What They Say:
After the horrific murder of his parents, young Tetsu embarks on a quest for vengeance that threatens to consume his soul. His journey leads him to the inner sanctum of the Shinsengumi, a prestigious order of swordsmen at war with the very villains who cut down his mother and father. Tetsu’s samurai training gives him the strength to seek revenge, but it also opens his eyes to a painful truth: his new allies are responsible for just as much bloodshed as his sworn enemies. Armed with this knowledge, Tetsu must make the most difficult choice of his life. Will he draw his sword and yield to his demonic urges – or follow in the footsteps of his father and become a true peacemaker?
This is based on the original release except with one noticeable exception is that we have a 5.1 audio release in English as well as the standard 2.0 stereo release in Japanese. There were no complications of the audio throughout the release and the 5.1 option definitely comes through well with no need to adjust default settings on the audio system I was using. There were no problems with the video synching in with subtitles so definitely acceptable as a DVD release. Subtitles are selectable as well so you can do it from the menu rather than manually from the show if you wanted the subtitles on but watching the English dub for example…
The video is different as it is back in its original 4:3 chrome style release so we don’t get widescreen HD and it is in the original format of the black bars on either side – and like the original release sadly does suffer from blurring effect when you pause it – it would have been nice for an updated version (if possible) but this is pretty much a re-release from the original ADV Films release) so in that regards, disappointed – this is pretty much the case with a lot of the classics releases like Chrono Crusade and especially with future review Kino’s Journey hence the budget collection price – the colours are brighter though compared to either of those series so in fairness it isn’t as noticeable unless you actively look for it…
There was no packing for this test release.
The menu is very standard, done in the interesting art style of old school art of a lot of the characters on each disc – all of the discs have the same set up, a small menu on the right with Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras which you can return to via the show easily and easily selectable. As these are basically conversions from original releases, there is nothing overly fancy about them but they do the job for the show and setting just fine.
We have quite a few extras – as I didn’t see the original release am unsure if these were converted over the original ADV UK releases but if it is similar to Chrono Crusade/Kino’s Journey which I have seen then will assume they are.
We have a commentary on episode 7 featuring Luci Christian (Tetsu), Kira-Vincent Davis (Akisatsu), Julie Napp (Yugal) – basically a blast from the past quoting other shows (DN Angel, Supergals), playing Tetsu, using the dub accents, watching anime, characters like playing – with me watching a lot of series in the early 2000s that Luci was a major role in (Anime Limited – if you bring Princess Tutu I will be VERRRYYY HAPPPY) this is one of those commentaries that will appreciate just how good she was (and still is) because she is a barrel of fun in this commentary to the point it overshadows everyone else (and that’s saying something considering I was a big fan of Kira as well) but it is still a good watch.
Next commentary is on disc 9 and episode 9, featuring : Vic Micgogna (Tatsunosuke) and David Farn (Sakamoto) – again, when you’ve been in so many roles like Vic has (and still is) it pretty much commentates itself (I love the fact he mentions his first role was one of the first VHS releases I got which was a UK exclusive dub of Street Fighter 2 V as Vega – that’s one for you trivia buffs there) – they talk about the animation, the mysteries, the growing of the voice of Kevin Corn, the brilliant casting of Monica Rial as the pig (insert Monica always plays mutes joke here, ironically because she doesn’t play the actual mute in the show…), David an actor for over 25 years (3/4 years at then ADV), director trivia, the Tatsu panic attacks, again, informative but fun.
