Every once in a while, an anime series captures my attention so much that I check for the release dates on the DVDs, rush out to buy them as soon as possible and even write fan fiction, which is something I almost never do. So far, only two anime series have made me write fan fiction. Peacemaker Kurogane is one of them.
Peacemaker Kurogane is a 24 episode historical action drama based on the manga Shinsengumi Imon Peacemaker and Peacemaker Kurogane by Nanae Chrono. Released in the US by ADV Films and produced by the studio GONZO, which has also been responsible for Last Exile, Hellsing and Gantz, Peacemaker Kurogane is visually stunning, packed with wonderful characters and some great samurai action. The series is not without faults, however, and sadly, they're some mighty big faults.
Peacemaker Kurogane centers on the story of 15-year-old Tetsunosuke Ichimura. After witnessing the brutal murders of his parents when he was 13, Tetsunosuke is determined to join the Shinsengumi in order to become stronger and avenge his parents. The Shinsengumi were a group of ronin (masterless samurai) hired by the shogunate to police Kyoto during a time of civil unrest in Japan. Among their ranks were some of the greatest swordsmen in the land. So of course, a 15-year-old kid who lacks focus and whines more than he does anything else has no chance, right? Well, he wouldn't except for the fact that first unit captain, Soji Okita, convinces vice commander Toshizo Hijikata to take Tetsunosuke on as a page. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Hijikata is known as the demon vice commander because of his strict adherence to and enforcement of the rules of the Shinsengumi. Serving tea to the demon vice commander is no easy task!
I could spend several thousand words going on about how much I love the characters in this series, but I don't think I have enough space to do all the fangirl squeeing that some of these guys induce in me, particularly Okita. Okita is beautiful, effeminate and something of a trickster, but he's an absolute terror when he's got a sword in his hands. I think I've done enough of these reviews now that you readers know I cannot resist a beautiful bad-ass. But let's move on.
The consistently good animation is highlighted by the use of small CG elements, such as coins, birds and blades. Rather than being show-offy, these bits accentuate the 2-D world surrounding them. A few of these sequences try to tempt me into watching them over and over, but in an effort to pay attention to the show going on, I've resisted. Now that I own the whole series, I don't have to resist any more.
Now let's get to those faults I mentioned. Peacemaker Kurogane starts off strong, has a soft middle and finishes almost strong. It's the soft middle that really hurts the show in the long run. Several plot threads are introduced and then abruptly dropped or ignored altogether. Too much time is spent on setting things up that never pay off. They don't spend enough time setting up the main points of Tetsunosuke's revenge and preventing a rebel plot to burn Kyoto to the ground. Quite frankly, the show would have been better served with about half the episodes. The saving grace of the squishy middle is, of course, the characters. My favorite episode, "Poetry," in which Okita steals a collection of Hijikata's haiku in an effort to cheer up a very depressed Tetsunosuke, comes during this middle portion. It's not that the episodes are bad. They just don't go anywhere, and it's frustrating. The final episode left so many things undone that I couldn't help but think there might be another season in the works. This, however, seems unlikely, but if it is the case, I'm so there. Otherwise, I'll just be content with the manga to fill in what's been left hanging.
Since all of the characters are historical figures, this series also prompted me to do some research on the real Shinsengumi. Unfortunately, there's precious little in the English language on them aside from fan sites of shows like this one and Rurouni Kenshin, which features Hajime Saito and, briefly, Okita, and most of those sites are by people shocked to find that these characters are historical figures. The Wikipedia entry has some good basic information, for those curious.
If you're as easily charmed by good characters as I am and can forgive the mushy pieces of the plot, I highly recommend Peacemaker Kurogane. If you insist on coherent plot, you might want to stay away or just catch of few episodes to look at all the pretty.
One last thing. A short public service announcement: pay attention to the FBI warnings on the Peacemaker discs. I wouldn't want anyone to miss such important messages.