6 Anime Like Katsugeki Touken Ranbu [Recommendations]

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Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is based on a free-to-play collectible card browser game. Reading that opening sentence, it would be reasonable to be wary of the anime's quality, as adaptations of popular games tend to feel like cash grabs. Thankfully, this is not the case with Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu, which is being produced by ufotable, a studio that knows how to put together an epic sword-based action series. One could say that it is their bread and butter.

Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is set in 1863 Japan, during a particularly turbulent era that saw a civil war break out between pro-shogunate and anti-shogunate factions. If that was not enough, the world is being threatened by a time traveling army determined to change history to better suit their needs. In a desperate attempt to stop them; a group of sword warriors, spirits which are linked to special weapons, travel to Edo to challenge this army and preserve history. Here are 6 anime that can hold you over till the next episode airs.

Similar Anime to Katsugeki Touken Ranbu

1. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

  • Episodes: 26
  • Aired: Oct 5, 2014, to June 28, 2015

We might as well start the list with ufotable's most popular series to date and the fantastic follow-up to Fate/Zero. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works centers around a battle royale called the Holy Grail War, which sees seven Magi fight it out for the right to be the owner of the Grail. This ancient artifact grants the user a single wish, one that can be used for miraculous or disastrous results. As a requirement to take part in the tournament, a Magi must be able to summon a servant, a holy warrior from time and space, as their representative.

Accompanied by her servant Archer, Rin Toosaka is a high school student and one of the Magi destined to fight in the battle royale. Unknown to her, one of her classmates accidentally summoned another servant, Saber, and unwittingly entered the tournament. In this potentially fatal battle, which allows for only one winner, Rin and Emiya Shirou decide to form a mutually beneficial alliance as they face the remaining competitors taking part in the war.

Artistically, Unlimited Blade Works and Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu might as well exist in the same universe. The former has a slightly darker aesthetic, but they are both gorgeously animated. Like ufotable's newer show, Unlimited Blade Works has an always present mystery developing in the background, one that might not be the focus for every episode, but is ever present. Both series use action to break up sequences of heavy dialogue, although Unlimited Blade Works also includes slice-of-life elements due to the two main characters being students.

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Trailer


2. Sengoku Basara (Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings)

  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: Apr 2, 2009 to Sep 26, 2010

Japan's Sengoku era has proven to be ripe for inspiration, as many anime and gaming franchises have taken it upon themselves to recreate events from this period. Sengoku Basara first started out as a hack and slash gaming series, similar to the popular Dynasty Warriors franchise, before receiving an anime adaptation later on. In the same way that Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is centered around historical events, Sengoku Basara takes a few liberties with the way it decides to remember history.

Known as the Age of Warring States, the Sengoku period lasted from 1467 until 1615 and saw Japan in a state of constant war and social unrest. Triggered by the Ōnin War, which left the country's feudal system in shambles and without a central government, a few powerful warlords set out to unite the country under their rule and start a new era of peace. Sengoku Basara follows Shingen Takeda and his trusted warrior Yukimura Sanada, as they lead their clan against Nobunaga Oda's forces.

Sengoku Basara is based on historical events and, at least, tries to follow what actually happened during this period. Although it does not contain any time traveling armies, this anime is extremely over the top and even features warriors that fight with magic, something that is arguably not accurate of the era. It never takes itself seriously and prioritizes the deliverance of large-scale military fights above everything else. The characters are likable, if somewhat shallow, and serve their purpose of entertaining the viewer with their weapon-based skills..

Sengoku Basara Trailer


3. K

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: Oct 5, 2012 to Dec 26, 2015

K has developed into a huge franchise in Japan, with a stand alone movie, a sequel and a further third season announced for 2018. Still, it might seem like a weird recommendation for this list, as at first glance, it does not seem to hold all that much in common with Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu. The modern setting is in complete contrast with the historical environment explored in ufotable's series, and there is an overabundance of supernatural powers in K. Although the two shows are quite different on a basic level, they share common themes and both deliver fantastic katana-based fight sequences.

'Kings' are individuals with supernatural powers who have formed a clan and have the ability to recruit others to their family. This role is taken very seriously, as a King exists to protect the lives of their clansmen. Therefore, if a member is hurt or killed, there would be hell to play. When a Red Clansman is killed, a manhunt is launched to capture Yashiro Isana, a high school student and the supposed murderer. Despite his repeated declarations of innocence, Isana finds himself on the run from the Red Clan and a few other mysterious organizations.

The whole concept of Kings is clearly inspired by feudal Japan and the clans that existed around that time. The gorgeous art style and vivid action sequences are easy to get into and enjoy, but K really comes into its own when it starts to reveal the dark mystery behind Yashiro and the death of the Clansman. Similar to Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu, K introduces a huge cast and most of the fights happen in groups rather than one on one.

K – Return of Kings PV


Any Anime Like Katsugeki Touken Ranbu ?

4. Bungou Stray Dogs (Bungo Stray Dogs)

  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: Apr 7, 2016 to Dec 16, 2016

One of the biggest hits of 2016, Bungo Stray Dogs combines literary fiction and fact to weave an epic tale filled with intrigue, charm and good looking men. An interesting point is that most of the characters in the anime are either named after popular literary figures, like Agatha Christie and Mark Twain, or reference a character from one of their books. Although they are not meant to be exact re-creations of their famous counterparts, they do tend to share personality traits with them.

