Synonyms: Sword Story
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Jan 26, 2010 to Dec 11, 2010
Duration: 50 min. per episode
Rating: R - 17+ (violence & profanity)L represents licensing company
Score: 8.521 (scored by 60653 users)
1 indicates a weighted score. Please note that 'Not yet aired' titles are excluded.
2 based on the top anime page. Please note that 'Not yet aired' and 'R18+' titles are excluded.
I originally stumbled upon this anime thinking it was a continuation of the Monogatari series. It's not. But it's a great show nonetheless. What wowed me about this show was its pacing. Katanagatari is easily one of the most well-paced animes I've ever seen, and the pacing reminds me a lot of BBC's Sherlock series. Each of the 45-minute episodes are like a mini-movie, leaving very little in terms of cliff-hangers, yet keeps you wanting more, if and when you have time. For me, it made for a good series to relax and watch with my girlfriend on the weekends of my hectic whirlwind lifestyle.
So why did I choose to start with a quote from an obscure 2002 Jet Li movie? Well, the one thing that probably caused Katanagatari's score to drop a few points for a lot of people was its ending, which undoubtedly left 90~% of viewers confused and angry. So, I decided to take a metaphorical stab at an explanation (for which I will enlist the help of this obscure 2002 Jet Li movie) that will hopefully shed some light on the true meaning behind Katanagatari, and help you reach a more fulfilling understanding of what the heck you just watched. However, as my explanation contains light spoilers, I will leave it at the end of my review for you to read after you've already finished the series.
Now, for the review:
- Story (8/10) -
The story of Katanagatari is both very straightforward and somehow wildy unpredictable. It follows a rinse and repeat cycle where our heroes, Togame (a delicate strategist) and Shichika (an emotionless jungle boy), face off against an enemy with a powerful and unique weapon, find some way to defeat them, and subsequently take their weapon. It may sound dull and repetitive, but the show does a great job of keeping things fresh with cute/clever interactions between Togame and Shichika, who are superstar characters in their own rights, but I'll get to that in a bit. The only thing the story is lacking is depth behind each character's motivations. Togame is collecting swords for the Shogunate, which is the enemy of her loving deceased father, while Shichika is there because... I have no clue. He claims it's because he fell in love at first sight with Togame, but his attraction is rather platonic. I think the real reason was because he was bored. That's not to say their relationship seems fake. Katanagatari doesn't pull love out of thin air like some animes do (*cough* Angel Beats!). While the relationship between Togame and Shichika starts off a little suspicious, and the show doesn't try to hide the fact that Shichika comes off as this asexual weirdo, it develops into something that seems very real by the time we get to the closing credits. Throughout their travels, Shichika undergoes a very subtle transformation from emo-jungle-boy to fun-loving prankster that's shown in the way he interacts and teases Togame. It's all done in a Flowers for Algernon kind of way, meaning the narrator doesn't have to tell us that Shichika and Togame are changing, it's just obvious. It's really refreshing to see an anime that shows us things rather than tells us what to think, wouldn't you agree? (NOD YOUR HEAD) But still, the initial motivations behind each character's actions leaves a lot viewers scratching their heads. This, of course, is compounded by the problems people have with the ending. It's not just Shichika and Togame either. All of the characters have a tendency to act in unpredictable and senseless ways, from Hou-oh, a beloved clan leader randomly decapitating his dear disciple to Shichika's sister running around killing people for no reason. None of their motivations seem to make any sense. But motivations aside, it still gets an 8 out of 10 for it's combination of fun-filled subplots, clever battle sequences, and colorful cast of characters.
- Art (9/10) -
Have you ever watch an episode of an action anime and thought, why is there no fighting in this episode? Well, Katanagatari never has this problem. There's fighting in every episode. And while the fighting is not flashy (or forced for that matter), it is very well drawn and sensibly creative. The style is not detailed, except with some of the scenery, and the artist takes liberties with the shape of human bodies and faces, but it's all still very cool looking. It all reminds me a LOT of Gurren Laggan. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it fits well with the style of the anime as a whole. There are two weird things about the artwork that might annoy some people. First, like the artist for Gurren Lagann, this artist doesn't like to draw normal looking eyes. I don't mean having something like the Sharingan of Naruto canon, that's actually connected the story. I mean some characters will just randomly have pentagons for eyes, because why not? And second, the art style changes slightly after the first few episodes (the lines get noticeably thinner). I don't know if this is to show aging (older characters are typically given lighter lines in anime), but it's all made very obvious during flashbacks. But if you can disregard those two things, I'm sure you'll find the graphics as entertaining as I did.
- Sound (9/10) -
The opening/closing and the music in general fit well with the anime. That's really all I can say about that. The background music has a modern/Sengoku style to it that reminds me a bit of Samurai Champloo, but more Sengoku and less modern than Samurai Champloo (there's very little rap). And obviously, it's by a different composer (RIP Jun Seba). Actually, I think the opening is by the same band that did the Monogatari series. Anyways, it's all very good. The intros/outros are memorable, although neither of them really wowed me. The voice acting was underrated as well. However, I've only seen the sub.
- Characters (9/10) -
The characters are probably the best thing about this show. The main characters, Togame and Shichika are both very distinct and clever. Neither of them fall entirely within any anime cliche. The repertoire between them is great, and they both have some very memorable lines. The development of the characters is relatable as the pair try to find meaning behind why they fight, what it is they're searching for, and what they really want out of life. The side characters are also very interesting. All of the enemies are unique and interesting. In fact, even the guys who only get 10 seconds of screen time are interesting. I'm going to say "interesting" one more time for emphasis, just in case you didn't catch the first 30 times I said it. They all have fun quirks about them, and none of them really came off as annoying. One good example of this is the Maniwa Corps, a group of ninjas that are sort of like what Team Rocket is for Ash and Company on Pokemon, but way cooler. The difference is that while Team Rocket is made up almost entirely of storm troopers clones, every single of one of the 12 (14?) Maniwa members are unique. About 5 seconds ago (or 10-30 seconds depending on how fast you read), I mentioned that none of them come off as annoying. Well, that's not entirely true. The fact that their motivations often fail the logic test, as I mentioned earlier, can come off a bit annoying at times. But even this does little to make them full blown annoying characters. Even Hou-oh, who I mentioned briefly earlier as acting out of random uncharacteristic impulse, turned out to be one of my favorite anime side characters in a long time. Basically what I'm trying to say is that the characters have minor annoying tendencies, but the core that makes them who they are is solid, and will keep you invested in them.
- Enjoyment (10/10)
Memorable dialogue? Check. Fun scenarios? Check. Colorful characters? Check. Fulfilling story? Check. Top-notch pacing? Check. Meaningful fight scenes? Check. A spattering of fan service here and there? Ding Ding Ding. We have a winner.
Its not the greatest show I've ever seen. But it's definitely worth the watch. I honestly believe it would be rated a lot higher if people weren't so upset with the ending. To cure that, I've decided to write an explanation. So if you haven't yet finished the show, PLEASE STOP READING HERE. If you have finished the 12 episode series, here's my take on what the ending was about...
(Warning: Light Spoilers)
Katanagatari (or Story of the Sword), taken as a whole, is about the falsification and course-correction of history. So it only makes sense that the first question we should ask is what part of history was corrected and what part was falsified?
Let's start with what was falsified. The subject matter behind this story is China, not Japan. And Shichika is an anime-parallel of Jing Ke. Name sound familiar? If so, either you're a history buff or you've watched too many Jet Li movies. Jing Ke, as some of you may know, is the main character of the 2002 Jet Li movie, "Hero" (although in the movie, he's known as "nameless"). And the history that is course-corrected is Jing Ke failed assassination of Ying Zheng, the King of Qin, and the man who would later become China's first Emperor. He's also the one who ordered the eventual construction of the great wall of China to fend China off from foreign invaders, which the anime briefly mentions. The legend goes, Jing Ke earned an audience with Zheng upon presenting him with a present - the 12 broken swords of his greatest enemies. But in the end, Jing Ke failed because of two critical mistakes. First, he was paralyzed with fear for both himself and his loved ones at the sight of the King, and second, he was too slow in retrieving the poisoned dagger he hid in the scroll he presented to the King.
Now that the stage is set, let's move on to course-correction. While it's true that Emperor Zheng built the great wall, he was actually hated in China. The construction of the great wall cost the lives of millions, and Zheng was remembered as being a ruthless coward. And so peering into the future, Kiki Shikizaki (and his descendant Princess Hitei) attempted to course-correct Jing Ke's failed assassination by getting rid of his two weaknesses - his human heart, and his need of a weapon. And so he taught Ke's ancestor the Kyotouryuu and created the deviant blades as a condition precedent for Ke's meeting with Zheng. Lastly, by killing Togame, the love of his life, Princess Hitei fulfilled her ancestor's goal in getting rid of Jing Ke's second weakness, and turning him into a perfected weapon, without residual attachment to the world. This allowed him to overcome his fears, and even go as far as to wish for death. And so all the blood shed would not be in vain and millions of lives are saved from the clutches of China's first tyrant. Of course, this would mean that Zheng could no longer build the great wall to protect China from invaders, to which Shichika replies (and I'm paraphrasing) - we'll just have to trust the heroes of the future to tear them to pieces.
Ok, so that should explain what happened. I may be wrong, but at the very least, it gives you a basis for understanding the theme of this story. By focusing on what could have happened (history), rather than what did happen (anime), the ending should hold a bit more weight. The story doesn't do that, it really couldn't. That was something that had to be left to the viewer. Another thing that probably upset people is how Shichika ends up with Hitei. Well, that's something you have to look at in context of the overarching theme of the anime - the falsification of history. History is written by the victor. Now ask yourself who you think the narrator of the story is. It could only be one person. And once you've figured that out, things should become clearer. History is written by the victor, and in this case a victor with a penchant for falsifying history. Is it not possible that the ending was a lie too? Call it a narrator's wishful thinking, if you must. Hopefully, you were able to figure out what I meant. I can't solve all your riddles for you. It would take too long. And by then, I will have already torn you all to pieces. Cheerio! read more
Premise Synopsis** (review is after)
Katanagatari is about Yasuri Shichika, a young man in his twenties who has lived with his father and sister on a small island in exile. After the death of his father one year before the show began Shichika inherits the title of the family head. This comes with the secrets of the sword less sword style which is dubbed “Kyotouryuu”. This is an anti-sword martial art that uses the body to disarm and break the opponent’s weapons. To the Yasuri family their life and body is nothing but a sword. This is why they are dubbed the swordsmen without swords. Insert Togame, the self proclaim strategian of the Shogun. She comes to the island of the Yasuri hoping to enlist the help of Shichika’s father. She instead enlists him as he is the new family head. Then she states has a quest to find the 12 deviant blades of the legendary sword smith Shikizaki Kiki. These blades are so powerful and valuable that they can change the course of history itself. The Shogunate has tried for years to claim even one of these blades to no avail. Togame then asks for Shichika’s help. She personally has failed numerous times to get the blades. She has used those who fought for money and those who fought for honor. First she used those who fight for money. They simply stole the first blade and ran. Then she tried those who fought for honor. Yet, those who fought for honor could not resist the honor of owning such a prestigious sword. She then states she needs a warrior who will fight for love. She needs a person that is devoted to her and only her. Shichika thinking her a curious woman and wishing to be someone’s “sword” (as the family considers themselves swords) accepts the offer saying “Ive fallen for you”. What follows is a grand journey of introspection, love and human nature that will shake you to your core.
