"A choice isn't something someone gives you, it's something you make for yourself."
Busou Renkin (literally Arms Alchemy) follows Hero and Ordinary High-School Student Kazuki Muto, who is killed one night trying to protect a mysterious girl from a monster. However, to his surprise, he wakes up the next day, seemingly good as new. Turns out it wasn't a dream either when the girl, Tokiko Tsumura, shows up again, informing him that she felt responsible for his death and resurrected him with the power of Alchemy. From here on Kazuki discovers his own powers and, together with Tokiko, journeys into the world of Alchemists and their individual Renkin as they fight the monsters known as Homunculi. No, not the Fullmetal Alchemist kind, though there is definite overlap between the series theme-wise.A manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki, the creator of Rurouni Kenshin, it was later adapted into an anime and a light novel. The series is in many ways a parody of the shonen genre and hence often has tongue planted firmly in cheek. And when it's not being an affectionate parody, it's deconstructing various shonen tropes, particularly the Next Tier Power-Up.
Provides examples of:
The Ace: Shusui, at least among the Muggles. Competes in kendo on a national level, is extremely popular with the girls, extremely intelligent, vice president of the student council (behind only his twin sister,) and is...*ahem*...'bigger' than Kazuki and his friends.
Kazuki is good at nearly everything he does, no matter how little experience he might have.
Astral Finale: In order to combat his and Victor's Walking Wasteland powers, Kazuki manages to basically rocket himself and Victor with a particularly strong, rocketpowered thrust. The denouement episode has his friends coming to the moon to rescue them.
Papillon and his homunculi. Infact, all homunculi can be resurrected.
Badass Normal/Badass Bookworm: Papillon before he becomes a Homonculus. In the second episode, he is riding around totally calmly on Washio's back, even when Washio is attacking and defending - from a few hundred feet up in the air. Including perfectly holding his balance during dives and blurringly-fast maneuvers. Not bad for a guy with an Incurable Cough of Death.
Except for its rarely-used Strait Jacket mode, Captain Bravo's Buso Renkin is purely defensive, leaving him to beat the piss out of Homunculi with his bare fists.
Batman Can Breathe in Space: Kazuki uses his energy liberation to push Victor up to the Moon, so that they can battle without destroying anything/anyone.
Brain Bleach: some of Papillon's antics will have you reaching for some. Quoting Ouka in episode 17:
"Somehow, I feel unbelievably frightened..." (she is looking through Gozen's eyes and seeing Papillon walking through the beach in just a mankini and a swimming cap, and shaking his booty all the way!)
Gozen falls apart on seeing the mankini.
On his first appearance, he pulls out his butterfly mask out of his thong.
Brain Food: What Victoria's been eating all these years.
Brain in a Jar: Alexandria Powered is one of these. She's also cloned herself repeatedly so that she's many brains in jars.
Somewhat justified when you learn about their past - they were kidnapped as children and their kidnapper/surrogate mother would have them play a disturbing game built around wedding vows. When their real parents rejected them, the two legitimately felt like they only had each other, and latched onto the one thing that was happy from their childhood. Furthermore, once they realize that they're not alone, a lot of the creepy stuff gets toned down.
Brought Down to Normal: After the events in the final arc Kazuki and Tokiko, along with most of the younger generation of Busou Renkin wielders, surrender their Kakugane to the Alchemist Army for safe keeping (except Papilon who becomes an urban legend loved by everyone). Tokiko remarks that she misses hers, as she's being without it after fighting for so long.
By the Power of Grayskull!: "Busou Renkin!" In the manga, this is often followed by "Busou Renkin of the XX, YY!" where XX is a description of the weapon and YY is its name.
Tokiko's opponent in the first episode does this for her, something along the lines of "So this is the Death Scythe Arms Alchemy; Valkyrie Skirt."
Calling Your Attacks: Kazuki and Captain Bravo both have names for most of their attacks — "Sunlight something" for the former, "Bravo something" for the latter. Tokiko, who takes herself more seriously than either of these two, finds the behavior rather odd.
Lampshaded and justified during the fight with Washio. Tokiko asks Kazuki why he keeps yelling "slasher" and "flasher" and whatnot. Kazuki responds that he feels more powerful that way.