The story follows a group of individuals gifted with supernatural abilities and how they decide to use them. These powers can be quite different, ranging from being able to transform into a white tiger or even the ability to cancel out special powers. The majority of the series focuses on the Armed Detective Agency, an investigation team that takes on cases that the police cannot handle. Bungo Stray Dogs starts out as a series of stand-alone stories before fleshing out the back story of the characters and other groups that exist within this universe. The second season is especially great.

The large cast is filled with colorful and memorable characters that are given enough time to develop. The action sequences work well as the writers make good use of the unique powers that each stray dog possesses, so they rarely feel repetitive. It is worth recommending for fans of Katsugeki Touken Ranbu due to how it intertwines history with the supernatural. The action is fantastic, incorporating martial arts with feats of magic, and the 1930s inspired setting manages to create an anime that truly feels unique.

Bongou Stray Dogs Trailer


5. Hakuoki (Hakuoki ~Demon of the Fleeting Blossom~)

  • Episodes: 22
  • Aired: Apr 4, 2010 to Dec 6, 2010

Hakuoki is based on a romance game and takes place in a historical setting, with characters that suit that time period while delivering a completely fictionalized story. We are teleported to 1860's Edo, where 16-year-old Chizuru Yukimura is home alone after her father, a doctor, was forced away on business. After she stops receiving letters, she decides to go to Kyoto to find him. This does not end well, as she is quickly targeted by a group of samurai who mistakes her for a boy. Mere seconds before she is caught, Chizuru is saved by the Shinsengumi, a special police force, and taken in for questioning.

The Shinsengumi are an important part of Japanese history and are referenced often in anime or manga. Hakuoki is set in their heyday, and it does try and stay accurate to their ideals and even recreates a few historical events that happened around that time. It is still a completely fictionalized story, one that can be enjoyed without any knowledge of the time period, but those learned about Japan's Bakumatsu period might appreciate the nods to the real Shinsengumi.

Although Hakuoki is a shoujo anime, it never focuses exclusively on romance or abandons the plot to push a couple to the forefront. Chizuru is a delightful and unique character, as she is treated like a valuable member of the Shinsengumi and does not exist to just be saved. The art style is also impeccable and the fight scenes are a joy to watch, as they feel more like a well-choreographed dance than a series of flashy images.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu and Hakuoki are made to be watched side by side, as both successfully recreate important moments from Japan’s history while mostly focusing on a fantastical plot. Instead of time travellers, Hakuoki includes Oni.


6. Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan (Rurouni Kenshin)

  • Episodes: 94
  • Aired: Jan 10, 1998 to Sep 8, 1998

An oldie but a goodie, Rurouni Kenshin is a classic series that continues to be popular today. The manga and anime's success resulted in three live action movie adaptations and a slew of stand-alone OVAs. It takes place a decade after the end of Japan's Bakumatsu era, which saw the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate and the installation of the new Meiji government. During this turbulent era, the rebellion against the shogunate was held together by the existence of the four Hitokiri of the Bakumatsu, undefeated warriors who were feared across the land and earned the nickname of manslayers.

The anime follows a fictional version of one of the Hitokiri, as he tries to make amends for the blood shed during the Bakumatsu era by helping those in need. After changing his name from Hitokiri Battousai to Rurouni Kenshin and vowing to never kill again, he stumbles into a dojo run by Kaoru Kamiya. Kenshin is told that the dojo is being threatened by an impostor pretending to be the Battousai, so he decides to pause his travels to help Kaoru out.

Kenshin remains one of the best executed martial arts series in anime history. The violent but graceful katana based fights continue to stand as some of the best the industry has ever animated. The legendary cast is timeless, as they remain just as lovable now as they were when the series first premiered. The setting might not follow any historical events, but the story is grounded in reality and never feels out of place for the era.

Kenshin is worth recommending for those enjoying Katsugeki Touken Ranbu due to the historical setting, as both take place in the same time period, and have katana based combat scenes. Both series show an actual understanding of Japanese swordsmanship, and incorporate actual fighting styles into the way they animated these moments.


Final Thoughts

Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu effortlessly combines fiction and history to tell a story filled with suspense, mystery and sword-based mayhem. With impeccable animation, it is impossible to not get completely enthralled as the action continues to develop on screen. The shows included in this list share similarities in the way they are animated, with character designs reminiscent of those seen in ufotable’s series, and stories that revision historical Japanese events or people.

Which is your favorite anime set in feudal Japan? Please do not hesitate to leave us a comment below with your suggestion.

Mark Sammut

Writer

Author: Mark Sammut

Born and raised on a small island in the Mediterranean, my life goal is to experience as many different ways of life as possible. Since time and money are in short supply, anime and film provide the best opportunity to experience far away cultures and worlds. When I'm not watching the latest episode of Gintama, or wondering what series to watch next, you can find me in the corner of the closest coffee shop; writing away on my aging laptop.

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