Disc 3 gives us one for episode 15, featuring the return of Luci but also Jason Douglas (Sunosuke) and Greg Ayres (Shinpachi), and with me watching Dragonball Super a lot recently, it’s so interesting to hear Jason back in the early days considering his role as Beerus in DBZS. We get Luci Christian apparently dancing to the music, back when ADV Toys happened with the Saizo hats (I miss my Jonathan plushie) where there is lots of moments when just watching and laughing at inside jokes), Greg jokes that Monica always gets the mascot/odd roles and campaigns for them, seem to know all the voices (John Gremillion always playing the bad guy), wish they had the anime style powers (chibi, sweatdrops) which knowing Greg probably carries through to today as well…
Disc 4 has no commentaries, but plenty of other stuff – we get what is called the character collections pieces which is pretty much most of the major characters telling their backstory in a short segment and introducing themselves with clips from the show to help out. We get Tetsunosuke, Soji, Toshizo, Susumu, Shinpachi/Sansuke/Heisuke, Keisuke, Tatsunosuke, Suzu, Toshimaru and Saya (which is silent and written out and moves up the screen with subtitles on the top, very nice touch…)
We get the festival of Gion video which is basically an original short story (Japanese only), told by Soji before he met Tetsu a year before, their role as Mibu ronin, them becoming Shinsengumi and protecting the people, stories of the past told in anime still shots, then goes into more present day and his relationship with Tetsu. It is basically the history prior to PM Kurogane’s current story up until Tetsu’s arrival so is a nice background piece which can be watched both before or after you’ve seen the anime.
We get an Ikedaya music clip which is basically scenes from the anime to some heavy metal music by artist Ikedaya and then traditional extras, with the clean opening/ending, the Japanese promo clips, and trailers for Samurai 7, Soul Eater, Burst Angel, DBZ, Bamboo Blade, Black Blood Brothers, Kenichi and FUNimation.com (which unlike another release, at least remembered to update their website…)
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Peacemaker Kurogane was one of those series that actually had an anime before the manga and originally aired in Japan between May 1999 and September 2001 (with the manga still ongoing apparently) – with this the second of the classic range released by Anime Limited at a good price, it’s interesting to see the anime I originally ‘grew up’ with when they did get UK releases – this one, however, slid past me for some reason – I remember watching the first episode on a test disc on the old Newtype USA magazines I had and wasn’t sure if it was just the genre or just it didn’t click – well now I’m older and wiser (though that’s debatable)…let’s see if this classic is in the same category of Chrono Crusade and the soon to be reviewed Kino’s Journey…
Our main character Testunosuke (shortened to Tetsu) is a young man at 15 wanting to join a special police force called the Shinsengumi, as a way to be strong after he couldn’t do anything about the death of his parents…though his older brother Tatsu joins them as an accountant, not wanting his younger brother to focus on revenge and put himself in danger as the only family he has. However, the rather delicate looking captain Soji takes an interest and asks Tetsu to spar with him. Whilst Soji is much more powerful than he looks, he and the commander Kondo are impressed by Tetsu, however strangely the secondary vice-commander Hijikata is not approving. Tetsu seems angry…
…until he sees Hijikata kills several samurai ronin who were after him – he begins to realize what being a member of the Shinsengumi is about. Okita actually asks him is it worth abandoning his morals for vengeance? Despite this, Hijikata does accept Tetsu as a page in training, where he meets a lot of new people like the housekeeper Ayumu, and two fun-loving but still deadly warriors in Sanosuke Harada and Shinpachi Nagakura. Here, we see as the plot thickens of how they protect as Tetsu gets jealous of the watcher Susumu who acts like a spy and wishes to be his role, as the show is a journey of Tetsu’s maturity…
We get a lot of on the job spying, as Tetsu sees what the jobs entail, which allows him to meet other people – including a potential love interest in a cute mute girl named Saya (who has a similar backstory to Tetsu) whilst also learning the bloodier parts of the job (hence why Tetsu realises why he has been put as a page), with Susumu and others having to deal with the dirty work otherwise they would have to kill themselves. However, there are hints that Tetsu may be more involved and Kondo wanting him to be in uniform so to speak…
Whilst there are some funny moments throughout and some relaxing episodes, the core of it eventually leads back to blood. We get the rival character in episode 7 named Suzu Kitamura, who becomes a catalyst for what turns out to be the main villain but also a friend/rival to Tetsu initially. Suzu is serving as a page to Toshimaro Yoshida, leader of the Choshu clan and someone responsible for many murders and wildfires that Hijikata has had to deal with recently…hmmm…
Suzu and Tatsu keep bumping into each other (even in a date with Saya along with her energetic friend Hana, though you also learn these are definitely held in certain times when you learn what the two young girls are training for…) whilst more crazy stuff happens which involve more mystic origins than you’d expect for a samurai style story, and then you learn the title of ‘Peacemaker’ when an old friend of Tatsu and Tetsu’s father Sakamoto refers to their father as the Peacemaker, but is a criminal himself for abandoning his clan. Nevertheless, he’s quite likeable and escapes, and with so many characters around now (we get a spy named Hotaru who clearly has a crush on Okita so you know there’s going to be a switch of allegiances) and seeing the relationship between the brothers, Susumu’s honour and the surprise of Ayumu being more important than just the housekeeper of the police. With distractions to try and make sure Tetsu is blind to what is truly going on whilst improving his own skills – Okita gets in trouble when he is seen murdering innocent people…even though it is clear that he was with Hijikata….
