Image source: ufotable on Twitter

In a story involving time travel, it’s practically impossible not to bring up the “meeting your parents” trope, but Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu pulls it off in a historically creative way.

[Note: This article contains spoilers for episode nine of Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu.]

Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is the story of anthropomorphic historical swords from the future going back in time to protect the natural flow of time. Part of the swords’—called “Touken Danshi” in the show—deal is that they are able to interact with the past in order to prevent the mysterious Time Retrograde Army from drastically altering events and destroying the future. However, as also covered in the previous series, Touken Ranbu — Hanamaru, the Touken Danshi can often have an emotional investment in the time periods that they’re sent to.

Touken Ranbu Asks A Difficult Time Travel Question of Its Characters

The latest arc in Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu involves protecting the historical revolutionary, Sakamoto Ryōma. One of the members of the team sent to protect Ryōma is the sword, Mutsunokami Yoshiyoku—a sword that Ryōma famously owned and cherished.

Thanks to Mutsunokami’s knowledge of the events that occurred while he was in possession of Ryōma, the team is able to figure out how the Time Retrograde Army might attempt to kill Ryōma. However, when faced with the prospect of personally watching after and protecting Ryōma, Mutsunokami declines, unsure if he’ll be able to control himself when in the presence of his former owner.

However, things don’t go as planned and Mutsunokami ends up face to face with Ryōma and finds himself having to protect Ryōma alone. It is during this interaction that Ryōma shows Mutsunokami his sword—Mutsunokami’s past self—bragging about it as Ryōma was historically known to do.

Image source: ufotable on Twitter

As a Touken Danshi, Mutsunokami also wields himself. Some might find it strange that Sakamoto Ryōma, a man who is documented as bragging about his ownership of a Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki blade, being unable to recognize the very same weapon in the hands of another man. But there is a logical and historically sound reason for this.

After the assassination of Sakamoto Ryōma, his sword, Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki, was claimed by the Sakamoto family. In 1897, Ryōma’s nephew, Sakamoto Naohiro moved to Hokkaido taking many of Ryōma’s things with him, including Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki. In 1913, there was a fire in which many of Ryōma’s possessions were lost. During the fire, Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki was damaged and warped, losing the traditional katana curve of its blade and becoming straight. The sword was retempered and in 1931 was placed in the care of what is currently the Kyoto National Museum. Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that the sword that Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki wields is straight instead of curved. Now you know why (queue the “The More You Know” music).

Image source: ufotable on Twitter

It’s this change in Mutsunokmai’s shape that occurred after his death that prevents Ryōma from recognizing the sword as his own. It’s an interesting reason based in actual historical events that allows Touken Ranbu to have a character meet his former owner and yet have the owner be unable to recognize a weapon he should be quite familiar with. Even when Mutsunokami brags to Ryōma about his weapon using the exact same line that Ryōma did, Ryōma is unable to make the connection because from where he’s standing the swords are completely different. Where in most time travel stories when someone meets their ancestor and the ancestor squints for a moment and shakes their head, saying, “naaah…” this is a much more organic and convincing interaction.

One of the appeals of the Touken Ranbu series is in the historical references and lessons hidden in the dialogue and character designs. The popularity of the original browser game has led to an influx of people learning about the historical significance of various weapons and their backgrounds. It’s always interesting to see these historical footnotes come into play. It shows a level of knowledge, investment, and care on the part of the creators that goes beyond just making things look good and accurate. That’s something that really can make you appreciate a series.

Image source: ufotable on Twitter

Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu can be viewed with English subtitles on Amazon Anime Strike, Crunchyroll, and Hulu. It’s also available on AnimeLab in AU/NZ and on ANIPLUS Asia on TV in Southeast Asia.

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