First Look: Touken Ranbu – Hanamaru

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Game Adaptation by Doga Kobo
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Two hundred years in the future a great sage has collected famous swords from Japan’s medieval period and turned them into cute boys. Their purpose: to stop the history revisionists’ army from… revising history?

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Jel’s verdict: Missed the Cut

For large game fandoms like this or Kantai Collection and Touhou before it, the characters usually exist in two different worlds. There is the actual game world, which is kind of dry and straightforward. Then there is the made up fan world, in which fans latch on to the smallest character details and project them into personalities and settings that were probably never intended by the original creator. In my limited knowledge of Touken Ranbu, it seems this series is going for the latter. As a result, if you’re not a fan of the game or at least up on your Japanese history, this is not a very welcoming first episode. To truly appreciate the plot and humor your expected to kind of already know what’s going on, right down to why it’s funny the “master” only gets to choose six warriors to go on a particular mission.

That’s not to say it’s particularly bad. We’ve been saying this every season for years now, but Doga Kobo’s comedic animation touches lend so much life and charm that they make almost anything watchable. I also kind of like the dark undercurrent running through the otherwise light hearted tone of the show. It’s a pretty bleak premise if you think about the situation the boys are in, which they do tap into once it’s time to fight. Had they downplayed the context of the game and just made this a dark comedy with cute boys doing cute things, I might have been able to get on board. Instead, I’m spending another season wishing Doga Kobo would direct their considerable talents at something more ambitious.

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Artemis’ verdict: Wake Me When The Ufotable Version Comes Out

I respect that this show is teaching history through bishounen and their slice-of-life shenanigans, because a lot of this is stuff the target audience has to learn in school sometime anyway. I’m not sure if that’s actually the point but hey, if Hanamaru makes memorizing names, dates and places easier or more fun, then why not? Anime can certainly be educational as well as good, Silver Spoon being one example that immediately springs to mind.

Unfortunately, if we’re going down the educational anime route then Hanamaru reminded me a lot more of Miracle Train than anything else. Granted, it’s not quite as terrible as that (mostly because of the lack of damsels in distress) but it’s headed in that general direction. I struggled to make it through the whole episode, in part because I was just plain bored but also because even if I was a bigger fan of the whole wacky anthropomorphic thing, I feel we’ve more than reached saturation levels at this point.

Beyond that, I have little else say about this one. Even if you were happy with nothing more beyond some mediocre bishie eye candy, there are surely better choices out there. Go pick one that won’t put you to sleep.

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