What’s it about? The infamous Shinsengumi have mysteriously been killed off by a hidden enemy and the lone survivor, Todo Heisuke wants to find out who is responsible for their deaths. In order to prevent the public finding out about their deaths, Heisuke secretly recruits seven criminals to take on the identities of his fallen comrades and together they’ll work to keep the peace on the streets of Kyoto.
It’s been over 150 years since the downfall of the Shinsengumi and the fact that they continue to be the subject of various films, video games, manga and anime adaptations shows that they have firmly cemented their place in history. Granted, the real Shinsengumi was far more complicated and messy than most people realize, but at face value, it’s easy to see why there is so much content about them.
In most romanticized versions of them, they are seen as the epitome of brotherhood that tried their best to exemplify their idealized notions of bushido. It also helps that they allowed non-members of the samurai class to join their ranks so in their own small way they challenged the social hierarchies of the time. Even their eventual downfall is glorified because they died fighting for their beliefs. Like them or not, everything about them tickles the hearts of writers anywhere because they touch on so many literary themes.
Having said all of that, there’s a fair amount of mediocre Shinsengumi content out there; thankfully, this one is spared from being added to that list. I’m not usually a fan of spaghetti westerns because it normally dehumanized Indigenous people, but Shine On! has fun with what made those cowboy movies good and mixes that with the vibrant background colors of old Kyoto. I like the design of all the characters and it’s nice that each of them has their own bright color palettes that represents their distinct personality.
Normally, introducing a large cast of characters can be really difficult to pull off in any show, but somehow their chemistry felt natural and energetic, which is something we desperately need since this season is sooooo dry. Heck, even their fighting styles are unique and while all of them are the usual archetypes you’d see in any shounen anime, at least their presentation was solid. However, that doesn’t mean all of them are great and I wish fat characters would stop being used as comedic relief since nothing about the “visual humor” of them overeating is funny.
The story isn’t very original, but that doesn’t mean the status quo can’t be a fun popcorn show. The new “Kondo Isami” character looks like he can be Musashi’s brother in Orient and overall he’s as generic as they come, but I love lovable idiots like him (it’s my curse). It also seems like the enemy might be secretly related to our loud red-headed hero so it might be worth sticking around for a few more episodes just to see how it plays out.
The animation is also pretty and so stylized and while it ain’t no Mononoke, it’s easy to see the animators are having fun with this series. This show is ok folks and since we are on the topic of the Shinsengumi, can we please have an anime adaptation of Kaze Hikaru? And I mean a GOOD adaptation. Watanabe Taeko did a lot of research about the Bakumatsu period in order to create a compelling story and I really want others to experience it too. I’m gonna hold that torch for as long as I can, but in the meantime, please read the manga.