History may not be the most exciting of subjects, but when you change important historical figures into hot guys it makes it a little more interesting! Touken Ranbu takes this a step further where swords used by various generals and shogun throughout Japan’s history are given life in the form of powerful bishounen. The popular web browser game in Japan is pretty much the boy version of Kantai Collection. If you liked KanColle but felt it needed more testosterone and swords instead of boats, this game was made by the same people and you will love it.
Based on the events in the game, Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu closely follows the lives of 6 of these sword spirits. Izuminokami Kanesada leads the Second Unit consisting of his brother sword Horikawa Kunihiro as well as Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki, Yagen Toushirou, Tonbokiri, and Tsurumaru Kuninaga. These warriors are sent back in time in order to repel the Time Retrograde Army that threatens to change history for their own selfish gain. Armies of dark, terrifying creatures try to bring about war and destruction on a massive scale. It's up to these units of illustrious swords and spears to push back against this evil and keep history as it was. With everyone being powerful and beautiful, there are many potential couples we can dream up, but here is our list of the most shippable ones from the anime!
10. Oodenta x Tonbokiri
While a lot of BL couples tend to be effeminate men or at least have one very girly partner, the bara couple that is Oodenta and Tonbokiri rises as a manly testament to testosterone. Tonbokiri is one of the Three Great Spears of Japan, and while he takes pride in this title, he is one of the more humble and good-natured of the Second Unit. He is comfortable fighting alongside his comrades as well as taking on powerful foes himself if he believes the others are needed elsewhere. Oodenta is the aggressive half of this ship, acting in a somewhat cold and standoffish manner to others. He is definitely strong and powerful and likes to make sure everyone knows it. Oodenta does have a caring side that’s basically only shown to us once in episode 8 where he helps prepare meals for those in need.
Their bodies are a good compliment to each other, as they might easily crush anyone smaller than them. We don’t get to see much of these two together in the anime except for one scene towards the end where they are fighting together. This is the first time we see Oodenta fighting alongside someone! Tonbokiri doesn’t make a big show of trying to make himself out to be the strongest, he just supports Oodenta without challenging his prowess. Oodenta seems to inspire Tonbokiri with his vain declarations and we see a new fierceness from the otherwise reserved spear. They fight very well together, so it’s easy to imagine how they might do other things well together that they wouldn’t want to do with the others!
9. Tonbokiri and Kunihiro
Tonbokiri and Kunihiro are together for most of the series, though they don't know each other at first. Instantly, though, they have a mutual respect and admiration and get along quite well. They both tend to be the type to try to provide whatever the group needs and don’t place their desires before the goals of the group. Tonbokiri and Kunihiro are definitely the warmest members of the group and try to look out for the others, even if they’re met with cold attitudes or rudeness.
When Tonbokiri first learns that Kunihiro is a rookie, he smiles and tells Kunihiro he has high hopes to encourage the newest member. They later fight a powerful enemy together but Tonbokiri is wounded terribly from the battle. Kunihiro apologizes for not being strong enough to protect Tonbokiri despite Tonbokiri’s superior size and strength. It's clear these two care for each other and want to look out for the other! If we knew nothing of the show and were just looking at Tonbokiri and Kunihiro’s builds, it might remind us of other couples like Kanou and Ayase from Okane ga Nai or even the straight couple of Takeo and Rinko from Ore Monogatari. With both men being so caring and concerned, we could see some sweet love-making between these two.
8. Yamanbagiri x Honebami
Yamanbagiri and Honebami have a lot in common. They are both brothers (though it’s not mentioned in the anime) but they don’t fight alongside their sibling. Even when Yamanbagiri questions the Second Unit’s understanding of what it means to protect history, Honebami doesn’t seem the least bit concerned that someone basically insulted his brother’s unit. Overwhelmed by the boisterous, joking attitudes of the other swords, they can take solace in each other’s seriousness.
