First Impressions – Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu

Touken Ranbu is a bit of an interesting property right now since there are now two very different anime adaptations for it. In the Fall, we got the very lighthearted and cutesy Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru and this summer, we are getting the more action oriented Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu. It’s clear that the people behind Touken Ranbu really want their property to appeal to as many different audiences as possible. Even though that sounds like an absurd use of time and money, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t work because Katsugeki definitely got my attention more than Hanamaru.

Much of the excitement and entertainment I got out of Katsugeki lie in the visuals. I’m generally hit or miss with the shows that ufotable animate but they really do not disappoint when it comes to their art. Katsugeki looks fantastic. The backgrounds are gorgeous, the character designs are appealing to look at, and the action is just stunning to watch.

The pretty visuals almost make up for the fact that the story is actually kind of dumb. We’re not really given an explanation as to how these historical swords are now personified warriors or why the Time Retrograde Army even wants to change history. In the show’s defense, I got the impression that it starts in medias res but I still kept wondering as to what the big picture is.

That being said, Katsugeki is immediately more engaging to watch than Hanamaru. It really goes to show how tone greatly affects the consumption of the product. The thing about Hanamaru is that it feels like a cute girl shows but with boys comprising the cast instead of the girls. And look, there is an audience for that but it made for an odd, even kind of underwhelming, experience given the fact that this is practically the genderbent version of KanColle. While I do think Katsugeki perhaps takes things a bit too seriously, it still conveys far more interest and weight towards the plot and that in turn makes me feel more invested in what’s going on.

It also helps that Katsugeki has a much smaller cast than Hanamaru‘s couple dozen of pretty boys. In fact, the first episode of Katsugeki just focuses on three characters: the newly recruited Kunihiro, the far more experienced Kanesada, and their weird, Okami looking, computer dog thing. I like the dynamic between Kunihiro and Kanesada; it’s a simple mentor-student relationship but it’s done pretty well. The other warriors don’t show up until the end of the episode but I can’t deny that they’ve made a good first impression. I immediately like Yoshiyuki’s gun-toting personality and how it rivals with Kanesada’s more “honorable” swordplay. One thing I do hope will happen is perhaps a better characterization for the Time Retrograde Army. So far, they’re just a bunch of nameless monsters that almost looked like they were ripped out of recent Fire Emblem titles.

I tried both Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru and Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu and I am definitely more interested in trying more of Katsugeki. The more action-driven atmosphere of ufotable’s take on the property just appeals to me more. And again, this is ufotable we’re talking about; this will definitely be some nice eye candy. It’s crazy that this property is getting two different anime adaptations to appeal to different audiences but so far, the strategy seems to be working if people are getting drawn into at least one of them.

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