Katsugeki! Tōken Ranbu Episode 6
by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Katsugeki! Tōken Ranbu ?
Note: Since I'll be travelling with unforeseeable internet conditions, there might be a delay in the reviews for the next two episodes.
Taking place entirely at the citadel, episode 6 of Katsugeki! Tōken Ranbu doubles as an epilogue for the Bakumatsu mission of unit 2 and a prologue for the upcoming deployment of unit 1. Switching teams suggests we might be in for some new OP and ED visuals mid-season, but before we speculate about what's to come, let's look at this epilogue first.
Despite Edo going up in flames that weren't supposed to be there originally, our heroes somehow managed to preserve the original flow of history. "History" simply didn't care if all those people who weren't "supposed" to die perished. Unit 2's captain does, but we'll get to him after catching up with his team members. As soon as Saniwa declares Tonbokiri's survival to be up to his own willpower, we know he's out of the woods, no matter how much blood he lost on the way to the infirmary alone. It's a good thing that fixing a broken sword is a lot less messy than putting a human's body back together. As usual, Yagen's minding his own business (and injuries), while admitting that being part of a unit and having people watch out for him isn't half bad. Horikawa is worried about his senpai, which is neither surprising nor meriting much discussion. With his senpai first unconscious and then busy dealing with captain stuff, Tsurumaru takes it upon himself to reassure Horikawa, giving us the chance to spend some more time with this newly-introduced character and making his late appearance feel like less of a waste.
Of course, Izuminokami would take the unglamorous end of their successful-but-not-really mission the hardest. No matter what Saniwa tells him about the mission's overall success at keeping the scope of history unchanged, it was changed for a lot of people on that night, who he failed to protect. Sadly, defending these people for their own sake was never part of their assignment. For the Tōken Danshi, "success" is defined as protecting the bigger picture – not saving a couple or even a couple hundred people. Their deaths are hardly Izuminokami's own fault, but things aren't quite as neat and easy to move on from when you're watching them die. Even if making their deaths his own personal burden throws him off-balance temporarily, it's exactly what qualifies him to be captain, as Mikazuki acknowledges after Izuminokami uncharacteristically asks him for advice.
Their conversation was one of this episode's highlights, featuring some nice body language (Izuminokami's brusque movements and slouched posture) and framing (from the Dutch angles to the following shakycam used to communicate the character's inner turmoil) in an episode that, due to the lack of action scenes, could afford to be more economical with its animation (which it tried to make up for with the subtraction of clothing). Mikazuki can't help Izuminokami, not just because he's not the type to give straightforward advice, but because the new captain has to find his own way to shoulder his responsibility, just like Mikazuki has a mission of his own to prepare for.
This brings us to the episode's prologue. So far, anime-only viewers have briefly met three of unit 1's members: Mikazuki, Honebami (Yagen's "brother", which in Tōken Danshi terms means a sword forged by someone from the same school), and Yamanbagiri, who introduces himself as a "duplicate" sword, which doesn't discourage Saniwa from appointing him as captain. We've yet to be fully introduced and, hopefully, warm up to the rest.
Returning to the citadel and heading out with a new unit was probably inevitable, even though part of me would have been curious to see Izuminokami fully grow into the role of captain and come to terms with the brutal compromises it entails. I also would have enjoyed seeing his dynamic with Mutsunokami, who turned out to be slightly more nuanced that I'd originally given him credit for, going beyond exchanging snarky insults. Without fully grasping the nature of his captain's problems, he manages to steer Izuminokami in a more productive direction, rather than trying to solve his emotional turmoil through brute force by hitting him where it hurts, albeit with good intentions. These guys were on their way to becoming bros, which we probably won't get to see.
This isn't a show for extensive character development, but the kind where adorable fox spirit creatures collect and exchange pictures of food and amicably bicker about their favorite human swords, which is not at all representative of the fandom, of course. I'm still fairly happy with how much time they took to wrap things up before diving into the next arc, because these guys deserved some closure. And so we end with a particularly sweet and self-aware preview scene before moving on to the year 1565 next week.
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