This is the second anime adaptation of Touken Ranbu, the first being Touken Ranbu Hanamaru by Doga Kobo. Hanamaru was a relaxing ‘Cute Guys Doing Cute Things’ anime and focused on the peaceful life within the Citadel. However, ufotable’s Katsugeki focuses on the front lines, and promises beautifully animated action scenes.
Aim steady…. Fire!!
Japanese Title: 出陣
In Touken Ranbu -online-, you play the part of a Saniwa (a sage) who can manifest weapons into human-like beings. Your mission is to stop the Time Retrograde Army, which travels back in time to try and change the course of history. In Touken Ranbu, you specifically manifest famous Japanese swords into very… very… beautiful young men. Maybe you can see why this game caused a Japanese sword boom among young women a couple of years ago.
The time period Katsugeki Touken Ranbu will be focusing on is the Bakumatsu period. This literally means the ‘end of the shogunate period’ and is the time when Japan was forced to open up to the world, and the shogunate lost its power. I wish I could tell you all about it, but instead I urge you to do a quick search online to find out more about one of the most exciting turning points in Japanese history.
In Episode 1, we are introduced to Izuminokami Kanesada (an uchigatana) and Horikawa Kunihiro (a wakizashi), who were both swords belonging to famed Shinsengumi member Toshizo Hijikata. They are sent back in time to 1863 to stop the Retrograde Army from changing history.
The Saniwa (an original character design for the anime) actually makes his appearance on the front line, and summons Yagen Toshiro (a tantou),Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki (an uchigatana) and Tonbokiri (a yari). You may have noticed the sparks flying between Kane-san and Mutsunokami straight away! This is because Kane-san’s owner, Toshizo Hijikata, and Mutsunokami’s owner, Ryoma Sakamoto, were from opposing factions in real life. I have a feeling the Dutch ship is not the only ship sailing for me this season, if you know what I mean.
Visuals: As expected from ufotable, the animation is absolutely stunning. The choreography of the fight scenes and the camerawork all combine together to make it a real treat for the eyes. I loved the way the light bounces off the swords to remind us that it is in fact the swords themselves that are the main characters of this story. CG is heavily used, but is integrated so well that there is little of the awkwardness you normally see in anime CG.
Konnosuke: First off, he’s so cute and fluffy! Second, Konnosuke serves as an important guide within the game, and he serves the same purpose in the anime. Although I was surprised when he first brought out the holographic touchscreens to do research, it actually makes a lot of sense. Don’t forget, the world of the Saniwa is actually in the future.
Saniwa!: In the game, YOU play the Saniwa, so this is the first time we’ve had an official Saniwa design. When they announced the Saniwa’s voice as being Junko Minagawa, for a split second I was scared that the character would be female (I’m sorry). However, Minagawa is famous for voicing boys (such as Ryoma Echizen in The Prince of Tennis) and the Saniwa is a youthful but highly capably boy. His line ‘Do you truly think I’d come here with no kind of plan?’ before summoning more of our boys had me sold.
Do you truly think I’d come here with no kind of plan?
Exposition: The anime tries to naturally explain the world of Katsugeki. Horikawa’s lack of knowledge is used as a way to introduce things not only new for Touken Ranbu newbies, but to also explain things about Konnosuke and the Saniwa that are specific to Katsugeki.
The Summoning: This was my favorite scene. The fact we see the swords themselves before they are swallowed up by a storm of cherry blossom petals got me pumped up. Tonbokiri’s swing, Yagen’s spinning, Mutsunokami’s shooting…ahh they were so perfect. I watched this scene on repeat a few times.
The Opening Theme
The opening theme for Katsugeki Touken Ranbu is ‘Hikari Tatsu Ame’ by popular voice actor Soma Saito.
I was at the AnimeJapan 2017 stage event for Touken Ranbu and I remember the very moment they announced him as the opening artist. Everybody, including myself, gasped and squealed. That’s how big of a deal this is.
Some of you may know Saito as Glenn Radars from the recent Akashic Records and Bastard Magic Instructor, and he also plays Tsurumaru Kuninaga in Touken Ranbu (although he has yet to appear in the anime). Soma has very recently made his CD debut as a singer, and this song will be his second single.
I LOVE the opening sequence! The song is catchy, powerful, and perfectly fits the tone of the anime. However, the deep singing of the verse seems a little bit forced as Saito has a naturally cute voice. Luckily, it really picks up in the chorus and makes for a fun song. The animation is breathtaking, and my favorite shots are of Tsurumaru dancing on the ice and the shot of Touken Ranbu poster boy, Mikazuki Munechika. I can’t wait for them to make their appearances in the series. I paused the shot of Munechika, trying to work out who the silhouettes behind him are. Let me know if you have any theories!
Comments: Hmm? Don’t the characters look off?
I understand if a few of you may be feeling that some of the characters look quite different to each other. There is a good reason for this: The 6 main Touken Danshi, Konnosuke, and Saniwa were each designed by a different character designer. Although it may seem a little strange to some people, I personally dig it and it reminds of the game and its multiple illustrators. Yagen’s design stands out the most for me, as he now has a similar facial structure to what you would see in a bishoujo anime. The gap between his cute face and his deep voice / cool personality is even greater (can I shout moe here?)
Yagen Leg Watch!
Yagen Toshiro has been one of my favorite Touken Danshi ever since I started playing the game. He and most of the other Toshiros (I hope we get to see some of them!) have very short shorts. Let’s keep an eye on his legs, which I think should be a character all on their own.
That’s it for this week! I enjoyed the first episode immensely, and I could probably go on for a few thousand words about little details, but I’m going to have to leave it here for now.
Okay, back to the Citadel for me. Until next week!
Touken Danshi: the manifestation of Japanese swords that take the appearance of beautiful young men
Bakumatsu: the period where the Japanese shogunate came to an end. (1853 – 1867)
Saniwa: a sage who can manifest weapons into human-like forms. In the game, the player plays the part of a Saniwa. In Katsugeki, the Saniwa is a young boy.
Shinsengumi: A police-like group that were active during the Bakumatsu period. Many Touken Danshi belonged to the Shinsengumi. The light blue coat you see Kanesada with in Episode 1 is the Shinsengumi uniform (you may also recognize the uniform from Yamatonokami Yasusada, who was the main character in Touken Ranbu Hanamaru)
Hijikata Toshizo: Vice-commander of the Shinsengumi. Owner of Izuminokami Kanesada and Horikawa Kunihiro
Ryoma Sakamoto: A samurai from Tosa Province who played a large role as a negotiator during the Bakumatsu period. He was well-known for adopting western customs such as wearing boots and, very importantly, using a gun. Owner of Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki.
Tantou: a short sword (example, Yagen Toshiro)
Wakizashi: longer than a tantou, a wakizashi is a short sword often used as an auxiliary sword in battle (example: Horikawa Kunihiro)
Uchigatana: a sword worn edge-up, allowing the user to unsheathe and strike in one smooth action (example: Izuminokami Kanesada, Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki)