What do you need to know about Touken Ranbu?

Cosplayers donning the characters from the DMM online browser game Touken Ranbu. [Photo: Dark Lab Visuals]

This is a feature posted on Deremoe on August 8, 2015.

So we saw Team Thailand’s skit at World Cosplay Summit 2015. It wasn’t exactly new to me since I saw it even in their country’s national qualifiers. I’m curious as to why they did that skit (curious in a good way). Not to mention, I think I’ve saw things similar to this on my Facebook feed.

Yes, it’s that card game that is the new trend as of the moment — Touken Ranbu., or TouRan for short

To help myself (and our curious readers) to know what this series is, I asked our comrade Eponine to brief me on the game. I’ll also add my own research here.

The 5W1H of TouRan

Who is responsible for the production of the game? Well, more than one company: DMM, Kadokawa and Nitroplus. DMM is a web service (they also have a hand with Kantai Collection), Kadokawa is a big media conglomerate that also distributes anime to the US via Funimation [copyeditor’s note: they also publish the majority of light novels; name any light novel and there’s a good chance that it’s published by an imprint linked to them], and I know Nitroplus the most for Super Sonico.

What specifically is this game? In Touken Ranbu, the players play the role of Saniwas (single — Saniwa) whose role is to forge “swords” to defeat the evil that is plaguing the land. Like Kantai Collection or KanColle, there are missions and you have to complete the boss node of one map to go to the next level. “There’s no specific timeline but let’s say it’s set on[sic] ancient Japanese times when Samurais and the related exist,” Eponine told me.

When was TouRan deployed to the internet? Just this year.

Where is it currently available? It’s currently available in Japan through DMM.com, and just like KanColle, you need a Japanese IP address to play this.

Why is this a booming trend? Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku wrote about “Japan’s Newest Trend: Katana Women,” citing various TV features about women who are into swords. “What’s the reason for the sudden increase in interest?,” he asks. The answer: Touken Ranbu. Ashcraft also said that it has over a million players in Japan.

How it is different from other games on DMM? KanColle features anthropomorphized warships who cater to the male side. Touken Ranbu features humanized swords and caters to the female market. To quote Eponine, “It’s like the gender counterpart of Kantai Collection. So meaning instead of Ship Girls, you get (sexy) Sword Boys.”

Is this really a trend?

Is this really the thing with some people in the country these days? Quoting Ashcraft, “When Japanese news programs ask women why they’re checking out katana at museums or exhibits, there’s a common response. ‘Because of the game’s influence.’”

To be clear, the Katana Women trend didn’t start with TouRan, but with the game Sengoku Basara where they bishie-fied notable Japanese historical figures (shoutouts to Team XO because they did a skit based on that game).

Also, Eponine said this: “Regardless of this restriction, the franchise became a huge international success. The recent Wonder Festival announcements has A LOT of Touken Ranbu merchandise coming this year and the next.”

Other Questions

Here is a sample of how Touken Ranbu works. (Offensive Weeaboo on YouTube)

So since they “forge” swords, does it mean that they have ‘Kai-Ni’ (Level II) evolution as with KanColle? “Sadly, there’s is no “Kai-Ni” evolution for the Toudans (sword boys), only ‘Toku’ level. Consider it as the ‘Kai.’ Just a status boost.”

Is it possible to marry a sword? “You can’t marry swords… yet.”

What is the maximum level of a Toudan? “The maximum level of the Toudans is the same as Kancolle — 99”

What are the latest developments in the series aside from its merchandise? “The recent game update has new Backgrounds and two types of swords can attack together at once during one node.”

The game’s fan-maintained English Wikia provides updates and information to those who would like to join the fray, women and men alike.


I’ve just read from Magnetic-Rose that a musical based on the game has been announced, which proves its current (and growing) stand into the newest cultural trends that we see today. Touken Ranbu is credited to accelerate the trend of katana women, which is quite similar to the time when Kantai Collection was released to the Japanese public.

The game’s creation is a great decision DMM, as they now serve both demographics, further cementing itself in the Japanese internet landscape. Fans just hope that they will have their own English translations or overseas servers; but for the meantime, we will just have to see where this will go further.