Katangatri is written by Nisio Isin whose most notable work is Bakemonogatari. Katangatari is much like the former in the style of its dialog and use of symbolism/ stylized art. Katanagatari though is a much more focused story than Bakemonogatari. Katanagatari is told in 12; 50 minute episodes. Each episode of Katanagatari has Shickika and Togame going after one of the 12 deviant blades. These episodes aired once a month during 2010 from January to December. In the show the seasons changed in correlation with this. It also takes them 1 month to get each blade making it move in time with the real world. This creates a feeling of connection with the journey. Every episode Togame and Shichika meet a new person with one of the blades. Shichika having no knowledge of the world learns something new every episode and develops accordingly. You watch through the journey as the “sword” that is Shichika becomes human. He starts as something without his own will, who simply listens to Togame as her “sword”. He then develops into a human with a will and moral compass. By the end he has his reason to fight. It is a journey of twits and turns in a world that has change on the horizon. It’s a show that will keep you guessing to the eventual outcome of each episode. Showing you that things don’t always turn out the way we plan, no matter how much we wish it. Just as you think you have it down, it catches you once more. Better yet its twists are heavily foreshadowed and don’t feel like ass pulls. This journey then culminates into a final conclusion so epic and heart wrenching that it cannot be spoiled nor missed; it will “tear you to pieces”. One thing to say is this show is very dialog heavy. Its great dialog don’t get me wrong, it just can be a turn off for some. But its not to say is doesn’t have epic fights. The fights are great with fluid chorography and animation. It’s simply not the main focus. As far a story telling goes Katangatari is an episodic journey of the highest caliber. It is simply breathtaking in execution and conclusion. (10/10)
The main characters of Katanagatari are the aforementioned Togame and Sichika. The main thing keeping this show interesting during its 50 min episodes is the dialog. The banter between Togame and Shichika is clever and charming. It also makes the developing romance feel much more real to the viewer. Each character including the 12 owners of the swords have a developed back story and a motivation to fight, some good some evil. The development for Shichika mostly comes when he kills the good and the evil owners without any remorse or caring, simply because it’s Togame’s will. Yet as he hears the dying words of each and the different motivations he realizes he has nothing he fights for himself. He gains his own moral code and also gains reasons for why he follows Togame. Now I shall talk about Togame. She has many names, “The stratigen”, “that unpleasant woman”, and others names that would be spoiler territory. She is an energetic, manipulative, and clever woman that seeks the blades for unknown reasons that latter become clearer. Togame , like Sichika learns to love, and her moral code changes as she learns from the owners and Sichika. The Dialog, development, and generally script writing in Katangatari is top noch. The only gripe I have is some of the more important villains (who shunt be named) had too little back-story to them. It was hard to understand the final motivation for the final owners (can’t get into detail… spoilers). Yet the dialog and characters are an overall crowing achievement.
Katanagatari is a stylized symbolic adventure with art that looks like it comes from an old legend. The animations during the fights are one of the many high points in the series. They are well choreographed and fluid. The character designs and weapon designs are well handled and animated. Each owner has an interesting design. Animation was handled by Studio “White Fox” who are a subsidiary of OLM Inc. They are a very new studio whose first work was in 2009 and Katangatari (2010) being their second work ever. The most notable thing they have animated was the widely popular Steins;Gate anime. It’s symbolic, light art style that can instantly turn dark complements the show perfectly. It is not without flaws. The art does have a few glitches here and there. I did stop and notice some errors in animation during many of the dialog sequences. Yet the fluid motion and dynamic animation at most points make up for its occasional errors.
The sound of Katanagatari is very… interesting. It utilizes rap in a mix of Japanese and English under a back score of traditional Japanese music. It can sound epic as it wants to and does a very good job of doing so. What surprised me was that it could also sound beautiful. To be compared it shares a similar musical style to the Samurai Champloo sound track. The rap in Champloo was handled by Najubes, while Katangatari’s rap and vocals is handled by an artist called Lotus juice. The overall composition was handled by Taku Iwasaki who also handled Tegen Toppa Guerren Lagan and JoJo’s Bizzare adventure (part 2) sound tracks. The original Op’s and Ed’s are good, just not amazing. YET, Katanagatari received a new op for its 2013 rerun which is possibly on of the greatest anime openings I’ve ever heard. I say this because of how well it fits in with the show. The song itself and the visuals are amazing. The Ost choice is easily this opening. It is done by the band “Supercell” titled “Hakushi Kassai Utaawase”. This is for the aforementioned reasons. The sound track overall is good, some tracks stand out and others aren’t noticed much. Better than most and serves its overall purpose.
To state I simply “enjoyed” this work would be a slight understatement. It has firmly entrenched itself into my favorites list and my soul. Katanagatari is a grand episodic journey of introspection and human nature. Throw in a good sound track, great dialog, and tons of great moments. You got yourself some great enjoyment. Truly this was an excellent use of 12 hours.
Katanagatari is one of those diamonds in the rough. It starts as a simple journey, but turns out to be so much more. A quest for 12 swords over 12 months, the turning of a “sword” into a human being with thoughts and wants. It’s a show who’s art, sound, and setting work together to lead up to one of the grandest conclusions in anime history. It leaves you with a feeling of loss and the questions of, “what do you fight for?” Money? Power? Your own dream? Or the one you love? Do you have the will to do it? What will your dying words be? Will they be that of regret? Or words to be remembered? No matter which they all end in death. With that on this evening and month I polity close the curtain on this review.
Final Score Katanagatari:
While a plot that follows the adventure of a talented strategian and a previously isolated martial artist (he is a sword, but for the sake of this review I will dismiss discussing about that now...) traveling Japan collecting twelve legendary deviant blades may sound dull, it is actually quite the opposite. Throughout the journey, the audience meets a load of characters who are very appealing, both literally and in the way they are developed. The audience is also graced with an expansive setting that not only doesn't hint of clichés or feel dull, but manages to strike feelings unique to each situation. One of the many joys of Katanagatari was the feelings I felt after or while watching each episode - happiness, regrets, melancholy, remorse, sadness, emptiness, joy, fear, worry...All of the elements in the show combined to satisfy my need for a "masterpiece" anime.
As far as the overarching plot goes, Katanagatari can be interpreted many ways, though the two main reactions are: 1) It has an intelligent episodic format that progressively builds up to the grand finale. 2) Throughout the first 11-episodes it has ridiculously slow pacing that makes the plot movie like an inchworm, which leaves 90% of the important events to be in the last episode. I tend to stick more to the former opinion because, in truth, there were practically no boring moments throughout the entirety of the show. While the plot moved slowly during most of it, there was enough interesting dialogue mixed with action and light drama to make the experience consistently enjoyable. However, please note that this is definitely not a series for those in need of heavy action or episodic haters. Despite being a simple series about sword fighting on the outside, there is much more complexity to it.
Katanagatari should not be treated as a simple 12-episode series and instead as a series of 12 films. Disregarding the fact that each episode runs for 50 minutes, a feat rarely performed by anime studios, each "episode" feels completely different from one another. While the Japanese mysticism and relationship between Togame and Shichika remains constant during the whole show, each of the episodes presents a series of fresh interesting themes and ideas for the viewer to swallow. Each one usually starts out light and cheery with the two talking and follows with more dramatic dialogue, often with new characters being brought to the table, and even some tear-jerking scenes. Many watchers may complain about the show's format where a new blade wielder is presented in each episode that Shichika must fight against, and admittedly it does sound boring on the outside. However, to go along with what I wrote before, one of the joys of the series is the way it's setup. The writers know what the audience wants and never pull any twists or plot elements that feel too similar or give the audience an unsatisfying feeling.
Speaking of which, Katanagatari is a master at knowing when, what and how much drama to use. Many of the fights feel anticlimactic, though there is no ending to one that is similar to any of the others. The show saves the majority of the heavy drama for the finale in the majority of the last episode, with sprinkles of heart tugging and epic scenes here and there. It likes to drift in smoothly and drift out smoothly while never trying to be over-the-top or attempting to please the audience too much.
Furthermore, the dialogue used during takes up most of the show. It is witty, clever and is done is such a way to progress the story and characters nicely, though will not be everyone's cup of tea. I have personally always been a fan of dialogue-heavy shows and movies and Katanagatari was a true masterpiece in that sense by managing to bring up the feelings I mentioned before. Nisio Isin's specialty is bringing conversations life and making them feel genuine and Katanagatari may be the high point of his light novel works.
As much as I would love to write detailed reviews about each episode individually, I will save that for another time and try to be brief. While every episode was high-quality, there were a few in particular that were notable for me. The fights in episode 11 and 12 were the only that felt epic and climactic but they were believable at the same time and fit with the environment. Episode 12 specifically was an epic viewing experience which rivaled some of the greatest action and tear-jerking in media of all time. As far as other emotional moments go, there were enough to satisfy - though I will not write about them in order to save you from spoilers. The last notable episode was that of 10, which showed off deep philosophical and psychological points to make the audience's heads spin. I found it interesting to see how a series of ideas can effect people by making them think about their past and their future ahead.
With so many positive aspects to wrap my head around, there were a few minor faults as well. The storytelling techniques used at the end of episodes 10 and 11 were off-putting the rest of the series as they used foreshadowing which, while being done well, made the next episode to feel predictable and from a different show in general. Another thing that seems to make viewers annoyed is the fight between Shichika and Sabi in episode 4 - the fight that was never shown. Honestly, the manner in which the scene with Shichika and Togame talking about the fight was well-done, though the episode was slightly disappointing. I would've preferred less dialogue with Nanami and the three insect squad leaders and more hints of what actually went on during the fight. It would be nice to see an OVA or extra episode detailing the events...
Characters in Katanagatari and expansive, though each belong to some sort of group or division (i.e. Maniwa ninjas, blade wielders, etc.). Each one of the blade wielders has different traits about them that makes the audience react differently when the fight finishes. Discounting a few very short scenes, there were only two wielders who appeared before the episode with the fight between Shichika and such wielders. One of which, Houou, doesn't get much development as he is just another one of the Maniwa corps leaders with uniquely defined traits, though Emonzaemon, the other does receive considerable development. From the moment in the first half showing Princess Hitei and his conversation to the moment of his fight in the finale episode, his character made unexpected twists and turns throughout the journey. At first he is portrayed as complicated and mysterious, though in the end, he is quite the opposite - just a simple human like everyone else.
Shichika and Togame's relationship is legendary, though the final episode managed to blow away all of my previous feelings. At first, it appears as if they have the typical slowly bonding relationship - a lovable simple protagonist and his more eccentric female partner. However, when Shichika manages to show his motivations and hidden feelings in the latter half of the series and Togame's strategian abilities are truly unmatched, their development is impeccable. To go along with that, I hope you find the finale and mind-blowing as I did as it is truly one of the best endings in anime.
Katanagatari is an art in terms of writing, but also a visual feast to behold. The character styles are extremely simple and will turn off some fans and take getting used to from the majority, though I found them to be unique whilst making the characters easy to read. Characters eyes may look somewhat cheesy or childish at times, but it is the simplicity and diversity of the art that matters most in that no other anime have attempted to do the same. Everything in the setting also compliments this - leaves and cherry blossoms falling down from trees have a distinct look to them, the sky looks very light and comfortable, colors compliment each other and, most importantly, fluentness is taken into account. All of the fight scenes had striking animation, but the general movement of characters and the environment was also impressive. The only exception to this was in a few episodes where the fluentness turned from "highly satisfying" to "spectacular", with the finale being the most obvious case of this.
