The person who invented the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” was drastically underestimating the power of the internet and the hunger for knowledge.
Touken Ranbu, a Japanese digital free-to-play card-collecting video game, is a clear example of someone who has never encountered the likes of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, an English writer.
With the help of DMM Games, Fate/Zero developer Nitroplus, and online publisher DMM Games, a thirsty video game about renowned historical Japanese swords being given to life (in the guise of very, very cute young men or Touken Danshi, “sword men”) was released in 2015.
Touken Ranbu is home to almost 200 of these swoon-worthy Touken Danshi!
An anime adaptation, stage play, and live-action film were all made from the ground-breaking original, all of which were released in 2019 on January 18th.
Doga Kobo Inc.’s slice-of-life Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru, the first of the franchise’s two anime series, was responsible for most of the franchise’s recent popularity and spin-offs (2016).
The following are some of my favorite sword-turned-samurai warriors, and I’ll explain why they’re special in honor of Touken Ranbu’s continuous success.
Top 10 Characters/Designs
1) Izuminokami Kanesada
Because of his Nendoroid and the sheer abundance of fanart based on him, Izuminokami has always been Touken Ranbu’s “cover guy,” in my opinion. I’m stumped. He has a fiery personality that works well with his flowing hair and bright primary hues.
As a sword that was used by Vice-Commander Toshizo of the Shinsengumi secret police in early nineteenth-century Japan, the person is quite attractive.
A look at the Imanotsurugi design immediately conjures images of effervescent fun. In the twelfth century, military commander Minamoto no Yoshitsune fought and committed ritual suicide with the sword he had designed for himself.
tengu-geta, a type of Japanese demon-spirit footwear, elevates the character design to an entirely new level. An costume structured on imbalance, such as the Touken Danshi’s, suggests that he is more than what appears.
However, Imanotsurugi is a free-spirited figure that stands out thanks to his distinctive hairdo, puffy attire, and contrast between strong and soft features that make him a memorable “child” samurai character.
Characters with animal characteristics aren’t necessarily my favorites, but I’ve noticed that they’re often made to be visually appealing.
Kogitsunemaru isn’t any exception.
In spite of his kitsune heritage, he maintains a welcoming demeanor and a little smug charm. Speaking about kitsune, Sanjou Munechika is said to have created the Kogitsunemaru sword in honor of a fox spirit, according to legend.
Even more so, this isn’t just any fox spirit!
When Kogitsunemaru is dressed in Japanese folkloric costume, I find it fascinating. Inari Okami, the deity of fertility and foxes, has long been a favorite of blacksmiths and warriors alike, and the foxy fellow is no exception.
4) Mikazuki Munechika
While Mikazuki is a lovely warrior, he isn’t the only one in the Hanamaru group with black hair and a down-to-earth personality. In any case, I think he’s a great example of how clothing can actually define a man.
To me, Mikazuki’s dress is all about the large crescent, tassels, and simple details. Sanjou Munechika, the man behind Kogitsunemaru, has the ability to take a decent character and make it outstanding.
Aside from being a member of the Tenka-Goken, the “Five Heavenly Swords” or the “Swords Under Heaven,” Touken Danshi is also one of Japan’s National Treasures. Both the fictitious character’s beautiful attire and the genuine sword’s curved pattern have the moniker “Mikazuki,” which means “Crescent Moon.”
The genuine Mikazuki, like fellow Munechika-made sword Kogitsunemaru, was also thought to have been blessed by the god Inari.
5) Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki
With Hanamaru’s medium, many of the characters’ real-life counterparts were reborn.
Sakamoto Ryoma, a nineteenth-century samurai known for his support of modernisation, brandished Mutsunokami during battle. The ‘tail’ around Mutsunokami’s waist, the blue and red robe, and the crimson highlights on his pants all come together to form a ‘wild’ attire befitting a character with such fervor.
Aside from his wide-eyed gaze and shounen feel, the show also assists by emphasizing his wide-eyed look.
