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Intrigue in the Bakumatsu - Irohanihoheto Collection 1
DVD | Box Set
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In the final years of the Bakumatsu, wandering mercenary Yojiro Akizuki travels the length and breadth of Japan. And while he employs his sword in the usual fashion, he also uses it help him locate supernatural items which he pursues with single-minded determination, often with bloody results. In the course of his quest, he crosses paths with a traveling theater group whose members have their own dark agenda. Is it a chance meeting or the result of some, as yet, undiscovered conspiracy? Swords will swing and sorcery make itself felt in Intrigue in the Bakumatsu ~ Irohanihoheto Collection 1!
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The animation is done well and the soundtrack fits the series very nicely though the Japanese cast of course did a terrific job picking the voice cast the English dub cast were somewhat less talented though most of the main character voice cast were great there were one or two sub character voices that were less skilled voicing their roles.
So for fans of Samurai animes or movies or just those looking for an entertaining series to watch here's one to check out and most likely add to your anime collection.
Long version: This anime tried to be a lot of things but, for me, it didn't quite manage to be them. It has a great deal of interesting background for its set up, but the presentation tends to leave the feeling of a build up that never quite goes anywhere until you suddenly trip into a major plot point and then, just as suddenly, it's over and you're on to the next not-exactly arc. Some factors of this were so full of holes that for a time, I thought it was a game, book or manga that had been adapted into an anime only to find that, no- the writers just hadn't filled those points out for whatever reason.
On the upside, it occasionally deals with some of the interesting events of the end of this era of Japan that other shows tend to ignore. Most tend to concentrate on the purely internal politics of the time which, while interesting, don't paint the whole picture. This series acknowledges the involvement of at least two foreign powers on both sides of the conflict- and displays events often skipped in other history-influenced anime as too gray-area for often black-and-white depicted plots. These are not the main point of the story, however, just events the characters encounter as they pursue their own story so don't expect this to fulfill any desires you might have for a historical show.
On the downside, many characters have interesting notes to them but aren't fully expanded on as the plot progresses (when it bothers to show up). Akizuki and Kanna in particular could have been fascinating characters and, in concept, they are. In execution, however, Akizuki is a dry, shallow character with little to no personal conflict beyond plot-manufactured (that is to say: "oh right, we need him to have some kind of emotional moment- make THAT person his enemy for such-and-such reason! Figure something out!"). Essentially his main purpose is to carry the camera around and provide fight scenes. Kanna largely suffers from lack of effective dialogue; they were going for stoic and nearly got a mute instead. Safe to say Akizuki and Kanna's voice actors likely made the least out of the various characters if they were paid by line, barring 1 to 2 episode length appearances of other characters. They really have that little comparative dialogue.
Kakunojo starts out interesting, then quickly devolves into the 'necessary' female character for the lead guy to have on his arm or rescue from danger as plot requires- sometimes very incredibly contrived danger- and for a 'rival' to fuss over- whom she barely knows exists. Ibaragi was actually quite interesting in how he functioned but he had the opposite problem of the other major characters: they all get thoroughly explained in background and motivation, he gets a last minute explanation that still doesn't tell you much.
The ending is what really killed this series for me. It is NOT a good ending; it was pretty ridiculous actually. I won't go into detail as to what happens but suffice to say it seems like they were told it wasn't doing well and it was time to wrap it up.
What really stood out to me in this one, oddly enough, was the sound design. There is a lot of attention to detail in regards to the surfaces the characters are moving on, the sounds of various materials when struck or moved- it seems to be an odd place to have spent a large chunk of their production costs but the result is actually impressive. I haven't watched the dub, so I can't vouch for how cleanly this survived the dubbing process as that can sometimes mute or distort background sounds. The animation quality was variable- some episodes had very good animation, others were less invested in with rough, stretchy motions during fight scenes and so forth. In that, it's fairly typical of nearly any anime's first (and in this case, only) season.
I was impressed with Bakumatsu; it visually reminded me of a combination of Basilisk (Gonzo) -- with the interesting acting troupe & sword powers, House of Five Leaves (Manglobe) -- with the artwork and characters, and Sword of the Stranger (Bones) -- with the samurai-ship. It is some beautiful work by Sunrise (Code Gaess, My-HiME, etc). Great story telling, action-packed with no dull mements. Highly recommended.