The shows features a different ending theme per episode that are composed by various artists, making it partly a mixed bag - some songs were appealing to my ears, the 10th in particular (singer also sang Anohana's ending), though some were not my personal taste. Thankfully, I could rely on a pleasing opening theme to grace my eyes and ears. Both were done by ALI PROJECT, a vocalist group with a specific sound and an acquired taste. I've never particularly liked their works, though both of the openings were satisfying for me. The first was more upbeat and lively, complimenting that section of the show while the second was more mysterious and chilling. For all the music enthusiasts who care to view this show, you may be mildly disappointed. Katanagatari doesn't have a long list of soundtracks and many dialogue-riddled scenes contain little/no noise except the talking and occasional background noises, but I found this to blend perfectly into the style. The few tracks were well-done, my favorite of which being the spunky sounding music that sometimes played when Princess Hitei was taking part in a scene.
Voice acting in the show is pleasant, to say the least. Every actor has a specific voice and none of the cast sounds remotely similar. Obvious extra effort is put out in dramatic scenes, such as in episode 7 with the sound of hearing Shichika yelling. However, one of the miscasts was the narrator - who actually annoyed me at points. She voiced the Chimera Ant queen in HxH '11 who was a legendary figure in the series, especially in that arc, and that role fit her very well, though as a narrator, she gives emotion off while speaking which is something narrators rarely should do. Unfortunately, the official subtitles released by NIS America present unsatisfying translations. They are not poor and get the point across but are very rough and viewers used to dubs may want to use fansubs (if you're okay with doing that). While on the topic, I might as well destroy dub-lovers by mentioning that as of this review, no dub exists, which is probably for the better for most considering the Japanese feel of the show.
It is artistic, beautiful, simple, yet very complex at the same time. The heavy dialogue may be slightly disappointing to some viewers, though the series of themes and ideas expressed, as well as the feelings one gets after watching which are truly legendary. At this point, if there was one anime that I would consider to be "the masterpiece", it would be Katanagatari. The series digs up many colorful elements to satisfy viewers, and on top of that, it is wonderfully creative at the same time. You hit gold, White Fox. read more
Which is where Katanagatari comes in to the picture.
Written by Nisio Isin (although he usually writes it as NisiOisiN since his name is a palindrome), the twelve volumes of the original light novel series were published as part of the Kodansha Box line. Strangely, all of the books were released at a rate of one per month from January to December 2007, with a spin off novel published in February 2008. Now while this is clearly a phenomenal feat, one does have to wonder if a few corners were cut for the sake of expediency and to meet deadlines, and also if the adaptation can stand up to scrutiny.
Katanagatari is basically what the title suggests - a story about swords. It begins with fire and death as a rebellion against the Owari shogunate meets a bloody end. Twenty years later, a small boat makes its way across the sea to a deserted island where the passenger, Togame, hopes to enlist the aid of Yasuri Mutsue, the 6th generation head of the Kyoutouryuu sword style and the hero of the rebellion.
Instead she finds Yasuri Shichika, who is more bumpkin than the term allows for, and is also as hard as nails.
One of the things that really stands out about the series (aside from the visuals, but we'll get to that in a bit), is the dialogue. The show is very well scripted with some very good conversations and witty repartee, and the explanations are usually clear and concise enough for the viewer to follow. There are also numerous verbal nods in the direction of modern popular culture, which makes a nice change of pace as one might normally expect lots of serious conversations about honour, loyalty, duty, revenge, or other concepts that are usually found in these types of story.
The problem though, is that the dialogue can also be off putting for viewers who want a little less conversation, a little more action (sing along if you know the words), especially as the fights are over in a very short space of time. In addition to this the story can sometimes err on the side of predictable, especially with the number of plot coupons that drive the whole show (in this case the "cursed" swords), and the series can sometimes become nothing more than a repetition of talk, talk, talk, fight, talk, end. The biggest criticism about Katanagatari though, is that it's nothing more than a very nice looking "fetch quest", and while the dialogue really does pull the whole show together, the storyline can sometimes feel derived or contrived.
What really makes the series stand out are the rather stylized visuals. The design principle attempts to merge several themes ranging from traditional Japanese art to modern fighting games, and while there are some flaws here and there, the overall effect is ... something else. The scenery is surprising to say the least, and almost every frame is literally filled with little details that will often go unnoticed by the viewer, from the grain and different tones found in wood, to the multiple hues and fractures of stone.
In contrast to this the characters are simplistic yet colourfully flamboyant. The costumes vary from the utilitarian to the nonsensical (especially those of the Maniwa ninja corps), while the characters themselves have exaggeratedly simple, almost cartoon-like, facial features. Oddly enough, whilst one might expect this sort of design to lack in terms of expression, the opposite is true for Katanagatari.
White Fox, who produced Tears to Tiara and are currently working on Stein's Gate, have done a tremendous job with the design and animation of this series. The characters have a certain grace about their movements that belies their simplistic appearance and sometimes clunky costumes, while actual combat scenes are extremely well choreographed and animated, so much so that the individual moves of Shichika Hachiretsu (Seven hits, Eight Pieces), are clearly defined.
That said, the art style may not be everybody's cup of tea, but if you can handle it then there's a pretty good story here.
One of the defining aspects of a good narrative is the strength of the scriptwriting, and because of the extremely strong dialogue in this anime, it's often easy to overlook how good the actors actually are. Hosoya Yoshimasa's role as the über country bumpkin Yasuri Shichika may have caused him some consternation as the character is effectively emotionless for a good portion of the series. That said, his deadpan delivery works very well, and can often make the viewer stop and try to work out if what he says is meant to be a joke. On the other hand, Tamura Yukari's not-quite-tsundere Togame is sometimes a joy to watch, with the character's many mood swings and emotional changes handled with aplomb. But then again, what else would one expect from an actress who's also played Takamichi Nanoha, Kawasumi Mai (Kanon), Furude Rika (Higurashi), and a horde of other lead and supporting roles.
To be honest, given that Hosoya only has a handful of shows under his belt it's amazing he managed to keep his head working alongside such an experienced seiyuu.
Katanagatari features quite a lot of music in the form of two opening themes, twelve ending themes, and a plethora of background tracks. The OPs and EDs are handled well, but given the number of songs on offer, deciding what works and what doesn't is very much a matter of personal taste. The incidental music is another matter, as while there are scenes where the music dominates proceedings, the majority of the series features either very subtle tunes that are almost unnoticeable, or no music whatsoever.
The nice thing about this approach is that the dialogue doesn't have to fight to lead a particular scene, and while the more subtle background music is pleasant enough, this is ultimately a "wordy" anime.
The biggest weakness of shows like Katanagatari is that they have too many characters for their own good. While Shichika and Togame are played confidently, have some well though out dialogue, and generally bounce off each other like peas on a drum, the same cannot be said of the supporting characters, in particular the Maniwa Corps who seem to be nothing more than a collective of whipping boys whose only role in life is to prove just how strong Shichika and his sister are.
That doesn't mean the characters are bad though. Both Shichika and Togame's emotional development is handled in a very competent manner, and as their relationship slowly becomes more defined, so too do their actions change towards each other and the world around them. Unfortunately, while a lot of attention is lavished on the two leads, there is very little left over for the supporting cast, which is a shame as there are some great performances in this anime.
Now while the series has a lot to recommend it there are some valid criticisms that can be levelled at it, the main one being that Katanagatari is far too "wordy". See, the problem is that since the dialogue is very good, someone has decided that the series should have more of it than it actually needs, and the upshot of this is that there are occasions when the characters just go on and on. Now it should be pointed out that a part of this is because the series parodies certain stereotypical behaviours found in shounen anime and manga (and James Bond stories I might add), which is nice, but ultimately unnecessary.
Katanagatari is a strange anime that's part "fetch quest", part wuxia tale, and strangely enough, part Seinfeld (i.e lots of people being dryly humourous, deadpan or witty), which isn't a normal combination by any measure. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this anime for its originality and innovation, as it would have been all too easy for White Fox to follow the tried and tested route for samurai anime, so the fact that they decided to stick with Isin's concept of how the characters should look is laudable.
Now if only the other studios would start broadening their horizons ... read more
Original work written by the same author as 'Bakemonogatari', this is a dialogue-based series that I cannot recommend to Shounen and other viewers who seek mindless battle scenes, you can ignore my warnings... "but by that time, you'd be slashed into pieces."
The story of 'Katanagatari' is driven by the characters who stand in the way of the sword gathering. New characters and weapon of the month are introduced in every episode. Through negotiation and battles with Togame and Shichika, we learn about their opponents' backgrounds and purpose to fight. It can be said that the story progresses by disposing expendable side characters. The story may be about the main couple gathering the 12 swords, but the show is really all about why people fight.
The humor in this series heavily relies on 「すべり芸」, the comedy through deliberately failed attempts to be funny, which in turn creates a humorous atmosphere for its sheer lameness. The frantic pace of conversation was the key to making this comedy style work, as well as the persistence (such as catchphrases, Togame missing the battle, sexual implication etc) in every episode.
The episodic nature of the series makes character development difficult, but it was made possible by dedicating each episode to a theme or lesson for Shichika, and sometimes Togame.
2: What to protect
8: Human Will
Shichika started out as an emotionless weapon that blindly follows Togame's orders, acting as her sword. By facing the variety of opponents in their journey and influence of Togame herself, Shichika gradually grow up as a human being, learning ways of the society and new emotions with each encounter. Character development was excellent. By end of the show, Shichika was no longer a brutal killing machine; he had his own purposes and opinions. Character design was fantastic in this series. Everyone was easily distinguishable. Even those who died quickly had very distinct personalities and features that left lasting impressions.
Character naming was pretty interesting in kanji, such as Shichika --> "Seven Flowers", Togame --> wordplay of 「十が目」(Eye is a Cross) and "Blame", Hitei-hime --> "Princess Denial". Every name basically describes the person.
My only complaint with the characters is that every adversary in this show had a sympathetic or honorable reason to fight. They were too lovable. I believe there should be at least one character for everyone to hate in this type of action/adventure series. There should've been an enemy who was simply a serial killer who loved taking life, or a corrupt leader oppressing the innocent civilians. I also felt sorry for Maniwani, for being defeated (often easily) in every single battle against Shichika or Sword-holders.
The final episode summarizes and concludes the series well, lots of cool action, and the funniest scene occurred in stage 10 of dojo-yaburi, with Hakari the Scale. I also liked how in the end, it showed that possession of powerful weapon is pointless unless the wielder has the skill and knowledge to make full use of it.
I still consider 'Bakemonogatari' voice acting to be the best ever, but 'Katanagatari' is a close second. Togame (Tamura Yukari)'s voice takes a while to get used to, but it grew on me in time. Shichika (Hosoya Yoshimasa)'s voice sounds like reading the script at first, but not really; quite humorous and emotional when needed to be. Other than that, everyone else's voice was an instant hit (this is important because some of the characters were dead within minutes of appearance), which is quite a feat because there are over 30 major characters in this series. This is another series that made me think "Seiyuu sure are amazing".
