So take one spunky kid, who wants to join the Shinsengumi, add in a dash of drama, a pinch of comedy and GONZO before its animation started to blow and you have Peace Maker.
The story follows Tetsunosuke Ichimura as he joins the Shinsengumi up to the attack on the Ikedaya Inn (the point where the Shinsengumi’s popularity reached its peak). Primarily, the story is about how far Tetsu is willing to go to get his revenge on the Choshu, who killed his parents.
Now the whole of the series is steeped in history. We get appearances from all of the major players, Hijikata, Yaname, Okita, Shinpachi and Saito. Now whether or not these characters are really true to history, well… I doubt it. But they do form the core cast around Tetsu. Honestly, I get the feeling that if I knew more about the era, I’d get a better sense of what’s going on. Because I thought the Shinsengumi were exclusionists too, but on the other hand I don’t know if that was later on or not.
But where this series really shines is showing the dualities of each of these characters. If they would stop saying stuff like, “Would you be willing to become a demon.” That would be great, but on the other hand it does provide some great amount of tension in the first part of the series. It’s also backed up by some great artwork on GONZO’s part. These characters express a lot through their faces, and when they go into killer mode, their face changes subtely and drastically depending on the scene.
And when the story focuses on Tetsu, it’s a pretty decent story. The side characters make it shine, like Suzu, Tetsu’s rival/friend who happens to want to kill the Shinsengumi or Saya, the geisha girl in training. Even the child-like Okita helps the that central story a lot, showing a possible future for Tetsu.
But that said, the story suffers from a plague of subplots. This is really where I think knowing some Japanese history would really help. Unfortunantly, I don’t know enough to fill in the holes that the series left out. In fact, it just seemed like they were leaving openings for a possible second season, but never got around to making it. The problem is that they either rush through them far too fast, or they simply never get resolved.
Which makes the entire second half of the series stumble along like a guy on the three-day drunk. And to make it worse that entire duality question that was asked at the beginning never really comes to a satisfying conclusion. Instead it’s just brushed aside during a bunch of action and high drama.
The voice acting was really top notch in this one, with really standout performances by Braden Hunt who did Okita. Seriously, this guy can go from happy-go-lucky to creepy in two seconds in this show. The dubs do have the Americanized representations of the accents, but not to the point where it really upset me. And somehow they all seemed to fit the characters.
Most the music isn’t really worth noting except for the opening and closing songs both of which are really catchy. I’ve found myself humming “Hey Jimmy” at work while I was watching this show.
On the other hand, the visuals are worth noting. While there are the usual shortcuts, the artwork is really pretty stunning. I had forgotten why I used to love GONZOs stuff. This show reminded me. The characters faces manage to express emotion without saying anything, which is actually a pretty rare thing in anime. There is a certain amount of SD that goes on, but mostly the basic style stays the same.
The extras are worth noting. There were about four commentary tracks with the VAs, and they were fun. Also there are two character intros on each disk, which are interesting, but not all that illuminating.
Reccomendation: Overall, it’s hard to reccomend buying this show, even on the cheap. As a character study, it’s really good. But it’s also slow and occasionally confusing. So I reccomend taking it out on Netflix first. But otherwise, I wouldn’t spend more than $40 on the whole thing. (It looks liked gohastings was selling it for that on the Amazon.com marketplace. Although I can’t reccomend using them, but they were the least expensive.)