In Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, a nefarious force known as the “Retrograde Time Army” threatens the world as we know it. Appearing at critical times in history to disrupt events or assassinate key figures, just one or two victories could drastically change the future of the world. In order to battle them, a mysterious and powerful figure named Saniwa summons the spirit of different blades in the form of humans. This is the story of these warriors, who fight hard to defend history against an ever-growing army of evil.
The first episode is chock-full of action, beginning with an intense chase scene taking place along a mountain road. Warriors Horikawa Kunihiro and Izuminokami Kanesada pursue a darkened figure doggedly, finally delivering the killing blow after their carriage takes an unfortunate spill.
The first thing you’ll notice watching this is that the animation is gorgeous. The action is intentional and easy to follow, and the detail with which characters and landscapes are brought to life makes Touken Ranbu very pleasant to look at.
The story is lightly tied together in the opening scenes: you get an idea of Kanesada and Kunihiro’s role in being sent back in time, as well as the hint that they are not actually human fairly early on in the debut episode.
As with any time-traveling anime, Touken Ranbu juggles the precarious nature of time traveling. After all, you can’t just travel through time willy-nilly; even seemingly inconsequential actions could have extensive and disruptive effects on the future. Therefore, the warriors are responsible only for interfering with specific elements of time – namely battling wherever the Time Retrograde Army appears and making themselves scarce shortly afterwards. This provides an interesting tool to develop drama and tension, as our heroes encounter individuals who may end up dead, and they may find themselves unable to necessarily prevent that from happening.
The character dynamic is fun to watch as well. Kunihiro is more soft spoken and unsure, the opening scene being his first battle. As the episode progresses, we begin to see more of Kunihiro’s ability, as well as Kanesada’s nature to encourage him, even chastising Kunihiro for feeling sorry for himself. As the episode concludes and we get another batch of well-designed and interesting-looking characters, it only makes me more excited for next week, when we will hopefully get a chance to see them all in action.
With fantastic animation, interesting characters, and the early stages of an engaging plot, Touken Ranbu is sure to be on my watch-list this season. You can watch it on Crunchyroll here on Saturdays at 10 AM!