Shelf Life
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.

Jump to this week's review:
Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru season 2

On Shelves This Week

Basilisk: The Ouka Ninja Scrolls - Part 1 BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As the feud between two ninja clans heats up, a new generation of warriors is drawn into the bloody conflict.

Extra: This series wasn't particularly well-received in the Preview Guide, and our user ratings aren't great either with an average of 4.8 out of 10. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Castle Town Dandelion - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $22.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Nine royal siblings must compete to win the hearts of their citizens in order to inherit the throne.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, along with a review of a previous Blu-Ray release. You can stream it on Funimation.

Chaos Dragon - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $22.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: In an island nation beset by hostile foreign armies, a young descendant of the royal family must use a power that comes at a terrible price in order to restore peace.

Extra: We have episode reviews, and Gabriella also covered it in Shelf Life a couple years ago. It's available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Dances with the Dragons - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Two super-powered bounty hunters find themselves at the center of a shadowy conflict between nations.

Extra: Our coverage for this show only goes as far as the Preview Guide, and our user ratings for it have an average of 5.6 out of 10. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Dragon Ball Super - Part 7 BD, DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $44.98|$39.98
Currently cheapest at: $29.99 Amazon|$29.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Zeno hosts an exhibition match between the 7th and 9th universes, and Goku sets out to assemble a team of the 7th universe's best fighters.

Extra: We have a review covering the previous two parts, and this set is also covered by our episode reviews for the series. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Golden Kamuy - Season 1 BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $84.98
Currently cheapest at: $63.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A veteran of the Russo-Japanese War joins forces with a member of the indigenous Ainu people in a hunt for a stolen hoard of gold.

Extra: We have episode reviews and feature articles for this series, and it was also covered in This Week in Anime. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Pokemon - Indigo League Season 1 BD
Viz - 1248 min - Dub - MSRP $49.99
Currently cheapest at: $38.99 Amazon

Synopsis: Ash Ketchum's dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer gets off to a bumpy start when he's paired with an unruly Pikachu.

Extra: This set covers the first season of the long-running series, and rather than talking about reviews or user ratings, I'll just point y'all to our two-part article on the show's top twenty episodes. You can stream the series on

A Silent Voice BD+DVD, DVD
Shout! Factory - 130 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $26.99
Currently cheapest at: $19.99|$11.99 Amazon

Synopsis: Years after bullying a deaf classmate in elementary school, Shoya Ishida seeks her out and tries to make amends for his actions.

Extra: This movie has garnered a lot of positive ratings, and we have a review of it here. We have a couple preview clips of the dub here.

Space Battleship Tiramisu - Season 1 BD
Funimation - 112 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $34.98
Currently cheapest at: $26.24 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Mecha pilot Subaru Ichinose faces threats from afar and inconveniences within his own cockpit as he fights on the front lines of a future war.

Extra: A few of us talked about this series in our shorts roundups in the Preview Guide, and I even listed it as my favorite of that season's short-format premieres. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Shelf Life Reviews

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.

In my experience, anime adaptations of mobile or browser games tend to fall into one of two categories. Some go out of their way to be accessible to newcomers, while others are clearly geared towards existing fans. The Touken Ranbu “swords personified as hot guys” franchise is somewhat unique in that it has two separate adaptations, which take vastly different approaches. While its cousin, Katsugeki: Touken Ranbu, is an action-focused title aimed at a general audience, Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru is a slice of life series meant more for the “in” crowd. If you're up to speed on the franchise and already have a favorite sword boy, this is the one for you.

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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