Blu-ray Review: Bakumatsu Rock: Samurai Jam – The Complete Collection
01/11/2015 Leave a comment
Music, Samurai’s and Idols; its not the obvious combination in the world and yet Bakumatsu Rock: Samuria Jam sparked our interest and made us check it out; but what are our thoughts? Find out in our review!
There are just three things standing between Ryoma Sakamoto and his dream of becoming a famous rock star: 1 – he’s barely making ends meet working in a pizza parlor, 2 – the government of Japan has banned all rock music except for the prefabricated propaganda music performed by the state-run group Heaven’s Songs, and 3 – he lives in Japan in the middle of the 19th century.
Okay, so those are three VERY big problems, but on the other hand, Ryoma DOES own his own guitar (even if it’s illegal to own one) and that’s enough incentive for him to take his one-man show on the road in search of fellow rockers. Sure, getting all feudally Footloosey in a land where a battle of the bands will probably involve swords may be a risky business, but once fellow rebel rousers Kogoro and Shinsaku come on board, there’s no telling where these six-string samurai might end up!
What do you get when you combine 19th Century Japan, feudal warlords and music based around idols and popularity contests? In this case it is Bakumatsu Rock: Samurai Jam – a name which perfectly describes what you may expect from this colourful and enjoyable series that’s all about the music rather than a complex story of fights between samurai’s and warlords.
In a nutshell Bakumatsu Rock: Samurai Jam follows the events of Ryoma Sakamoto in his quest to become a famous rock-star and share the ‘passion of rock’ with his fellow towns people; the problem here however is that any form of music other than those approved by the Shogunate is banned and as such only Idol’s and Heaven’s Songs approved by the Shogun can be sung in public. As a result of this Ryoma is constantly avoiding the military public but it’s not long before his Guitar wielding abilities attracts the attention of two other rock enthusiasts known as Shinsaku Takasugi, who plays Bass, and Kogorō Katsura, who plays the drums. Both Shinsaku and Kogorō are looking for their Rock Master known as Shoin and after discovering Ryoma playing their style of music they assume he has some connection to their master; which turns out to be partly true. After a much heated discussion the group decide to form a band and work together to find this mysterious teacher of theirs and along the way uncover a great government conspiracy and make new unexpected friends.
From here you would think the story would see this ‘Rock Band’ attempt to overthrow the popularity of the Shogunate and look for their old master but in actuality there is an alternate, more sinister, storyline taking place and it’s one that, in my eyes at least, brings out the best of this series. The story from here is that a servent to the Shoungate, known as Li, is attempting to use a combination of magic and music sang by the Shinsengumi Idol’s in order to control the minds of the nation. In addition to this Li is attempting to restrict those that have access to powerful gems known as piece stones; which once activated can amplify a person’s musical ability and bring out the best of them. These piece stones are also intergrated in our main protagonists, and certain members of the Shinsengumi, and as you’d might expect makes these stars shine even bright – in comical fashion. It’s a relatively bizarre story but it somehow works and when our main cast of characters discover this act of brainwashing they rally together with selective Shinsengumi members to put a stop to it and, in the process, form their own ultimate Rock Band to bring the nation to true peace – even if it kills them.
This, in essence, is the real story of Bakumatsu Rock; the story of a group of rockers, and idols, trying to stop Li from ‘brainwashing’ the nation with his magic spells and freeing the nation from their one-track-minds of music. The side-story of this of course is finding their old master and their own place in this twisted world of music. Disappointingly however this storyline isn’t as straight and true as you might as expect; as each episode acts as an individual tale. Some episodes focus more on a characters well-being and emotional status while others will focus on banter but at the end of the day the main storyline elements do transcend across each episode; you just probably won’t see it. The highlight however is the constant stream of music and each episode will deliver at least one amazingly crafted song to your ears – which probably explains why it was never dubbed.
Bakumatsu Rock may be a relatively free-flowing storyline, as each episode is mostly stand-a-lone; but there is lots of enjoyment to be had with it. For starters when needed to the show can be taken very seriously, such as the brainwashing scenario, but for the most part it’s there for you to watch and enjoy without taking any real consideration to the progression of the story. For instance one particular episodes sees a combination of Kogorō being depressed and the group unable to play in traditional locations; the solution – play instead a bathhouse. It’s totally bonkers but yet it somehow sounds plausible, and let’s not forget, enjoyable.
There is of course another key factor to consider about this show; it’s very music focused. I’m not suggesting the songs are better than other musical themed show; it’s just that every episode features at least one song and it’s very rarely the same song. If you haven’t come for the music then sadly you will be missing out on majority of the entertainment, but there is a story to be told here and it moves along at a brisk pace that never lets up. However even when this is all said and done the real star of the show is actually its colourful cast of characters – each of which have a very unique personality. It’s fun, it’s enjoyable and it’s a great watch from start to finish.
The only bonus features included with this release are a selection of trailers and the opening and closing songs in textless form. The trailers themselves are Nobunaga the fool, The Comic Artist and His Assistants, Kamigami No Asobi and Uta No Prince Sama; some of which have not yet received a UK license announcement.
Considering all twelve episodes are on a single disc it’s quite a surprise to see any form of bonus content included; and it’s even more surprising when the content (both episodes and bonus materials) are just as sharp and pristine as you would expect them to be.
Media: BD 50
Running Time: 5:10:10
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps
Bakumatsu Rock: Samurai Jam may offer the impression of a Samurai fuelled anime with a music theme but in actuality it’s a popularity contest that sees two differing fractions of music styles attempting to bring peace to the nation. That’s just one way of looking at it but the true story is that Ryoma, Shinsaku and Kogorō team-up to create a rock band and search for their master Shoin but along the way get dragged into a government related situation that seems them marked for death. As you expect the story moves on and while the characters started off as nobody’s they soon find themselves become rock legends and successful in unifying the nation; but at a great cost.
It’s a relatively good story – if not unusual – but on the whole it’s a really great show that offers a wide mixture of values while remaining true to its objective; the music. This is one of the reasons that kept me coming back for more; as the soundtrack is so enticing and enjoyable to listen to plus the characters behind that music each have their own identifiable personality and as such it won’t take long for you to find your favourite.
In regards to this Blu-ray release by Animatsu Entertainment then there are lots of mixed things that can be said about it. For starters its Japanese with English subtitles only; so theres no English Dub, which isn’t a bad thing as i can’t imagine these songs being sang in English, but it is the way that twelve episodes have been placed onto a single Blu-ray disc. Ironically enough there seems to be no loss of picture or sound quality and everything works as you’d expect it to be; the picture quality remains consistent with other two disc anime Blu-rays as well. I’m not necessarily against all episodes on a single disc, as it means you can easily binge watch it, but i’m always dubious about the quality – but there are no problems here. My only grip with this release would be on disc menu; as before you can access the episode listings a segment from the opening animation will play – it’s an interesting addition to the menu but it is just time consuming, especially when you want to get stuck into the action.
Overall Bakumatsu Rock: Samurai Jam is uniquely entertaining series from start to finish and if you like shows such as BECK, K-On and Love Live (to a degree) than you will enjoy this without a doubt. The Blu-ray release by Animatsu Entertainment is also to a high quality product; sure enough it copies the bad habbit’s from Sentai Filmworks – as they are using the same disc assets after all – but it works and it looks great.
Bakumatsu Rock: Samurai Jam is now available on DVD and Blu-ray within the UK.