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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Touken Ranbu Kai Kyoden

How would you rate episode 1 of
Touken Ranbu Kai Kyoden ?
Community score: 3.2

How would you rate episode 2 of
Touken Ranbu Kai Kyoden ?
Community score: 3.3

How would you rate episode 3 of
Touken Ranbu Kai Kyoden ?
Community score: 3.4

What is this?


Four sword men whose former master is the demon king Oda Nobunaga. They decide to go to the Honnō-ji Incident, where Nobunaga is assassinated. There, they'll have to make a choice.

Touken Ranbu Kai Kyoden is based on the Touken Ranbu Kyoden Moyuru Honnōji stage play, part of the larger Touken Ranbu multimedia franchise. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Tuesdays.

How was the first episode?

Nicholas Dupree

Upfront, I'm not very familiar with the Touken Ranbu franchise. I've watched the first episode of both of its previous anime incarnations, but outside of the basic premise of "famous swords personified as hot guys," I couldn't tell you anything about it. That said, even if you don't know anything about the series, this new entry – adapting the story of a previous stage play – is perfectly comprehensible to newcomers. It quickly catches you up on the important details, introduces the sword warriors most pertinent to this Oda Nobunaga-centric storyline, and does an adequate job of giving each of them a discernible motivation.

That's not to say that the episode really gripped me, but it's a lot less intimidating than I expected when we got a group shot of some 3 ½ dozen characters in a room together. The show wisely keeps its vast character roster to background cameos that will presumably please existing fans without overburdening the story by trying to properly introduce them all. By the end of the episode, we have a handful of swords we're following, all centered around the legacy of Oda Nobunaga. Along the way, we establish at least initial motivations for most of them, from Souza and his ominous dreams about Nobunaga's infamous end to the reclusive Yamanbagiri and his guilt over a previous failed mission.

The only issue is that, while these characters are comprehensible and competently written, I'm just not interested in them. The banter between the cast is pretty wooden, more concerned with explaining the mechanics of these time-hopping sword boys than anything else. The individual designs are alright, if somewhat busy, but when every character has a unique design, they start to blend together. The animation is serviceable, doing a decent job of disguising the CG monsters when our 2D warriors are battling them, but none of it particularly sticks in the mind.

In other words, I've decidedly not been converted to the cause of these beautiful blade boys. I do give this premiere props for having better structure and pacing than your typical Gacha-game anime, and if nothing else, it's a damn sight better at capturing the appeal of this kind of show than, say, The IDOLM@STER Shiny Colors was. Yet both are ultimately made to appeal to existing fans, who are probably most concerned with seeing their favs in animation. That's not something I'm equipped to experience, but godspeed.

Rebecca Silverman

I know I've dipped into this franchise before, but I can't say that it made much of an impression on me. That's true for this iteration as well, and it may be entirely due to my unreasonable demand that characters be kept to a manageable minimum. Not that this episode throws too many names at us, and I cannot with confidence say that's due to the expectation that franchise fans will already recognize some of the overwhelming number of pretty boys splashed across the screen. Still, it's a welcome difference from some other, similar game-based series.

The main draw here seems to be the beauty of the plethora of characters, and they are very pretty. They come in a veritable rainbow of colors with various terrible hairstyles (someone in character design has no idea how bangs ought to work), and there's an interesting variety of clothing that combines different eras of history into new and sometimes odd outfits. (Plenty of shorts, if that's what you're looking for.) If you want to just look at something and always be able to find interesting bits to stare at, this absolutely fits the bill.

And there is, at least nominally, a story, although sadly, that's where things falter. Each young man at the Citadel is the living incarnation of a famous Japanese sword, and apparently, they've been manifested (in this version, at least) to save the past from evil time travelers. This requires revisiting times and places from their pasts, and the series seems set to revolve around the many swords collected by Oda Nobunaga. At least two of the sword boys are having existential crises, one related to Nobunaga and his role in his life. The advent of a newly manifested young man isn't helping the pink-haired fellow with PTSD, both because bringing in someone new in a moment of crisis rarely does, but also because he used to be one of Nobunaga's blades as well. There seems to be a rivalry, or at least a disconnect, being set up between these two, although it may spread to all of the late warlord's blades.

The kindest thing I can say about this premier is that it's fine. It looks nice, and it's at least attempting to have a plot to go with its pretty, which I appreciate. The characters are distinct from one another, and if there is an army's worth of them, at least we're only expected to remember a few names at this point. (Which I obviously couldn't do, but names are not my forte.) I suspect you'll get more out of it as a franchise fan, but mostly this fails to wow by being content to rest on its franchise laurels.

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