Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Review - Were we able to protect history?

Were we able to protect history?

  • Episodes : 13
  • Genre : Action, Samurai, Fantasy
  • Airing Date : Jul. 2017 - Sept. 2017
  • Studios : Ufotable

Contains Spoilers

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Introduction and Story (Spoilers)

Izuminokami Kanesada and Horikawa Kunihiro, the beloved swords of Hijikata Toshizō, are partnered together. After finishing their current mission, they receive another directive from the Saniwa which states that the Historical Revisionists will show up in Cape Kokuchou. With limited knowledge, they venture to the front lines only to be cornered once they realized that they are outnumbered by their enemies. Fortunately, the Saniwa comes along and summons Tonbokiri, Yagen Toushirou, and Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki to their aid. After finishing off the enemies, the Saniwa announces that they are the second unit, with Izuminokami as their leader.

As the second unit accomplishes their first mission together, they are given another directive from their master. They are to make sure that the meeting between Katsu Kaishu and Saigou Takamori goes as planned without hindrances. However, The Retrograde Army is in full assault and manages to separate the teams in half. Tonbokiri and Horikawa face the fearless Ootachi while Izuminokami and Mutsunokami leave in order to aid Yagen in the warship. Yagen manages to stop the roushi from fulfilling their plans but the Retrograde soldiers are too many for him to handle. In the midst of the chaos, the final member of the second unit appears: Tsurumaru Kuninaga. As Tsurumaru rescues Yagen from the whole ordeal, Izuminokami and Mutsunokami manage to help and successfully reclaim the warship. But the Retrograde Army accomplishes what the roushi previously intended: to cover Edo in flames. The second unit is suddenly transported back to the citadel.

Back in the citadel, Tonbokiri and Izuminokami are given medical attention by the Saniwa. According to their master, they protected history by only a small margin. Even though they succeeded in their mission, Izuminokami feels conflicted about the end result because a lot of innocent lives were harmed. Meanwhile, the first unit is dispatched to investigate the disruption of time during the Eiroku Era. The first unit resolves the problem immediately and helps the townsfolk. As they return to the citadel, the second unit departs.

The new directive given to the second unit is to protect Sakamoto Ryouma, Mutsunokami’s former master. With the information that Mutsunokami has, the mission is supposed to go smoothly. To his shock, Mutsunokami encounters Ryouma, whom he is trying to avoid, and guides his former master towards the Satsuma Clan’s residence. They manage to safeguard the Teradaya Incident, but the Saniwa insists the swords stay and keep watch over Ryouma. While protecting Ryoma, Izuminokami sees his former master, Hijikata. Horikawa leaves Izuminokami and Mutsunokami after telling his trusted partner what goes on in his mind regarding Hijikata and Izuminokami’s inner feelings.

Not long after that incident, Horikawa confronts Izuminokami to join him in order to save Hijikata. However, Izuminokami refuses the offer, but he also feels conflicted about what Horikawa said. Unable to hurt Horikawa, Izuminokami lets his partner go and is confronted by the Saniwa. To help Izuminokami clear out his feelings and regrets, the Saniwa transports them to Hakodate. While heading towards the Shinsengumi’s camp, Yamanbagiri, Oodenta, Higekiri, and Hizamaru help in dispelling the enemies.

In the Shinsengumi camp, Izuminokami and Horikawa openly talk about their true feelings without reservation. After resolving his doubts, Izuminokami heads out to Ippongi Kanmon to stop a thousand Retrograde soldiers. With the help of the Saniwa; Yagen, Honebami, Mikazuki, Tonbokiri, and Tsurumaru join the fight. Not long after, Horikawa enters the fray. After successfully stopping the Retrograde Army’s plans, the first unit and the second unit watch in silence as the Battle of Hakodate unfolds before their eyes.