A Date with Rosie Palms: Mahiro, during the 5th episode omake, begins talking about what she wants to do with Tokiko, if she becomes her big sister via marrying Kazuki. She gets to this and that before she announces that she is SOOOOO excited then stops herself and says she will continue at her dorm later on.
Determinator: Kazuki. It's not for the normal reasons, and gets him in quite a bit of trouble later.
Die or Fly: Seems to be a common way of learning to summon one's busou renkin. Kazuki learned how during the fight with Mita (in the manga; in the anime it happened against Saruwatari instead). Tokiko gained the Valkyrie Skirt when she was attacked by a captured humanoid homunculus while having injuries treated with a kakugane.
The Dragon: Washio to Koushaku Chouno. Washio is an example of the trope's original definition of the Big Bad's second-in-command being a tougher opponent than the Big Bad himself. There are two reasons for this. First off, Tokiko theorizes that rather than trusting blindly in his physical prowess, he trained hard to be able to use his homunculus powers to their fullest extent. Second, the liner notes state that the human Koushaku turned into Washio was a yakuza enforcer who was also former JSDF.
Dude, Not Funny!: On one occasion Gouta makes a sarcastic remark about how they'd be able to save on food money if Kazuki stopped eating normal meals and instead just started draining people whenever he gets hungry. Kazuki is not amused. Considering that he'd previously put up with Gouta being an asshole to him and pining over Tokiko with a friendly attitude and cheerful smile, the glare he gives Gouta after he says that speaks volumes. invoked
Earn Your Happy Ending: And how! Considering how generally lighthearted this series is, it's actually quite shocking at how bad things get—and every time an alternative solution comes along the universe decides "nah, I'm gonna pick on Kazuki a bit more..." Our heroes just keep on pushing until the universe lets up and allows them their happy ending, dammit.
Evil Tastes Good: "As dark as the devil, as hot as hell, as sweet as a kiss. This is how a human tastes." Papillon after having been transformed into a homunculus.
Expressive Hair: Okakura's ducktail, which seems to change sizes according to his mood (as if it wasn't impossibly long in the first place). One dream sequence had his friends manipulate his dream so his hair rolls and unrolls and eventually twist into a drill.
Expy: Kazuki is visually similar to Misao Makimachi of Rurouni Kenshin, and the author even calls him "A boy version of Misao" in character notes.
Word of God in a lot of the character bio pages says lot so characters are expy's of Kenshin characters and in a few cases shots look like they're lifted directly from Kenshin. An early rival in the kendo club is an expy of Enishi while his sister is one of Tomoe. Later in the series an Alchemist Warrior looks like Hiko Seijuro just forgot to shave for a few days.
A lot of people read Kazuki as being a teenage, slightly-more-mature form of Kid Samurai Yahiko.
Tokiko is nothing if not practical. During the fight with Hanabusa in Chapter 6, she jams her fingers into both the homunculus's eyes and rips them clean out, then beheads her with the Valkyrie Skirt.
Contrast this with the epilogue, when Tokiko catches Kazuki staring at her scar and pokes him in the eyes. Here it's played for laughs.
Watsuki: Tokiko loves to go for the eyes. Kazuki loves to bleed.
The Faceless: Subverted by Captain Bravo. After first seeing him in his face-concealing trenchcoat, Kazuki and Tokiko wonder how long they will have to wait before they see his face...then he shows up, unmasked, a few pages later, and looks utterly unremarkable.
Falling Into His Arms: Kazuki tries this, after Tokiko used his lance to pull her into the sky for an attack. He almost ends up catching the falling lance with his face instead (meanwhile, Tokiko safely lands using her Valkyrie Skirt, without any need for assistance).
Fanservice: The bulk of the naked body shots are male, with Papillon getting the most of them. His outfit rivals David Bowie's in Labyrinth and the camera shows a zoomed in view a few times.
Flash Step: Parodied. Kazuki and Shuusui spend their first few turns of combat playing "behind you!" to each other so much that they end up running out of the classroom the fight had started it, though Kazuki claims to have done it to minimize damage to the building.
Foe Yay: In-Universe, Papillon's obsession with Kazuki. Magnified by the fact that there's already a lot of subtext around Papillon. Just look at his outfit!
The scene in which Kazuki and his friends go to a bathhouse. Kazuki and co. compare sizes with Hayasaka Shusui, Kazuki making the comment, "The ultimate in masculine beauty..." Then later Papillon pops up and scares our hapless heroes senseless, and proves to be the biggest of them all.
