What They Say:
Departing on a year-long journey to become stronger, Yamatonokami Yasusada leaves the citadel, parting ways with his partner blade, Kashuu Kiyomitsu. But there’s no shortage of happy days for the sword warriors whose numbers are only increasing! Every new friend who arrives adds another charming story to the mix, and with Kashuu as their guide, they blossom into full-fledged members in no time.
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 2018, 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 the same artwork than the case. This visual got a lot less attention when it came out originally but it’s a nice one with the illustrated style, especially for the background material as it adds a welcome softness along the white with all of its pink and other natural elements. 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 a two-panel spread of everyone hanging out inside one of the rooms of the citadel together.
The only extras included with the release is the clean version of the opening sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the video game of Touken Ranbu, the Hanamaru series is a two-cour series with twelve episode for each season from Doga Kobo that landed as a part of the fall 2016 anime season and winter 2018 season. The series is one of a couple of projects out for this property and after watching the first season a year ago we’re finally able to look at this half. 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.
I had really struggled with the first season because of the structure of it all and had held out some hope that the second season would be more payoff when it comes to, well, story. Sadly, that’s not the case. Though there’s a little more serious material in the last episode and a half or so, most of what we get here is more of the same. And that in some ways is not a bad thing. I went into it knowing a bit more from the first season so there were moments where I could enjoy it a bit more for its simplicity. It does open with a mild change in having Yasusada going off on a yearlong journey after prior events, though that’s left Kashuu out of sorts because they’ve been together for so long. It’s a nice nod to events from the prior season and it shifts things ever so slightly. And I mean slightly simply because the show just piles on more guys/swords being brought in – enough so that others are starting to complain about the place being cramped and nowhere near enough space for all their kitchen supplies, which is naturally a huge issue.
The show plays to each episode focusing on a month and we do get the progress of time here because Yasusada will come back at the end of the run where things get more serious. But the time in-between is just kind of light on actual material because it has that sense of just kind of floating around between characters. There are fun moments, such as one who arrives that is very aloof compared to the rest and spends his time keeping to himself in a kind of light and almost comical way, but it naturally draws him in more to the group when they help rescue him from the rocks during a serious storm. It was amusing to watch this group that is fairly tight and close overall to have someone that felt disconnected from them and how they interpreted his aloofness in general and what he did to keep himself separate from them.
What the show does engage in are often familiar things, such as a sports festival episode within their own particular style. There are familiar character beats elsewhere, such as when Sayo is struggling with nightmares and some of the others look for ways to help him overcome that. Or one that’s a little more interesting when we get the “twins” and there’s questions for one of them about their being a copy of the other rather than an original and how he can have such an upbeat attitude. Simple stuff that has an interesting way to approach it but it’s all so positive and straightforward because the nature of the show is to present these guys in a particular way that will draw viewers. Even when there’s complex material to deal with, it’s something that feels like it’ll always work out for the better with minimal effort but just enough to make the viewer feel invested.
It’s all plainly superficial and while not sickly sweet it left me with the same kind of feeling.
I had really hoped that the second season of this would be like a lot of two-cour shows in that the first is setup and light stories to introduce us to the concept while the second is more story heavy. Sadly, even with the weightier moments toward the end, this is still largely like the first season in how it operates. It did work a little bit better for me in some regards simply because I knew more of what to expect going into it based on the first season, but that wasn’t anywhere near enough to get me to really connect with it. I’m chalking a lot of this simply up to not being the target audience for it and there not being anything accessible enough for me being outside that target group to want to invest in. I do wonder if it would be more interesting if I was more familiar with the swords themselves, but I’m also hard-pressed to really think too hard on that. There are neat moments and Funimation’s release is solid so that fans of the property will definitely enjoy having a copy that they own in their hands.
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 19th, 2019
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.