikawa (K anime’s Yashiro Isana, Hellsing Ultimate’s Walter C. Dornez).
The second main character, although many wouldn’t put her next to Akizuki, is Kakunojou Yuyama. She is one of the three founders and main actors in the Yuyama travelling troupe. Her two main companions are Zagashira and Ebisu, former friends, advisers and protectors in her family’s court, before it suffered a terrible fate… Miss Yuyama is played by the prominent seiyuu and performer Rina Satou (Eve no Jikan’s Nagi, Blade of the Immortal’s Rin Asano).
Leaving the past aside, although it was really well shown and woven into the story and the entire plot as a whole, the girl is not your simple-minded female character. She has style, but she can also show people she’s the boss. One other thing she is specifically capable of, is hearing the calling of a mystical sword, which no one knows to be still in existence.
Both swords form the equivalent of the Buddhist Yin-Yang, the good and evil, life and death, beginning and end, female and male. This piece of the story is the secondary line in the fantasy plot. The main one is the Hasha no Kubi and the way it endangers Japan and Akizuki’s quest to destroy it.
Two of my personal favourites are both members of the Yuyama troupe – actor Kozo Shiraniu, played by junichi Suwabe (Bleach’s Grimmjow, Fairy Tail’s Fried Justine) and late-joiner screenwriter Soutetsu Ibaragi, played by Kazuhiko Inoue (Naruto’s Kakashi, Fairy Tail’s Gildarts). The characters are not only secondary, but they are well developed, for the possibilities within a 26-episode span. They have their own view of the world and ideals. They give a bit of variety in the black and white society, changing the axis of the Conqueror’s Head versus the Yin-Yang of swords.
The historically correct and provable sides of this anime are what I initially missed to notice, but it struck me hard in the grey face once I finished the show.
Just looking at the photo of Toshizou Hijikata, taken at the very end of his participation in the story, makes it all so real. As a reminder or a piece of very important information, I have found the original photo, used by the animators for the making of this very moment.
The production blog also shows us some of the anime’s other realistic locations, work in progress of the character designs, and explains to us just where from the ideas were taken.
Let me be honest and tell you – I had never seen such realism in any other anime until then. Or I hadn’t been able to confirm it at least. This said, the show itself has a lot of fantasy elements, which kind of ruins the very idea of the greatly depicted realistic bits. Appreciating the realistic pieces or the fantasy ones is entirely up to the beholder.
The animation quality of this show is something many would argue about, but it is a style. As a lover of rather odd animation choices, I adored it. I loved the character designs and I liked the movements a lot. What mattered the most to me, however, was the overall feeling I was left with at the end of the series.
I felt good. Having spent ten-and-a-half hours watching this show was not a time lost, it was a time well-spent.
I hope this rather short and definitely not-as-extensive-as-needed review gives you enough food for thought.
Have you watched Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto? Tell me what you think of the show and how would you compare it to other related stories such as the ones I mentioned I the review?
Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto official website
Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto in The List
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