These two make a good couple for fans of brooding boys. Honebami feels like, as the new recruit, he doesn’t quite belong in the First Unit. Yamanbagiri is constantly plagued with feelings of incompetency for being a ‘copy’. Honebami estranges himself in episode 8 when he can’t understand the group’s decision to help villagers mourning those killed by the Time Retrograde Army by preparing them meals. Yet Yamanbagiri stays a bit behind the group to properly explain things to Honebami and tells him he doesn't have to join in if he doesn't want to. Emotional reasoning doesn't seem to register with Honebami well, and reaching out to others doesn’t come easily for Yamanbagiri. Yet he does it again later in the episode, trying to encourage him. In this relationship, Honebami makes Yamanbagiri feel like he can be useful to someone, and Honebami has someone he can easily relate to who doesn’t dislike him for his lack of outward emotion.
7. Yagen x Tsurumaru
Yagen and Tsurumaru aren’t even in the same unit for the whole anime but their chemistry is noticeable! Yagen is very closed off from his group, giving his name and sword type only when the Second Unit is trying to get to know each other. He only smiles when he’s laughing at someone and noticeably keeps his distance both emotionally and physically from others. Tsurumaru seems to like everyone and thoroughly enjoys fighting. While he doesn’t seem to take his battles as seriously as Yagen does, it’s clear they both care about protecting history… and each other!
Despite Yagen’s cold attitude towards others, this doesn’t hold true with Tsurumaru. When Yagen is by himself facing hordes of enemies in episode 5, Tsurumaru appears for the first time to viewers. Yagen actually smiles at someone. Tsurumaru drops his smile and whispers Yagen’s name to himself before destroying the creature. This serious whisper from the otherwise silly Tsurumaru doesn’t seem that strange at first, but the longer you watch, the more you see just how different from his usual character that is. Yagen also uncharacteristically apologizes and thanks Tsurumaru for saving him, so it’s clear Yagen respects and admires him. This ship is perfect for those that are fans of the closed-off rude guy with a super popular guy who could seemingly have anyone.
6. Mutsunokami x Ryoma
This is the one couple on our list that pairs a sword spirit with a human but trust us, we have good reason. Mutsunokami usually gets along with anyone that’s not Izuminokami Kanesada while being generally full of himself. He gets excited easily, especially when it comes to his former master Ryoma. When Mutsunokami was first introducing himself to the Second Unit, he kept bringing up Ryoma and what Ryoma liked. Ryoma is a lot like Mutsunokami with his constant joking and refusing to take dangerous situations seriously. Yet, it’s their feelings for each other that makes this ship stand out.
Throughout the series, we see Mutsunokami doing exactly as he likes and letting everyone know what he’s feeling. A few times, he’s even jumped on others, including Saniwa, their new master that gave them life and is treated with great reverence by most of the others. Despite this, he turns down the opportunity to meet Ryoma again, saying he wouldn’t be able to keep from hugging him. In episode 9, the two do meet and Mutsunokami tries to refrain from even talking to Ryoma despite needing to protect him from the Time Retrograde Army. At one point, Ryoma brags to Mutsunokami, who he doesn’t realize is the incarnation of his very own katana, just how famous and beloved his blade is. He even says ‘Now that I can’t grip it [his katana] anymore, I feel like I’ve lost half of my body’. Mutsunokami loses his resolve and the two talk freely while Mutsunokami keeps his identity a secret. In the same episode, Mutsunokami quietly muses that the two of them should run far away together but then laughs it off and never speaks of it again. It’s the desperate wish of his heart, but he knows his duty now is to keep history as it was. This means they cannot meet again, but it’s enough for Mutsunokami to know that as his katana, he will be at Ryoma’s side until the very end.
5. Mikazuki x Yamanbagiri
Mikazuki being the way he is could be paired with just about anyone. He’s incredibly powerful and stunning to look at, yet constantly makes light of dire situations. However, if you pair this with the constantly gloomy Yamanbagiri, you get a very interesting ship.
Everyone in the Citadel knows Mikazuki’s name and his strength is well respected. Yamanbagiri is definitely notable and powerful too but is ashamed of being a copy of another sword. In episode 7 Mikazuki fends off a monstrous Ootachi with one swing of his sword, yet he calls Yamanbagiri to finish the monster off. Yamanbagiri grumbles that Mikazuki could have taken care of it himself, but Mikazuki laughs and says that as an old man, he should concede the stage to younger members. While it may be seen as teasing, this could be Mikazuki’s way of trying to make Yamanbagiri more sure of himself and point out that no one is perfect. The seemingly perfect Mikazuki and tortured Yamanbagiri would make for a delightful couple full of drama and unknown feelings!!
