There are many important historical Japanese figures that appear frequently in anime. They are renowned and known throughout the world for their contributions to Japanese society and culture and as viewers it is important for us to know the history of these people so we are able to better understand and appreciate their appearances. Hijikata Toshizo is one of these and appears throughout many anime. Renowned for his swordsmanship and as the vice commander and later commander of the Shinsengumi, Hijikata evolved from a child without parents to a famous and ruthless commander that earned the nickname “Devil Vice Commander.”
Hijikata Toshizo was born in Edo or what we now know as Tokyo on May 31, 1835. He was born into a family that was struck with misfortune when his father died before his 6th year and his mother died shortly after. He was passed to his brother and wife who would continue to raise him throughout his formative years. Hijikata was passionate about swordsmanship between his time working as a salesman for potions and medicine. This passion prompted him to enroll in the Tennen Rishin Ryu dojo where he met Kondo Isami. Their friendship blossomed and Kondo later became the commander of the Shinsengumi. The Shinsengumi was founded on the principle to protect the military government and the shogun from the anti-bakufu movements.
The Shinsengumi often operated in secret and was feared among the townspeople. Members Serizawa Kamo and Niimi Nishiki became rogue elements when they began to manipulate the townspeople and merchants earning the Shinsengumi a gruesome reputation. The violent displays put on by these two were not tolerated and both members were put to death for tainting the Shinsengumi’s name and not upholding their founding principles. As the number of their members increased, the Shinsengumi’s power grew. Hijikata kept all of his forces in order by making any disobedience punishable by death and later earning him the nickname “Devil Vice Commander.” In 1868, Kondo Isami was executed and Hijikata took the position of commander among the Shinsengumi. He brought his forces to new heights in other cities and became the Vice Minister for Military Affairs. Unfortunately, his position was not held for long as he died from an arrow to his spine while fighting in the Battle of Hakodate on June 20, 1869. This quickly led to the fall of the Ezo Republic and the rise of the Meiji Government.
Hijikata Toshizo in Anime
Hijikata Toshizo is most prominent in the anime Hakouki. He is portrayed as a strict commander with a secret romantic interest in the heroine. While he is stoic and fierce as he was in real life, Hakouki also reveals a more personal side of him as far as romance goes. This is a side that we don’t see in history and that goes against his nature as we know him. Hijikata is an incredible character both in Hakouki and in real life and while we see a more passionate nature behind this daring and contemplative character this anime is not historically accurate though we give them props for trying. Hijikata also makes an appearance in Gintama where he is portrayed as a split personality between the historical Hijikata a modern day otaku. The timeline on the anime for the Hijikata Toshizo storyline is off but it follows the basic principles and ideas upheld by the Shinsengumi. Despite this historical inaccuracy, the creators did an excellent job making this character much more relatable. A more historically accurate portrayal of the Shinsengumi is seen in Peace Maker, a story of two children who were orphaned by the Shinsengumi and have a plot for revenge. This anime sees through the eyes of someone on the opposing side of the Shinsengumi’s values and shares a look into how the Shinsengumi’s actions impacted some of the citizens. The Shinsengumi and Hijikata Toshizo make appearances in other anime as well including Rurouni Kenshin, Chiruran ½ and Francesca.
Hijikata Toshizo is a man who fought for what he believed was right for his entire life and was rewarded with the title of vice-commander then commander of the Shinsengumi. As one of its founding members, he is remembered throughout history of having an impact on Japan as a whole and as a result has wormed his way into the anime that we love so much.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article on the life and history of Hijikata Toshizo. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.