Throughout history, an elite group of shrine maidens known as "Toji" have saved the world from "Aratama," strange and malevolent beings bent on destroying humanity. In modern times, these warriors have been assigned to a special police squad to exterminate Aratama. The government has also set up five elite schools across the country to provide young girls the necessary sword fighting skills to eradicate these monsters and eventually join their fellow Toji in protecting the world.
A student of one of those five schools, Kanami Etou is chosen to represent Minoseki Academy in a sword fighting tournament, where she meets the mysterious Hiyori Juujou. Although Kanami and Hiyori rise to the top of the tournament, their battle takes an unexpected turn, throwing the world of the Toji into chaos. Likely that the Toji are facing betrayal from within, the two are forced to flee the tournament, clashing with former comrades on the way.
Please note this review is intended to be read by those that have finished watching Katana Maidens and while care has been taken to minimise story related spoilers there may still be spoilers within character analysis. You have been warned.
The tale of how six schoolgirls and their allies fought to protect the world from monsters from a parallel dimension with friendship, courage and a whole lot of awesome swordsmanship.
Based off an original idea Katana Maidens or its Japanese title of Toji No Miko is an adventure and fantasy themed anime that gives us the opportunity to see what would happen if you combine
the roles of traditional Japanese shrine maidens the Miko with those of the samurai and pit them against extra dimensional monsters called the Aradama that seek to invade their world. The first episode of the series while somewhat genetic was also impressive as it did an excellent job at showing the level of training and skills that such warriors that are called Toji within the series must have as they battle terrifying looking monsters that will give a squad of soldiers the fright. Seeing young middle and high school girls take up their katana and vow to use it and their abilities to protect the world from such monsters was something that resonated well with me and I'm glad that I watched the series to the end.
Miko’s or shrine maidens as they are usually called are a common type of character that appears widely in many forms of media such as in manga, LN’s and here in animes. When one thinks of Japan most people would have many things that pop up in their mind with samurai and Miko’s being the most common. As Miko’s have no western equivalent it is perhaps unsurprising that they are less well known than the samurai ad compared to the latter the former’s duties would no doubt sound mundane. Although a shine maiden’s main role is largely restricted to helping manage the shrine that they work at by helping visitors get charms, ema's and fortunes as well as keep the shine clean and ordered shrine maidens are also heavily associated with cleansing impurities’. This latter point is made use of as part of the series main premise in this series by combining them with their duty of facing extra dimensional invaders that only they can fight with the trademarked weapon of the samurai the katana. With each katana being unique and having a will of its own one can say that the Toji in this show emphasis one of the best images that a Miko gives by showing them as powerful female soldiers that are able to protect the world from impurities from other dimensions by using swords that have chosen them as their wielders.
Taking place in modern day Japan Katana maidens is centred on the work performed by the Miko’s of the sword administration an organisation that is dedicated to protecting the world from a threat that the military cannot which is the aradama a hostile extra dimensional race that is hostile to humanity and will not hesitate to kill innocent people. Operating under the auspices of the special religious military unit which is a government agency the sword administration commands highly trained Miko’s who are girls of junior high to high school age who have taken up the role as a sacred shrine maiden or Toji and wield a katana that has chosen her as its master in defence of the world. Each Toji while operating under the command of the sword administration belong to one of the five schools that have been established to train them with each being led by a hero of the administration. Here the girls in addition to being taught the normal curriculum are also taught the finer points of swordsmanship and anti aradama combat techniques. While each girl is influenced by their school’s creed to a degree each girl whether a Toji or one in training is united in the desire to protect humanity from the aradama by wielding their blade in its defence. Every spring the best Toji from each school are chosen to take part in a tournament where they prove their worth against their fellows under the gaze of the sword administrations higher-ups with a victory here potentially giving them and their school much prestige and notice from the administration.
The overall story follows a team of Toji who while fighting to protect the world from the threat posed by the Aradama also become determined to fight to expose the truth about the sword administration and the five schools and the war against the aradama. By shining the light of truth into the lies that have been spread to hide the true nature of the war the team hopes to find the truth behind the endless war with the aradama and bring an end to the conflict that has raged for years. But in a conflict that has many different factions of the sword administration and the aradama vying to take control the team must fight with all their might trusting in their skills as Toji and their friendship and bonds with their friends, masters and fellow Toji as they try to stop a repeat of the tragedy that happened 20 years ago that if left unchecked would leave the human race in a perilous situation.
The team of Toji while raised and trained in different schools and having different views and personalities are all united in their quest to both protect the human race from the aradama and to uncover the truth about the conflict between them. As they fight alongside one another they would form bonds of friendship, form rivalries and fight for what they believe in to protect those dear to them. The team consists of the cheerful but hot-blooded Kanami, the kind, and level-headed Mai, the quiet but dutiful Sayaka, the tenacious and cool Hiyori and the positive and hyperactive Ellen.
