Twelve Days of Anime – Bakumatsu Rock and the Creativity in Anime
December 24, 2014 Leave a comment
One of the main draws of anime for me has been its almost limitless creativity. The number of anime series with little inventive moments, or an entirely different concept is both fascinating and wonderful to behold, and even when the central premise of a series may be tried and true, there are usually little flourishes of inventiveness on top. This year had one such series, Bakumatsu Rock – on the surface it’s a fairly standard story of an up and coming group attempting to take down the kings of pop in a battle of the bandsesque story. However, the entire series is set during the Bakumatsu, a name given to the final years of the Shogunate, when the Shinsengumi were in charge of defending Kyoto, and various anti-Shogunate elements were attempting to reinstall the Emperor as head of the state (even if this had never actually happened in the past).
While the historical period was serious and filled with turmoil, rebellions, and drastic changes to Japanese society, the series itself takes a more light-hearted approach. The rebels this time are Kogorou Katsura, Ryouma Sakamoto, and Shinsaku Takasugi, but rather than warriors, they are rock musicians, attempting to get their glorious riffs heard in a society controlled by the true evil known as the boy band. That the boy band in question happens to be the Shinsengumi isn’t really important, they are playing manufactured music with the express purpose to enslave the population, and are therefore inherently evil. Perhaps this whole series was a piece of satire, looking at the inherent dangers found in popular music, and the images that surround so many of the top idol groups in Japan. There is certainly an element of the series that further demonstrates how dangerous the marketing strategies of these groups and their agency backers have on the general population, effectively creating a horde of unquestioning zombies to do their bidding. And yet, that’s not what I really watched the series for, or why I enjoyed it so much.
No, I watched it because it was utterly crazy, completely off the wall, and clearly didn’t care how stupid, preposterous, or insane any of its scenes, plot twists, and weirder moments looked to the outside world. Rather, it was about three men trying to get the message that rock is awesome across to an entire country, and if that meant the destruction of their clothes every time they played, so be it. And this is what I love about the series, the idea of taking a historical period and then throwing its own version of mods and rockers – complete with a Gibson Les Paul decorated with Hokisai’s ‘Great Wave’ – and some of the best costumes I’ve seen in anime, and we have a very fun series. There are always imaginative elements within anime – various episodes in Yamato 2199 and Aquarion EVOL, Yozakura Quartet, Uchouten Kazoku, Kyousougiga, and Space Dandy all come to mind – although it is arguably the case that most anime series have moments, even if it might only be a single episode where things get weird, or interesting, or both. However, this year it was Bakumatsu Rock that reminded me of why I love anime – it’s a very silly series that certainly wont be one of my all time favourites, but its very concept, and the ability to produce something so ridiculous, silly, but also entertaining brings a smile to my face.