Fugitive Arc: After Kazuki discovers that he has a black Kakugane, he, Tokiko, and Gota become wanted by the Alchemist Army.
Gory Discretion Shot: One homunculus, already in pain from wounds inflicted by Tokiko, pleads "please, just stop, already!". Tokiko responds by plunging her blades into him. Jump cut to shot of the sky, and a moment later, scream of agony.
Gratuitous English: It was Kazuki who came up with the names of his attacks, even before Tokiko baptized his Kakugane as Sunlight Heart. Back then, he used the word "Jousting" where he now uses "Sunlight" (e.g. "Jousting Slasher!!!")
Half-Human Hybrid: Some homunculi are normal people transformed into these by alchemy.
Heroic Sacrifice: Kazuki in the first episode (it wasn't even needed), attempted several more times over the course of the series
Captain Bravo uses his impenetrable Silver Skin to shield Kazuki, Tokiko and Gouta from Hiwatari's napalm bomb while he takes the full force of the attack. Fortunately, he gets better.
Hidden Depths: Angel Gozen represents Oka's subconscious, so she's not as nice as she seems.
High-Tech Hexagons: A recurring motif starting with the kakugane, an alchemic device transformed into a weapon by the human survival instinct, and which is shaped like a hexagon about four inches wide.
Humongous Mecha: Buster Baron, General Shousei's Renkin. Yeah. You read it right. A Renkin that generates a FREAKING GIANT ROBOT, which can even use other Renkin powers so long as their users are boarding it too.
Idiot Hero: Kazuki has his moments (like trying to shake hands with Gota even though both their hands are injured).
His reaction to waking up after coming back to life is to go on a rampage through the dorm screaming about how he'll avenge his death.
I'm a Humanitarian: Homunculi need to eat humans to survive except Papillon - it's theorized that because he hated being human, he doesn't need to eat them.
Literal Change of Heart: Victor's Start of Darkness began when he had his heart replaced by the experimental Black Kakugane.
Made of Explodium: Papillon's Kakugane, Near-Death Happiness, allows him to manifest massive amounts of explosive black powder, which he can control at a whim. As per his name, he usually shapes it in the form of butterflies or butterfly wings.
Perhaps one of the most sympathetic, realistic to be seen in anime. Even the most stone-hearted of shonen fans may find themselves shedding a couple Manly Tears at certain moments...
Oh Crap: Hiwatari in episode 22, when he sees Victor coming back without a scratch from the attack of Sakaguchi's Humongous Mecha Busou Renkin.
Tokiko tries to destroy the homunculus core dangling at Mahiro's hair... only for it to come towards her instead, and no way to block it.
One Super One Powerset: Justified. If a kakugane wielder uses a different kakugane they just get the same busou renkin with different styling. Likewise homunculi can't gain new abilities, though as evidenced by Washio they're perfectly capable of training to use their existing powers more effectively. Subverted by Victors, which appear to get a new busou renkin from their kakugane being turned black.
Our Homunculi Are Different: They're man-eating creatures that have various powers and can only be killed by alchemic weapons (busou renkins or other homunculi), and then only by damaging the sigil on their bodies.
The Power of Friendship: Subverted - it's commented during the defense of the school that Kazuki is drawing on the strength of others. What isn't realized is exactly how literal that statement is...
Redundant Rescue: How Kazuki got pulled into this mess from the beginning. Kazuki spotted Tokiko being followed by a monster and then dives into save her - at the expense of his own life. Even though she staged her helpless to draw out the monster.
Rule of Cool: Many of Captain Bravo's mannerisms are done because "they look cooler that way".
Hello? How about the entire freaking series? Alchemy had nothing to do with creating human/animal hybrids or summoning weapons from stones, but fans accept it because, hello, Tokiko has a SKIRT MADE OF SWORDS THAT SHE CAN CONTROL WITH HER MIND! Not to mention Kazuki's giant spear/sword, and every thing else that's just so made of win.
And then there's Hiwatari's Renkin, which is a freaking AERIAL BOMB... Yea, just like the ones dropped by dive bombers.
Sissy Villain: Ooh boy. Papillon is the most extreme example ever.
And yet... depends on your definition of Sissy. Part of the... entertainment?... he provides is that he can somehow be so Unfunny when his appearance and mannerisms are so ridiculous.