BGM, on the other hand, makes a strong case for a new benchmark. It should be noted that at least one new piece of BGM is played in every episode, but all pieces flows so well that it doesn't sound like deliberate theme music for each villain. Most pieces are fully orchestrated in Western or Japanese traditional instruments, charged with the grandeur of the adventure. Others are jovial Japanese rap that serves its purpose by being so bad that it's funny. However, it's not the quality of individual number that makes the background music of 'Katanagatari' remarkable, rather its application. Every number is used in exactly the right places. The most distinguishable characteristic of the implementation is that the music start well before each significant scene to build up the tension, harmonizing with the story to enhance the drama as they climax with absolute precision.
OP1 was very catchy with good balance of anime beats and traditional Japanese atmosphere, but OP2 was average. EDs are different for every episode. Ep4, 8, 12 were particularly strong songs, but all were shared by outstanding vocals.
Character in this series had extremely crude designs, with background detail of varying degree. However, the artwork has a very unique style that creates a Japanese fairytale, picturebook-like atmosphere that suits this series well. One can tell the animation director and staff went lengths to visually compliment the story with wonderful "camera work", composition, and fabulous fight scenes.
I want to believe that the character designs are simplified so that they (especially the protagonist) begin as blank canvases, and their impressions and details painted in viewer's minds as the show progress through words.
The art quality in this series is technically inferior compared to most shows airing this year, but in my opinion had one of the best presentation and style. Probably hit or miss depending on tastes.
Although there are limits to episodic storytelling, the show had great character development and interesting story. The story was full of surprises and unpredictable turn of events despite it being a simple tale of sword gathering. Quite innovative and bold in style with both artwork and plot development. There were many great episodes in this series, I hereby declare episode 2, 4, 10, 12 「神回」 (godly epic episodes). Episode 7 was one too, though it probably had been possessed by a demon than god in many ways.
Perhaps it's a result of loose deadline due to monthly episode, but you can tell the staff paid close attention to perfect everything, from animation to sound to story structure.
It was one hell of an adventure around Japan. In spite of all the flaws mentioned above, 'Katanagatari' is a series that I enjoyed tremendously. This series was filled with so many interesting quirks, and I will definitely remember it for a long time.
Cheerio! Let's all hype up this word with the wrong meaning. read more
Story(9/10)- Katanagatari's premise is essentially the typical shounen premise. Yasuri Shichika, master of the swordless sword style, Kyotouryuu, lives on an island with his older sister, Nanami. They know nothing of what life is like in the outside world, until one day an intruder interrupts the tranquility of their island. Togame, a self-proclaimed strategian, enlists the help of Shichikia to acquire the 12 deviant blades for the shogunate. In any one elses hands, Katanagatari would've been ridden with cliches and tropes found in many popular shounen anime/manga. However, Katanagatari is anything but typical.
In all of Nisio Isin's works, dialogue is always at the forefront. Katanagatari is no different, it is probably even more so since each episode is a whomping 50 minutes long. But that is exactly where the show succeeds, in it's dialogue. The dialogue is witty, clever, intelligent and insightful. All without being verbose and mundane. The conversations often provide background and motivations for characters and do a phenomenal job at world building, bringing the world and characters to life while giving it a touch of realism.That is not to say the plot itself isn't interesting either.
As the story progresses, there are a lot of unforeseen twists and turns that serve to deepen the plot without being convoluted or contrived. All the plot points are revealed at the right time to cause the greatest impact on the viewer. It is not this often that a story is able to hit all the right notes.
Art(9/10)- The art for Katanagatari is nothing short of beautiful. It has a very vibrant color scheme that your screen will be glowing the entire time. The character designs are a bit atypical because they seem more.....cartoonish. They aren't overly detailed but aren't so base that you can't remember what they look like. The backgrounds are detailed to that point where the world itself becomes a character.
Sound(9/10)- The soundtrack is nothing short of memorable. It is composed by Iwasaki Taku who is famous for his work on Rurouni Kenshin Trust and Betrayal, Now and Then Here and There. The soundtrack is a unique blend of jazz, Indian flutes, and traditional pieces that compliment the world adding to its character.
Character(9/10)- By far, the best thing about Katanagatari is the relationship between Shichika and Togame; how their relationship grows and how they mature throughout the story. Shichika starts out as a bland individual. He lacks any traits, besides his strength, that cause him to stand out. He is essentially a living weapon. Each encounter he has with an enemy, leaves a lasting impression on him, causing him to change little by little. Throughout the show, you see him make the transition from a mere weapon, to a human being. You feel as though you are changing with him.
The encounters not only change the characters themselves, but also serves to deepen their relationship. With each encounter Shichika has with an enemy, it adds another dimension to his relationship with Togame. He starts out as merely a tool for her to use, but slowly she grows to love Shichika. The same for Shichika as well. He follows Togame blindly without any reason but over time he finds a reason to fight.
The villains are not mere caricatures either. Due to the length of the episodes, the villains are fleshed out to the point where they are human. They each have their own reasons for pursuing the deviant blade, along with a distinct personality and world view. It is rare that a show gives development to almost every character in the cast, in a seemingly short time frame.
Conclusion(9/10)- Katanagatari is a tale both grand in ambition and in scope. It is one of the view anime that accomplishes what it wants to without compromises. A stong narrative, and strong lead characters put it head and shoulders above nearly every anime out there. If you have the patience to withstand the lengthy conversations, the pay off is well worth it. I give Katanagatari 9/10.
Katanagatari is different from typical feudal era titles in the fact that there is quite a bit of creativity put into the journey faced by Shichika and Togame. While the "collect them all" storyline with the Deviant Blades may seem like typical fare, a number of the weapons are not swords in the typical sense as some of them take on unique forms and many of them even have unique abilities that complicate the mission of our main pair in trying to collect them, especially as Shichika is not allowed to inflict any kind of damage to the Deviant Blades as he tries defeating their wielders. Some of these confrontations involve typical battles where Shichika tries to defeat their wielders, while others require him to get more creative under Togame's guidance to defeat them if conventional tactics aren't doable.
The series balances out its focus on the quest to gather the swords by offering solid exploration of a number of its major characters. Our lead pair and many of the Deviant Blade wielders get a good deal of focus in Katanagatari's unique run time as many of the latter group are focused on to explore their backgrounds, mentalities and why they wield the Deviant Blades they have possession of.
The unique pairing of Shichika and Togame lend a mixture of both comical and serious developments in their relationship and offer a fun foil to one another with Shichika being naive to the ways of the outside world in spite of his immense skill in martial arts and Togame trying to put on a regal facade in spite of her lowly status with the shogunate and her ability to develop tactics when confronting Deviant Blade wielders. Their chemistry is a genuine one as Shichika learns to develop a sense of self through his understanding of the outside world through Togame and our female lead grows to admire Shichika in spite of her original intentions to utilize his skills as a tool to gather the Deviant Blades for her personal gain. The series does drop hints of the two having a past connection to one another through Togame's rather tragic back story that are eluded to as the series progresses and helps add some engaging drama to the pairing's developing bond in later episodes.
Praises aside, I do have some issues with Katanagatari that hurt its quality to an extent. For anyone familiar with series creator Nisio Isin, you may remember his work with the Monogatari franchise. Much like that series, Katanagatari often likes to indulge in dragged out conversations between characters that cover ongoing elements of the show's plot and characters. Unlike the Monogatari franchise where this presentation approach worked because of the series being more character-driven, the heavy focus on conversations don't work as effectively at points for Katanagatari since the series is more plot-driven and causes the pacing of the series to often drag.
The series also has its bumps with characterization. While offering solid character depth with major players of the plot, there are some that don't get as much depth such as a number of members within the Maniwa Ninja Corps and Hitei's assistant Emonzaemon. And speaking of the former, their effectiveness as a threat in the hunt for the Deviant Blades diminishes quite a bit as the series progresses since the majority of their members get killed off rather easily in later episodes through Shichika and a few other characters.
Visually, Katanagatari is a bit of a mixed bag. While having beautiful background and scenic shots, character designs are a bit on the simple side sporting minimal details and facial designs looking rather out of the ordinary compared to more conventional designs. The series doesn't show off fluid movement often. But when it does, it creates some engaging action scenes that sport great choreography thanks to the unique abilities shown of the Deviant Blades and other fighters throughout the series, that include use of weapons, exotic abilities and hand-to-hand combat.
While some elements of its premise are a bit flawed and I do find the show's praise to be somewhat overhyped, Katanagatari is still a unique offering for a recent series offering fresh approaches with the character chemistry between Shichika and Togame, its "collect them all" premise and its feudal era action. Anyone looking for something different compared to many recent titles should give this title a shot. read more
*STORY -- 5 -- MEDIOCRE*
Again, it is difficult to explain the score without specifics, but the best way I can describe this show's plot is that it is both far too predictable, and far too unpredictable. The show's structure is essentially as follows: each episode takes place a month apart and features the two protagonists, Yasuri Shichika and Togame, locating one of the twelve legendary swords and obtaining it in one way or another. Having a show running on a formula such as this runs the risk of killing the show's unpredictability, since the plot is literally formulaic. You KNOW that the protagonists are going to succeed and take the sword that episode. This makes some of the more drawn-out segments that rely on suspense fall somewhat flat, since you already know the outcome.
Perhaps in an effort to counter this predictability, the show throws many moments that seemingly come completely out of nowhere, but rather than feeling excitingly unexpected, these moments often feel cheap or underdeveloped. There is often a lack of proper build-up to many of the show's twists or turns, making the viewer feel cheated or downright confused. There are the occasional moments where this unexpectedness works extremely well, particularly in episode 4, although that episode in particular highlights an issue regarding the anime's characters which I cannot explain without spoiling it (basically, it highlights how uninteresting the two protagonists are). Unfortunately, these better moments are few and far between. The last few episodes in particular, while praised as some of the best in anime by some, feel particularly prone to random new plot threads that the show expects its audience to accept. "AHA SURPRISE! THIS WAS ACTUALLY THE PLAN ALL ALONG!" is not a good plot device, nor is having one of the characters go around performing unexplainably overpowered deeds and him simply explaining it by saying "It is not necessary for you to understand what just happened."
The show is definitely inconsistent in its quality. Certain episodes are actually quite excellent and well-paced. Others are downright awful and are entirely exposition where the protagonist goes on some mind-bending LSD adventure in an effort to get him to understand something of great importance -- a common trope in anime. The quality of the episode seems very much related to the characters featured, so I will touch on that later.
The anime's focus seems to be on its dialogue, which is mostly a good call, since the interactions between characters are the show's strongest moments. However, it often feels that the show's writers know that the dialogue is good, and decide to take it too far. As a result, many of the dialogue scenes drag horribly with seemingly no reason but to fill time or show off. The pacing definitely could have used a bit of work.
Although the dialogue is generally excellently written, the actual writing of the show is surprisingly poor. If that's confusing, let me try to explain by saying that the show has a tendency to tell rather than show, which is not a good writing strategy. Sometimes a character may be telling something rather well, but that doesn't negate the fact that they shouldn't be telling it in the first place.
Of course, the show's unpredictability and copious amounts of dialogue can be used as examples of why Katanagatari is unique and therefore deserves praise. Although aspects are certainly unique, it still feels very much like a typical anime at most times. Even when the show manages to be unique, a show needs to be more than just that -- it actually has to be well executed. I simply cannot call Katanagatari's story well executed despite its attempts to be different.
