Town Turns To Anime To Revive Classic Gangster Tale 'tenpo Suikoden'

Town turns to anime to revive classic gangster tale 'Tenpo Suikoden'Local officials are trying to revitalize the popularity of classic gangster tale “Tenpo Suikoden” to promote the town of Tonosho.
So far, they have produced an animated TV series based on the story, which features a climatic duel that took place 170 years ago on the Otonegawara riverbank. Now, they are working on a guidebook and soliciting support for a TV drama based on “Tenpo Suikoden.”

Set in the late Edo Period (1603-1868) mainly in the town bordered by the Tonegawa river, the story is inspired by a Chinese literary classic known as “Suikoden” (“Shuihuzhuan” or “Water Margin.”)

“Tenpo Suikoden” revolves around the rivalry between two gang clans, one led by Sasagawa no Shigezo and the other organized by Iioka no Sukegoro. Sasagawa is present-day Tonosho, while Iioka is now Asahi, Chiba Prefecture.

The story is known for the duel at Otonegawara in 1844, during which Hirate Miki, a master swordsman for the Sasagawa clan, dies.

The story has been made into about 50 films, including the 1976 work by Satsuo Yamamoto. The popularity of “Tenpo Suikoden” nearly matched that of “Chushingura,” the revenge story featuring 47 “ronin” lordless, wandering samurai.

Although some parts of the story are fictional, the characters actually existed.

Tonosho is home to the graves of Shigezo and Miki. The town also has a gallery displaying Shigezo’s smoking pipe, Miki’s “tokkuri” sake bottle and other items left by the men. A volunteer provides free guided tours of the facility.

But a growing number of people in younger generations are unaware of “Tenpo Suikoden,” officials said.

To reverse the trend, Hiroko Kase, an official at the industrial promotion section of the town office, decided to use the classic tale to tout the benefits of Tonosho.

Last year, the town office provided funds to produce the “Tenpo Suikoden Neo” short anime series featuring Shigezo, Miki and other characters. It was aired by Chiba Television Broadcasting Corp.

This year, officials plan to publish a guidebook of the town featuring the anime characters.

Last summer, the town hosted a “Tenpo Suikoden”-themed rokyoku and “kodan” storytelling event as part of revitalization efforts. Another event has been scheduled for 2014.

“This year marks the 170th anniversary of the duel. We’d very much like many people to learn about ‘Suikoden,’ which is our cultural asset, and promote its spirit of gallantry,” Kase said.

A promotion committee was also formed in the town to realize a TV drama series. Members have been sending documents to TV broadcasters and other entities to seek their involvement.

“The world of ‘Tenpo Suikoden,’ which deals with obligation, compassion and bonds, should be sufficiently worthwhile to make into a TV drama,” said Toshiyuki Hayashi, a town assembly member who heads the committee. “Hirate Miki, former sumo wrestler Seiriki Tomigoro and other characters have a lot of charm, and I think they can pass as the costume drama heroes.”

The officials hope popular “enka” singer Kiyoshi Hikawa’s new single will provide momentum. Released on Jan. 29, “Otone Nagare-zuki” (Shooting moon of Otone) celebrates the 15th anniversary of his debut and is themed on “Tenpo Suikoden,” particularly Miki.

“Hirate Miki is a costume drama hero. I released this song because I want to shine the spotlight on Hirate and draw support from local fans,” Hikawa told reporters. “I’d very much like to host an event in the town.”