What They Say:
In the year 2205, protecting history becomes the task of a boisterous band of swords that are brought to life including the famous Yamatonokami Yasusada and Kashuu Kiyomitsu. Between battles with historical revisionists, they lead charming daily lives at a certain citadel. But Yasusada wishes for the one thing that he knows is taboo—to see his master again.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language track gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. While there’s a spot of action here and there throughout the series before it ramps up a bit more toward the end, it’s largely a dialogue-oriented work. And of a rather mellow kind so it’s pretty straightforward with a center channel design with some minor directionality here and there as needed. The sound effects add some nice touches to it at times and the music has the right kind of warm but otherwise it’s a simple but effective mix in conveying the source material and design. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Doga Kobo, the show has a pretty nice design overall with standard backgrounds that have some welcome detail at times and solid colors while the character animation is a bit more detail and vibrant. There are a lot of characters here and a range of costumes with different levels of complexity but they all come across well. It’s not a high-motion show with regular action so it works well in this form with what ends up being a clean and problem free encoding with solid colors and detail that doesn’t break up. The encoding captures the show very well when it does shift up into something busier toward the end, especially the action in the dark of night sequences, resulting in something that should easily please most fans.
The packaging design for this release brings us a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case that has an o-card with different artwork than the case. Both feature what are ostensibly our main characters but with different pieces of artwork, one with a semi-action stance and the other just enjoying standing next to each other. Both covers look good with the designs and the use of the soft white background with the cherry blossom trees giving it some soft color as well. The back cover carries over the same kind of background design with more artwork of the two main characters and we get a decent summary of the premise mixed in as well. Several colorful smaller shots from the show are included and the technical grid breaks down things for both formats clearly, accurately, and cleanly. While there are no show related inserts we do have artwork on the reverse side with two different character pairings from other pieces of Japanese release artwork.
The only extras included with the release is the clean version of the opening sequence.
Based on the video game of Touken Ranbu, the Hanamaru series is a twelve episode show from Doga Kobo that landed as a part of the fall 2016 anime season. The series is one of a couple of projects out for this property and it has a second season as well. Add a film into the mix and it’s easy to understand that there’s some popularity to it. The problem, at least for me, is that there isn’t much in the way of story here and it really feels like it’s designed so that your enjoyment is derived through knowledge of the characters from the game. I’m somewhat uncertain on the overall premise here because it’s kind of sideways introduced early on and not explored all that much. It’s actually an interesting premise but it’s not the main thrust of the show.
The main thrust of the show is watching these guys live their cheerful lives. So if you just like arm candy in nicely designed costumes that don’t really have much to say or anything stressful to deal with, this show is right up your alley.
The larger premise is that it’s 2205 and we’re introduced to a group of people working under a mysterious Master that are trying to stop the Historical Retrograde Army from altering the past during key events. This group, the Saniwa, are broken into different groups and the main focus is on those that can work their past lives in order to deal with what’s coming. They go to different periods in time, though initially it’s all focused on the familiar 1864 period with the Shinsengumi, where they stave off these attacks by the creatures that are sent to cause trouble. Not that we really see much of these battles. They pop up briefly here and there but by and large they’re not a part of things that define the show. The idea of protecting Japanese history in this way is intriguing as you have to have the right people going back to get involved without altering things, and as it seemingly expands beyond dealing with those of the 1864 time it offers up a lot of greater potential.
The idea behind the show is that each episode essentially covers a month in the year and tells a particular tale. But these are not tales of adventure but rather character as it draws from about forty or so characters from what I can see. While there are a couple that you could call semi-regulars, it’s an ensemble cast with no really discernible lead in the mix. What ends up happening across it is that each episode has little things happening in the slice of life mold while waiting to be assigned to their next mission – if they have one at all at the time. So there’s no hurry, no tension, just cute guys standing around or doing little chores and the like that talk about nothing. There are shows where this can work well as there are many slice of shows I enjoy, but the concept for this sets a bigger idea and then opts to go with something that’s hard to even call superficial. It proved to be an incredibly frustrating experience because once you finished an episode you had nothing to really go with in regards to it and very little carries forward.
Clearly not being the target audience for this all I find myself able to say is that it has nice character designs, some decent animation,and it certainly sets a mood. Nothing about the show worked for me in a storytelling form as the characters are barely functional as such since it feels like I’m supposed to know them through some other form. The end result is a frustrating time where I felt more and more like I was committing time to something that I was never going to get anything out of. It’s nice visually but I’m hard pressed to say much more about it beyond that because I didn’t get anything from the show other than a tantalizing idea that is just that, an idea.
Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD Language, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 13th, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.