I was all set to mention yet again that reviewing OVAs for series we’ll never again see in anime form is kind of depressing, but there was a very happy surprise at the end of this one – an announcement of a second “The Loves of Hibachi” OVA to follow. I hadn’t heard about this anywhere else (I still haven’t) so the news came as completely unexpected for me. And it makes it a lot easier to enjoy this one without a heavy heart.
Mushibugyou is one of those series where my fondness for it exceeds my intellectual assessment of it. I realize it’s not exceptional in most ways – it’s just a good, straight-ahead shounen with very few real surprises. Yet for whatever reason it holds a special place in my esteem. I love its unpretentiousness, sense of fun, soundtrack and cast (especially KENN as the relentlessly positive hero Jinbei). Mushibugyou isn’t exactly original but it is clever, and it executes its concept with a lot of commitment and panache. And some of the stuff with Han Megumi as Kuroageha in the second cour was genuinely moving and powerful.
As for the OVA, it adapts a story from the manga where Jinbei takes a young Edokko named Torakichi (Takayama Minami – getting no less than Conan Edogawa is quite a coup) under his wing when the boy asks for training in bushido. As if often does Mushibugyou sneaks in a bit of social commentary here, showing us the conditions the poor of Edo lived under and the discrimination they faced in some detail. Torakichi and his younger siblings are routinely bullied by the sons of samurai, and his parents see no use in having a poor child with no future pursue an unattainable goal. But as usual, Jinbei sees nothing but sunshine where others see clouds, and takes matters (and the boy’s training) into his own hands.
We’ve definitely been down this road with Mushibugyou before – old-school fanservice, a bit of creepiness, and over-the-top action. But as usual, it works – there’s a great sense of martial spirit to the exercise, and the premise is distinct enough to make it interesting. All of the regular cast appears in some form, and there’s a good-sized snippet of Mugai remembering his past that hints at future manga chapters that will likely never be adapted. All in all it’s good fun and briskly entertaining, which is pretty much what you’re going to get from Mushibugyou the vast majority of the time. And it’s nice to know that we’re going to get just a little more of it.