As a result, the contrast in hue and pattern inspire fire and water images, which is a perfect fit for Mutsunokami’s dynamic with “cover boy” Izuminokami (another person who balances red and blue).
6) Nagasone Kotetsu
I’m going to be honest with y’all, so don’t hold back. Because his design made me laugh, Nagasone was included on this list. The guy and his straps are a pleasant sight in fantasy, since we don’t see nearly enough ridiculous male designs.
This isn’t your average “beautiful boy” Nagasone, though. Despite his rough exterior, the man does not appear to be scary.
An ongoing argument exists over whether or not the “Kotetsu” is a genuine work of Japanese swordsmith Nagasone Kotetsu.
7) Namazuo Toshiro and 8) Honebami Toshiro
In the thirteenth century, Awataguchi Yoshimitsu crafted the “sibling swords” Namazuo and Honebami.
Namazuo and Honebami’s lovely looks are totally up my alley because I’m a sucker for androgynous and effeminate aesthetics in animation. As with their personalities, their color schemes are striking in their contrast.
Unlike Namazuo, Honebami appears to have a better understanding of the tragic events that occurred in their common past.
In light of the industry’s dismal track record with non-Asian people of color, it’s always refreshing to see more dark-skinned characters in anime.
He was made by swordsmith Hiromitsu, and he is a calm, unmoving man who fits the “lone wolf” stereotype. Even outside of Hanamaru, Ookurikara’s clothing is fairly modern from a design standpoint, which I found rather intriguing.
Date Masamune, the one-eyed king and warrior of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was a personal friend of the serious guy.
10) Shokudaikiri Mitsutada
Finally, we have Shokudaikiri, the final entry on this list.
That man’s Date Masamune-inspired eyepatch, on the other hand, does the trick for me.
Simple details like these can make a huge impact on the character’s appearance, alluding to the mythological renown of a real blade forged by Japan’s most famous sword smith, Mitsutada.
Shokudaikiri is significantly more meticulous than his roguish appearance would lead one to believe.
In theory, a character’s design should tell us something about him or her right away, yet the term “gap moe” has a good purpose for being.
That’s why I went for Touken Danshi instead of Tenka-Goken Oodenta Mitsuyo, which I thought was more approachable.
11) Honorary Mention: Yamatonokami Yasusada
What’s that? For good measure, I’ll include Yamatonokami Yasusada, given his well-deserved reputation as a “cover boy.”
This being an ensemble slice-of-life (ha), Hanamaru lacks a clear protagonist; yet, it follows both Hanamaru and Kashuu Kiyomitsu, who is just as dashing.
As with Izuminokami’s Nendoroid, Yamatonokami’s Good Smile figurine is mounted on top of a bigger scale Nendoroid.
I can see why he’s so popular, with his simple design and attractive face.
First impressions led me to compare Hanamaru to Kamigami no Asobi, a reverse harem/supernatural video game anime adaptation.
In truth, I was under the impression that Yamatonokami was a dummy for the game’s female avatar.
You won’t find that kind of anime or video game in Touken Ranbu.
Although Hanamaru has the right setting for a boys’ love-paradise, lover’s she is played shockingly straight. This isn’t your typical “straight,” however. A human girl falling in love with the Touken Danshi is not the focus of the show. Not so much. It’s more about them getting used to being living beings and guarding history against strange anomalies.
Yamatonokami’s soft features contribute to this by making him appear friendly. It’s clear that the young man is just as ready to help as he is to slice a monster in half with his fluffy ponytail (complete with a ribbon), scarf, and sleeves rolled up.
Swords-turned-samurai guys holding their own swords seems a little…out there, now that I think about it. To be fair, this isn’t the most bizarre notion ever, but it’s still the most ‘fun’ type of bizarre.
In the seventeenth century, a swordsmith by the name of Yamatonokami is said to have forged the historical Yamatonokami blade. The renowned Captain of the Shinsengumi, Okita Soji, used both this blade and Kashuu (who starred in many an anime, drama, and video game).