What is Busou Renkin …?
Busou Renkin (literally “Armored Alchemist”) is a manga series written and drawn by Nobuhiro Watsuki, the creator of Rurouni Kenshin. Busou Renkin was serialized in the weekly Japanese manga anthology Shonen Jump, with ten tankobon volumes in total published in Japan. The series has been licensed by VIZ Media for US release and has been adapted into an anime by XEBEC, which finished its run in Japan with a total of 26 episodes. There are also two drama CDs as well as a novel based on the series.
The story begins when high school student Kazuki Muto is killed one night saving a mysterious girl from a monster, only to wake up in his school dorm, believing it to be a dream. However, he soon finds out that dream wasn’t a dream at all when a giant serpentine monster attacks him and his sister. Tokiko Tsumura, the girl he saved, explains that the monster is a homunculus. Kazuki had been attacked and killed by it when rescuing Tokiko, however she, feeling responsible for him, revived him by placing a Kakugane medal in his chest, serving as a replacement heart, or “New Life”.
The Kakugane, as Tokiko explains, is an alchemical device that, when activated, takes a certain form based on the Kakugane user, forming a unique Busou Renkin. The Busou Renkin is the only thing that can destroy a homunculus monster. Using this, Kazuki creates his own Busou Renkin, taking the form of a giant lance, later named ‘Sunlight Heart’. Along with Tokiko and her own Busou Renkin (the Valkyrie Skirt, an execution scythe), Kazuki joins the fight against the homunculi and their master.
A 16-year-old boy who attends a private academy with his sister. After becoming involved in Tokiko Tsumura’s fight and subsequently being killed and revived by a Kakugane (which later turns out to be a black Kakugane), he is told to simply return to his ordinary life, but instead insists upon assisting Tokiko in her battles. Kazuki is very enthusiastic and friendly, and cares deeply for his friends and sister, Mahiro, tending to put himself in danger or difficulty in order to assist or protect others. Although he has an unusual way of showing it, he does have feelings for Tokiko Tsumura.
A 17 year-old alchemy warrior that was assigned to take care of a homunculus problem in Kazuki’s town. When Kazuki tried to save her from a homunculus (in actuality, she had the situation under control) she felt a sense of attachment to him and revived him with a kakugane, intending to make sure that he never gets killed again. Tokiko is very dedicated to her job, claiming that she hates all homunculi, and quit going to school in order to be more efficient. She eventually falls in love with Kazuki and stays with him at the end of the series. Her quote when battling is “I’ll rip your guts out”. True to her words, the Valkyrie Skirt has torn many enemies apart.
Koshaku Chono (Papillon)
Better known as Papillon in the series. He is a genius student from Kazuki’s school and was meant to be heir to the Chono family fortune. However, he is also deathly ill and has had to repeat a year of school due to the amount of time he has needed to spend in the hospital. Upon discovering a 100 year old research diary from his great-great-grandfather he learned of alchemy and the process of making homunculi, experimenting with various animals first before turning himself into a human-type homunculus, renaming himself “Papillon”.
Mamoru Sakimori (Captain Bravo)
Better known as Captain Bravo in the series. He is Tokiko’s commander, who dresses in an outfit that covers every inch of his body except for his eyes. Though Tokiko assumed this was to protect his identity, Bravo actually has no qualms with showing his real appearance when he acts as Kazuki’s dorm supervisor. He acts as a father figure for Kazuki. True to his name, the captain has a tendency to say “Bravo” when applauding someone. He claims that he has 13 different attacks regardless of identity, such as “Meteor-Bravo Kick” and “Charming-Bravo Kiss”.
In the world of Busou Renkin, there are two types of alchemy besides the historical one: arms alchemy and homunculus.
Arms Alchemy are weapons formed by the alchemically-created kakugane, based on the user’s will to fight, and are the only weapons known to be able to kill a homunculous. The shape the Arms Alchemy takes reflects the user’s personality. Kakuganes are developed in the process of creating the Philosopher’s stone, the ultimate goal of the Alchemy Warriors around the planet. Kakuganes will generate a weapon that reflects the user’s battle style, a user will always have the same type of Arms Alchemy regardless of the Kakugane number, though there will be cosmetic differences (note, this occurs when something about the person using the Kakugane changes or if they use multiple Kakugane in battle.)
Arms Alchemy are activated by the fighting instinct of their user. This means that they can only be used by humans or human-type homunculi, since only humans have the instinct to use tools to defend themselves (animal- and plant-type homunculi’s instincts have them fight with their bodies). Kakuganes, in their normal state, can also strengthen a user’s healing abilities. In total, there are only 100 Kakuganes, from I (1) to C (100) (note, the first three of which were turned into Black Kakugane and the second one was made into a White Kakugane after that). After the Victor Incident, Kakuganes were scattered around the world; currently, there are 25 known Kakuganes that are used in Japan.