4. Tsurumaru x Mikazuki
While, previously, these two were shipped with their opposites, together they make a beautiful pair as well! Both are stunning and considered the saviors of their group. They love fighting and take their missions seriously while joking about everything else.
Both characters show moments of compassion. For Tsurumaru, it’s when he’s protecting Yagen, and for Mikazuki, it's providing food for those affected by the battles. We only get to catch a glimpse of what sweet BL could be in the last episode. In the final battle in the show, the two are fighting side-by-side and smiling happily when Mikazuki mentions it had been a while since they fought, and Tsurumaru replies it was back when they were partners! Just what kind of partners do they mean~?
3. Higekiri x Hizamaru
This is the closest pair of brothers in all of Katsugeki. Hizamaru is the more serious younger brother and Higekiri is the older one who likes to tease him. Both are incredible fighters and are always seen fighting together. They get more screen time that most of our couples so far so we have more moments to fawn over!
Despite Hizamaru being the more serious brother, the two definitely have fun together and enjoy being in the First Unit. They quite enjoy fighting and being together! We get to see their dynamic immediately when we first see them fighting and Hizamaru smiles at his brother saying that the monsters they’re fighting are nothing compared to their own power. Higekiri agrees and then teasingly calls Hizamaru by his own name which makes Hizamaru whine to his older brother about which of them is Hizamaru and which is Higekiri. When fighting in the last episode, the two make it a point to be the most spectacular brothers on the battleground. We’re sure they could do more spectacular things with each other too~
2. Kanesada x Mutsunokami
These are the best pair of frenemies in the show. Kanesada tries to be a good and fair leader but often loses his cool as soon as Mutsunokami tries to annoy him. These two are always seen trying to one-up each other, and Mutsunokami is the only one who can make Kanesada lose his cool. Yet, they have had their own tender moments!
Despite their bickering, in episode 5, Kanesada allows Mutsunokami to steer the ship they’re on knowing how much Mutsunokami loves them. Later in this episode when Kanesada almost dies in the ocean, it’s Mutsunokami that saves him! Mutsunokami also goes to cheer up Kanesada when he himself is not the cause of Kanesada’s suffering. Even though the two served masters on opposing sides, they commiserate together in the pain of not being able to protect them. They understand each other well and we know all that fighting with each other could lead to passionate nights!
1. Kunihiro x Kanesada
Our shining number one couple in terms of popularity and screen time!! Owned by the same master, Hijikata, these two share a strong bond. Kanesada tries to be warm to everyone but he’s especially kind to Kunihiro. Kanesada’s even given him earrings for no special reason, just to let the younger boy know he’s important. It’s incredible how one moment Kanesada can be upset or angry but kind words from Kunihiro can easily set him right. The two are constantly trying to look out for each other and often end up fighting together.
Many examples of their love don't even need to be extrapolated on, it's all pretty blatant. In the second episode, Kunihiro declares ‘I’m your assistant and your partner!’ after aiding Kanesada in battle. In episode 8 we see Kunihiro admitting to others how he worries Kanesada may be beating himself up, and he goes to be the gentle supporter which ultimately cures Kanesada of his doubts. When they end up parting because of seemingly different values, Kanesada cannot bear to cut down Kunihiro as an enemy, allowing him instead to disappear. It is not for selfish reasons Kunihiro left, but because he was so moved by Kanesada’s tears that he would even tear himself away from his own friends for years just for the chance to undo Kanesada’s silent regret. In the end, they strengthen their resolve and their bonds with each other!
Katsugeki is a great show if you have an interest in Japanese history, swords and samurai, and hot guys with other hot guys. There’s a lot of potential and even more doujin out there if the series isn’t enough for you. Also make sure to check out Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru for more swords and more action. Please let us know what you think of these ships in the comments!