*CHARACTER -- 6 -- FAIR*
The characters are what manage to save the show's content from disaster, although they are very far from being excellent. The protagonists in particular are a great target of criticism. Togame's character is overall extremely static. She hardly changes, aside from her feelings and attitude towards Shichika. This wouldn't be a huge issue on its own were her character not so stock and boring. She is the stereotypical high-tempered, jealous, easily embarrassed, pouty female trying to make a name for herself but unable to alone because she is essentially incompetent. She definitely improves in the competency department later on, making some successful strategies, but she is a far cry from being interesting or unique. Some of her backstory is better than her actual character, but suffers from the plot's problem of throwing sudden, unexpected globs of information at the audience and expecting you to care.
Shichika is the other protagonist and his "development" in particular bothers me. He displays the guise of having tremendous character development, changing from being a completely blank person -- literally a tool (sword, in this case) -- to a caring human being. He can best be described as a robot learning he has feelings. Unfortunately, it is not impressive character development to go from nothing to a human being. What IS impressive character development is to go from a human being to an INTERESTING human being, which Shichika never becomes. He essentially manages to become a normal stock character, which almost makes him less interesting than how he starts out as. At least when he is nothing but a tool, he has that unique aspect of having no idea about human emotions or the outside world, which is played off for humour decently well. He does display the odd quirky moment, and you can only wish there were more of such glimmers of personality.
What, then, manages to save this show? That would be some of its secondary characters -- namely, those who wield the swords the protagonists must obtain. These characters are certainly not all great (one character in an episode in Ezo in particular was simply terribly developed, or rather, wasn't at all), but a few of them bring you into their world and make you care about their fates. This is extremely effective and is one of the ways the show's predictability is somewhat mitigated. By knowing that these swordsmen are going to lose, the episode becomes something of a tragedy, as you realize this world they have developed and rely on the sword to maintain are going to be destroyed by the two protagonists. As such, episodes that feature the most interesting swordsmen are also the best episodes. Unfortunately, only a few of these swordsmen end up being this interesting, so the praise can only really apply to a few episodes.
The Maniwa Corps, a ninja corps that appears throughout the entire show, is a particularly strange presence. Without spoiling too much, their appearance in each episode eventually becomes something of a running gag that I personally found quite humorous. This could probably be a criticism, and in a way it is, because these characters are woefully underdeveloped, but in this case, that actually feels intentional and in a way that doesn't feel contrived or cheap. Still, they certainly could have done without them entirely for the most part, which probably isn't the best sort of characters to have.
Nanami, Shichika's sister, is probably the worst-written character in the entire show in my opinion, which is an incredible shame because she starts off as potentially one of the most interesting. She makes an appearance early on that completely steals the episode in a surprising way, which is one of the show's best moments, but the next time she is featured, her character is so poorly and suddenly developed and the episode's contents are so messily executed that I would probably consider said episode the worst in the series. They eventually explain what happens at the end of the episode, but by that point, the damage has already been done.
There are a massive host of other characters, namely a couple that appear in the latter stages of the journey, many of which are also underdeveloped. There are simply too many characters for this show to handle in its time frame, which is a shame, because all of the voice performances are generally excellent.
*ART -- 9 -- GREAT*
This show's art is by far its strongest aspect. The production in general is fantastic, with a unique art style that, while not personally my favourite, has moments of startling beauty and a sort of painting-like quality that makes many frames feel like classic Japanese art. Some of the character designs are a bit questionable, but overall, the art is superb. Unfortunately, there is one episode in the middle of the series where the art style completely changes, and while I can't comment on any possible artistic reasoning, all I can say is that the episode feels like it was produced on a budget. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea, but there is noticeably less movement and quality in the art, which is a shame, since this episode is particularly important plot-wise.
I don't want to give the best aspect of the show such a short piece of the review, but aside from that one episode mentioned, there isn't much to say aside from the art being excellent.
*SOUND -- 8 -- VERY GOOD*
The sound is not as stand-out as the art but still good. There is some good music, although nothing in particular really stands out. The sound effects are also fine, but again, nothing outstanding. As mentioned, the voice performances are fantastic, which gives a great boost to the sound's score. Because the rest of the sound is otherwise rather average, I can't give it higher than an 8, but it is still quite good nonetheless. I do have one huge nitpick regarding the sound design: there are on occasion songs placed into the background, and the lyrics often clash with the atmosphere of the scene or appear underneath dialogue. This gives this weird feeling where you hear voices but don't understand where they are coming from until you realize they are in the background music. A mostly minor complaint, but it practically ruined one or two scenes.
*ENJOYMENT -- 7 -- GOOD*
This was one of those shows that rarely gripped me, but also never got bad enough to make me stop watching. It was mildly entertaining throughout, with some fantastic moments sprinkled in with some maddeningly poor ones, but even those poor moments helped keep me watching if only out of outrage, so perhaps they were doing something right. This wasn't a show I ever felt like dropping, nor was it a show I couldn't wait to watch the next episode of.
*OVERALL -- 7 -- GOOD*
Considering how badly I bashed the story and many of the characters, even a 7 may sound surprisingly high, but the production values really go a long way in elevating the show's quality. Even the story and characters, while highly flawed, are serviceable enough to be enjoyable. Perhaps the best way to describe Katanagatari is as an aspiring epic crammed into far too short a time span. The anime simply tries to tackle far more than it can handle, from too much dialogue to too many characters to too many new subplots to too many unexpected twists. The show definitely could have benefitted from either being longer or trimming its excess fat. Being longer would perhaps give those poorly-developed, unexpected moments a great chance to become legitimately believable or well-built-up.
Despite these plentiful criticisms, Katanagatari is an above-average show. It is beautiful, has some excellent moments, and is generally entertaining. You could certainly do better, and it isn't the masterpiece some herald it to be, but you could also certainly do much worse. read more
Now, Katanagatari is great, it's absolutely wonderful, but depending on your ability to immerse yourself in a story so much that you forget time this may or may not be for you. If you are like me with the attention span of a goldfish, initially the 50-minute long episodes might scare you off. If you are able to put up with it, however, you are in for a treat.
I will not summarise the series because frankly you can look at the anime description for that, that and I doubt I will make it that much more interesting. I will just go through why I like it.
First of all there are the characters, which I think are the main driving force behind this anime. They bounce off each other really well, providing good (but not ROFLOL hilarious) comedy and creating an overall likable character dynamic. The side characters are also fairly good, they do their thing, but for the most part you will not see them for more than one episode, so they do not matter too much. I will also give points to the incredibly forced romance. I like that Katanagatari doesn't even try to build it up naturally but instead approaches it like "Yeah, we're in love even though we've shared a whole of five miniutes of screen time. Deal with it."
The action scenes are short but very energetic and well directed. While they are very good, be warned if you are going into Katana thinking it wll be 90% action; it will not. In fact, much of the anime is spent on dialogue. Think Bakemonogatari, just not quite the same bullet pace.
The sound track is excellent, and while I do not think it stands out per se the music tracks are used very efficiently, creating just the right mood every single time.
The art can be descriped as fairly minimalistic - it certainly does not stand out in terms of production values - but it gets its job done and does it well.
Overall, Katanagatari is gud, you should definitely check it out if you like dialogue and good action scenes, but due to the length of the episodes you may or may not be able to marathon through it. Also: dat last episode. read more
its episodic, theres a lot of dialogue, its not rom-com, theres no melodrama, no love triangles, no titty ribbons, no beach episode, its not slice of life, theres fighting and powers and shit, it has childish art themes; its basically everything i hate in video james. i wasnt sure what i was expecting from this one but it certainly wasnt what i received.
you should be pretty mature to enjoy this show. it certainly demands a more mature, patient watcher to really enjoy and stick with this show. it starts slow in plot, characters and action scenes but finishes strongly with gusto like me with my waifu pillows.
- youre looking for just really awesome fight scenes
- have no patience/cant cant stand dialogue
- you still watch bleach
- spend the majority of your day trading pictures of frogs
- are an autistic meme making 12 year old (i.e. all of the above)
then this show really isnt for you. the first few battles are really short and kind of suck but everything keeps building to the final episodes. They are amazing in all regards and if someone disagrees, their waifu is shit.
the characters in this show are so well crafted. the personal journey and progression of the main characters was so very well done, as was their relationship with each other. the dynamic between the main characters in the way they were so shy in some regards but so close in others was refreshing and entertaining. for a non-romance-centric anime i ship the fuck out of those two and loved every moment of it. every side character, the main characters, recurring characters were all great and solid. i cant praise them enough ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ﾉ
i really thought this one was going to be a lame as fuck 12 year olds cartoon but it was really excellent story telling, with really great characters and relationships, in an unconventional manner. a hair away from a perfect 10.
short hair togame obviously best you donger loving fuck read more
Story - 9
Togame is the main strategist working for shogunate that currently controls Japan. She is given the task, that might sound quite easy "collect twelve important swords" but well the job is indeed dangerous and lone adventurer would basically be committing suicide, therefore she needs someone to protect her. Togame ventures alone without anyone knowing her intentions to the not-so-abandoned island where it is said that sixth master of Kyotoryuu (the swordless art). It turns out the master is dead and the person she has to deal with is his son, seventh master of Kyotoryuu - Yasuri Shichika who lives with his sister on the island doing absolutely nothing aside from training. Even though he has no opponents and never had a real fight in his life, he day by day does his training. Now it seems that he can finally make use out of his skills. Surprisingly easy she convinces him to join her on this dangerous trip. Together they travel across the Edo-period Japan in order to retrieve twelve legendary swords crafted by Shikizaki Kiki. Of course, as I said before, the job is not easy. They have to travel across Japan and try to convince the current owners of the swords to give them back. It's only natural that with every new episode, Shichika has to face stronger and stronger opponents who have different characters, mottos and past. Therefore he learns something new and the journey thing becomes also an allegory. On the plus sides of the story section is the great balance in the plot. The spectator gets to know right amount of the past of the main characters (the side ones is not actually that relevant) and the present story is told very well from the beginning until the very end. Personally I really enjoyed the way the story has developed even though I'm not really into historic stuff, because well the only thing that is historic is the times the action is set. On the drawbacks sides I think sometimes the pacing of the story gets really slow which can bore some of the viewers.
Characters - 9
Paula Abdul sung that "the opposites attract". Like Pinky and the Brain, Jessie Pinkman and Walter White, Yasuri Shichika and Togame work pretty much on the same basis. She's the brain, he's the muscles. She seems to be hot headed, sometimes overreacting, booming with the variety of emotions, while his spectrum of emotions is rather limited. They are main characters bonding together as fate brought them close. They are here for each other, for better or for worse. Of course there's romantic thread but mostly on the side of Togame... since well, as I said before, Shichika doesn't have the greatest range of emotions. It was also nice to see their development of relationship that both of them could rely on each other with complete trust and it felt like they filled each other. That outstanding cooperation helped them even when they had to face surprisingly strong opponents. They are both really likeable even though I couldn't really fell in their shoes. They are not the types of heroes that are admired because they can be understood by the spectator as the situations are the mirror of real life. No, here I was, cheering them on to kick more asses, hoping that they will succeed their mission without greater damage.
