In case you are wondering... It will be long... Quite long...
Oh, and before I say anything else you should know that this is a longer version of the stuff I wrote only a few hours ago in this blog: http://randomplam.tumblr.com/
*spoilers ahead... read at your own risk*
Touken Ranbu Hanamaru Highlights
Okay, truth be told I was really worried about this anime for a really, really long time. At first I was exited. After they started revealing parts of the cast I was utterly disappointed (how in the world did they manage to highlight only my least favorite swords is beyond me…) Then with the revealing of swords like Shokudaikiri, Kasen and Yoshiyuki I started to think that may be not all hope is lost… and now, after I finally managed to watch the first episode I am simply - ecstatic! In fact, I can not believe how much I actually liked this episode. Also, I not only liked it... It was magnificent! Basically everything I wanted a Touken Ranbu anime to be... with some small exceptions... so surprise, surprise...
When I am saying exceptions... What do I really mean? Well.. I don't know who came up with the "absolutely brilliant" idea that the main focus of the anime should be on only two swords, but this person I think should be a little ashamed of themselves right now... If they knew at least anything basic about the fanbase of the Touken Ranbu game they should have known that in game with so many, many characters and such a huge fanbase it is absolutely impossible to choose just two swords that would be an absolute favorite of the whole community. You could choose one, sure... But two? Come on! Sure, while half of the community might like the choice, the other half might get really angry and from what I am reading around the saniwa community right now the second half is the majority. Me, personally... While I truly admit that the swords in question are not among my favorites, so far I actually managed to like the anime (from only one episode, so this alone is saying a lot by itself). In fact I have high hopes that the swords that will be a focus of attention will be changing every episode, so who knows...
I liked, the anime, true... And I am not a hater, believe me. But, as a form of a silent protest about the way these two characters were practically being shoved in our faces all this time they will not be present in this writing/review. I will of course mention them by names, but their faces will not be present in any of the pictures, because this is only fair... There are no "main" characters in this game, people! Deal with it!
Opening & Ending
Now let me quote myself: "After I finally managed to watch the first episode I am simply - ecstatic!"
And how can I not be ecstatic and fangirling my heart out when almost 90% of the game’s cast actually managed to show up in the opening of the anime? Characters I though will probably never appear on the screen of this anime are not only there but they are goofing around just like I wanted them to. Kogi and Jiji, Tsurumaru, Kane-san and Kunihiro, Honebami, Hotaru-chan, Taroutachi. To my utter surprise even swords like Akashi and Nihongou actually managed to show up as well. And apparently all of them will gradually be introduced in the anime, kind of in the same way we are finding them one after another in the game itself. Now that I see, what they were aiming for I actually like this kind of approach. There are so many characters in the source material that featuring all of them at once in an anime will be really confusing for every non-fan of the game. But, thinking back before the airing of the first episode, It is actually this way of "gradually" introducing characters that had me worried for so long... For a really, really long time every single new character that was introduced was actually part of my least favorite swords boys, I am not kidding... (I don't like tantou swords! Sue me!) The fact that even Jiji was overlooked was also really, really confusing, but hell - he is there! And after being disappointed for so long, seeing all my favorite characters even for a second was awesome! So, yeah! I am ecstatic!
The opening song, while being kind of catchy is actually not all that good, but the quality of the animation is okay and I like how all the swords were presented. And I still watched the opening like a million times, over and over, just to able to catch a glimpse of all the boys, so you get points for that. Yeah, some of the more recent additions to the sword list were overlooked but with all the rest, you can't really blame them for leaving them out. May be they will make a surprising appearance later in the series. Who knows. As I said, I have a really high expectations now!
The ending - this is a part I am not going to talk about much, since the only two swords featured in the ending animation are Kashuu and Yamatonokami (yeap, the "chosen ones" I mentioned earlier). While I do like some of the visionary work and overall esthetic of the animation plus the song is a bit better than the one during the opening, I still find it kind of strange that only the two swords were featured… And, yeah... Overall the two songs are not all that good in general. But what the opening & ending combo is missing in the music department is trying to compensate with some good animation here and there, so overall good presentation.
