Have you heard of Touken Ranbu? This mixed-media project has been causing a stir over the past few years in Japan, especially with women! The project started off as an online simulation game and has expanded into a huge project, including multiple anime series, live action stage shows and more.
I’m Jennifer, your resident Saniwa here at MANGA.TOKYO, and I’m happy to say that I am no stranger to Touken Ranbu (‘TouRabu’ for short)’. That’s why I was very excited to head over to the Touken Ranbu Honmaru-Haku, a special gallery dedicated to Touken Ranbu, to see what they had in store for all the fans.
Are you ready? Let’s sortie!
What is Touken Ranbu?
Touken Ranbu – Online- is a free-to-play online simulation game by DMM and Nitroplus. The game involves you collecting and raising the stats of famous Japanese swords. Of course, these are no ordinary swords; in fact, they are beautiful men! Each of the swords has been personified very carefully, with visual attributes and personalities that reflect the history of the swords. The game is set in the near-future, and you play the part of a Saniwa (a sage) who brings swords to life in order to fight enemies who are trying to change the past!
MANGA.TOKYO have published plenty of articles regarding Touken Ranbu, so check them out if you want to know a little more about the world of the ‘Touken Danshi’ (lit. sword warriors).
The Touken Danshi Come to Greet Me?
The entrance to the Honmaru-Haku
The gallery was being held in Grand Front Osaka in Osaka City between 28 April – 7 May 2017. I was first greeted by this noren (Japanese curtain). Do you see the red logo? It is made up of two characters: 本 and ◯. 本 is pronounced ‘hon’ and, in this case, means something like ‘center’ or ‘origin.’ The ◯ is, well, a circle! And circle in Japanese is… that’s right: ‘maru’! It says ‘Honmaru’, which you might recognize as the name of the exhibition. The ‘Honmaru’ in the game is actually the Citadel, where you spend most of your time. The TV anime Touken Ranbu Hanamaru mostly takes place in the Citadel.
After passing through the noren, I was shown to a bench in the middle of a dark room with the event logo displayed on a long narrow screen. What could this be? Unfortunately, we were not able to film it, but we were shown a beautiful video of CGs of all Touken Danshi. As soon as it finished, I knew I had left 2017 Osaka and completely entered the world of Touken Ranbu!
I was then ushered towards the door on the other end of the small dark room. I could almost hear my heart beating, awaiting whatever was waiting for me on the other side.
The doors opened and… wow. I and the other guests let out audible gasps. For on the other side of the door, the world of Touken Ranbu opened up in front of us. Beautiful gold-leaf panels with detailed illustrations of the characters said hello to us. The Japanese fusuma (sliding doors) were decorated with real gold leaf.
Touken Ranbu -Online- CGs of each of the Touken Danshi on Golden Fusuma
The first Touken Danshi to greet me were the 5 starters from the online game! When you start Touken Ranbu -Online-, you can choose one of these 5 as your very first Touken Danshi. FYI, I chose Yamambagiri Kunihiro, the one in the middle. He’s still my highest-level card, and I shower him with love (a.k.a. experience points) whenever I can.
From left to right: Hachisuka Kotetsu, Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki, Yamambagiri Kunihiro, Kasen Kanesada, Kashuu Kiyomitsu
The panels cover all four seasons. Here are some of the newest Touken Danshi enjoying the winter snow.
From left to right: Ookanehira, Kogarasumaru, Houchou Toushirou, Kikkou Sadamune, Oodenta Mitsuyo, Sohayanotsurugi, Taikogane Sadamaru, Shinano Toushirou
The autumn panel was breathtaking. The autumn leaves in the background made me forget that summer is approaching. Also, yes, the one second on the left is a Touken Danshi. A male. And he is just too beautiful.
From left to right: Kogitsunemaru, Jiroutachi, Taroutachi, Shishiou
The detail on the panels was exquisite, and there were so many little touches here and there. I could have spent hours finding them all.
Here is one of my favorite swords, Uguisumaru.
Uguisumaru and his namesake
In the closeup, you can get an idea of the painstaking detail put into the panels. The bird on his shoulder is just too cute! ‘Uguisu’ is the local name of the Japanese bush warbler, and that explains the color of his hair, as well as the design of his mon (personal crest).
Just as I was wandering around, I noticed that the wonderful fragrance wafting towards my nose kept changing. It was only then that I found the 4 beautiful boxes dotted around the room. Each of them was filled with fragrances crafted in the image of one of the seasons. Of course, I ran around the room, sniffing them all. Closing my eyes, I could feel each of the seasons passing. I need to be careful, or before I know it the seasons will have passed so many times, I’ll have turned into an old woman.
It’s time for the next room!
Mikazuki Munechika Restoration Project
Perhaps one of the most recognizable swords from Touken Ranbu is Mikazuki Munechika. It is said to be one of the most beautiful swords in Japan, and certainly one of the oldest. Being over 1000 years old, the age explains why the character calls himself ‘Jijii’ (lit. old man). I’ve spent many hours trying to craft him in-game, alas to no avail. However, the Mikazuki Munechika Recreation Project is attempting to replicate the sword as it may have looked when it was first crafted. As Mikazuki Munechika was crafted more than a millennia ago, the original techniques have been lost. However, after many years of research, Kunihisa Ishida Shiro has attempted to recraft the sword in real life.
You can see the prototype here.
Mikazuki Munechika Replica, you can see his crest in the background
I was impressed by its size. This sword is huge! Apparently, it is 80cm in length. Bear in mind, that’s just the blade, with no handle attached. Do you wonder why it is referred to as one of the most beautiful swords in Japan? Here is one of the reasons why.
The uchinoke on Mikazuki Munechika
Can you see the wavy pattern near the edge of the blade? It is known as uchinoke and resembles crescent moons. It is incredibly hard to make, and also explains the heavy use of crescent moon imagery in Mikazuki Munechika’s design. I feel very honored to have seen this painstakingly crafted restoration, and hope to see the real thing one day.
Next Page: Touken Ranbu Musicals and not one, but two anime!