Shout-Out: To Rurouni Kenshin's English title, Samurai X, in the form of Shusui Hayasaka's Renkin, Sword Samurai X. Also, a shoutout to the same anime for a single panel in the manga where Tokiko is so bandaged up she looks like Makoto Shishio, for no reason other than an irresistable impulse the author had.
Let's not forget the training room being called the Danger Room or the Big Bad's weapon being named Fatal Attraction as a clear shout out X-Men, Watsuki's favorite American comics.
Kazuki is named after Yu-Gi-Oh!'s author and main character, Kazuki Takahashi and Yugi Muto.
Also, when Gouta manages to "wound" Hiwatari's throat, it starts spewing fire in such a way he looks just like Chamber, a former member of Generation X and, later, of the X-Men.
In the episode "Boy Meets Battle Girl" one of the attractions in the haunted house at the amusement park was a mannequin that bore an uncanny resemblance to Tomoe, mostly because of the whole Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette look she had going.
In one episode, the camera makes a panning shot of a TV and onscreen is the main character from Nobuhiro Watsuki's one-shot, "Embalming -Dead Body and Bride-".
When Kazuki draws up a composite sketch of Papillon, the art style is that of Hirohiko Araki.
Not necessarily. Those who have completed the transformation suck the life out of all living things in the general area. Like Victor does. It's not a question of being willfully destructive, it's just part of staying alive. Victor compares it to BREATHING.
Take a Third Option: What Kazuki tries between using the White Kakugane on himself or on Victor.
Talking Is a Free Action: Lampshaded. Shusui uses his secret kendo technique on Kazuki during a match, while Koji manages to get in an explanation of the attack in between the attack starting and actually connecting, followed by Masashi pointing out that this is taking way too long.
Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Tokiko stated that due to the trauma she suffered after Homunculi attacked her school leaving her as the sole survivor she has very little recollection of her life before the incident.
The Unfavorite: Due to his poor health, Papillon was this compared to his similar-looking brother. So much so, that when Papillon went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against his household, he decided in advance to spare anyone who called him by his correct name. There were no survivors. Part of the reason Papillon is Affably Evil towards Kazuki seems to be that Kazuki was the first person to ever really care about Papillon, even if it was in an Arch-Enemy sort of way. Owing to that, Kazuki is the only one Papillon allows to refer to him by name.
Ungrateful Bastard: After learning about the Hayasaka Twins' tragic past, Tokiko doesn't feel sympathy for them, claiming that becoming homunculi and making other people suffer is unforgivable as she goes to attack them. Kazuki, however, refuses to let Tokiko kill them and puts his life at risk to defend them from her. Shusui's response? He uses the opportunity to stab Kazuki through the abdomen. Luckily, Ouka is grateful for Kazuki's actions, and saves his life.
Verbal Tic: Moonface tends to say "Moon?" when confused.
Hell with that, he says it at total random from time to time. Mooooooooon~
Villain Song: "Itoshiki Sekai", which serves as the second ending of the anime.
Walking Wasteland: The latter half of the manga revolves around Kazuki's quest to prevent himself from becoming this, and to cure Victor, who has already completed the transformation.
Weirdness Censor: Averted. As part of it's affectionate parody nature, the series often goes through examples of countless normal people noticing how just plain weird the entire main cast is, all while said main cast (except for Tokiko) acts as flamboyantly as possible while believing that the Weirdness Censor is in full effect.
Wham Episode: Episode 16. The Alchemist Army turns on Kazuki after they find out he'll turn completely into a Victor-like in 6 weeks.
What Is Evil?: Papillon invokes this after Tokiko brutally kills a humonculus, but not before telling it that it would feel the pain of hell before she kills it.
"Oh my, it begs the question, which of us is the truly evil one"
To be fair, she warned them repeatedly that she'd splatter their guts.
What the Hell,Big Good?: Victor calls out the Commander for repeating the mistakes of the past when Kazuki becomes Victor-ized and is automatically slated for termination. Turns out that was a launching point for his Unstoppable Rage against alchemists upon reviving.
Everyone who's been resurrected by a Black Kakugane aren't just turned into energydrainingmonsters; when they come back to life after turning into a Victor, they're so overwhelmed by their dialed-up fighting instincts that they destroy everything in sight. This is why the Alchemist Army thought Victor was a traitor and tried to kill him.