Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Series Review: Why Details Are Important

Overview:

Some group want to change history and the characters we follow want to stop them. And the characters we follow happen to be the spirit of swords brought to life by a sage from the future who can sense time distortions.

Review:

I kind of covered a lot of my issues with this show in my feature a few weeks ago where I asked what went wrong with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu?

I stand by that question now that the series has ended. Because, it seems like this show has what it needs to be truly great and yet what we have instead is a shallow dive into a story the audience never actually gets to experience and characters who really don’t progress beyond a name, a fighting style, and a single note personality. It is telling that after 13 episodes of this I’m still not actually sure of all the character names and had to resort to looking them up and even then when looking at a character list it took me a moment to remember what some of the characters had even done in the show.

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Part of this is definitely because this is a game adaptation and there is certainly some expectation from the anime that viewers are at least passingly familiar with these characters already. But I haven’t played the game and even if I had, source material does not excuse sloppy characterisation (or none as the case may be) in the anime. The same might be true for the lack of plot development but again, even if the answers can be found elsewhere, that doesn’t make watching the anime any better.

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Basically what is lacking from this anime are the details. We don’t know anything about any of the characters other than these two (Horikawa and Kanesada) used to work together serving the same master who died. That’s the one character plot that is developed and kind of resolved by the last episode. Still, given neither one of those characters has any personality beyond loyal to their master and mopey as they question their purpose, it isn’t exactly a draw to the show nor when we finally get the end of this sub-plot does it provide satisfaction. The heroes of this story are trying to stop events from changing so it is more or less obvious what the end of this story will be.

The other characters we get the names of and occasional references to their former lives and masters, but none of this information goes anywhere or leads to anything. It barely connects to the overall plot with the exception Mutsunokami when we meet his former master. And what is the overall plot?

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Well, just in case we forget the swords mention it every other breath. They are going to protect history. They’ll stop history from changing. Why history is being targeted and by whom is something apparently the audience doesn’t need to know. I mean, yes, we are told the Time Retrograde Army are responsible, but who are they? No names, no discernible characters, no motive other than change history. No idea how many there are so basically they just spawn as many as they want in each occasion going so ridiculous as to have 1000 of them show up in the final episode only to do nothing but charge blindly forward and be mowed down by a significantly smaller force that previously struggled with groups of 10 or 20. Minor plot issue but whatever.

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It seems like this anime wanted to focus on Horikawa but didn’t want to leave out the other characters. So instead of getting a focused story revolving around Horikawa growing into his role in the second unit we kind of flit all over the place as we introduce a late addition to the second unit, then the entire first unit, and the we’ll finally get back to Horikawa but by that stage we haven’t really grown attached to him because he practically disappeared mid-season.

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However, this anime looks amazing and the sound is pretty impressive. Even when there is no tension to be found in a battle, if you close your eyes and just listen, it sounds super dramatic. But even mundane sounds like the leaves, the characters walking, gusts of wind, it all just very impressively done. If only even some of that attention to detail had gone into characters or plot (and I don’t mean the overdone character designs, I mean their personalities).

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While this show isn’t by any means unwatchable, there’s just not a lot of point. You won’t learn anything about the overall conflict or what the end game for either side might be. You won’t learn all that much about the characters and what you do learn could have been covered in about two episodes. Visually impressive fight sequences aside, there’s just not enough reason to bother with this show.

If you watched Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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16 thoughts on “Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Series Review: Why Details Are Important

    1. It never got any better from the plot point of view. Still, good visuals and animation. Can’t criticise those other than my usual sometimes finding the characters not fitting into the background, but I get that with a lot of these shows.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pretty much all my thoughts on this show are in my comment on your other post. However, I’ve now finished Hanamaru and Katsugeki, so I can say Hanamaru is my favourite of the two by a hair (even though it’s quite episodic and has way too many sword boys to count).

    Now that there’s going to be a movie for it, I think that format might work for Katsugeki better (considering they can streamline whatever plot they have and bring back their impressive visuals + sound for the big screen).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hmm, that is a shame to read this. The screenshots look seriously impressive, but for a anime to have both characters and a storyline that’s not really filling in the background, that really doesn’t sound like something I want to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I should have dropped this one, but I just kept hoping some of the explanations would come later in the season and by the time I realised the show had no interest in actually filling in those details it was easier just to finish it and review. Still, really not a satisfying viewing experience and I wouldn’t ever do a rewatch because I now know that they aren’t going to give us a motive for the villains and we’re never going to know why history is in danger which kind of makes me wonder what the point of any of it is.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That really sounds incredibly dumb. Why present a story that is obviously pretty interesting, but then doesn’t explain a single thing. That is really stupid. I sometimes wonder what kind of people write stories like that?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It is like they just really wanted to sow off these characters (I guess because they are in the game – don’t know, never played) but they never really figured out what they wanted these characters to do, other then ‘protect history’. It almost felt like they believed repeating that over and over would fill in all the missing story elements.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It’s something I once heard someone say : plot matters. It really does. If you just have some random story that just goes nowhere or in this case doesn’t experien anything, the whole thing is, as you say: pointless 😊

            Liked by 1 person

        2. I believe Katsugeki was more oriented to fans who played the game. Hence, leaving out details such as introducing the characters would leave those who don’t have previous knowledge of the game or Japanese history in questions. Also, maybe they were trying to see which format fans prefer the story presented as? This one was action based while Hanamaru was slice of life and both were done by different studios.

          Liked by 2 people

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