Shinsengumi, the Japanese version of Karna from Mahabharata

Who would not like tall, tanned men with taut muscles in sexy yukata that reveals their six-pack? Add that badass smile and tragic story, women are seriously a goner. That is what Japanese Shinsengumi are all about.

Shinsengumi is a military faction formed to support Tokugawa Shonungate led by Serizawa Kamo, Niimi Nishiki and Kondo Isami. As internal conflicts lead to the death of Serizawa Kamo, Kondo Isami became the leader of Shinsengumi. However they fell through at the end of Edo period, when imperial rule was reinstated in Japan. Most of the the Shinsengumi died during conflicts and ultimately disbanded

History has never been kind to warriors . No matter how great a warrior you are, glory will never find you. Remember Karna from Mahabharata? He was one of the finest shadria of that time, the only one to be considered to be on par with Arjuna. Apart from his superior archery, he was the most generous person, a trait even Lord Krishna acknowledges. Despite his good qualities, he suffered a tragic death. His only mistake was that he joined the villains, kauravas. You could say, Shinsengumi were the same.

I have seen so many anime and manga that romanticise Shinsengumi. The first one I saw was Hakuouki. It was full of super good looking men (not bishies mind you) with hard muscles. (Well what can I say I love muscles on men). There was another shoujo manga I read a month ago, which followed the story of six students, who were shinsengumi warriors Kondo Isami, Hijikata Toshizō, Okita Sōji, Harada Sanosuke, Nagakura Shinpachi and Saitō Hajime in their previous lives. 

Though I had always known about these warriors when I read Rurouni Kenshin, it did not deal with them as individuals. Hakuouki had more fantasy elements than real story. It was only when I was reading the shoujo manga (whose name I have conveniently forgotten) that I came to understand about the individuals. It threw light on relationship dynamics between the members and also their rival factions Choshu and Satsuma.

Satsuma and Choshu were feudal domains of ancient Japan, who formed an alliance in 1866 to restore imperial rule. The Alliance was crucial in enabling Choshu to withstand a punitive expedition mounted by the Tokugawa shogunate in the summer of 1866, which led to a stunning defeat for the Tokugawa armies. During the subsequent Boshin War of 1867–1868, the imperial armies which finally overthrew the Shogunate were primarily samurai from the Satchō alliance. With the establishment of the Meiji Restoration, men from these two domains dominated the new Meiji government into the 20th century.

Just like in Mahabharata, it was the imperial faction that was against foreign invasion won. But what these manga that focus on Shinsengumi attempt to do is throw some light into what prompted them to support the faction they did, their struggles and their lives. I feel knowing about them is equally important, for without them history is never complete.

 

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