My initial reasoning for watching this series is due to its director, Akitaro Daichi, who was responsible for such series as the romance Bokura ga Ita, the classic comedy/romance Fruits Basket, and a personal favourite of mine, drama and science fiction series Now and Then, Here and There, which was choreographed wonderfully by Daichi. It’s also worth mentioning the studio responsible, Madhouse, of Mushi Pro fame, that have produced some of the most critically acclaimed anime over several decades.
The series comprises thirteen self-contained stories that revolve around our main character, Ran, a mysterious samurai that arrives into a new town. The episodic format may not appeal to those that prefer an ongoing plot. Nevertheless, there’s something ‘nice’ about this series, it’s almost therapeutic in approach. The anime is, at its core, transient and immersive, almost as if we are accompanying our main character of Ran and her accomplice of Meow on their various deeds. In this respect, the series is particularly good at portraying the setting in which the main duo undergo their daily lives. Although the series didn’t capture the realism of Edo Japan exactly, the setting is very much distinct and developed. This is a notable contrast from similar series, such as Samurai Champloo and Rurouni Kenshin, where the Edo setting played second fiddle to the main adventure at hand. Conversely, Tsukikage Ran prioritises on the setting first, with the characters second, who are caught up in it.
The two characters are well developed throughout the series. Ran, in particular, is fascinating and mysterious. The notion of placing a woman in a role typically accustomed for a man has merit. I don’t know how many anime series I’ve seen where the ‘laid back drifter’ is almost always predominantly male. It’s for this very reason that all of the antics that ensued could have well been with a male character, yet I believe the strength behind this series was secured by Ran being a female. There was a certain charm that might have been lost otherwise. Furthermore, Ran’s mysterious attitude, with the added element of her being a skilled swordsmen, was refreshing to see. She is complimented by her fellow comrade, martial artist and all round clown, Meow, who helped to balance Ran’s seriousness, forcing her to react, therefore producing much of the series’ humour. Unfortunately, any background information regarding the two characters is scarce at best. There’s only one episode that underlines Meow’s development, which funnily enough, while insightful, didn’t seem to coincide with the rest of the series.
The plot, as mentioned, is episodic and can be rather generic. Each episode the duo has a problem, whether it be an empty wallet or stomach. During the episode, they stumble into some problem and after a few decisive actions on their behalf, succeed and do the right thing for the common good. However, this formula is varied despite its repetitiveness, with European giants, childhood friends and kidnappers. What is also especially satisfying is that whenever the enemy is confronted and ‘finished off’ by Ran, you can’t help but smile when she lays down the law.
The animation is dated, although the environment is portrayed particularly well, as are the fight scenes, which are fluid. The music accompanies this nicely, especially with the enka ballad OP by Akemi Misawa.
All in all, it’s certainly worth watching, especially if you’re up for a lighthearted samurai show that manages to remain very enjoyable despite its episodic nature.