“Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman” — ‘A Lavish Banquet for Guys in Trouble’

Baku­mat­su Gijin­den Roman is a fan­ta­sy tale set in late 19th Cen­tu­ry Japan. When the black ships returned to Japan in the 19th Cen­tu­ry, the 200 year old rule of the Shogun was over­turned, and with it came mass social insta­bil­i­ty and ram­pant crime. For­tu­nate­ly the peo­ple one town have a Robin Hood-like pro­tec­tor, Roman, who is actu­al­ly “Mis­ter Helper” by day. Aid­ing Roman is his sis­ter Koharu (dressed as a nin­ja) and their cute dog Saku­ra (dis­guised with a ker­chief over his head). There’s also a full cast of char­ac­ters sup­port­ing him, where­as oth­ers are hunt­ing him and some whose motives are still unknown.

This is Roman on the left, in dis­guise, and his sis­ter Koharu beside him. In the mid­dle is Suzu­ki Magoichi,  the new inves­ti­ga­tor with a hid­den mis­sion and a mas­ter of gun-fu. To the right of him is the mys­te­ri­ous geisha Lady Oku­ma with a hid­den agen­da her­self, and on the far right is prob­a­bly the vil­lian’s com­e­dy relief hench­man.

Bakumatsu-Gijinden-Roman

‘A Lavish Banquet for Guys in Trouble’

The episode opens with mas­ter thief Ishikawa Gojue­mon gloat­ing over the suc­cess of his most recent rob­bery at the behest of Lady Oku­ma. What he stole was­n’t revealed, but his reward was a night with her, which did­n’t exact­ly turn out all that well: he winds up drugged and par­a­lyzed, lay­ing on the mat­ting, and they the geisha leans over him, catch­ing his gaze as her eyes turn into hyp­not­ic kalei­do­scope pat­terns. In the next scene, the poor thief is wan­der­ing the streets of the city in a daze, until he is noticed by the police, upon which starts to wake up but the image of her eyes is too strong and he dives into the riv­er to his death.

And what was stolen? It was a map of the coun­try, the most com­plete map ever made, describ­ing every nat­ur­al land­mark and water­way, an essen­tial source of infor­ma­tion for any invad­ing army, and just it so hap­pens there is a West­ern mil­i­tary force already estab­lished in a hid­den fortress near­by, where the mys­te­ri­ous geisha has just deliv­ered it. Roman and com­pa­ny have to invade the fortress and retrieve the map to save Japan from inva­sion. Magoichi is also involved, as his mys­te­ri­ous supe­ri­or orders the death of the fortress com­man­der. From then on, the map switch­es hands sev­er­al times until the fortress com­man­der rides away with it, prov­ing in the process that he, too, is a mas­ter of gun-fu.

Com­men­tary: If the char­ac­ters, espe­cial­ly Roman, and the over­all theme of the series appears to resem­ble Lupin III, it is because both were the visu­al cre­ations of Mon­key Punch. Whether Roman is sup­posed to be an ances­tor of Lupin is doubt­ful, giv­en the time frame, as Lupin III grand­fa­ther, the orig­i­nal Lupin, was French.

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