Evil, time-travelling forces known as the ”History Renegade Army” wish to alter the course of history by interfering with historical battles. In order to preserve history, famous swords throughout the ages were magically turned into boys and housed in a special citadel, presumably located outside of time, so that they can be dispatched to battle the History Renegade Army whenever possible.
Yamatonokami Yasusada, who along with friend/partner Kiyomitsu Kashuu was once one of the swords of the famous Okita Souji of the Shinsengumi, has only just come to the citadel himself and isn’t quite used to things. Despite his nightmares, things are quite peaceful these days and the swordboys pass their time by having snowball fights and getting mad at each other.
However, the History Renegade Army soon launches an attack on the Ikeda Inn during the ”Ikeda Inn Incident” – an important moment in time for the Shinsengumi and thus Yasusada and Kashuu. A team of 6 of the boys is sent to that moment in time to stop them from messing things up. Despite the strict warnings given to them that they are only to destroy the HRA before the Shinsengumi show up, Yasusada cannot fight the desire to see his old master again – and to try to change history for the Shinsengumi’s benefit. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – he is attacked by one of the HRA monsters as he separates from the rest, and, overwhelmed at the enemy’s strength, the gang retreat for the mean time.
In case you aren’t aware, Touken Ranbu is basically the for-girls, all-male version of Kantai Collection. Both are free-to-play games from the same company with the same basic mechanics, the difference being one is about personified ships and one is about personified swords. As much a I try to like Kancolle though I am almost physically unable to due to character designs aggravating me too much and too many of them looking far too similar to each other, but Touken Ranbu I’ve managed to enjoy for a while. What can I say, the swordboys just have better character designs than the shipgirls. Not my fault.
Of course, hardly anyone cares about Tourabu for the plot, it’s the characters that drive the thing. To be honest I forgot the game actually had a plot at all, but then again my entire relationship with Tourabu is pretty much almost entirely and very narrowly focused on my obsession with Hotarumaru, because that kid is adorable and my precious son and to be honest I don’t even care if this entire show sucks as long as I get to see him do stuff in it. (For the record, he does appear in the opening, but seeing as just about everyone did I don’t know if that’s much of an indication of him getting a proper cameo in it. Cos there’s, uh, a lot of boys in this. More on that in a bit.)
Touken Ranbu Hanamaru, which will be the first anime based on Touken Ranbu (the second and unrelated one by legendary ufotable will be out next year), is very obviously aimed at existing fans. Now, I assume that it’s not difficult to pick things up about the plot and the characters, but it basically dumps a massive pile of boys on you at once, wipes its hands and says ‘well your fave is probably in there somewhere, have fun!’ (Hotarumaru wasn’t, but thanks anyway). Because holy damn is there a lot of characters in this episode alone, and they’re all introduced very quickly one after the other. If you know nothing about this show at all before watching it, I doubt you’re even going to remember anybody’s names, because they have so many characters to get through in this limited sampling of the available swordboys alone that the names just come up in boxes besides them as they appear. And yet, as an attempt to not leave newbies in the dark I assume, theres a pretty awkward segment where they start talking about what swords they are, in one of those ‘talking more at the audience than to eachother, given that they all should know this stuff already and thus wouldnt be telling eachother’ ways that tend to pop up in anime now and then, and its honestly just a really badly scripted conversation.
I mean, it’s definitely fun if you’re a fan. It’s cool to see characters you like moving and talking and goofing around, and fans of the boys that appear in this episode are in for a treat as far as that’s concerned. It’s a balancing act between goofy slice of life and action, and it seems to be doing both of those reasonably well. However, its kind of funny to me that when I watched Kancolle I thought the slice of life segments were more interesting than the battle segments, although here its the opposite. These are some nicely animated fight scenes so far, but the goofing around is kind of one-track and given that it seems to consist entirely of the younger swordboys running around and annoying the older swordboys (and Hasabe being an over-dramatic grump and getting mad), it kind of gets old after a while. I hope the slice of life parts have more up their sleeve than this, because I’m already sick of ”haha hasabe gets mad and makes angry anime faces at everyone”.
I’m interested in the show but to be honest I don’t really know exactly what it’s doing yet. I hope the future episodes manage to not feel quite as chaotic, or at least gives us some time to get to know the characters. I’ll watching it anyway though – it’s attractive, and it was a relatively pleasant and inoffensive way to wind down. Plus if Hotarumaru shows up for real then all the better.