Buso Renkin (Alchemical Weapons) has plenty of action, and we’re going to determine how well it has stood the test of time. It was relatively popular when it initially aired, even if critics were divided. For all of their complaints, this series can easily be compared to popular contemporary anime series, as we’ll see.
It’s clear that Nobuhiro Watsuki, who also famously created Rurouni Kenshin, had some fun while working on Buso Renkin, even if he became violently ill a few times while working on the manga.
Buso Renkin: Boy Meets Battle Girl
Let’s address the homunculus in the room: there are similar terms and themes with Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi). Nobuhiro Watsuki was very aware of the similarities, and he even wanted to avoid mentioning the Philosopher’s Stone, but it was a real-world item of legend, and important to alchemy, so there was no getting around that. Homunculi are monsters, enemies of humanity, and they’re made by humans. Alchemists can be good or evil. The protagonist has a deep connection to the series’ antagonist. There are comparisons to be made, so if you loved Fullmetal Alchemist, chances are good that you’ll love Buso Renkin.
Despite the manga being published from June 23rd, 2003 to April 25th, 2005, the themes and characters of Buso Renkin hold up well today. Kazuki Muto, the protagonist of Buso Renkin, is a normal high school student who spends his days having fun with friends, like Shido Itsuka from Date A Live. The series also introduces Mahiro, his very pretty sister. His first major battle is saving her from a monster, as we might see with Tanjiro Kamado from Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Like those two, and many others in modern anime, his normal, idyllic life is shattered when tragedy quite literally strikes from behind.
Kazuki came upon a scene of a girl he didn’t know seemingly being stalked by a monster, a snake-like creature. Rather than running for safety, he ran towards the creature and pushed the girl out of the way, which lead to him getting impaled through the back by the monster. He died of his wounds, but he was revived by the girl he saved. Tokiko Tsumura wasn’t an ordinary girl though. In reality, she was an Alchemic Warrior, and she had been hunting the creature.
As seen in modern anime series, the high school student Kazuki joined Tokiko’s battle against the monsters, leaving his former life behind to fight against evil. The battles ahead won’t be easy, but he’s teamed with a strong girl, one he begins to see in a more endearing light.
Alchemical Warriors, Homunculi, & Victor
The characters have equally held up well. Like many anime series with epic battles, Buso Renkin has two key factions, one good, and one evil. In a similar vein to A Certain Magical Index, the Alchemical Warriors are a world-wide organization dedicated to fighting the homunculi, monsters created via alchemy. Their key weapons are the Kakugane, hexagonal-shaped items numbered I through C in Roman numerals. These were a byproduct of their research into creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone.
The typical shonen protagonist, Kazuki trained himself to become a true Alchemical Warrior, like Tanjiro Kamado before him, to protect his friends and family. Despite the hardships he faced, he retained his kind and gentle soul. Kazuki uses a lance-type Kakugane named Sunlight Heart, inspired by its bright glow, and that it acts as his heart.
Kazuki’s partner, and later love interest, is Tokiko Tsumura, the “battle girl” as mentioned in an episode title of the series. She seems like a serious, by-the-books girl, but she’s a complete tsundere that’s easily flustered by certain things, and that makes her the best girl. She wields the Death-Scythe-type Valkyrie Skirt. She was the sole survivor of a homunculi attack on her school when she was a child, but that pain compels her to complete her mission.
Kazuki’s first enemy, and his self-professed rival, is Koushaku Chouno. His enemy-to-ally turn was truly fun to see. He first appeared as a quiet, brilliant student at Ginsei Private Academy, but he was discovered to be a ruthless, evil alchemist who sought to cure his illness by becoming a homunculus. Later, he became a flamboyant butterfly-themed ally — taking the moniker Papillon — and offered his skills to aid Kazuki.
On the other side is L.X.E., or The League of Extraordinary Elects. Their order is composed of powerful human-like homunculi, led by Dr. Butterfly, a human who became a homunculus a century ago. Their activities — eating humans and hunting their would-be slayers — are similar to those of Twelve Demon Moons from Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Their goal is to revive Victor, an incredibly powerful former Alchemical Warrior who, like Kazuki, died in battle and was revived with a Kakugane. This again is similar to Muzan Kibutsuji’s goal, who sought the Blue Spider Lily, and later Nezuko Kamado, to attain greater power.
