Friday’s Feature: What Went Wrong with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu?


When you have a show based on a game that you’ve never played you already know that there are going to be some parts of the show that you are just never going to get. They’ll be references or nods to the game and the fans and that is fine. You also don’t expect a plot that makes a flawless transition from game, where there is some level of interaction with a player, to anime, where the viewer is far more passive in their engagement with the story. That said, Katsugeki Touken Ranbu was a show that was being talked up prior to the summer season beginning. It was always going to be be compared to Hanamaru, the earlier adaptation that took a different direction and I dropped one episode in, but it was still seen by a lot of people in the community as the adaptation that would be superior.

We’re now a fair way in and to be honest this show has become a chore to watch. The good looking characters with cardboard personalities are all pretty forgettable save that they have different weapons and fighting styles and the audience still has been given zero reason to invest in any of the events occurring in the story. While there might be a bit more of a draw for people who have played the games as some of the missing pieces might be there, that doesn’t make this any better as an anime. So while I’m wondering whether I will watch the next episode or not I thought I’d consider everything that is actually stopping me from enjoying watching this show.


01. They are protecting history so the future doesn’t get changed. That seems like a fantastic motive really. Save the future. Only, other than the citadel where the swords all hang out with their master in between missions (or where they sit around and either heal or brood between missions) the audience has no clue what this future they are saving looks like or even if it is worth saving. For all we know the master is actually part of a totalitarian regime that is using personified swords to ensure the freedom fighters can’t undo their rigid control over the society. I don’t actually think that is likely, but the show has given me nothing to actually convince me I should be invested in saving this ‘future’. I don’t even know what it looks like.

More importantly, the swords themselves come from Japan’s past. They have no invested reason in saving a future they aren’t actually a part of other than their master told them to. What good does it do a sword for a future to change or not change? While yes it might be tragic even for a personified sword to see an innocent person cut down in front of them, how is that any more tragic than cutting their way through the enemy? Yet they seem to have no problem with that.


02. Who is the enemy? Yep, I know this should be obvious. They are fighting the Time Retrograde Army. They tell us this a lot. That’s great. Who are they? What is their motive? Other than changing history, what are they actually trying to accomplish? Where or when do they even come from? None of this has been addressed. Not through the main characters, not through narration, and certainly not through characterisation of the villains because they literally have none.

Instead we get shadowy monsters/warrior that appear, cause havoc, and then our good looking swords get to work slicing and dicing in some very cool action sequences but none of this involves actually making us care about either the protagonists or the villains in this story. Even the one villain that was apparently someone one of the sword guys knew and seemed to be creating members of the Time Retrograde Army didn’t get any kind of an explanation


03. So outside of not buying the protagonists’ motivation (because it hasn’t been fully explained nor have the consequences of failing), and not really buying the enemy as all that much of a problem (again, because no one has managed to really explain why it is a problem), we come to the characters themselves. We started with the second unit and met each of the characters. They even did a nice little round the circle introduction for us. Other than their name, their weapon, and perhaps one defining personality trait, the audience still has no clue about these characters. They are an outline or a shell of a cast but there is an incredible absence of actually rich characterisation. If the plot were compelling enough you could overlook this but we’ve already established that their overall mission may as well be ‘save the cheerleader’ for all the difference it would make to the audience at this point.


04. Then we have pacing issues. The early episodes in this series essentially went through a pattern of something ominous early in the episode, lots of sitting around and talking, followed by sudden spurt of action. Which means that for the majority of the episode, if you aren’t into the characters, nothing is happening. What is worse is that their conversations are very repetitive. Are we really preserving history? Seriously, how many characters are going to ask that or something similar and how many times will someone reply that they just need to complete their mission or that they are succeeding because their master said so?

Overall, there’s just no compelling reason to keep watching this show. Even if they do try  to give someone some actual motivation and even if there is some big fight between the swords and the army, what reason has the show given the audience to care at this point? Great music, cool visuals and fight sequences just aren’t enough in the absence of a compelling story or characters.

