After having watched his family get cut down by a mask-wearing samurai, Ichibanboshi, the Samurai Killer wanted by authorities, is seeking revenge for his family. However, after encountering a samurai group that wore the same masks, our red-headed, big-mouthed bro gets captured and hauled away to be executed. Just before being given the chop, though, he and several others get a last-minute reprieve by the 8th Unit Captain of the Shinsengumi, Todo Heisuke. He explains that they have all been selected to replace the assassinated Shinsengumi commanders or else face certain death. One by one, each in the group accepts the deal and assumes new identities, including Ichibanboshi, who becomes Kondou Isami. Of course, there are growing pains as the new “Shadow Shinsengumi” must learn to work together to maintain law and order. Shenanigans ensue.
Okay, so full disclosure, this show was NOT what I was expecting when I first heard the title. In my mind, I was thinking this was yet another show that features pretty boys in some sort of band or group, and all the shenanigans that would ensue. I was all ready to torch this show like a forgotten hot dog on the grill during the 4th of July. But one viewing later, I can honestly say…it’s not THAT bad. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see this show as being that good either, but I don’t see it as being a complete bomb. It’s in the firm “MEH” category for me. And honestly, with all the other offerings on display this season, I really don’t wanna waste my time with “meh” (and frankly, neither should you).
The story is your typical “Gather a bunch of rag-tag miscreants with various personalities for a bigger cause.” Think Power Rangers but a little less interesting. Heck, the group is even color-coded like the Power Rangers, with each one receiving the colored sword that best matches what they’re wearing. The characters themselves are pretty much trope-filled; you got your protagonist looking to avenge his family, leader who looks a LOT like Yoh Asakura from Shaman King, stoic hitman, the glutton, the guy who REALLY shouldn’t be trusted but joins in anyway because reasons, the flamboyant pretty boy healer, the lecherous spiritual guy, and the crossdresser. We’ve seen these characters before, and they’re just as trope-filled as they’ve always been. The protag and stoic hitman clash, the protagonist doesn’t want to listen to authority, the leader tries to bring order and discipline to the ranks…yadda, yadda, yadda…
Truth be told, the experience wouldn’t have been so bad had the animation been remotely good. The whole time I was watching, the show kinda felt cheap and flat. I know some people might like this style, but I ain’t one of them. By the way, I don’t know if this was a filter they used for the animation or what, but while I was watching the episode, I kept wanting to clean my monitor. It’s like it has a cover on top of the animated cells—just so distracting. Frankly, the best parts of the show, visually speaking, were the odd studio intro at the beginning and the ending animation sequence, which reminds me of the ending for 2019’s Sarazanmai, putting animated effects and characters in real-life locations.
So where does that leave us with Shine On! Bakumatsu Bad Boys? If you are fascinated by certain aspects of Japanese culture like the Shinsengumi and feudal samurai, then I think you can find a lot to like here. If you’re into sword-fighting shounen series, then you’ll find even MORE to like here. If neither one of these interests you, then I recommend the hard pass on this one. Pass it like you pass a slow driver in the left lane of the freeway. I know I will.
Shine On! Bakumatsu Bad Boys is now streaming on Crunchyroll.