This series is the story of a boy named Ichimura Tetsunosuke, or Tetsu for short. Tetsu is 15 years old, but he’s short and looks much younger. He is determined to join the Shinsengumi, gain strength and avenge his parents’ murder. So this story is based completely around the famous Shinsengumi story about Ikedaya, where the Shinsengumi captured rebels and prevented Kyoto from being burned, basically during the time period at the height of their fame.Tetsu and his brother Tatsunosuke arrive in Kyoto looking for work, meet Okita Souji by accident and become part of the Shinsengumi. Tatsunosuke is hired by the Shinsengumi as a book-keeper and Hijikata agrees to take Tetsu on as a page, after being pressured to do so by Okita. The story basically introduces Tetsu to all of the historical Shinsengumi, and to the dichotomy between their fun-loving regular personalities, and their blood-thirsty, serious killer sides. Okita especially has a complete personality switch when he’s killing.
As the story goes along, back story on Tetsu comes to light. His parents were murdered in front of him when he was several years younger and he was left to die along with them in their burning house. He saw their killer who happens to be a high ranking member of the rebel forces arrayed against the Shinsengumi, a man named Yoshida Toshimaru. Tetsu struggles during the series to overcome his terror of Yoshida.Tetsu has an out-going personality and makes friends with everyone he runs into. One of these people is a young mute girl his age named Saya. To add a plot twist to the series, Tetsu also befriends a boy his age named Kitamura Suzu. Suzu resists at first, but then they become friends. Tetsu doesn’t realize that Suzu also happens to be Yoshida’s apprentice and wants revenge against the Shinsengumi for killing his brother. Suzu doesn’t realize Tetsu is associated with the Shinsengumi. Suzu ends up caught between conflicting emotions when Yoshida orders him to kill Tetsu later in the story.
This series is interesting to watch and doesn’t focus so much on the historical aspect that the story isn’t any good. The characters all have personalities that make the series interesting, and the interactions between them all are fun. This is not a light and fluffy anime series though. At times it’s intense, and even depressing. Still, that intensity makes the plot. The biggest negative I have about the series is the token death. Yoshida dies in the end, but his death is pretty necessary to the plot. I’m not sure I can say the same about Ayume’s death. Ayume is a young woman who is both a spy and a cook for the Shinsengumi, and pretty much loved by all of them. She is caught spying by the rebels and killed pretty brutally. And then left in a gutter for her brother to find her body.The climax of the series is the raid at Ikedaya. The ending is bittersweet, because the good guys all survive, if somewhat the worse for wear. And Tetsu gains enough courage and strength to fight in that battle. But poor Suzu has not only fallen out of his master’s good graces for refusing his order, he ends up going off in the rain with his master’s decapitated head wrapped up in his shawl. And of course Ayume is dead, although Tetsu and her brother become friends. So the series is definitely worth watching, from my point of view, but if you only like fluffy anime without much emotion, you may want to avoid this one.