I can't remember if it was a recommendation to an anime I have already watched or liked, or if it was a user review that made me consider Peace Maker Kurogane. I know for certain that if it wasn't for Anime Planet, I wouldn't have discovered Peace Maker Kurogane and as such, wouldn't have given it a chance.
I'm relatively glad that, despite some deep flaws I stayed with this show. I'll do my best to explain to you why I think it’s something you should add to your collection, too.
Peace Maker Kurogane's story is set in Japan during the 19th century just before several revolutionary events changed many of the social and political structures. The story revolves around Ichimura Tetsunosuke and his older brother, Tatsunosuke. The older brother, Tatsunosuke, joins a special police force known as the Shinsengumi as a book-keeper to earn money, while his younger brother, Ichimura, sees the Shinsengumi as a chance for vengeance against the Chosu, a rival force whom he believes murdered his parents.
It's not a entirely an original angle for a story. Young boy's parents murdered. Young boy seeks revenge and along the way Young Boy learns about himself, the people around him, his past, and struggles with his need for revenge and conscious over killing.
There are a lot of issues with the story, too. By the last few episodes, several elements of the plot seemed to be left wide open. Most of the episodes focus on singular characters in the cast, with Ichimura always present of course--and telling bits and pieces of their past as well as Ichimura's in flash-backs--all while eeking out bits and pieces of the main plot as well.
The problem with Peace Maker Kurogane's story is that, in my opinion, it was too ambitious for it to be crammed into 24 short episodes that generally run no longer than 20 minutes each. I felt like by the time I reached the 20th episode, this is where the story writers and animators started feeling the crunch of: "well we only have 4 more episodes to wrap everything up. Let's ignore all of these silly little things, like who Ichimura's father was, and why what happened to him, happened, and why the main villain was so hell bent on doing what he was doing, and explaining hardly anything else and just get this to end. Oh! And also, let's hint at possibly continuing the series, too. That's more important than making sense. :D "
Without spoiling it by specifying, I will just say that I was a might disappointed in the use of a secondary character. This character could have made an excellent side story within the main--but it is as if they bored themselves with it nearing the end of the anime and decided to wrap it up so quickly and sloppily they tossed this character out the proverbial window. This character simply disappeared in the story. And I don't mean dramatically faded away never to be heard again, either. I mean one episode; there they were, the next--nothing. Not one word, scene, nod, or mention of anything about the other character.
Despite these obvious missing links between smaller stories and loop holes in the main plot, I found Peace Maker Kurogane's story holding me emotionally hostage. It was extremely good at blackmailing you (or so I found myself blackmailed) into sympathizing as well as feeling for each character, including Ichimura, as they grow and change.
Maybe it's just I'm a softie, but I did find myself tearing up on some occasions and bro fisting the air for triumph's sake when the story went well for the good guys.
There were some truly gorgeous scenes, particularly the standard, age old wooden bridge-over-water-cherry-blossoms-falling that I have sort of come to accept in most anime. The settings have that very washed out, water-color painted feel, making the focus on the characters with their bolder colors and stronger lines.
There are some scenes that the background had me giving them a nod for drawing things which I couldn't. I was particularly appreciative of the art effort in one scene where characters are holed up in what appears to be a building for storing wood in a wood yard. The details on the planks and piles of wood were actually better than the characters.
Speaking of characters, the character animations are the one thing that doesn't really stand out at all. They're the same-old, same-old, different-hair-colors-and-styles so you can tell which character is which. Thankfully, the voice actors help make each character far richer than their drawing style.
The highest negative mark for what I feel is within good reason: the sound is at best, forgettable, and at most—a horrible cacophony that anyone with a remote talent at using a synthesizer keyboard and a computer at home could do. The score for the series tended to be bad enough I found myself rolling my eyes and tittering, thinking I was more reminded of an 80’s band with too much fondness for their synth-sounds.
The opening song is so out-of-place it is jarring. Hard rock guitars and jumpy male leads singing in really bad English doesn’t at all mesh, to me, with a show set in 19th century Japan. The closing song is about the same. Neither song I can remotely remember how they went because I just tended to want to skip them.
Unfortunately, the best I can sum up the sound is by using these two words: blech and lol.
The cast of characters we are presented with, in Peace Maker Kurogane aren't really anything we haven't seen before.
The main character is a young man with a traumatic past, seeking to take revenge for the events which transpired then, and attempting to grow stronger emotionally and physically. Ichimura Tetsunosuke is at the cusp of growing into a man, with several of the boyish, or childish ideals of right, wrong, as well as morality. He is a bit of the cliche happy-go-lucky slap stick comedy plus loud and obnoxious young child that somehow everybody ends up loving (even when the things he does is rude, annoying, terribly incorrect). He also tends to cry at the drop of the hat.
Occasionally, I feel like they over did it a bit with Ichimura's overt emotional responses and hovered dangerously close over the line from being 'cute, soft hearted young man,' toward 'whining pain in the a** with nerve-wracking sobbing.' Thankfully, Ichimura isn't always crying throughout entire episodes. But I do walk away feeling like he's always crying.
His older brother, Tatsunosuke, is the over protective just-as-emotional care taker who watches over Ichimura.
Then we have the distant and cold commander who is often seen as a barbaric, unapproachable creature that hides a heart-of-gold. The childish, sweet, somewhat bordering on insane once-child prodigy that appears to see through everyone, the bookish glasses-wearing nerd that goes from mild mannered Clark Kent to butt-kicking whirlwind when most needed, the fanciful grandfather/father figure commander that softens the harsher commander, the mother figure cook and last but never least, the comedy trio. All of these stereo types are featured in the anime.
They've all been character stereotypes we've all seen before and have all been done before.
And yet, their growing pains with one another make it work. Their quirks and their familial like bonds help each other deal with their many issues, flaws and work toward a common goal of improvement, whether it be fighting, spiritual or simply improving as a person.
Despite this clichéd set of characters and plot, the earnestness of the series and the way the characters relate to one another really makes the series something to stand on its own feet.
If a series set in historical 19th century Japan, featuring a young but earnest young man fighting his way to adulthood with a touch of sword play, a little blood, a few instances of over-the-top humor and an endearing story is something you are looking for...Then you really should give Peace Maker Kurogane a chance. I'm glad that I took the time to watch this show past the first episode and reserve judgment until I saw how things would play out.
It's a surprisingly good little nugget of decent storytelling and entertainment that took me by surprise and I hope you'll let it do the same for you. I may not whole-heartedly recommend it, but I do think it’s something you should definitely add to your collection.