Animation & Audio Quality
Buso Renkin was animated by Xebec, an amazing studio that was closed in 2019. They had previously worked on Martian Successor Nadesico, Heroic Age, DN Angel, To Love Ru Darkness, Keijo!!!!!!!!!, and other beloved anime series. Their last production was Fafner in the Azure: The Beyond. Their assets and production setup are now owned by IG Port, a holding company attached to Production IG.
The animation is as stellar as one would hope. The characters are well-designed, and the action scenes are spectacular. The light from Kazuki’s weapon really shines, Captain Bravo is as cool and intimidating as ever, and you can see the heat from Sekima Hiwatari’s flames. Kazuki’s last fight and the resulting scenes with Victor will stay with you. The homunculi have varied appearances, and they’re all either scary or just plain creepy. Moonface is a standout, and his Kakugane makes more of him.
The opening theme Makka Na Chikai sets the action-packed tone of the series. The transitions from anime to a manga-like esthetic are a nice touch too. The voice casting was simply perfect, everyone sounded as one would think based on appearances, and they all knew how to emote properly. The series isn’t all fun and games, and when things get serious, you can hear it.
Two CDs were released that contained a radio drama and soundtracks, but I’ve not been able to find them, so I can’t quite comment on them. I imagine they’re good, based on what can be heard in the series itself.
References. References Everywhere
Do you remember when I said that Nobuhiro Watsuki obviously had fun making Buso Renkin? I said that because the series if full of references to other works. Kazuki Muto’s name is taken from Kazuki Takahashi, the creator of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and his first protagonist, Yugi Muto.
Shusui Hayasaka’s Kakugane is a Japanese sword named Sword Samurai X, a name taken from the English language title of Watsuki’s previous work, Rurouni Kenshin. He also said he doesn’t like it when swords emit energy blasts, as they negate the sword’s purpose to cut, so he made a sword that negates energy.
Tokiko has at least three references attached to her: when she’s bandaged up, she looks like Shishio Makoto from Rurouni Kenshin. Additionally, when Tokiko, Kazuki, and Captain Bravo attempt to infiltrate Dr. Butterfly’s lab, they need both a password and a pose. Tokiko’s pose is taken from Sailor Moon, the titular character’s transformation finishing pose. Finally, Tokiko’s general appearance is a feminized version of Himura Kenshin’s design as the Hitokiri Battosai. So if anyone wanted genderswap Kenshin, Tokiko is a canon version.
For those curious if Kenshin’s superhuman mentor is referenced here, the character Genji Ikusabe’s appearance is based on Seijuro Hiko.
There are far more references in this series, and you can all go watch the anime, or read the manga, to find them all.
Despite its success seeing the series get adapted to a PlayStation 2 video game titled Buso Renkin: Welcome to Papillon Park on June 28th, 2007, the series slipped from the limelight as quickly as it appeared. Buso Renkin did receive some criticism for being a “generic shonen” series when it first aired. The action scenes divided critics as well. However, the manga series sold three million volumes at the time, and it was nominated for the Japanese speculative fiction Seiun Award. It’s also hard to ignore the comments posted on Buso Renkin videos that call the series “underrated.”
This series has similar trappings to modern anime, and those same aspects are praised across the board today. To say that Buso Renkin has aged well would be an understatement. The animation alone looks like something one would find premiering today. The magic/science weapons with unique powers based on the wielder make an appearance in an anime series that will be coming out soon, titled The Demon Sword Master of Excalibur Academy.
For those new to the series, Buso Renkin is highly recommended. For older fans of the series, when was the last time you watched our boy meet his battle girl?
For those looking for a different battle girl, the J-List shop offers some. The Shinobu Kocho Figma Action Figure from Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has experience in dealing with monsters.
Do you think that Buso Renkin aged well? Have you seen the series, or is this the first time you’ve heard about it? Do you think Tokiko or Mahiro is the best girl? Let us know in the comments below.
I’d like to thank the Buso Renkin Wiki for the screenshots and additional information.