Blu-Ray Review: Katsugeki Touken Ranbu – The Complete Series

The clashing of swords, time travel and demonic armies; what more could you want from an anime series animated by Ufotable? Only you could answer that question but for MVM Entertainment’s latest Blu-Ray release, Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu – The Complete Series, that’s exactly what you get. So let’s explore even more in our review.

Synopsis:

The year is 1863, Japan is split between the pro-shogunate and anti-shogunate factions. In this chaotic time, the era of the swords is coming to a close.

Horikawa Kunihiro has manifested as a Sword Warrior and is joined by Izuminokami Kanesada, a warrior who served under the same master as him. With a single goal in mind, the two rush through the mountains…

Sword Warriors are “Tsukumogami,” spirits and willpower that reside within a sword. These spirits are awakened by Saniwa to protect the world from the “Time Retrograde Army,” who were sent by historical revisionists from the future to alter history.

Along their journey, Kunihiro and Kanesada encounter fellow Sword Warriors Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki, Yagen Toushirou, Tonbokiri, and Tsurumaru Kuninaga. They band together and devote themselves to confronting and defeating the Time Retrograde Army.

The fate of history lies in these heroes’ hands. What destinies await the blades have yet to be uncovered…

Our View:

Taking inspiration from the Japanese free-to-play browser game Touken Ranbu, which sees legendary Japanese swords brought to life by the player as sword wielding spirits, this original TV anime Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu expands the universe by bringing combining elements from the game with the beautifully dark and twisted vision of animation studio Ufotable. Beautifully animated, visually stunning and a clear representation of what Utoftable and Aniplex can produce; but at the same time overly complicated for those unfamiliar with Japanese swords.

The main problem with Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is its over-complicated reliance on both Japanese history, something which I am not overly familiar with, and the various different names that the swords wield. Fortunately if you can look past this, and focus on the ‘not so complicated’ storyline then you’ll be in for a spectacular animated series that ends just as fast as it begins.

Taking place in the 1800’s Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu follows the adventures of the Tsukumogmai, sword warriors reincarnated by their Master Saniwa, in order to stop the Retrograde Army from interfering with the history of Japan. In this case the focus lies with Izuminokami Kanesada and team-mate Horikawa Kunihiro but soon enough expands to cover multiple different characters and their different sword types.

Although majority of the events within this series take place “in the past” it actually feels more like the present. The Tsukumogmai were once Japanese swords wielded during this same time period; but in the future (over in the year 2200), the swords have been reincarnated as human spirits so that they could be sent into the past and protect it. This recreation of historic items may seem familiar, especially if you have watched Fate/stay night, but it is oddly unique in its own right.

Truth be told the origins of these Tsukumogmai do not really matter, not yet at least, as for the most part it is about travelling to the past and stopping the Retrograde Army from completing its mission. Although thirteen episodes are featured in this series it does feel notably longer than that; whether that is a positive or negative however remains to be seen and can be extensively discussed. In this case the opening five episodes focuses on ‘Unit 2’ and their mission of protecting several people from the Retrograde army; all the while remaining undetected from those that inhabit this timeline. The next handful of missions introduce viewers to the more stronger “Unit 1” and we get to explore their success in various Missions; with even stronger enemies appearing on screen.

With all of the ‘key players’ introduced the focus then shifts to the newest, and potentially youngest, teammate within Unit 2; Horikawa Kunihiro. Both Horikawa Kunihiro, and captain Izuminokami Kanesada, have doubts about what it means to protect history and as such a journey of self-discovery, while completing objectives of defeating the retrograde army, continues to unfold. It’s an interesting tale, and beautifully animated – especially the final fight scenes – but at the same time doesn’t feel like it is really going anywhere other than to complete its own episode count.

Extras:

Unlike other Aniplex produced series, such as Occultic;Nine for instance, Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu features a more traditional selection of bonus content in the form of Next Episode Previews and Textless Opening and Closing songs.

It’s worth noting that the Next Episode Previews can be viewed in either Japanese (with English subtitiles) or English dubbed depending on which audio language has previously been selected from the setup menu. These next episode previews are also (rather comically) presented in a visual novel style rather than a simple voice-over or scenes from the episode itself. Unique and entertaining at the same time.

In addition to these ‘traditional’ bonus features we also have a selection of trailers for Madman Entertainment releases, as the discs have been authored by Madman Entertainment after all, with different anime titles (from various different distributors) being shown.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50 x2
Region: B
Running Time: 2:40:25 (Disc 1), 2:17:55 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: LPCM 2.0 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is a welcome surprise and finds itself right at home as part of MVM Entertainment’s catalog of titles, mostly due to how much it resembles – animation and fight scene wise – to that of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works; but that is mostly thanks to Ufotable. Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is beautifully animated  and well presented for a series that is inspired from a browser game and while the story doesn’t really go anywhere useful it is an interesting experience.

The story of Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu follows that of Izuminokami Kanesada and Horikawa Kunihiro who have been tasked with defeating the Retrograde Army in hopes of preventing them from changing history. During the course of this mission the duo are quickly overwhelmed and as such Saniwa summons new sword warriors (Tsukumogami) to the battlefield and thus Unit 2 is born. For the first selection of episodes the story focuses on the bonding of Unit 2 and thwarting the RetroGrade Army’s attempts at changing history but after one particular mission the story shifts focus and follows Unit 1.

It’s a quick change of pace and follows a stronger team out to defeat a stronger enemy; but it is just the calm before the storm as after a successful mission from Unit 1 the focus returns to Unit 2. Here Izuminokami Kanesada and Horikawa Kunihiro begin to question the bonds of loyalty and what it means to be a protector in this war of the Retrograde Army. Ideals and swords clash in this inner-clan rivalry but the enemy threat still remains and thus the battle rages on to the next battlefield.

In short Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is a four-arc story with two introductory phases, a self-discovery phase and a semi-conclusive phase that continues the spark of battle alive; but regardless it is an entertaining series to watch through this Blu-Ray release by MVM Entertainment. This particular Blu-Ray, of which mastered by Madman Entertainment in Australia, features the usual Aniplex styles of presentation and remains consistent with similar titles; with minimal bonus features, a strong English Dub and readable subtitles throughout. A simplistic; but strong release that offers a different type of Touken Ranbu storyline and an ideal series for fans of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works.

Score: review-stars-4

Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu – The Complete Series will be available on Blu-Ray from the 1st April 2019 via MVM Entertainment in the UK.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wQSLP0JVRw

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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