What are your thoughts on this anime?

Thanks for reading.

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Karandi James.


Top 5: Boring Title Characters

Tuesday's Top 5

My lists are always entirely my opinion and highly subjective (which is why I’m always happy for people to comment on who they would have added to the list). This week is no exception as I look at boring title characters (as in characters named in the title who end up being the least interesting thing in the anime).

As always, feel free to add your own views in the comments.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mention this week goes to Astarotte from Astarotte no Omocha.

Boring Title Character Number 5: Akame (Akame Ga Kill)


Other than the fact that she survives until the end, why is the show named after her? Okay, first episode she pulls a very cool and scary assassination entrance and looks completely amazing and then… well then we watch her hunt for food, wring her hands over her friends and generally not ever change her facial expression.

Even when Akame is dealing with her sister being part of the team hunting them down she barely bats an eye and while stoic can be a good character trait Akame doesn’t have anything to really make her interesting. You can count the things we learn about her as a person (not things she’s done but what she’s actually like) on one hand and in honesty if they’d killed Akame off I wouldn’t have cared in the slightest.

Boring Title Character Number 4: Haruhi Suzumiya (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)


Haruhi suffers from an excess of personality but she’s still actually kind of boring. The characters around her are fascinating and the set up of the show is interesting, but Haruhi is just a bully who nobody ever slaps sense into. Frantically running from one thing to the next, Haruhi is bored with her own existence because she has nothing inside of her that defines her. She seeks external events to find a reason to exist and as such is always empty and that pretty much sums up who and what Haruhi is and its the driving force behind everything that happens in the show.

So, Haruhi is an excellent plot point and as the force that gets Kyon moving and actually paying attention to anything (given he’s the narrator and kind of needs to pay attention) Haruhi works. As a character, she’s still number 4 on my list of most boring title characters.


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Boring Title Character Number 3: Nozaki (Gekkan Shojo Nozaki Kun)


I know I’ve said this on other people’s posts but my least favourite character in this comedy is Nozaki. He’s just so bland. And I know it is deliberate. He’s the observer of human nature. He internalizes things for use in his writing. But it means that everyone around him is vibrant and dynamic and he’s just this stagnant rock around which events revolve.

Boring Title Character Number 2: Aria (Aria the Scarlet Ammo)


Aria, how I wish you had a personality above and beyond the cliché angry girl with trust issues. I actually really liked the concept of the world crafted in this anime and some of the side characters are quite entertaining (if you can deal with fan service and violence), but mostly I just disliked Aria and kept wanting her to stop snarling and shrieking and insisting on having everything her way and then acting like it didn’t matter one bit to her. She was an irritating character and one we’ve seen before.

Boring Title Character Number 1: Tatsuya Shiba (The Irregular at Magic High School)

Tatsuya Shiba.png

Here I’m cheating a bit because his name isn’t actually in the title but he is the irregular so I’m going with this. And while I actually really like Tatsuya and the anime, I couldn’t honestly say that he isn’t boring. Why? Because Tatsuya defines overpowered protagonist. Normally I don’t mind overpowered characters and as I said, I quite liked Tatsuya, but there is never even vague tension in this show because you know that Tatsuya will solve the problem.

Even more so once you realise he can effectively undo life-threatening damage to himself or others (at a cost but not enough of a cost that it puts him out of commission or allows his enemies any chance to win). So other than taking tests for the school, Tatsuya is pretty much perfect at everything and while that makes him awesome it also makes him boring and that is why he took out the number one spot.

I will point out that when it comes to Tatsuya I’m a little bit up and down. One minute I think he’s incredibly dull the next I think he’s the most amazing person ever. Objectively I know he’s boring. Emotionally I can’t get enough of watching him in action.

That’s my list done. Who would you have put on yours?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James