In almost every episode, the new supporting characters are being introduced. However most of them appear only in one given episode, so the viewer shouldn't really attach to them. They just come and go, and well most of them are villains. It's either the infamous group of ninjas named Mawari or the current possessors of the swords. Of course, we get to know a little bit of their story, their character and how the weapon affects them. It's all done in really good way and gives the spectator a wide range of different personalities.
Art - 8
The artwork in this show is very unique to me. At least that's the vibe I got, even though at first I didn't really enjoy it. What bothered me? Well mainly the way the characters were drawn. It may seem that they were created poorly, especially when it comes to the creation of eyes. Those were made in quite unusual way comparing to the other anime shows. However it's just a matter of time to get used to it. However on the plus side undoubtedly I have to mention the coloring - it's truly a feast for the eye. The wide spectrum of colors makes the show even more enjoyable, especially since this is story about traveling, the spectator can see multiple environments. From the warm beaches with colorful flora, to raw and dreary mountainous sights. I have almost no objections to the way the show was animated. The movements were fluid, however sometimes were done in really bad, low-budget way (especially the way boats were sailing). Thankfully the crappy CGI was not applied there.
Sound - 7
The songs are really nothing outstanding to me. The first opening (Meiya Kanderou) is just fine j-pop song while the second opening (Katana to Saya) is... bad j-pop song. I found all ending themes used in the show quite mediocre too . From the songs used in the show there was absolutely nothing that made me want to look up on the Internet. It gets better when it comes to the voice acting. Well, it's not a masterpiece, but it's overall done in a surprisingly good way. Please note, that I'm talking about original Japanese version. I really enjoyed the work of Hosoya Yoshimasa, known to the audience for his role in many shows such as Attack On Titan or Kuroko No Basket. Other seyiuu did a good job and I have to admit that they were chosen well for their roles.
Enjoyment - 9
The show can be said to be outstanding. Why? The first thing that indeed stands out is the duration time. It's not your average 24 minutes long anime, the spectator is served a 50 minutes lasting story that is greatly written from the beginning until the very end. Well it may seem that the story is quite linear, the beginning is some sort of preface; what was done thus far, where the main characters are going and what awaits them, while the ending shows the setting off onto the next target and hint what may come next. However the entire show got me... truly amazed, there were moments that I couldn't expect nor could the Spanish Inquisition.
I can honestly name this experience "unique" from what I had seen so far. First of all, the show is longer from the usual anime, however it's not exhausting the viewer. Secondly, it has very well developed story with likeable characters and nice art, I only have mixed feelings about the music, but of course it's not necessarily a drawback, as the music is just a matter of taste. I can honestly recommend this show to anyone who wants to see something that is not set in present times, who likes adventurous anime and wants to see something different.
Thanks for reading! Drive safe! read more
Katanagatari's plot is interesting, but predictable. I mean, it's about a quest to retrieve 12 magical swords. And oh, what a coincidence, Katanagatari has 12 episodes! Who would've guessed? Not me. Didn't see that coming.
All unfunny attempts at sarcasm aside, Katana's just got something going for it that a lot of shows these days don't. It's an episodic series, each episode for the most part having our main characters, Yasuri Shichika and Togame, plotting to retrieve another one of Shikizaki Kiki's deviant blades. Seems simple enough, but while this show seems set up to be another one of those bad guy of the week--or month, in this show's case--kind of shows, it manages to pack much more of a punch than that. This is likely due in part to the run time of each episode being roughly 50 minutes, rather than the usual 24ish minutes you get out of a weekly anime. Each episode of Katana feels kind of like you're watching a series of short films, rather than any regular old anime.
Each episode has a new set of characters for our protagonists to confront, and in each of these episodes, these new characters--while already seemingly well established, fleshed out and deep in some way--have back stories of their own. Most of the characters, and I repeat, MOST of the characters have clear motivations and reasons behind their actions, but this is not true for all characters. At least that's not how I felt, but that could just be me being unable to read between the lines.
Our main characters, Shichika in particular, develop nicely as the show goes on. You get to witness him becoming more aware of the consequences of his actions, and more empathetic towards his opponents. He slowly begins to come into his own as a man as the plot progresses, and that's always a plus in my book. Togame is kind of a more guarded character. She's not as transparent to the viewer as Shichika is, and because of this her intentions might be a little hard to understand at first, but she's a very likable character, too. The two of them are good alone, but they're amazing together. Shichika and Togame's interactions with each other are funny, cute and romantic. Yes, this is a romance, in case you haven't guessed already, and it's an absolute pleasure getting to watch their feelings go from uncertain curiosity to a blooming, endearing, genuine relationship.
Katanagatari is a work of art. Now you might be thinking, "No shit, Sherlock," but hear me out. When I say that Katanagatari is a work of art, I don't mean it in the broad post-modern sense where literally anything can be perceived as an artistic masterpiece. I mean that watching Katana is like looking at a museum exhibit. The diverse color palette paired with the incredibly unique character design actually makes you feel like you're watching a moving painting. Speaking of moving, while the characters spend a lot of time just sitting and talking, the fight scenes, while short, are very well choreographed and very fluently animated.
The OST for Katanagatari fits the show like a hand does a glove. It has a very distinct old Japanese vibe in a lot of tracks, but also has bits of upbeat pieces and even a little hip-hop, I think. There are 3 OPs, two of which were for when the show originally aired in 2010, and the third one being for a 2013 re-airing. They're all quite catchy, but the one from 2013 done by Supercell is my favorite. There are actually 12 EDs; one for each episode. That's a lot of listening to do, so I didn't actually sit through all of it before writing this, but what the hell, I'll go ahead and say they're all good and hope you take my word for it. The voice acting is great, too. I've got no problems with it. The characters don't feel over acted or like lifeless drawings, but rather like humans, like they're supposed to be. Good job to the voice actors. Extra good job to Masako Ikeda, the narrator of the series.
The characters talk a lot, and I mean A LOT, but that didn't detract from the show, in my opinion. Character motivations and the overarching plot is a little hard to follow if you don't pay attention. But to be honest, I enjoyed the shit outta Katanagatari. Hope you do, too.
Man, I'm just busting out reviews one after the other today. Hopefully they're not too shitty.
tl;dr for all you lazy fucks
+Well choreographed fights
+Very original music
+Longer run time per episode
+Great character development
+Great romantic development
+Original and beautiful art style
+Epic last episode
-They talk a lot, and that might be a turn off for some
-Plot is predictable, but also a little confusing at the same time. I know that makes no sense.
-Ending may confuse or even anger you
-Some character's motivations are kinda fuzzy
Art & Sound: 30/30
Total: 89/100 read more
Yes, it did. It did that and much more. Oh so much more. Some elucidation is in order, yes? Elucidate I shall -
Katanagatari is a story about swords. Contrary to what most people would think by reading the synopsis or watching the pilot episode, this isn’t a journey about collection of the swords but rather the focal point of the story is our main lead – a sword – Yasuri Shichika. It is his journey – a journey which shapes him; which showcases his metamorphosis from a sword devoid of emotions and feelings acting on the mercy of their master to an individual, a human being, capable of inhabiting emotions and expressing his feelings as a person.
It would’ve failed as a story if it didn’t possess a likeable cast. For a character-centered story to work, it is very important to make the character in question likeable. Which this anime manages to do quite well. He may seem like a caricature – a cardboard cut-out and a character as bland as he can be; in the beginning, at least. But the story intends for that to be the case. He is a sword, after all, and not a human being. Over the course of the story, he develops into a character. And the development feels organic and not very out of place. Togame, the other main character in this story, is the loud-mouthed female lead. She may seem like any regular protagonist or love interest that you’d find in any generic anime but that’s not really the case considering the fact that her character possesses layers – layers that only become visible over time. And which add up to make her a suitably complex character. The majority of the cast, other than these two, are secondary and episodic characters in nature. Needless to say, they don’t get to develop as characters as much as our main lead does – but that is irrelevant in the end because they merely serve as a means to further enhance the development of our lead. Their strong characterization and distinct persona help them build a strong first impression, no matter how insignificant they may be, and, as a result, they end up being memorable to a degree despite the minuscule screen-time some of them may get.
A story possessing likeable leads and sufficiently distinct secondary characters won’t mean much if the story itself didn’t pack a punch – which, thankfully, isn’t the case here. The overall story of Katanagatari is pretty strong. It packs in quite a bit of content in its 12 episode run, partially owing to its unique episode length, and it deals with themes like revenge, cursed fate and asks you questions about what it means to possess resolve, what is the reason behind people engaging in the act of war, what it means to follow your true objective – how you may have to discard all of your objectives to succeed in fulfilling your one true objective; all the while making commentary on things like correct and altered history – stuff that ties into the overarching story. Also, do not be fooled by its colorful visuals – it is a story possessing plenty of dark stuff. A good deal of the content on showcase here can be taken to attribute the show to possess nihilistic views. Some may argue against it and consider this story, at its core, a celebration of life itself but that’s a subjective view which may vary from person to person. Regardless, content-wise it delivers.
But a good story with shoddy execution ultimately ends up as nothing but a messy bundle of plot-threads. As a result, the question is – does the execution front fail? Nope.
The story is told in an episodic fashion. And each episode consists of the characters engaging in conversations which eat up a majority of the episode length. This may be an action anime but all of the action in the show merely crops up for about 5 minutes per episode at the very end. This would spell disaster for most shows. It works here because the dialogue has been given a lot of attention – none of it is irrelevant or inconsequential. It may serve to fill the viewer in on the personality or motivations of a specific character at one instance or may act as a means to foreshadow future events in a subtle manner. As a result, you won’t even notice that you’d watched an anime with 90% dialogue and 10% action well after you’ve finished it. That’s what happened with me. THAT is how well done it is. Due to that, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this show even to people who prefer action over talks – the same cannot be said of similar shows like Bakemonogatari and the like (other creations by the same author, Nisio Isin). But that’s enough of a digression.
With story and characters out of the way, it is time to discuss the presentation and the production values of the show. The only word that comes to my mind when I think about the visuals in this show is – gorgeous. The art style is definitely unique and may not be everybody’s cup of tea but it fits the story very well. Highly detailed vistas and intricately designed backgrounds are to be found aplenty in this anime. The character designs are highly distinct and they all stand out a lot from the generic characters that you’d normally see in any anime. Their designs reflect their personality perfectly – as a result, just their mere appearance can tell you a lot about the kind of character that they are. A good move on the part of the production team considering the fact that most of the characters in question are episodic in nature, and, as a result, do not get significant screen time over the course of the story. Adding shades to their personality via colorful characterization is something this anime does really well as has been mentioned multiple times during the course of this review.
Soundtrack is another aspect of this show where they hit the nail right on the head. They’ve nailed it – the anime boasts a good number of memorable soundtracks and they’ve been used exquisitely to further enhance the atmosphere of any scene in the anime. If it weren’t for the excellent soundtrack, this anime would’ve lost a great deal of its atmosphere and its charm.
All in all, Katanagatari is well worth your time. It deserves multiple watches, in fact, since some details may slip by your eye during the first watch (as it did in my case). A nicely written story possessing likeable characters, gorgeous visuals and an amazing soundtrack – all in all, it is a fantastic package that should satiate your hunger for a well-crafted fantasy tale for some time and may even end up as one of your favorites. Like it very well did in my case. read more
which keenly point their sharpened blades towards
just anyone who's thirsting for their mighty power
and therefore causing uproars and a troubled hour.