Black Kakugane are the first results of the Alchemy Warriors. However, they were unstable, and upon insertion of Black Kakugane I (1) to replace his heart, Warrior Victor went berserk. The same thing would happen to Kazuki 100 years later when his Black Kakugane III (disguised as Kakugane LXX) awoke. A person who has been revived using a black Kakugane is called a ‘Victor,’ since he was the first person to become such a being.
Black Kakuganes give their users glowing light green hair, red eyes, and tanned skin, (But in the anime, green glowing hair) with the ability to use ‘Energy Drain, a ‘vital body function’ which absorbs people’s life force; it’s possible to kill a person by draining their energy. As it is a vital body function (like breathing) it is impossible to stop or shut it off. Black Kakugane users also have the ability to evolve. While in stage 1, a user can transform from normal human to his/her ‘Victor’ form. After 6 weeks, a user evolves into stage 2, when he/she is permanently transformed into a ‘Victor’ form, while in stage 3, the tanned skin turns into a dark red, and the power of energy drain greatly increases.
Black Kakuganes have all the functions of a standard Kakugane. The user can also gather up corpses of creatures the user drained energy from and make a larger copy of himself. Busou renkin created by Black Kakuganes tend to be much stronger, since they make their users’ bodies so much stronger.
Developed by Alexandria, a White Kakugane is the exact opposite of a Black Kakugane, it holds the ability to nullify a Black Kakugane’s power, restoring a person with a Black Kakugane to normal. Kazuki’s Kakugane that Tokiko took back from Alexandria was a ‘test model’ that was disguised as a normal kakugane, however, it proved to be unstable when it was in close proximity with a Black Kakugane; in this case, Victor’s Black Kakugane I. Alexandria then developed another kakugane based off Black Kakugane II, moving past the test stage. This Kakugane was used in an unsuccessful attempt to restore Victor to normal; a Black Kakugane user in stage 3 can only be restored to stage 2 via one White Kakugane, and so on.
Papillon was able to make a White Kakugane based on his own knowledge and the research Dr. Butterfly and Alexandria left behind. Using them, he was able to develop a White Kakugane from scratch, and used it to change Kazuki back to normal in Busou Renkin Period. His devices were then used to create another White Kakugane to restore Victor back to normal. Other than the converted Kakugane II, all White Kakuganes produced are not numbered. It is possible to have more than one White Kakugane in a person’s body, as shown by Victor, who has two White Kakuganes in his body by the end of the story.
A homunculus is created when an embryo-like creation from a plant, animal, or even a human is placed inside a human. The embryo then crushes the brain and takes control of the body, giving it abilities that mimic the natural talents of the embryo’s origin.
Animal-type and Plant-type homunculi possess strength relative to their animal or plant base as well as retaining their sentience (they have the intelligence and reasoning of a human, but consider themselves to be an animal or plant). To activate their abilities, they have to ‘transform’, usually resulting in a large version of its base(an Eagle-type homunculus would become a giant eagle, for example). Often the homunculi’s creator would have to brainwash them into following their creator with blind loyalty, though a few have been known to do so by their own choice.
Human-type homunculi do not change form, but merely gain the strength and regenerative powers of a homunculus while retaining their human form and mind, or at least a humanoid shape(As the embryo for a human homunculus almost always comes from the human him/herself). Human-type homunculi have one distinct advantage over Animal or Plant-types; they have the ability to use Arms Alchemy.
Most homunculi have the urge to eat other humans, but in episode 25 Papillon tells Victoria that eating humans doesn’t whet his appetite. Victoria explains that homunculi eat humans because they desire to regain the aspects of humanity that they gave up. She then tells Papillon that because he no longer has any connection to humanity (or rather, that he no longer desires to be human), he has become something other than human or homunculus, but rather a “superhuman”.
01 – “A New Life”
02 – “The True Form of the Homunculus”
03 – “You Became A Little Stronger”
04 – “Another New Life”
05 – “For the Sake of the Person Who Must Be Protected”
06 – “Butterfly of Black Death”
07 – “If You Suspect Yourself of Hypocrisy”
08 – “Night In the School Dormitory”
09 – “The Hayasaka Siblings”
10 – “You and I Get Along Pretty Well”
11 – “‘Til Death Do Us Part”
12 – “Carnival”
13 – “Signs Of Death”
14 – “Who Are You?”
15 – “Interim Existence”
16 – “New Power”
17 – “When the Night Ends”
18 – “The Escape”
19 – “If Only You Can Protect”
20 – “With Mind and Power”
21 – “Gone Into Flame”
22 – “A Vital Decision”
23 – “Boy Meets Battle Girl”
24 – “When You Die, I Will Die Too”
25 – “Irreplaceable”
26 – “Period”