Sakura-Con: Tōken Ranbu Interview

by Lynzee Loveridge,

We sat down with Nitroplus head Takashiki Kosaka ("Digitarō") and producer Koh Kitaoka at Sakuracon for a few more questions about the franchise.

What role did you play as members of the production committee for the Tōken Ranbu game and also the anime?

Takashiki "Digitarō" Kosaka: I participated in making the game as president of Nitroplus, while Gen Urobuchi is our vice president. Originally we made PC adventure games. We are very good at using our knowledge and experience to create worlds, stories, and characters. DMM.com is larger publisher of browser games in Japan. We worked with them to develop the game, providing the script, world, and characters.

Koh Kitaoka: Nitroplus had a PC game created Urobuchi that was targeted at men. It was a PC game with cute girls, and this was around 2005. I also produced BL games that were targeted at women, so we had a line-up that was strong with female gamers. Now DMM, they only had games that were targeted at guys and their members were almost all men so to start to get more female users, we worked with them to produce Tōken Ranbu.

Why was Tōken Ranbu: Hanamaru first? Was there a certain image of Tōken Ranbu you wanted to bring to new fans discovering it through anime?

Kosaka: It wasn't actually planned that way, it just kind of happened to turn out this way. It's very difficult to convert games into anime because the players already have an image in their mind when they're playing the game. They're imagining the world in their heads, so whatever animation you produce they are either going to love it or hate it depending on whether it matches what they were imagining. By producing two anime, we thought it would be better if people compared them to each other instead of just loving or hating it. The animation studio Dogakobo created Hanamaru and ufotable created Katsugeki Tōken Ranbu, and it just happened to workout in the schedule that Hanamaru was first.

For Hanamaru why focus first on Yamatonokami Yasusada and Kashū Kiyomitsu?

Kosaka: The scriptwriter for Hanamaru had to choose from many, many characters from within Tōken Ranbu. There's 62 different characters set in historical Japan. At the end of the Edo period there was the Bakumatsu era and we decided to sort of focus on that era. There's a very famous group of warriors from that period called the Shinsengumi and there's a particular warrior who is said to be very handsome named Okita Sōji. His katana is the Yamatonokami Yasusada, so we chose to focus on him in particular.

The swords from Japan can have controversial or bloody histories. What kind of considerations do you take when adapting these weapons for the game?

Kosaka: True, some of these weapons do have controversial histories but they are weapons. They are weapons for fighting with people. When converting these things into characters, you could say that we are burdened with or responsible for expressing them in a certain way. That said, we cannot change history. While we are burdened with the history of these weapons, we discussed this the anime production staff in order to make this into entertainment. I think we've been able to express the appeal and make it entertaining without having the historical responsibility detract from the end result.

We heard that the idea for Tōken Ranbu comes from the "katana girls," a fad where girls would pose with swords. Is that true? Can you talk a little bit about how that came about?

Kosaka: Actually, that's not quite it. Previous to Tōken Ranbu, there was this trend known as rekijō which is women interested in history. They were visiting museums, for example, and focused on the Sengoku period or "Warring States" period. However, that trend wasn't focused on swords, it was everything about that part of Japanese history. There were masses of people visiting museums but that boom kind of passed. Then, when Tōken Ranbu was released there was this focus on the swords and with it, explosive popularity. This caught the attention of Japanese media and the term "Tōken Jōshi" was coined to describe women who are in love with Tōken Ranbu and Japanese swords.

What would you say are your favorite live-action samurai movies?

Kosaka: I'm a big fan of director Akira Kurosawa. I have a box set of all of his movies. I think one of his works, which is also famous in the U.S. as well, is The Seven Samurai. Thunderbolt Fantasy as well, is sort of based on the The Seven Samurai concept. Many warriors that seem to have dark sides come together to protect a village against these enemies and you never know how it's going to turn out. That's the thing with Akira Kurosawa movies. I would love to make such a beautiful movie out of the world of Tōken Ranbu in the future.

Kitaoka: The Japanese television channel NHK have a drama series known as Taiga Drama where they broadcast a lot of historical movies. There's one called Ten to Chi to (Heaven & Earth...) and it focuses on the very famous warriors Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen from historic Japan. [Note: Kitaoka is referring to the 1969 rendition. A 1990 Japanese film also adapts the same story. Not to be confused with Oliver Stone's Vietnam war film Heaven & Earth]

I want to thank you all very much for your time and I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Both: Thank you very much.


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