On the fifth day of anime, an anime studio gave to me…
…five Mushibugyō patrol members.
Approach Mushibugyō with low expectations and you might find yourself entertained. If hard core shōnen’s your thing, this show is another to add to your repertoire. Unfortunately, it embraces all of the trappings of shōnen. Every cliche and trope distinct to the shōnen genre exists in this show. From its obligatory fanservice (mostly in the form of Haru’s ample bosom and occasional Hibachi panty shots) to its stylized, dazzling action sequences, Mushibugyō doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The presence of using giant insects in feudal era Edo, though seemingly new, actually appears to be a throwback to the monsters in Inuyasha, another alternate-universe historical-fantasy inspired anime). But it’s a fun ride, nevertheless.
There’s definitely something oddly charming about our protagonist, Tsukishima Jinbei, a plucky young samurai who aspires to become the best samurai ever, or in his words, to “win until he dies.” While the writers certainly skipped over exploring the seriously disturbed psychology behind such an adage, Jinbei’s never ending perseverance and optimism–while irritating at times–earns the respect of his more experienced patrol members. One of Jinbei’s most redeeming qualities that makes him stand out from the generic hot-blooded young hero is his sense of humility.
Jinbei’s unfailing sense of samurai chivalry and honor is so entrenched in his personality that compared to other warriors, Jinbei’s warrior propriety is seen as unusual, especially in one so inexperienced. Compared to the more formidable strength of hardened fighters (both virtuous and villainous), Jinbei is almost foreign, his values out of place in an insect-ridden Edo, where it’s practically a given that every denizen be cynical and wary, lest an enemy lying in wait springs forth to kill. He’s a regular Don Quixote. Jinbei bumbles, stumbles, and sometimes just plain fails. But he never gives up, and his doggedly, relentless drive to uphold his samurai values is the source of his strength and the inspiration of others.
In classic shōnen style, Mushibugyō also flirts the edge of including canonical romance. while Jinbei’s fascination for Haru’s bosom and sweet curves betray his youth, the relationship between Jinbei and Kuroageha (the Insect Magistrate) is dealt more seriously, with deft and light touches that hit all the right notes. The dramatic irony of their interactions help us really connect with Kuroageha. Jin’s light, almost too radiant for anyone psychologically healthy, is the perfect cure for Kuroageha’s loneliness.
It’s almost a pity that Kuroageha never gets a chance to explain to Tsukishima that she’s the Insect Magistrate he’s been looking forward to meeting, but thanks to Tsukishima’s denseness, she is free to stay close to him and see him as he truly is. And through her “deceit,” she is able to express herself freely in return.
It wouldn’t be shōnen without an almost-just-canonized romance (see what they did with Yusei’s relationship with Aki in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds). Which makes you wonder why shōnen anime tend to shy away from romance. Do they just think romance is just not of interest to young guys? In the context of this anime, this question is averted, since Jinbei’s clearly not ready for romance in his life just yet, though he seems to have a basic, though twisted understanding of how relationships work (note: his mother carried him for 9 months all while fighting his father). Jinbei is such a dork, but inexplicably we love him anyway.