Review: Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto

Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto (幕末機関説いろはにほへと) is yet another take on one of the most turbulent periods in Japanese history. This time, however, the focus is on Akidzuki Youjirou (秋月耀次郎), also known as The Eternal Assassin, whose sword with its intricate, dragon-headed ornament and strange obsession with finding and destroying an artifact known as 「覇者の頸」 (the Lord’s Head) mark him as different from other reticent traveling samurai. Ultimately, a series quite worth watching. 7.5/10

This series started off slowly, with the only things keeping me watching being the art and the occassional swordfight. As with Chevalier d’Eon, the plot started coming together around about episode 16, culminating in a betrayal of sorts as we finally found out about Akidzuki’s task and the powers that he would have to defeat in order to succeed. However, how they played with history in this show really didn’t sit right with me. It could be because Japanese history feels closer to me than that of the French – who knows what I might have thought of Chevalier if I were French! But another reason is that, Robespierre is my probably favourite character in Chevalier, and a lot of the changed history involved him…and well, I suppose I love conspiracy theories. Bakumatsu’s changes, however, were made to accommodate something supernatural… The ending isn’t particularly powerful, but the insert song for one of the climatic scenes was well chosen. I did appreciate the future path the writers gave to Akidzuki, however, as it would have been disappointing to see a mere 18-year-old simply settle down when Japan was opening itself to the world.

On a language note, the hiragana part of the the show’s title is the first line of a poem, known as the 「伊呂波」, which is famous for containing each of the 52 characters in the Japanese phonetic syllabary (source). The poem was once used as a way of ordering the kana before the 五十音 system became popular. In modern Japan, the 伊呂波 is apparently still used for seat numbering in theatres (wish I’d known before I saw I Am Legend last night!), in kifu for Go, and in music, where it represents the 8 notes of an octave. I actually learned the latter when my school’s music teacher took some time during summer to explain it to me, (making it much easier to remember this show’s title)…and I’m glad that researching for this review has helped me understand the origin of that a bit better!

p.s. if anyone is puzzled by the dates that they use, particularly when certain characters are killed, rest assured that they’re accurate. The show’s writers are simply using the lunar calendar.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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