Thanks to Hotaru, they manage to deal with the imposter but the damage gets done when Ayumu is missing which leads to one of the true sad moments of the anime (and the fact Tetsu and Susumu bond over this) where it is revealed that Yoshida is the catalyst for turmoil. He tries to kill Tetsu (much to Suzu’s upset) where you see more of his past, where the confrontation between Yoshida and Okita happens (which revealed Yoshida didn’t kill his parents – setting up a potential sequel or manga continuation in this case) when Tetsu escapes and insists on fighting him…
The series is very unique as a samurai drama…though police drama might be a better term. The major issue is that there are so many characters that you have to keep track of the story when it comes out – it isn’t until Ayumu’s death that it really kicks in – but fortunately the fun of many of the characters and the stories/interactions between them manages to keep it interesting. Tetsu’s subtle development is throughout especially as the conclusion becomes a cliffhanger – he is a very energetic gung-ho brat at first, but through interactions with older people who work for the police (Sanosuke and Shinpachi along with a younger member Heisuke are quite fun both together and with Tetsu, but also are very competent and not afraid to show you that) and then he learns his role as a page and how he needs to understand why the job entails (Hijikata and Susumu are definitely the more discipline warriors compared to the other three and Okita to a lesser degree). He gains friends, rivals, love interests but also learns a lot on the job, and what the term Peacemaker means even when drawing his sword, leading to the last episode and his own conclusion…
If it does have a weakness it is aside from too many characters at times, it is that the plot which is pretty much Tetsu wants to avenge his parents, doesn’t really kick in at all, even the fight with Yoshida isn’t conclusive and even revealed that he didn’t commit the deed, and the only main reason was to set up Suzu as a rival that Tetsu liked and potentially they would have to clash…only they don’t. (The show potentially sets that up and most likely involved in the ongoing manga but no sequel was done to this anime wise) Suzu’s plot is basically similar to Tetsu’s, only the added problem that his older brother was killed at the hands of the Shinsengumi. You wait for the set up when he realizes that Tetsu is part of it…but it doesn’t deliver. It’s a shame as whilst the show is 24 episodes, they never deal with it and whilst some of the fun episodes are well…fun (the fight for Ayumu’s rice in particular) because they focus on so many characters, it stops a lot of the subplots. (Saya and Hotaru, for example, seem to be included just as token love interests and don’t get much character development)
That said, the show does continue at a good pace and it does flow through, and the twist setting up the sequel was a surprise. I wish it had been condensed better so that had more development between the brothers and Suzu, but for what we got, it is still another classic show that is definitely worth a look.
Peacemaker Kurogane at times can drag it’s feet along, and with so many characters and a strange ending it does feel that there was more story it could have crammed into it. However there is still a lot of development, drama (Ayumu’s death shocked me) and the focus on Tetsu’s growth combined with his past, what his father was as a Peacemaker and how he chooses to follow in his footsteps. The animation is nice and flowing and with a good old school dub track as well as the Japanese, it definitely feels like a journey to the past…and definitely in a good way.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: February 26th, 2018
Running Time: 600 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.