First Look: Katsugeki Touken Ranbu

Game Adaptation by ufotable
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

The evil forces of the Time Revisionist’s army are deploying through medieval Japan in an attempt to change history. A great sage from the future has assembled a team of anthropomorphized mythological weapons to stop them.

Jel’s verdict: Missed the Cut (Again)

I mentioned in our preview guide that it’s impossible to talk about this adaptation without comparing it to the other high profile take by Dogakobo that aired less than a year ago. So I will paraphrase something I wrote back then: a game adaptation like this can either focus on the game world itself or it can take a more meta approach and focus on the fans perception of it. Dogakobo’s take was more of a light hearted fun approach for the fans, whereas ufotable is trying to make a serious, literal depiction of what takes place in the game.

Given that this is based a game where you collect pictures of pretty boys named after swords, I’d argue taking things too seriously is not the way to go. Unfortunately that’s kind of the route we’re taking in this edition of Touken Ranbu, delivering violence and blood and self loathing that is hard to swallow when the concept is so silly. I mean, I had trouble keeping a straight face any time they mention the “time revisionist army”, it’s too ridiculous. Granted they do have some lighter moments, including a cute mascot character that follows them around, so it’s not all dour and gloomy. I also appreciate that there is a LOT of action, and given that ufotable basically only does swordfighting it looks pretty nice too. So it does have the visual spectacle thing going for it.

Overall though, I can’t see anyone wanting to watch this unless they are the most diehard Touken Ranbu fan. If I was into the game at all, I’d probably just prefer the more charming Dogakobo one. That said, if you just want a lot of flashy action and some nice looking anime dudes, this may fit the bill.

Artemis’ verdict: That Sure Was Some Ufotable

My main issue with Ufotable has always been that while the studio nearly always produces anime that looks great, the writing in turn nearly always fails to match it. In particular, the stories tend to be needlessly overcomplicated or the cast filled with one or two pointless cast members too many. The action, while fun to watch, is most often let down by the decidedly pedestrian scripting, which seems to go in for a lot of exposition and/or dialogue that adds absolutely nothing of value to the plot or characterization.

And in all, that was largely my impression after watching the first episode of Katsugeki! Touken Ranbu. I didn’t dislike what I saw per se, but it also failed to grip me for exactly the same reasons Ufotable productions usually do. The plot would potentially be pretty cool… if only it didn’t bring in the fact that the characters are all anthropomorphic bishounen swords rather than just straight-up time travelers. The cast would potentially be pretty decent… if only the lead wasn’t annoyingly cutesy and insecure, and the random mascot character not there at all. The emotional impact of being unable to stop bad things from happening because it’s their duty to stop only the historical inaccuracies would potentially be pretty solid… if only it wasn’t being constantly undermined by the clumsy exposition and inconsistent decision-making by the characters.

In short, if you’re after some good-looking action and aren’t fussed by the details, Katsugeki! Touken Ranbu will probably satisfy, if not exactly wow you. And at the very least, it’s a step up from Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru, last year’s snooze-worthy adaptation by Doga Kobo. Other than that however, I’d say it’s nothing more than average.

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