What We Liked About Katsugeki Touken Ranbu

The concept of time traveling and protecting history is not a new one, but it is, nonetheless, intriguing and entertaining. Probably one of the best scenes of the show is when the swords accidentally meet their former masters. Each sword, particularly Mutsunokami, Izuminokami, and Horikawa, have their own different way of handling the situation. It’s heartbreaking to watch that the swords as they know what lies ahead of their former masters. Mutsunokami’s episode is an endearing one because viewers are able to see how much Ryouma influenced him. They are very similar; from the way they speak, to their upbeat personality. Although Mutsunokami appears to be an airhead most of the time, he handles the situation with Ryouma quite well. In Musunokami’s episode, another side of him is shown which is something to behold.

Izuminokami and Horikawa are much more saddening since they have to go against their former master. Both of them have the same beliefs but each takes a different route. The talk they have in episode 13 is undoubtedly important. This is the episode where they pour their hearts out in the open and truly listen to what each really feels in the situation. The scene that will probably tug the hearts of the viewers is when Izuminokami and Horikawa cry after seeing Hijikata’s death. It doesn’t help that there is no sound in that incident, making the scene more intense and emotional.

Another thing that we liked about Katsugeki Touken Ranbu is Mutsunokami and Izuminokami’s friendly rivalry. At first, they seem annoying because they tend to fight over trivial things. But as the show goes on, their relationship becomes stronger. Mutsunokami encourages Izuminokami during the times when the latter is lost and confused. They make a great team that respects each other despite their differences!

Discussion Time

Players of Touken Ranbu will surely find the anime an amazing treat. After all, fans of the game are given the chance to know some of the swords and what goes on in the universe of Touken Ranbu, which adds another layer to the game. While not all Touken Danshi are given a chance to shine in the anime, there are special cameos that fans can enjoy. There are also significant historical and game references that any player of the game can immediately understand.

Unfortunately, there are some viewers that do not play the game. This is why for the newcomers of the franchise, they get bewildered and perplexed since they cannot grasp half of what is happening on the show. Nothing is explained, forcing the viewers to guess and assume what is going on. Some are even compelled to do background research regarding the game which, sadly, not many do.

Why You Should Watch Katsugeki Touken Ranbu

1. A Feast for the Eyes

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu is handled by studio Ufotable, and you know what that means? Yes, Quality Animation! Everything about the show is visually stunning. Every frame is precise and blended well. One thing to look out for is the beautiful sceneries and landscapes that the show has to offer. If you enjoy Japanese aesthetics, then this anime will not disappoint. The character design also remains faithful to the game. If you know the former owners of the swords, then you can right away see the resemblance. The animation is simply smooth and marvelous. It captures the expressions of the characters well and each movement that they make is without awkwardness.

2. Stunning Action Scenes

Another reason to watch Katsugeki Touken Ranbu are the stunning action scenes. When the characters start clashing swords against the enemies, the viewers are left in awe because of the fascinating choreography and exposition of the fights. It also helps that the camera angles changes from time to time, giving a dramatic feeling. As the anime continues to progress, the sword fights become even more profound and detailed. It’s also a nice touch that the anime shows what are some pros and cons of each sword without explaining it in detail. One thing that is still beautiful to look at again and again is Mikazuki’s slash, which resembles his crest.

3. Breathtaking Soundtracks and Voice Acting

The soundtracks of Katsugeki Touken Ranbu gives us traditional Japanese music with a modern twist. Often times, viewers are able to hear the wonderful combinations of koto and taiko during actions sequences while flute and shamisen are heard during quiet moments. Ufotable certainly knows how to match the music during certain events, giving more life to the show. The opening song “Hikari Tatsu Ame” by Saito Soma gives off an intense feeling that is perfect to start the show. Meanwhile, Kalafina’s Hyakka Ryouran is very mellow, but is quite powerful, leaving an impression on viewers after each episode.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu also features some of the best voice actors in the industry. In fact, if you previously watched Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru, you will see a great deal of personality difference in the same character just because of how the voice actors portray them. Like for example, Kousuke Toriumi portrays Mikazuki in Hanamaru as someone silly and wise, while in Katsugeki he sounds more mysterious and ominous. Ryouhei Kimura brings out the cool and tough side of Izuminokami. Junya Enoki portrays Horikawa’s confusion and inexperience quite well. And let’s not forget the adorable energetic voice of Mutsonokami, who is voiced by Kento Hama. There are more well-known voice actors as well, like Natsuki Hanae, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Daisuke Namikawa and so on and so forth!

