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Shinsengumi
Shinsengumi-flag
Historical Information
Main Objective: Serve the Tokugawa shogunate
Estimated Numbers: 200 (known by name)
Start: 1863
End: 1869
Major Figure(s): Kondō Isami, Hijikata Toshizō, Serizawa Kamo, Yamanami Keisuke
Major Battle(s) August 8th Coup, Ikedaya Incident, Kinmon Incident, Aburanokō Incident, Boshin War

The Shinsengumi (新選組 or 新撰組, translated as "new specially selected squad") refers to an organization which existed during the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. They are famously identified by their "truth" (誠, makoto) banners and their light capri blue (浅葱色, asagi-iro) overcoats. According to rumors, their banner was named after the place where Kondō learned swordsmanship (試衛館, Shienkan).

Their earliest beginnings are the Rōshigumi ("wandering squad"), a group of self-proclaimed pro-shogunate law enforcement of the capital who accepted anyone —be they criminals, penniless, or landless samurai— as members. When its founder, Kiyokawa Hachirō, wanted to relocate to Edo, Serizawa and Kondō protested. The duo and twenty-two other members stayed within Kyoto and renamed themselves the Miburōshi ("Warriors of Mibu", alternatively nicknamed "Wolves of Mibu"). They received funding from the daimyou assigned to be the Office of Kyoto Protector, Matsudaira Katamori, and western merchants. Entrusted by Matsudaira to work for the shogunate, the group made arrests and gained recognition by aiding shogunate forces during the August 8th Coup.

Kondō controversially arranged or personally assassinated Serizawa and his followers due to alleged misgivings of their character or methods of leadership, becoming the commander of their group. The group was renamed the Shinsengumi and offered loose enlistment requirements to potential members; as long as a person was healthy and wanted to fight for the shogunate, they could join. Members underwent strict martial arts training upon joining, many expected to defend themselves with a sword or feudal weaponry. They soon became the face of armed shogunate law enforcement within the capital.

When Tokugawa Yoshinobu stepped down from the capital in 1867, the Shinsengumi left peacefully with him. It wasn't long until the Shinsengumi received orders to eradicate the renewed imperial forces. Members became divided in Edo or Hakodate, many fighting until their last as they fell to European weaponry. Hijikata Toshizō's death demoralized those on the war front, causing the remaining Shinsengumi to surrender once they ran out of supplies. The Meiji government forbade the bereaved from receiving their departed loved one's possessions. A few survivors lived during the Meiji period, the most famous being Saitō Hajime.

Historically, they were notoriously unpopular in the capital. To the bystanders of the already chaotic war between factions and beliefs, the Shinsengumi were another ruthless group of armed thugs added to the pile whom used the shogunate's authority to protect themselves from persecution. Shinsengumi members were also not above raiding private property with little to no warning, brutally torturing or executing their (sometimes innocent) prisoners or disobedient members, or exploiting their "official authority" at the slightest hint of disrespect. Whenever the commoners saw their banner, it was said to have made many quiver in fear. Once the Meiji period came into place, politicians condemned them as enemies to the state due to the move to imperialism. To this day, none of the members have been granted the posthumous imperial or political honor of bestowed Shintoism divinity.

Fiction did not popularly depict the group in a positive light until after World War II; the Shinsengumi's last stand was adapted to serve as a heroic parallel to the extinction of Imperial Japan's popularity. Contemporary fiction often portrays the group and its members as tragic heroes, lost fragments of an obsolete age who died in the name of loyalty.

Select MembersEdit

Commanders - Serizawa Kamo, Kondō Isami, Niimi Nishiki
Vice-Commanders - Hijikata Toshizō, Yamanami Keisuke, Niimi Nishiki
Unit Captains
  1. Okita Sōji
  2. Nagakura Shinpachi ⇒ Itō Kashitaro
  3. Saitō Hajime
  4. Matsubara Chūji
  5. Takeda Kanryūsai ⇒ Ogata Shuntarō
  6. Inoue Genzaburō
  7. Tani Sanjūrō
  8. Tōdō Heisuke
  9. Suzuki Mikisaburō
  10. Harada Sanosuke
Corporals
  • Shimada Kai
  • Kawashima Katsuji
  • Kondō Yoshisuke
  • Kanno Washio
  • Memajiri Kobungo
  • Hashimoto Kaisuke
  • Ikeda Kosaburō
  • Ozeki Masajirō
  • Abe Jūrō
  • Okuzawa Eisuke
  • Hayashi Shintarō
  • Kazurayama Takehachirō
  • Maeno Gorō
  • Naganishi Noboru
  • Tomiyama Yahei
  • Nakamura Kosaburō
Instructors
  • Okita Sōji
  • Ikeda Kosaburō
  • Nagakura Shinpachi
  • Tanaka Torazō
  • Arai Tadao
  • Yoshimura Kanichirō
  • Saitō Hajime
  • Shinohara Tainoshin
  • Yanagi Sanjirō
  • Matsubara Chūji
  • Itō Kashitarō
  • Shiba Ryōsaku
  • Ogata Shuntarō
  • Mōnai Arinosuke
  • Takeda Kanryūsai
  • Kiyohara Kiyoshi
  • Abe Jūrō
  • Yasutomo Saisuke
  • Tani Sanjūrō
Investigators / Spies
  • Yoshimura Kanichirō
  • Yamazaki Suzumu
  • Ōishi Kuwajirō
  • Kishijima Yoshitarō
  • Tani Shūhei
  • Ibaraki Tsukasa

Beautiful Five - fictional name given to five handsome and effeminate officers/spies.

  1. Yamano Yasohachi
  2. Sasaki Aijirō
  3. Magoshi Saburō
  4. Mazume Ryūtarō
  5. Kusunoki Kojūrō

In the GamesEdit

Koei either references or adds the famous members in select Nobunaga's Ambition titles. Samurai Warriors have three figures' names act as stat bonuses for edit characters. Famous members appear as Mitama in the Toukiden series. Hido cosplays in the bluish Shinsengumi uniform while Myoga cosplays an older Toshizō in Kiniro no Corda 3 AnotherSky feat. Amane Gakuen.

Many of the core members appear in the Ishin no Arashi series. Pro-shogunate protagonists have a fair chance of befriending them; anti-shogunate protagonists will be hunted or shunned by them. All games include the Ikedaya Incident as a historical event which occurs regardless of the protagonist's ideology. Bakumatsu Isshiden has Toshizō as a possible protagonist who can perish in the Boshin War, lead the group to become the shogunate's elite army, or convert the group to become anarchists.

Shippuu Ryoumaden dedicates the game's fictional route to them; Ryōma is dragged to their headquarters by his childhood acquaintance, Heisuke, and gradually befriends the members. This ending has the Shinsengumi present Ryōma's eight measures directly to the shogun after the land is unified for shogunate reform. The Shinsengumi are promoted to samurai and become the shogun's personal elite guard and task force.

Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 5 and its sequel focuses on the group's formation in 1864 for its parallel world. Four members are named; the rest are given generic labels. Both continuities stress that their true loyalties lie with Iemochi; they treat Amami and Yoshinobu as their enemies/rivals. Kondou and Hijikata agree to work with Yuki when her exclusive purification powers work towards their means, lending Souji to her whenever they see fit. The theatrical continuity has a group of fictional swordsmen specifically assigned to vengeful spirit and undead exterminations (殺陣衆, kateshū).

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