May 16, 2021
What kind of heart is the heart of a samurai? What it means to be a warrior? How about brother? Lover?
Wild and weird, Peacemaker Kurogane is a continuation of Shinsengumi Imon Peacemaker. Definitely not for everybody's taste, this historical series is based on real events and people of the late 19th century and renders an intriguing picture mixing historical facts, fictional characters and even some supernatural. Foremost, I feel this is a war drama wrapped in some bizarre and flashiness making it suitable enough to fit the standards of action shounen.
A war story. If the first series was mostly about Tetsu's plans for
revenge and events leading up to the moment that defined Shinsengumi's reputation, the second part sets out to deal with the consequences - good ones, bad ones and shocking ones. The more you are familiar with Japanese history the more you know what to expect when the last flames of Tokugawa regime burn and the new age is creeping in. Our main characters are still the mighty Shinsengumi with some of the manliest, sexiest and cutest portrayals of them I’ve thus far encountered, and the clash of worlds and beliefs told from their viewpoint is what has been making the story for me.
A coming-of-age story. We also have the kind-hearted Ichimura brothers. At the start of Shinsengumi Imon Peacemaker Tetsu was an adorable kid who burned with hate and passion, and his older brother Tatsu was more like a wimpy comedy relief. Boy, how far have they come! As of chapter 90 of Peacemaker Kurogane both are almost unrecognizable. As with all the characters, I’ve really enjoyed how the chaotic times have made them walk down paths they otherwise might never have chosen. They have learned some lessons and matured, and their ideals have been challenged – how it has affected them, is for you to find out.
A story about friends turned enemies. There is a myriad of viewpoints told mainly from the perspectives of Shinsengumi and new government forces, and keeping up with who is allied with who and what happened where can become long-winded. Your enjoyment of the story might hinge on whether you have patience to wait for the narrative to connect. The start of Kurogane can also be a deal breaker because it feels super out-of-place and the transition from the first series is not that good. There is also the issue of messy layout, but fortunately there is a significant development in how the story is structured and presented making it much easier to follow, and I feel that at the moment it’s really crisp and enjoyable in every way.
A sweet and bitter story. The first part of Peacemaker wandered into some dark territories and I can only advice you to brace yourself with this one. That said, Nanae Chrono can really do tragic that punches you hard in the gut. This is not a misery-fest though, because there is also a lot of lighthearted moments and silly comedy, which is probably an intentional choice to tone down the grim and heavy source material and make it more approachable for younger readers. Still, I like the serious moments best, because the author can create very powerful and memorable scenes. Ugh, I have never wanted to spoil anything this much! Uniforms! Can I just scream uniforms?
A luscious story. Nanae Chrono’s character designs have always been superb; I love her style which is clean-cut and a bit stiff, and her characters usually have that "I just emerged from a bedroom" vibe no matter what archetype they are. I think the art department - well, every department in this story - shines in character interactions and when building towards emotional situations but suffers in battle scenes because they are not as dynamic as they could be. I can forgive that because the action is not the main attraction for me here and the characters and their interactions more than make that up. As usual, everything gets better over time as all the weird antics that bugged me at the beginning get toned down.
A story about ideals and beliefs. Turmoils of war are never pretty and leave no soul and body unscathed. The whole Peacemaker franchise is pure nostalgia for me but lately I've caught myself waiting every new chapter with ardor and terror, which is a testament to how good it has become. I love how the story has a crazy approach to its subject matter with some questionable choices in narration, characters and art. It also manages to feel realistic and still have that carefree shine. Like I said, definitely not a series for everybody, but a challenge with a reward for adventurous and patient readers!
Peacemaker Kurogane is weird and wonderful historical drama. It might take some patience to get past the transition part from the first series and definitely requires you to be interested in historical facts, but I foresee you will be rewarded with a gripping tale about samurai soul and honor. Recommended for Shinsengumi fans and those who have an interest in realistic history stories with some shounen tropes. To be approached with an open mind and a packet of tissues at hand.
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