Katsugeki! Tōken Ranbu
Episode 12

by Anne Lauenroth,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Katsugeki: Touken Ranbu ?

Of course Izuminokami didn't cut down Horikawa. A tiny scratch on the cheek and a dramatic drop of Izuminokami's Shinsengumi coat is enough to separate Hijikata's swords for the first time since Horikawa followed their master into his last battle and Izuminokami was left behind. After a pep talk from Saniwa, that coat is back where it belongs. Izuminokami's new master isn't asking him to forget who he was or who he served just because he's in the history protection business now. On the contrary, Saniwa respects the captain's desire to protect the smaller pictures next to the big one. With Saniwa's blessing, Izuminokami runs off towards Goryōkaku, the striking star fort that's still one of Hakodate's famous sights today. If he was cutting down enemies while running to an epic piece of soundtrack, I'd call this Katsugeki's attempt at giving us an epic Sword of the Stranger run toward battle and resolve, but recreating such a moment would require more consistent build-up.

Will Izuminokami get to fight alongside Hijikata, like Yamatonokami did with Okita in Hanamaru? And will we even have the time to wrap up this personal small picture stuff in a satisfying manner, when the big picture stakes are suddenly turned up way past 11? Saniwa's time in this period is up already, just after announcing the imminent arrival of an enemy force stronger than ever seen before. The master can't be there for his swords to prove themselves worthy of his belief in this adaptation's final battle. The preview sees Mutsunokami and Izuminokami vowing to settle this battle once and for all, but its very nature as an endless game of tag means it can never be settled. Preserving history in 1869 doesn't keep the TRA from trying again in any other year, when history's crossroads are always just a flash of light away and numbers are apparently not an issue.

Saniwa sends what remains of the Second Unit to Hakodate so that they can retrieve Horikawa (or at least confine his history altering meddling to the small picture stuff), and Izuminokami can reconcile the two souls dwelling in his chest to rewrite his own regrets, possibly with Horikawa's help. It's all about internal struggles and personal reconciliation, with no mention of a huge TRA force trying to intervene in Hakodate before our guys get there. It just so happens that this force shows up right after they get there, making it yet again all about the big picture, with the Tōken Danshi summoned to battle in violent fights against nameless enemies.

It's a picture so big that the First Unit is called in to fight alongside what's currently available from the Second Unit, with everyone dramatically confirming how high the stakes will be when the enemy is finally determined to win (because they weren't before, apparently). Hopefully, characters still absent will be able to join in the big finale, despite the established mission restrictions – why else tease 1000 enemies?

I'd be extremely thrilled to see Hijikata's death (or prevention thereof) becoming relevant to the showdown's outcome, finally linking the big and small pictures in a dramatic fashion. Go straight for the cheese, as long as the development our sword boys went through won't be in vain. But with everyone from the First and Second lined up to get their moment of glory (and apparently some sweet animation budget left to spend), I'm concerned the show won't have enough time to give us much insight into its characters' feelings. At least things will look pretty, I guess?

I also wish we'd have time to address what Horikawa has been up to for the last 3-4 years, or more precisely how the experience has changed him. When Izuminokami shows up at Goryōkaku after being transported to 1869 Hakodate via instant light beam, Horikawa is shown to be among Hijikata's last warriors. Given his rogue status, he must have spent 3-4 uninterrupted years in Bakumatsu Japan now, living among the people and working his way up from Kyoto to Hokkaido. He actually lived these past years as a human pursuing his own goal, so he's likely to be a different person from who he was before. But there's an epic battle to be won, so who am I to ask for the small stuff?

Rating: B-

Katsugeki! Tōken Ranbu is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Amazon's Anime Strike.

Anne is a translator and fiction addict who writes about anime at Floating Words and on Twitter.

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