Harrying this ward -
the first sword
To wield a sword, you need courage and a certain reason
to use such a deathly tool for committing life treason.
Explore your innermost nature and understand the way!
"What do you fight for?"... it's not just a simple play.
Another slain lord -
the second sword
Now to find these swords and also their own true self,
our two heroes set sail in search for these twelve
relics of Shikizaki Kiki's most famous smithery,
which became an unfathomably perilous reality.
Limits ignored -
the third sword
So who are these guys who try to fulfil this task...
since this turns out to be a crucial question to ask!
In short: they are a pair like moon and sun,
and always questing for a way to get their fated journey done.
A wicked reward -
the fourth sword
On the one hand, we have the lovable and initially almost naive
swordless swordsman Shichika, who's always ready to receive
new inspirations to improve his Kyotouryuu style,
while learning who in this world is actually hostile.
Honour restored -
the fifth sword
But despite his godlike and agile physical condition,
his inability to deal with other people is obstructing the mission.
So what do you need?... that's right, some feminine support;
more so when she calls herself out of the strategic sort.
Lost in the ford -
the sixth sword
Her name is Togame, an ever so excitable mastermind,
directing Shichika out on their struggles to find
a clever solution to combine their strength and wits
and to make the best use out of their given skill kits.
By demons adored -
the seventh sword
Between the fights, some great character development is shown;
their interpersonal relations won't let them feel alone.
And even the romance part is not suffering in any sorts
during the time between "Cheerio!" and writing strange reports.
Never explored -
the eighth sword
Along the road they will encounter lots of mysterious guys,
adding an amount of serious dynamics and refreshing surprise.
Everything is held together by a fantastic animation flow;
this and an effective drawing style are defining the show.
Harder than steelboard -
the ninth sword
This tale takes place in much older Japanese times,
when it wasn't abnormal to suffer more from intrigues or crimes.
So although the music is decent, it's scarcely used, if yet at all.
Just focus on the perfect voices and how they will enthral.
Lunacy's accord -
the tenth sword
Do not be frightened off by the unusual episode length,
but instead try to find your cause to fight, your inner strength.
If you are fond of shows like "Bakemonogatari" or "Spice and Wolf"
it's a mostly guaranteed journey into your favourite gulf.
Containing a horde -
the eleventh sword
Finally, stanza number twelve... what have we learned so far?...
The so called "Deviant Blades" will always stay special and bizarre!
Now join Shichika and Togame's travel until the bloody end
and you will surely get into a yearning for all to comprehend!
You'll never get bored -
the twelfth sword read more
Ok so Katanagatari is about two people with really long hair that have been tasked with the retrieval of 12 sword and they have around about 12, 50 minute episodes to do it, so like a simple enough premise right? Well Katanagatari is a bit more than just 12 episodes of chasing after swords followed by a little development of the person wielding one of said swords, followed by the protagonist beating them and all that. The show actually gets into the WHY these people are fighting. If someone asked you that question what would you say? Money? Power? To protect the ones you care about? Because you were told to? It doesn't really matter but they get into it in the anime and do a bloody good job of why each person is there doing what they're doing. Now right along to the actually review.
The story takes an episodic approach, like I said above 12 swords, 12 episode to get them all, its a really simple story honestly and because of this it's easy enough to swallow, but they find time to build the characters really well amongest all the fighting and strategizing, more on that front later.
The art is....odd, but really good at the same time, this is the first time I've characters with two part eyes, watch the show and you'll see what I mean. there is one point where the art style shifts to being void of every color but red, and I remember that scene well. So basically the art is different and because of this you notice a lot more than you normally would in a generic (Hate that word) style anime.
To the sound I didn't really care as usual, I didn't even listen to the OP the voice acting was on pair, people should gather by now that if nothing from the soundtrack grabs me I'm not really going to talk about it.
Now to the MEAT of this anime, the character's. I'm going to paint a picture for you, imagine a sword, this swords soul purpose is to be wielded by you in anyway you see fit, now imagine that sword is actually a human, that is how the ML starts the anime as, but as the anime goes on he starts learning these things called emotions, example; early in the show he straight up murders someone, later on he kills another certain someone and actually feels regret, before a point he will kill anyone the FL tells him to, later on he spares someone of his own volition.
The ML just grows from this, because I can't think of better phrasing, shell to a fully fleshed out human, and come the end of the show I'm pretty sure it shows us what happens to a person who is REALLY good at fighting when the person they love has literally just died in their arms and they. Just. BREAK. That moment was fucking amazing.
To people who actually take my recommendations to heart (in which case thank you, nice to know some people listen to me) do yourself a favor and watch Katanagatari, you will be in for an experience.
Goodbye my brethren, see you in the next one. read more
Even after watching the entire series the second time through, It's difficult to articulate my thoughts about watching this. The quality put into each show is amazing, as I believe it was released monthly, with each episode spanning around 45 minutes. Katanagatari does a good job telling a folktale-like story which is compelling and intriguing. It takes place in a post-Sengoku era, aka the post-"warring states period" in Japan,according to wiki.
It's a story about the journey of two people, who were perhaps destined by fate, to travel together and collect 12 unique swords which each contain mysterious power, be it benign or supernatural. It focuses on their adventure traveling together throughout Japan and the mysterious encounters they undergo among the people who either foster or are hunting these swords simultaneously. Underneath the surface of their journey, there is an underlying love story and a gradual development of character between the pair. It is progressed with each successive encounter throughout the show, which is done is a very stylish and majestic manner.
This show is extremely charming. The style is unparalleled, and is befitting to the mini-culture portrayed throughout the show. I can understand the art being a hit or miss with some, but personally it was like looking at beautiful art.
It is not an action packed show filled with meticulously animated fight scenes, although there are plenty of badass moments. It is just a simple story that is filled with memorable moments via a well written script. I remember vaguely reading somewhere that this was based on a light novel. Either way, while watching the show I definitely felt like I was reading a good book rather than watching a generic show. There are strong but subtle emphases of destiny, history, geography, and japanese culture in this anime. Furthermore, the show is paced well as each sword is generally obtained per episode, in various ways which all lead to finding to resolve to fight.
In conclusion, this anime is amazing, and is definitely in my own personal top 10, maybe even top 5 I've ever watched so far.
Three things I love about this anime:
1) The music. There were probably only 1 or 2 times where I felt the music did not suffice, or was apropos. Other than that, the music is top notch. It gives you the feels. It's unique, I would bet some are made with some pretty old-school instruments specific to Japan. Violins, are also a welcome in any show.
2) The love. This is a great love story. It's the type of love where it develops & changes the character's perspectives within the show gradually. It's done tastefully and with class.
3) This show is very memorable. It is a stand alone story with a conclusive end. There will be moments where you will get immense feels, accompanied with amazing music feels at the same time. If by the end of the show you don't get any feels, you are most definitely a robot. read more
What’s more important: the destination, or the journey it takes to get there? If you put every ounce of your blood, sweat and tears towards achieving your goal, and still fail, was it all for nothing? Inversely, if you accomplish all of your goals without breaking a sweat, are you really accomplishing anything? Due to the fact that the outcome of nearly every shounen anime every made is never in any real question what so ever, this is not a theme we have ever seen explored in anime. At least, not until Katanagatari was released. This anime is perhaps the only show ever made that can justifiably be called a proper deconstruction of the modern shounen; it takes the aspects and clichés that you would ordinarily assume about a narrative and promptly beats you over the head with them. It examines the inner workings and conceptual concepts of the genre and makes you completely rethink the priorities of storytelling. As if that weren’t enough, it also proceeds to accomplish all of this without sacrificing an ounce of entertainment, comedy, action, wit, pacing, or essentially anything. This anim- …no… This MASTERPIECE deserves a hell of a lot more credit than it gets, even if it isn’t perfect. Presenting one of my all time favorites: Katanagatari.
Synopsis: Yasuri Shichika, the 7th successor of the Kyoto Ryu style sword art, lives on an isolated island with his older sister, Nanami; he has never had any other human contact. One day, the island is visited by a woman named Togame, who requests his aid in her quest to find and collect the twelve legendary swords forged by the master swordsmith Shikizaki Kiki. And thus, the “Sword Story” begins.
At first glance, Katanagatari’s storyline is nothing special. In fact, in may take you quite a few glances to realize that there is more to this simple “Sword Story” than you are made to initially think. Largely episodic in nature, each episode consists of Shichika and Togame locating and obtaining one of the 12 swords. Conveniently, there are 12 episodes in the show (each of them twice as long as a normal anime episode, doing wonders for the pacing of the anime). Now, that information alone might make you assume quite a few things. However, you’re going to want to take my advice: Don’t. Katanagatari teaches you relatively early on that you should not assume a single thing about it. It is NOT an average shounen. Episode 4, perhaps the most trolltastic anime episode ever aired, is more than enough to demonstrate this. This show doesn’t just avoid its genre’s traditional tropes, it laughs in the face of them. It completely dismantles what an average plot might consider to be important and demonstrates the things that are REALLY important when you are telling a story: Character development, motivations, pacing, engaging dialogue, and much more. It’s genius. Pure and utter genius. Katanagatari makes fun of or completely deconstructs an uncountable number of clichés, and yet it always does so with the most impeccable sense of execution and taste. Ah, but I’ll stop clumsily trying to discuss the show’s themes while attempting to avoid spoilers. Let’s get to the other aspects of the storyline:
Something you will initially notice about this anime is that is has a LOT of dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a very fair share of action, but the majority of the screen time is spent showing the characters having conversations with one another. The reason that this is a good thing is because it’s VERY well written dialogue; sometimes hilarious, sometimes deep, but always witty and/or thoughtful. One of the best scripts I’ve ever seen. The emotional highs are high, the emotional lows are low, the comedic timing is flawless when applicable, and the show always seems to know just what to say. Katanagatari covers the entire range of the emotional spectrum; it will make you feel EVERY emotion. I can’t say the same thing for any other anime I’ve ever watched, or at least not to the same extent. The one and only complaint I can make about the storyline is that it gets a bit lax when fleshing out its plot developments toward the end, but none of it really matters in the end. Did I mention that this series has, quite possibly, the greatest final episode in anime history? Enough said.
If you want to know how to write good characters, look no further than Katanagarari’s incredibly memorable, masterfully written and downright lovable cast. Y’know how Cowboy Bebop became wildly popular because of its ability to introduce new characters every episode and still end the episode arc with them feeling fully fleshed out (among other things)? Well, Katanagatari does it even better. From compelling backstories to unique personalities to complex motivations, the side characters in this show are among the greatest and most interesting in the entire medium considering the circumstances. However, even without them, the character cast would be totally unforgettable thanks to the duo of Shichika and Togame; both of whom are some of my favorite characters of all time. Shichika, besides being likable, is one of the finest examples of character development I’ve ever seen. His thoughts and actions carry unfathomable thematic weight and his personality is unique as well as perfect for the tone of show. Did I mention that he is also a badass? Shichika is quite possibly my favorite anime character of all time; he was written so goddamn well that it’s inspiring. Togame is just as complex as Shichika, but her motives are shrouded in mystery. Really, before anything else, Togame should be lauded for being one of the most likeable characters ever conceived. She is laugh out loud hilarious, full of energy, absurdly adorable, and STILL manages to command the respect of the viewer and be legitimately multi-facetted. Really, I struggle to find the words to do this pair justice. Easily the highlight to an already incredible show, and I haven’t even mentioned that the character designs are astonishingly awesome; easily my all time favorite. What a stupendous job by the writers in this department. The characters stand out as the best part of an already amazing anime.
