After waiting weeks hoping that Touken Ranbu — Hanamaru 2 would be picked up by Funimation (they have the first season), the first episode aired in Japan without any licensor picking the series up for this winter. A few days later, we finally got the news that Funimation picked up the rights, and the show would be officially streaming. So due to this small bump, this review will cover the first two episodes, which are currently available on both Crunchyroll and Funimation’s websites. Considering this is the second season and it’s been a year since the first season aired, I would recommend that you go watch it before you continue on ahead as some information might be confusing for first-timers. I’m just going to hop right into the first episode of Touken Ranbu — Hanamaru 2.
So, season two starts off with the main protagonists Kashuu Kiyomitsu and Yamatonokami Yasusada, the swords of Shinsengumi member Okita Souji, as Yasusada is about to head off on a journey by himself, which if you’ve seen the first season, would be odd as Yasusada returns at the very end from his journey. This might be a small retcon on Nitroplus’ part (the game publisher) because of an in-game addition to his character they are planning to explore. This is supported with Yasusada dressing in the traveling garb, seen in the opening, which is given to swords who are being sent off for a special training. We will just have to keep an eye out to see if this prediction comes true as we do not see or hear anything about Yasusada in the first two episodes.
The opening also gives glimpses of the new characters that we will be seeing, greatly increasing the cast size and creating interesting situations with the pre-existing swords. Not only are we starting to fill out the roster but we finally are introduced to Konnosuke, who are foxes that help assist the Master of the citadel and their sword warriors. Not sure of the reason why this cute fox mascot was missing for all of the first season, though. To fill in for the fact that we never saw Konnosuke is because the previous one was so busy attending to the Master that he did not have the time to interact with anyone else, which the replacement is known for being more social. Either way I am happy to finally see Konnosuke in Hanamaru, even if he’s not as nicely animated as their Katsugeki cousins.
We are then introduced to our first of two swords of the season, Higekiri and Hizamaru, though the first can’t remember his own brother’s name. There is some background exposition given and some character interactions that helps set up their relationship, most of which would go over the audience’s head if they did not have prior knowledge of them beforehand. Despite it being a typical slice of life anime it falls prey to many of the issues that game based series have with transferring in-game mechanics and the world as a whole to the screen. However, Hanamaru isn’t dependent on the game to create the story and relationships between the characters, but a little historical context is needed to fully appreciate the story, which can easily be looked up online.
There wasn’t anything impressive that I saw in the second episode of Hanamaru besides a continued theme that will most likely continue through the rest of the season: strength. With his partner Yamatonokami Yasusada off becoming strong on his own journey, Kashuu Kiyomitsu is left behind at the citadel charged with taking care of the new sword warriors. He recognizes the fact that Yasusada is no longer beside him in episode 1 and has to take a step forward in becoming strong himself, through his daily life and connections with the other swords. While in episode 2, he gets thrown into a crazy test of physical strength but finds more of a mental fortitude of pushing forward even in the face of a stronger obstacle. At this point Kashuu is trying to find his own strength but has still not found it.
Closing off each episode are gorgeous cinematics and ending themes sung by the key players of each episode, Higekiri and Hizamaru for episode one and Honebami Toushirou, Namazuo Toshirou, and Ichigo Hitofuri for episode two. This is a trend that was seen in season 1, and I was happy to see this continuing over into the next. However, the only problem that I have with the ending is the fact that it’s lacking substance. The previous season there were nods and references to the swords history and legends that surrounded them, while this time we’ve only seen the new beautiful artwork and 3D visuals of the swords.
So far Touken Ranbu — Hanamaru 2 is starting out very strong and is a perfect set up to the season ahead, with so much to look forward to in the season with the introduction of new swords, the return of Yamatonokami Yasusada, and the growth of Kashuu Kiyomitsu. For any of you who are curious as to what this show is all about, please check out the first season full of fun, crazy sword boys trying to understand how to be human while occasionally fighting monsters who want to change history.