Samurai Jam - Bakumatsu Rock!
The power of rock will overcome all! That statement is the revolving idea in the anime Bakumatsu Rock, a series that takes place during an alternate Bakumatsu period, at the end of the Edo period of Japanese history, when the Tokugawa shogunate ended, before the Meiji government began. This period in Japanese history is noted by the ending of the country’s isolationist policy, thereby allowing foreigners to enter the country.
In this alternate reality of Bakumatsu Rock, the shogunate are attempting to maintain control of Japan by playing Heaven’s Song, a pop idol song that has the power to control a person’s mind. Through using this song, the shogunate has been able to maintain control of the government, and have outlawed all songs and music that are not Heaven’s Song. Furthermore, all musicians not approved by the government are forbidden to perform. The anime focuses on Ryoma Sakamoto, a kind, but often absent minded, individual that works at a pizzeria and carries an electric guitar given to him by a mysterious master of rock, Shoin Yoshida. Ryoma possesses the Peace Soul, a soul that is able turn away the government’s pop idol music with his rock music, and dreams of becoming a famous rocker by spreading rock ‘n’ roll throughout Japan. After meeting with two students of Shoin Yoshida, Shinsaku Takasugi, who Ryoma nicknames Cindy, and Kogoro Katsura, nicknamed Sensei by Ryoma, they three form a rock band to musically fight against the Shinsengumi pop idols. After, several musical battles the trio recruits two members of the Shinsengumi to the band. The five individuals who each have a Peace Soul attempt to bring down the oppressive government through the power of rock.
With alternate history being a popular area for fiction in general, this seemingly strange and goofy idea may have a hard time finding the right audience, which is unfortunate considering this is a well animated and funny retelling of various historical moments. As one would expect, the area where this anime shines, is in its music. All of the songs are very good, with well written music, interesting lyrics, and excellent production. The rock songs are more of what should be expected from Japanese style mainstream rock, not American hard rock. The animation of the show, especially the performances, is very good with great character designs and a fantastic use of color. One weakness that this show has is that some of the dialogue comes off as overly contrived filler to get to the musical performance. However, this contrived dialogue only happens a few times, and for the most part the story is well told. Some of the best episodes are ones that deal with the issues various characters have, be it with one another or with a particular situation. Overall, this has been one of my personal favorite anime of 2014, and I would recommend fans of rock music or even alternate history to give this one a try.