Okay... as expected from all the posters and promotional videos prior to the anime series, majority of the episode was focused mostly on Kashuu and Yamatonokami, which to me is a bit annoying. Actually, the only utterly annoying thing of the whole anime in general, as mentioned before, was that too much of the focus is falling on them. Their seyus are singing both the opening and ending songs. They are on every single promotional poster. They are dancing during the opening, also they are the only ones featured fighting the bad guys during the credits and so on… They are practically everywhere! So naturally, they also get the most screen time during the anime itself. I know that the two of them are among the biggest fan favorites and this is probably good for all of their fan base, but what about the rest of us players who actually prefer some of the other sword boys?
I mean, true, Kashuu and Yamatonokami are not my most favorite boys, but I don’t mind them usually, except when they are practically in my face all the time, so I am really hopping this will change as the anime progresses… But, apart from that we did manage to see all the previously announced cast goof around and generally be funny as hell. Also after the opening practically shoved all my favorite boys right at me I forgot to be angry about the two poster boys. I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact that swords like Hasebe and Shokudaikiri actually managed to get so much screen time. In one really solid portion of the anime Shokudaikiri was practically in every single frame even when the focus was on one of the other boys. He and Hasebe were like the “big brothers“ of the whole bunch and fitting the role perfectly, scolding them when needed and gathering them to remind them that they have work to do. And being the HUGE fan of Shoku-kun I am, I enjoyed his presence A LOT!! Also, turns out Yamanbagari and Aoe can be sarcastic. Who knew? And Hasebe... such a drama queen. Usually, I don't like him as a character all that much, but I laughed so hard at him, that I might change my opinion of him all together. Kasen and Ishikirimaru, and Shishio... I loved all of them, so, so much! The only thing I am missing is Shishio's demon friend.
Storyline and Plot
Well… After watching the whole episode about five or six times, and leaving aside the "poster boys", I can say for sure that every fan of the game is just bound to love this anime. References of the game and gameplay are practically all over the place. The boys are instantly saying their lines from the game, and not only that, but they are using them to mock each other and the jokes are just hilarious! One of the things I wanted the most when I learned about this anime was that we will be able to see the boys not only goofing around, but making fun of one another and may be mock some parts of the gameplay itself, and Touken Ranbu Hanamaru totally delivered on that front. The fact that the saniwa was never shown, also Hasebe and Kashuu’s behavior and some from their lines that directly point to things like the main sword sitting in the citadel or the choice of the first sword upon starting the game… All of that hits the mark perfectly and it almost makes you feel you are actually taking a look behind the curtains in the citadel to see what are the boys doing when you are not playing with them, which is great!
There were a lot of mentions of the leveling system in the game and how the choice which swords to send to the front lines can actually affect the outcome of the battles… Also, the anime is actually following the plot line of the game perfectly, which for a game that basically almost has no plot, may be a little confusing but still true. In fact you could almost get the feel that you are watching someone else play Touken Ranbu, especially if you manage to catch all the references.
But then again, the anime is so hardly focused on the source material, that may be people who have not played the game will find it hard to understand. Because, the game has a huge number of international fans as well, I am not sure if the translations will actually be able to catch the original lines of the characters well enough for the fans to actually notice them and the clever way they are used. This might be a bit of a problem because even fans of the game might not notice how good the presentation of the anime actually is, especially if they are not fluent in Japanese.
Shokudaikiri + A lot of fangirling
One of the really nice surprises of the whole anime, to me personally was Shokudaikiri, so let me get a moment to just appreciate all the coolness!
He is one of my most, most favorite swords! Top 5 for sure! I was ecstatic when they announced him as part of the cast and actually seeing him in the anime now I love him even more as a character! Oh, gosh! I was worried that because of his ”let’s be cool“ esthetic he might turn up as a show off and an over all posh character and I am so, so happy he is not! In fact he was so, so awesome! A real big brother, taking care of the boys, making dinner and scolding them when needed! Plus, ah… just look at him! A lot of the boys look good in the anime, but come on! So far he is by far the most good looking one! In fact, if you take a really good look at the screenshots above, you will kind of notice he is mostly everywhere…. Because, well… I did try to take a picture of him quite often… And he was there even if I wasn't trying all that hard. But he is just that awesome! So sue me!
So, Touken Ranbu Hanamaru. Definitely one of my hightlights for this season. I am sure the opinons about this series will be a lot and they will probably vary from one another a lot... But even if you leave aside all the prejudice, be it a fan or not... It has the potential to be a really good pick up. Good artwork, nice presentation and story plus a bunch of characters that are not taking themselves all that seriously. It is only going to be 12 episodes long. So, who knows... Only time can tell. Me, I can't wait for episode two.