Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rewatching Shinsengumi!

I could have sworn I wrote a review for Shinsengumi! since it was the first taiga dorama that I ever completed but it didn't show up in the search box.  Hhhmm, on further inspection, I didn't even write about Musashi either which I liked as well. Anyways, the reason I rewatched Shinsengumi! was in preparation for Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin which is an alternate reality telling of the Sakamoto Ryoma and Shinsengumi story. Its my 2nd most anticipated game of the year but the huge number of characters is so intimidating.

I wanted to put faces to names that I will encounter in the game but frankly, outside of the main characters, I had a hard time with remembering names. The first time I watched Shinsengumi many years ago, I really enjoyed the Kondo Isami, Hijikata and Yamanami dynamic. You've got your leader flanked by his two advisors, the street smart Hijikata who is not afraid to play bad cop and the well read Yamanami.

On second viewing, Shinsengumi! plays to me more like a Hijikata as the ultimate puppeteer show. Mitani Koki in turning Kondo Isami into a saint, as transferred all the blame and guile onto Hijikata thus turning our ultra good guy main character into a puppet that was used by kingmaker Hijikata.

While I was half-rewatching Shinsengumi while half-playing Sen no Kiseki (I'll not be able to finish this game before Ishin arrives), its more obvious how Mitani Koki writes an honourable out for ever killing and seppuku that happens. I guess its the unwritten rule in taiga doramas that famous historical figures must be presented in the best light unless they were historically reviled. Every backstabbing, power struggle move can be justified as doing it for love of country/Shogun/Emperor and every bad guy is just doing it for his own interests.

As much as Mitani Koki can dramatise the story, he cannot change the actions and deaths of the Shinsengumi and I found myself thinking more of what actually could have happened instead of what was presented to me on screen. Don't take it as me noticing the flaws of Shinsengumi! the second time. Mitani Koki has crafted a very enjoyable show with colourful characters but it played to me more as a work of historical fiction the second time.

The stand out performances for me are Yamamoto Koji as the mastermind Hijikata, Fujiwara Tatsuwa as the child-like yet deadly Okita Soji who has an interesting character arc, Sato Koichi as Kamo 'I don't give a damn' Serizawa, Suzuki Kyoka Oume and course Eguchi Yosuke as Sakamoto Ryoma. I really enjoyed Euchi Yosuke and Uchino Masaaki's portrayal of the unkempt and enigmatic Ryoma and I found it very hard to get into Masaharu Fukuyama's stiff Ryoma in Ryoma Den. Still a fun, must watch show the second time around.


Shane said...

This was also the first period drama I finished. Really enjoyed it too!

By the way, have you watched the Saikou no Rikon Special yet? Subs are done. It's so good, made me laugh out loud many times. And it has that girl you like from Suzuki Sensei...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this! I am watching Shinsengumi! for the first time and it's very difficult to find a well-written, thoughtful review of it.

I completely agree about the portrayal of Ryoma in this series. The actor stole very scene he was in!

I'm enjoying the show immensely so far and am up to episode 28.