Swinging and Dancing in Meiji Tokyo Renka – Series Review

Major Spoilers

With the clock striking midnight, the magic of the strawberry moon is now over.  Mei has returned home to the present with the promise of more adventures to come. While our main love interests await the day when they can see Mei again. So with our story over, let’s get on to our series recap and review

Series Recap

Meiji Tokyo Renka tells the story of Mei Ayazuki (Jap: Sumire Morohoshi (Kyōka Izumi – Bungo Stray Dogs); Eng: Madeleine Morris) a Tamayori (Spirit Medium) who was born with the ability to see ghosts. Having no friends due to this weird power, Mei wishes for a place where she could be herself. On the night of the strawberry moon, Mei comes across a strange traveling magician named Charlie (Jap: Toshiyuki Morikawa (Akaya Inuki – Lord of Vermillion); Eng: Ian Sinclair (Sha Gojyo – Saiyuki Reload Blast)) who goads into joining his magic box act.  Entering the box, Mei soon finds herself transported back in time where she has a romantic chance encounter with famous surgeon and writer Mori Ougai (Jap: Daisuke Namikawa (Lord El-Melloi II – The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note); Eng: Christopher Wehkamp) and his artist friend, Hishida Shunsō (Jap: KENN (Tamaki Yotsuba – Idolish7); Eng: Daman Mills).

Noticing that she has amnesia and because they have a prior engagement, Mori and Syunso invite her to go with them to a party with them where she meets several other famous Japanese historical figures. After a series of strange encounters at the party, Mei meets up with Charlie and discovers that she has been transported back to the Meiji Era. Soon afterwards, an incident occurs involving a fox spirit. Just as Mei is about to be arrested by Gorō Fujita (Jap: Jun Fukuyama (Ren Amamiya/Joker – Persona 5 the Animation)), Mori swoops in and saves her by calling her his fiancee.

The story then takes off with Mei trying to adapt to her strange new environment as she solves spiritual cases involving her love interests until she can find a way to get back home.

Plot

One of the great aspects about Meiji Tokyo Renka is in its writing. With 12 episodes, there really isn’t any leeway for the writers to create any complicated plots or unnecessary fillers, but it is this simplistic plot that makes the show work well. The writing and tone is exciting and comedic enough that even the formulaic spiritual case of week type format doesn’t come across as boring. Honestly, it is actually pretty entertaining seeing Mei run around town trying to find Shunso’s black cat or obsessing over meat and all the show’s writers do a great job of balancing Mei’s encounters with each of the love interests.
 
The writers also do an exceptional job of bringing out each characters’ little quirks (especially Mei’s antics) and excels at really bringing all of the characters to life.Though one thing that could have been better, however, is possibly better hinting towards Shunso’s eye disease as that came in rather late in the show. There also wasn’t enough exploration of Tosuke Iwasaki‘s, Goro Fujita’s and Otojiro Kawakami’s (Jap: Kōsuke Toriumi; Eng: Aaron Roberts) routes from the visual novel. But other than that, I have no complaints.
 

Animation

Animation-wise, all of the episodes in Meiji Tokyo Renka have really great animation. The animation and transition was fluid and smooth and there are only a couple of cases where the animation could have been better.The character designs were also really done well with Mei’s design being exceptionally cute. But contextually some of the color choices especially in terms of environments and landscaping could have been done better.

Characters

With a cast of colorful characters, Meiji Tokyo Renka excels in the character development department. This show does an excellent job at bringing out all of the characters unique quirks and traits. Mei, in particular, is this super-cheerful, fun yet lovable protagonist who loves meat, but is also really bubbly and vivacious despite being a klutz. While she is unsure of herself. she is a really lively character who doesn’t fall into that beguiling female harem protagonist trap. By that I mean where the main female protagonist is written without having any real personality or acts more like a background character rather than the lead. She is my favorite character within the show.