Some people really like the art style of Katanagatari while others dislike it, but I never understood how anyone could possible not think this show looks good. The bold colors and lines are pure eye candy, and I’ve already mentioned that the character designs are the most beautiful, diverse, and creative examples in the industry. The action scenes are animated wonderfully and even the dialogue scenes never seem to lack energy. I LOVED the animation for this show, even though some people disagree for whatever reason. There is much less debate about the music and voice-acting, however, which are both nearly flawless in execution. Katanagatari has maybe the best and most varied original score I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. From haunting and intense melodies with a traditional Japanese theme to the occasional hip-hop track that gives even the likes of Samurai Champloo a run for its money to everything in between, believe me when I say that this soundtrack has it all. The two OPs really aren’t anything special, but Katanagatari re-aired on television in 2013 with a brand new OP, and THAT one is fucking incredible. Probably the most underrated OP of all time, and one of my personal favorites. When it comes to presentation, I struggle to find a single thing to complain about.
I hate to end this review with a cliché (ironically), but I’m going to anyway: This anime will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you feel every emotion in between. It’s intelligent and has tons of depth while being simultaneously entertaining and filled to the brim with charm. If you don't watch Katanagatari, you are doing yourself a major disservice. I highly doubt that there will ever be another anime that manages to balance themes and entertainment as well as this series; it’s one of a kind. Not bad for a Sword Story. read more
The characters are one of the many highlights found in this fun, weird package of a story. The male lead, Yasuri Shichika is definitely the most developed of the bunch. He starts off as the typical loveable but naive guy arcetype, who has lived on an isolated island his entire life, only knowing two other humans, being his father and his sister. You get a feel for him and you start to think you've figured him out. But after a couple of episodes you'll notice how he slowly but surely gets accustomed to living amongst more normal people. His development is really well handled. It's not so subtle that you barely know if he's changing, but neither, apart from a couple of times, is it completely spelled out for the audience. Other fun characters include Emonzaemon, Higaki Rinne, Togame and Tsuruga Meisai. Instead of explaining them I'll just say that they're all very witty and a ton of fun to watch and you have to experience them yourself.
The animation for Katanagatari is probably its weakest point. The character designs are indeed unique, the backgrounds pretty, and the art directing beautiful, but the actual animation, the motion of the characters is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand the fight scenes, while short are very well executed with good choreography, smooth movement and high detail. But then on the other hand for basically any scene that isn't fighting or otherwise vital to the plot the movement is stiff and miniscule, though with good storyboarding, directing and constant dialouge Katanagatari does a great job of masking it's lower budget and it doesn't feel cheap and is ever hard or unpleasant to watch.
Katanagatari is a very talking heavy anime, and I'll just say that if you don't like that style of show, then well... Get over it! You'll like this one.
As for other things and stuff: There's no dub, but that's okay since the setting doesn't really fit a dub either, and the Japanese voices are very good either way.
The music is quite good, reaching a wide variety of musical genres. It even features the choir from the original Ghost in the Shell!
Sound effects range from eargasm quality right down to a point where it almost feels like a parody of 90's shounen, probably because that's exactly what it feels like. They also do something fun with the animation and change it a bit each episode, most noteably in episode 7 which was the episode that really got me to liking this show.
Overall Katanagatari is a fun show, that constantly ridicules other anime, you and even itself. There are so many fun little details in this very rewatchable, enjoyable nice bundle of an anime. It has romance, action, shounen-like hype moments, witty dialouge, enjoyable characters and heck, even a bit of parody. Definitely not something to miss. read more
"Seeing a 9, you can go ahead and hit dislike on the review. However, by that time you'll have been torn to pieces!" (Kekekeke! Kekekeke!)
So, Katanagatari, as the name suggests, is an anime about swords. Except for one little thing. That the main character is NOT a sword user. Yeah. Go figure.
Actually it is not just about swords. (Okay, I lied back there.) To quote the anime :
"The ones who failed at revenge... The ones who failed at their goals... The ones who fell before achieving their aspirations... The ones who didn't succeed... The ones who lost... The ones who stumbled... The ones who rotted... The ones who fought with all their might, sacrificed everything, just to have their work be for naught, yielding fruitless results, who died unfairly or perhaps illogically, tragically, without face, full of regrets...
The story which offers a happy future to them, filled with hopes and dreams... is Katanagatari".(Okay, maybe it is not THAT grand as the quote makes it look. But do notice how the paragraph mentions exactly 12 people. Clever eh?)
In case that long paragraph didn't make sense here is what I meant : The whole anime is about loss. Losing. Failing. And also about not getting what you want, about being disappointed.
I was gonna give it a 10 but then I went ahead and "Denied" it.
Okay, enough with the references to the anime. Let's get into it.
So, the 7th generation Kyoutoryuu head, Yasuri Shichika is living a peaceful life on an isolated island with his elder sister. And one day a lady named Togame comes on the orders of the Shogunate that she needs Kyotouryuu to collect the 12 Deviant Blades forged by some legendary sword-smith Shikizaki Kiki in order to maintain peace in the land. And so they go on an adventure to collect all those swords from their different owners.
Now, seeing that the number of episodes equals to that of the number of swords mentioned, you might be thinking that they go around and meet one swordsman every episode, beat him, get the blade and move on i.e., an episodic anime. Well, you wouldn't be entirely wrong. While the anime IS episodic for the most part, it does hint of an overarching storyline. (And there is an overarching storyline) Because, let's be real, they are collecting 12 super powerful swords for "peace"? That's a load of crap! You might also be under the impression that the scale of the battles goes up with every blade they collect. Then you would be totally wrong! Because the swords are not your usual swords. One of the swords is an armor! And another one is just the sheath and the hilt. NO blade. I personally found that it was more about the people who wielded those blades and how it kind of warped their personality or how it suited their personality.
The story itself isn't so epic or a masterpiece if you just look at it. To be honest, it is just above average. But I think the way it is presented in the anime is what makes it stand out. Being an anime about swords, one might expect nothing but fight scenes 80% of the time, but that isn't the case here. The sword battles aren't unnecessarily dragged out. (I'm looking at you DBZ) They end quite quickly just like they should. The anime goes so far as to completely skip a battle, which I didn't like. Even after they gave you a teaser of it on the last episode. (Grrr.... 0_x) Though the quick battles are good for the most part but sometimes they just end way too quick and you are left disappointed as it didn't give you what you were hoping for.
But all of that was forgiven at the ending twist. It caught me off guard and I was kinda shocked but I made my peace with it because the anime ends in a kickass way, not perfect, a few 'questionable' things, but kicks ass.
(Example : "Just because you don't die if I kill you, it doesn't mean you can't die if I keep killing you. From Red poppy to Daphne, a mixed-connection fist strike. You've died 272 times". Or this one -
"I came here to die". BAM!)
Let us go over the art and sound now.
I wouldn't be wrong if I said that Katanagatari is a work of art in terms of animation. Sure, it is not as beautiful as 5 cenimeters per second or as well refined/epic as Fate/Zero. It might even get lacklustre and sloppy at times. But it holds its own in its way of presentation. The character designs are way different that your usual anime. In the beginning it might even feel a bit weird. But you get used to it pretty quick. Also, I loved how the way every sword bearer's character looked and their expressions matched with their personality. Whether it be the Shogi-eyed Kiguchi or the Maniwani members. Though Togame's eyes were a mystery to me until the last two episodes. And also Shichika's dad's silhouette made him look like he was Goku. (And don't even get me started on Nanami, his sister.)
The blades are designed nicely and the fight scenes though sometimes over the top are satisfying. There is some fanservice here and there but it is not so over the top that it spoils the experience.
About the sound. This anime could not have started in a better way. The track at the opening is just epic. It reminded me of Making of a Cyborg from Ghost in the Shell. I loved it. (I can't remember the name of the style, but it is kind of similar to the japanese folk songs)
During the rest of the anime, you will experience a variety of styles. From rap to piano to violin to eerie music. Every major character has their own theme music. And some of these themes are pretty good. Since there is plenty of dialogue, I think I should mention that the voice actors did a good job here. I think Yukari Tamura did Togame pretty well. (I like when she switches to that serious tone at times like she did with Furude Rika in Higurashi.)
Now for the characters.
The characters are what make all the dialogue successful. As I previously mentioned in the animation section, the way the characters are designed and the expressions that they give suit their personality. I think it is impressive how every single character has different eyes, hair, their colour and build. Every character teaches something to the main character.
The thing that really stood out to me was how all the characters are so detached from western ideals. I'd say, they are very 'Japanese' (for the lack of a better word). That is to say that the author hasn't tried to westernise the characters to make them more relatable to the audience. I think that is a good point of the anime. Their motives are sometimes weird, sometimes justified and sometimes just stupid.
While the main characters are pretty fleshed out and most of the side characters get a good amount of screen time. There are some characters who were "forgotten" even though so much hype was built around them. For example, the anime completely skipped the battle between Sabi Hakuhei and our main character. So, we get no insight into what he was like.
The main character Yasuri Shichika might seem like your stereotypical overpowered fool but his background actually justifies that. I mean the guy lived on an isolated island till he grew up and did nothing but train every single day. The only people he ever knew were his dad and his sister. So when he has no social skills and acts really stupid at times, it does not seem so odd. And overpowered, because, Kyoutoryuu is an overpowered style. It is established from the very start.
About the other main character, Strategian Togame, she is, well, like a typical woman. She talks a lot, you can't win an argument with her, gets jealous, craves attention, gives mixed signals, always keeps the man confused, never tells what she really feels, does not get along with other women of her age, and is pure evil when someone pisses her off. And till the very end, you can't tell what the hell she really wants. Enough said.
So, overall, the anime starts off with an amazing soundtrack and a seemingly average story, but the way it presents itself makes it stand out from all the other usual action anime. Also, artwise, this was something very different and unique. The characters weren't stereotypical. The ending twist was shocking and the climax was kickass. But most of all, the message it gave at the end was quite unusual yet made an impact.
I would definitely recommend this if you have grown a little tired of the usual stuff and need something different.
And so with that my friends, CHEERIO! read more
Togame the Strategian is an amazing character- she's driven, pensive, complex in her motivations and still manages to remain relatable in her interactions with Shichika, her newly sworn "sword".
Shichika started off feeling one-note, but that is actually crucial to unraveling his own development as a character, and even as a human being, due to having grown up isolated on an island with only his family and the sword-less fighting technique of Kyutoryu.
As Togame and Shichika search throughout Japan for 12 Deviant Blades of mythological status, each story for the owners of the blades brings a new layer of significance both to their own relationship and to human nature itself. No secondary story feels like a filler, and almost every character is believable and fully formed.
Their relationship seems to be constant and reliable, but as we get to understand Togame's history and motivations more, the terms of their contract and feelings for each other are revealed to be more complex and far more delicate than we are led to believe.
While it's not perfect, each character's journey gives a depth that builds Katanagatari as a whole up to a really enjoyable, surprisingly poignant story, occasionally hilarious and ultimately heart-breaking. read more