Why You Should Skip Katsugeki Touken Ranbu

1. Confusing

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu is made to advertise the game. However, as mentioned previously, newcomers of the anime are unable to understand anything at all. Everything happens suddenly with no explanations given. There is no definite answer as to why the Historical Revolutionists are trying to change history, or why are the swords are aiding the Saniwa.

Along with that, the show even continues to introduce more characters, which they don’t even bother giving a short introduction about, making it hard for the viewers to personally invest themselves in the characters. Since Katsugeki Touken Ranbu is heavily influenced by Japanese history, they should at least provide the historical significance of the events that the swords are trying to protect.

2. It Contradicts its Own Rules

In episode one, Izuminokami explains to Horikawa that they must not interrupt the flow of time even if it means saving a life. But after a few minutes into the show, Izuminokami is seen saving a little girl from a fire. He even lightheartedly jokes that he’ll go back and kill the little girl if it changes the history. Horikawa also broke this rule at the last few episodes by joining the Shinsengumi and betraying the second unit.

Another rule that is not followed is that two swords can only be dispatched at a time. However, near the ending of episode one, the Saniwa suddenly summons three more swords without any explanation why this rule wasn’t followed. This happens again in the last episode where the Saniwa is able to dispatch twelve swords at the same time. Though, we do see the Saniwa get extremely tired after doing so.

Despite the fact that these rules aren’t followed, it seems there are also no consequences to it. Take Horikawa for example, after turning his back on his teammates, they immediately accept him without any repercussions. Why bother highlighting the rules and then braking them instantly with no punishments?

3. Lackluster Writing

The original source material doesn’t have that much content, thus the reason why the producers had to write something for Katsugeki Touken Ranbu. They did get the basic elements of the game and interpreted them in the show quite nicely. In fact, they added interesting things to ponder, such as former owners turning into retrograde soldiers, enemies fusing together, swords failing in their mission, or the whole concept of protecting history vs. saving lives. The problem is, 13 episodes have passed and still, there are no given answers to these questions. It seems the show is afraid to take a certain path for the fear of disappointing players of the game as well as newcomers of the franchise.

The poor writing does not only affect the plot, it also affects the characters and their development. While it is good that Mutsunokami, Izuminokami, and Horikawa are given focus, what about the others? Other characters seem to be cardboard cutouts that do nothing but exist and just somehow support the story when they are needed. Having the Saniwa in action is indeed good, but what is the point of having them when they don’t even do anything? Also, some characters are quite inconsistent. This can be seen particularly in Izuminokami and Horikawa. There are many times that the show could have used its limited time to explain and expand its worldbuilding and give growth to its characters, but it chooses not to, which is regrettable. The premise behind the anime is captivating enough but with poor writing, the plot of Katsugeki remains to be shallow.

Final Thoughts

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu is spectacular when it comes to fighting sequences and animation. But if you are looking for a fine plot and engaging characters, then it’s better to watch the show with low expectations. It’s quite enjoyable as long as you know the background of Touken Ranbu and some of the historical events or people that it depicts.

What do you think? Do you agree? Let us know what you thought of Katsugeki Touken Ranbu in the comments! And as always, remember to check out Honey’s Anime! See you in the next article! Now signing off!

Katsugeki-Touken-Ranbu-Wallpaper Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Review - Were we able to protect history?


Author: Jopz "Yuuema"

I'm an anime and manga enthusiast who is also sinking deeper and deeper into the world of video games. I’m also a traveler by heart who goes out a lot in seek of adventures by studying/learning other histories and cultures of different places and people. Besides the above mentioned, my other interests include reading, writing, cooking/baking, listening to music, observing people, and imagining/appreciating all kinds of things. Oh, by the way, I don’t bite! :3

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