Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru Season 2
by Paul Jensen,
To follow up on my intro from a couple weeks ago, I did buy the new Fate video game, and it had the desired effect of finally pulling me away from the mobile game. My login streak remains unbroken, though, because you can't not keep up your login streak, right? Right? I swear I can quit any time I want. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru season 2
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Shelf Life Reviews
Nothing this week.
Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru season 2
Nothing this week.
We've got another slice of life series this week, but with far more swordfights than last week's show. Here's my take on the second season of Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru.
For the uninitiated, the basic premise of the Touken Ranbu franchise is that bad guys are trying to take over the world by altering the past, and famous Japanese swords have been summoned in human form in order to travel through time and stop them. In the context of the Hanamaru series, that setup is only mildly important since most of the episodes are low-key slice of life stories set at the sword warriors' home base. I'm taking a look at the second season here (we also have a review of the first season if you're interested), and it sort of picks up where the first left off. I say “sort of” because the first season briefly looked like it was going to end with main characters Kashuu and Yamatonokami going their separate ways, but then added a last-minute scene of them reuniting at some point in the future. This season takes place in between those two events, with Kashuu remaining at the citadel with the rest of the sword warriors while he waits for Yamatonokami to return.
For all its sword-based characters and talk about protecting history, Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru is actually pretty easygoing in its tone, pacing, and content. There are action scenes here and there, but they're definitely not the priority here; this show is all about episodic slice of life content and character development. Most episodes just pick a few members of the insanely large cast to highlight, which means we learn a little about their backstories and watch them have some kind of comedic or heartwarming adventure. Highlights from this season include a water gun fight and a musical number in which two sword boys argue about which one of them is a better cook, which should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from the series as a whole. It's a perfect excuse for fans to kick back and watch their favorite characters do fun stuff, with the occasional swordfight thrown in to spice things up.
The one big difference between this season and its predecessor is that it breaks up the central duo of Kashuu and Yamatonokami, with Yamatonokami absent from the majority of episodes while he's off on his self-imposed training quest. That changes up the dynamic of the show a bit, and we get to see a different side of Kashuu now that he doesn't have his sword-bro-for-life to play off of. There's a particularly interesting storyline where Kashuu's confidence starts to falter because he's not being sent on as many missions, but the size of the cast means that this new dynamic only makes a difference during scenes where you'd normally expect Yamatonokami to be present. In the episodes that focus on other sword warriors, the general vibe is the same as it was in season one. Any major drama is short-lived, and conflicts are almost always resolved in a single episode.
This season's key issue is one that it inherits from the first: this show doesn't really work unless you're already a fan before you start watching it, and in its quest to include as many fan-favorite sword warriors as possible, it ends up with a cast so big that almost nobody gets enough screen time. With so many names to remember, you'd be forgiven for giving up entirely and just referring to characters as “the really tall guy” or “the guy who's always drunk,” and development for supporting characters is often limited to exactly those kinds of singular traits. It's the only realistic way to cover all the bases for hardcore fans, but it's a terrible way to get new people interested in the franchise. When the characters all start blurring together, it's tough to get emotionally invested in any of them. Even the show itself seems to acknowledge its overpopulation problem, as one episode includes a story about expanding the citadel to accommodate all the new recruits.
On the positive side of things, the production values remain solid in this season. The animation is more than good enough to carry the slice of life segments and even holds up reasonably well during the occasional action scenes. Background art is also impressive, with plenty of variety as this season copies its predecessor's format of setting each episode in a different month of the year. Character designs are reasonably distinctive and generally appealing and the episode-specific ending sequences look fantastic. Funimation's dub of the series is competent enough to be a good option for franchise newcomers, but I imagine fans of the game will prefer to listen to their favorite characters in their original Japanese voices. This Blu-Ray release is a standard-issue affair, with just the usual bare-bones extras.
If you're looking for an easy point of entry into the franchise, you may want to start with Katsugeki: Touken Ranbu instead of jumping straight into Hanamaru. From the handful of episodes I've seen, that series has a more reasonably-sized cast and offers a more substantial plot. On the other hand, if you're already familiar with these characters (or happen to know a lot about the swords they're based on) and are looking for a more laid-back series, Hanamaru has you covered. It looks good, it delivers a handful of clever or insightful moments, and it has all the handsome sword boys you'll ever need (plus a few more for good measure).
That's all for the review section this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from GroManu:
"Hi, this is GroManu from Grenoble (France).
I've already sent pictures of my collection nine years ago and at the time there were apparently so many Shelf Obsessed entries that mine only got featured a year later. Where is everyone now?! Here's the link for comparison, it's basically the same but with a lot more stuff :-p
Aside from a few select imports, the video collection has mostly stagnated these last few years but on the other hand, the books and figures counts have exploded. I've recently had to extend the shelves again for extra display space (hurray for high ceilings!). Furniture and hardware have received various upgrades over the years and just a few days ago, I finished building myself a custom light fixture mimicking the rolling buster rifle move from Gundam Wing (sorta ^^;).
Also, on the walls in the hall are several LARP-compliant foam replicas which I've crafted of iconic anime/game weapons, some more readily recognizable than others (hint for the baseball bat: it has kanjis for "Satoshi" written on the knob).
Cheers to all the ANN staff and to more people sending Shelf Obsessed entries in the future."
Oh my goodness, I love those red shelves. Something about that color really makes them stand out, far more than the usual wood or metal stuff. Also, one of my coworkers at my day job has that same Shiny Chariot art pinned to his office wall. Thanks for sharing!
Even if we don't have one to run every week, we're always accepting Shelf Obsessed entries! Just send your photos to [email protected]!
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