Shinsengumi!!! NHK Saitou Hajime

NHK Shinsengumi logo


Back in 2004 NHK decided that the next Taiga Drama would be about the Shinsengumi. For those of you that do not know what a "Taiga" drama is, it is a year long drama that aims to bolster patriotic feelings amongst the Japanese. It started back in 1963 with NHK starting a drama focusing on historical fiction called "Hana no Shougai".

NHK's Shinsengumi is in my opinion epitomizes the presence of Shinsengumi in pop culture. Why? First of all it came out as a Taiga drama, second it employed SMAP members whose members are are considered for lack of a better word, "teen idols" and third it propelled an enormous amount of commercial paraphernalia and fan work like doujinshi. Basically while tackling the more serious matter of national unity, it also satisfied the fangirls worldwide. Let's admit it, one reason the Shinsengumi group was such a hit amongst the ladies, was partly because they were composed of dashing young men who fought for their country and in the end had a tragic ending. What is more perfectly romantic than that? Their appeal to men is the somewhat similar, that they embody the romantic vision of the "Last Samurais". To the masses they are a symbol of hard work and trying to get past their status in society, specifically for the likes of Kondou and Hijikata.

What's the point you ask? Well what I just described above is what fandom has made for the historical figures. It is in essence historical fiction where fans have decided, with the use of some historical information and their own ideals, they have created a creature that resembles but does not necessarily mimic the real people. This is exactly what NHK's Shinsengumi is, it is a drama full of ideals, hardships and hope. It is historical fiction.

Now about Saitou, he is played by Jo Odagiri as a quiet man with a past with the Yakuza. He surpases his gloomy past when he meets Kondou who shows him kindness and faith, that eventually he joins them in Kyoto. In this portrayal, NHK has decided to follow history by showing Saitou as a quiet man. Unfortunately, for the most part, this did not work well for me because at times, I had forgotten he was there! Indeed in one of the episode guides, at the end of the show, he is said to show his passion only after Kondou was caught. Quite a different flavored man to what I'm used to but hey, RK and Mibugishiden are my holy grail so my preference is quite different. However, I do believe that NHK's casting of Jo Odagiri was a good pick. He certainly seems mysterious and such a pretty boy too!

NHK's Shinsengumi!!!
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