As for the main love interest, Mori Ougai is also an intriguing character. He is charming and charismatic, but he is not smarmy about it. He also has this mysterious dark side where he holds regrets over Elise, a character in his novel who was based on a girl that he once was in love with during his time abroad in Germany. The crux of his story is him dealing with his writer’s block while also navigating his feelings for Mei, his inability to see spirits and his concerns over whether it is right for him to move on from Elise to Mei. His story is deeply touching and resonates well with anyone who has also been in his position.

Then you also have Hishida Shunso, who is a genius Japanese artist whose art is way beyond his time. His main issue is that he is searching for a ghost of a black cat which came out of his painting. As such, he often accompanies Mei on her searches for the cat as her bodyguard. His story then comes to a head when he is revealed to have an disease that will gradually make him blind unless he undergoes a certain surgery. However, Shunso doesn’t want to go through with it because if he goes through the surgery, he will lose his ability to see spirits. So these are our main trio, but what the the others?

All in all, the remaining love interests are all equally interesting characters, I mean, you have the germophobe spiritualist, Kyoka Izumi, the actor who cross-dresses as a Geisha, Otojiro Kawakami, the policeman and hunter of spirits, Goro Fujita, the horror novelist Yakumo Koizumi, the innovative inventor, Tosuke Iwasaki and Mei’s mysterious guide, Charlie. With this list of characters, you are sure to find some characters that you’ll love.

My only gripe with this show is that with 12 episodes, it really doesn’t you give enough time to fully explore each of these characters’ routes. Characters like Otojiro, Goro and Tosuke act more as secondary characters rather than leads as most of their routes were cut out, though they do get enough decent coverage to get a general sense of their background with the episodes that were allotted to them. Goro in particular is also more cut out as there was a plethora of backstory that could’ve been explored in the anime, but to find out more, please check out the visual novel.

Music

As mentioned in my earlier preview, music is absolutely one of the best parts of this show. Using 1920s jazz music as a reference, the ost soundtrack is amazing. It really suits the Meiji era and works well at bringing out the character’s subtle emotions.
 
Furthermore, I just love the opening song “Tsukiakari no Rhapsodia” by KENN as it really brings out the subtle sexiness of his voice. The ending theme songs “Hoshikuzu no Yomibito” by KENN and Daisuke Namikawa; “Mellow na Yoru ni Odorimashō” by Shinnosuke Tachibana and Nobuhiko Okamoto; and “Yoiya Yoiya” by Kousuke Toriumi and Jun Fukuyama are all gonna be hit or miss depending on if you like the songs or if you a certain seiyuus’ singing voices. The electricity rap was especially cute with all of the chibi drawings of the main characters.
 

Voice Acting

Seiyuu-wise, I feel like that all of the voice actors did a really great job overall. This show had a top-notch cast stemming from Toshiyuki Morikawa, KENN all the way to Kousuke Toriumi and all of them did an amazing job at bringing out their characters’ comedic aspects and subtle quirks. For the English Dub, there were some hits and misses though in their casting.

While Christopher Wekhamp (Mori Ougai) and Ian Sinclair (Charlie) did have amazing voices which suited the general stereotypes of their characters, they were a lot deeper than I imagined and didn’t bring out the same charm in their characters that their Japanese seiyuu did. Furthermore, since this was a Simuldub, there was one episode where Justin Briner had to come in and play Charlie. On the other hand, Howard Wang and Daman Mills were absolutely incredible as Yakumo and Shunso respectfully.

Conclusion

With so many amazing aspects to this show, Meiji Tokyo Renka is a great anime for first time watchers. It was definitely better than some of the other reverse harem animes I have seen and I felt that it told a really appealing story.  True the main couple, didn’t actually get together, but that was not the point of this anime. The main point of this anime was to show how Mei gradually grows as a character and gains the confidence in herself to accept who she is and to gather the courage to make friends in her own time.

Overall, anime fans are guaranteed to love the characters and the music of this vibrant show. I really recommend that you check out this anime and to also check out the film adaptation which focuses on Izumi Kyoka as the main love interest.

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