Mai Yanase voiced by new seiyuu Azumi Waki is one of the main characters of the series and is one of the six heroes of the series. A 13-year-old second-year middle school student and a Toji of Minoseki academy Mai is a kind, thoughtful and perceptive person that approaches each situation with calmness and due caution. Unlike her best friend and fellow Toji Kanami Mai is a composed and intelligent girl that has a knack for being able to deduce the key points of a situation and act accordingly. A caring person by nature Mai is the classic image of a sheltered ojou sama being elegant and refined while also being patient and friendly to all she meets whether they are from the same social class or not. While Mai’s skills as a Toji are powerful she knows full well that her skills are not a match for her best friend Kanami but instead of feeling despair at this strives to improve her skills to match her friends and stand side by side with her as they fight together.
From the beginning of the series, it can be seen that Mai and Kanami had a very deep bond of friendship that had been borne out of their long association with each other. Rather than acting as normal friends do it can be seen that Mai’s relationship with Kanami is very much like how an older sister treats her younger sibling and it can be seen that Mai cares greatly about Kanami’s well being and dislikes seeing her being put in harms way or being manipulated by others going as far to confront those responsible even if their skill levels are not equal. This is best shown when she confronts Hiyori early in the series. Mai’s most prominent trait is arguably her kindness, honesty, and friendly nature that when reinforced by her stubborn refusal to back down even when pushed away has allowed her to forge strong bonds with many people most prominently Sayaka who she was able to impart into what true friendship and life is. From their interaction, it can be seen that Mai is someone that values free will and of being able to live your life the way you want to and as a result hates it when she see’s people being treated as tools. Unlike Kanami and the rest at the beginning of the series, Mai did not have a reason to fight against Yukari which created a struggle within Mai as she desperately wanted to support Kanami and the others but is limited by her inferior swordsmanship when compared to them. However, as the series progresses, and Mai bears witness to the actions that the Origami family performs on people that oppose them Mai becomes determined to redeem the efforts of her allies and becomes determined to fight against the family alongside her friends and becoming much braver in the process. While Mai’s skills in swordsmanship are not on par with Kanami and Hiyori a fact that she is deeply aware off as the series progresses, it can be seen that this is not necessarily a bad thing as her calm and level-headed nature allows her to function well as a field commander a role that while she is unsure of at first is one that Mai gradually grows into. As a character, I felt that Mai was a very well designed and developed character that showed that while bravery and swordsmanship are what makes Toji powerful they are not the only qualities that Toji should have for able to assess a situation and direct your fellow Toji in battle on the field is equally important. While Mai’s sword skills may not be as powerful as Kanami’s her kindness and friendliness enable her to bond easily with people making her one of the six’s best diplomats and at the same time her ability as a field commander while shaky at first soon matured and made her an integral part of the team. I felt that her seiyuu Azumi Waki really did an excellent job in her portrayal of Mai.
Kanami Etou voiced by veteran seiyuu Kaede Hondo of Battle girls High school and Girlish Number fame is one of the main characters of the series and is one of the six heroes of the series. A 13-year-old second-year middle school student Kanami is a kind, cheerful and kind person by nature that nonetheless can also be quite forgetful and carefree at times. A free-spirited girl by nature Kanami is a playful and friendly girl that has a habit of forgetting where she is at times and can be relatively simple-minded with her feelings and intentions being easily read and understood by her friends. Unlike her best friend Mai Kanami, in the beginning, was someone that seemed to rush through life and had a habit of acting without thinking of the consequences of her actions with the best example being her actions at the tournament.
As the series goes on Kanami’s personality gradually changes as she is expanded upon. While still brave and liable to make a direct assault on an enemy Kanami gradually learns to be more cautious and gives the enemy the due respect that they deserve. While a friendly girl by nature Kanami is shown to be someone that’s considerate of other’s feelings and will not press people for answers preferring to let them tell her of their troubles when they are ready which I felt was a surprising side to Kanami’s character. While clueless and carefree in the beginning as the series progresses, it can be seen that Kanami is also pretty perceptive and able to easily discern the reasons behind someone’s actions a trait that I feel suits her and matches well with one of her prominent traits of being able to better understand someone by crossing blades with them. Arguably Kanami’s most prominent trait is her desire to fight against strong opponents and her desire to improve her swordsmanship to the highest level by fighting increasingly powerful opponents. While her desire to fight can be off-putting at times especially during tense situations I feel that this aspect suits her well as through the sword Kanami will be able to tell how strong someone’s resolve is. While very loyal to her friends and willing to go to great lengths to help them which is best shown in her determination to help Hiyori. The character of Kanami I felt was an interesting character that was both well designed and developed and showed that if one is persistent enough and determined enough they will be able to overcome any challenge that’s in their way whether it’s a cold and unfriendly girl like Hiyori or menacing looking aradama. One aspect of Kanami that I particularly liked was the great lengths that she will go to protect her friends and save them from their troubles. I felt that her seiyuu Kaede Hondo really did an excellent job at portraying the character of Kanami.
Sayaka Itomi voiced by new seiyuu Hina Kino is one of the main characters of the series and is one of the six heroes of the series. A 12-year-old first-year middle school student from Renpu academy Sayaka in the beginning of the series was a quiet, expressionless and dutiful person that was very loyal to Renpu and its master Yukina. Initially Sayaka did not have much of a personality and behaved similarly to a doll than a teenager and despite being seen as Renpu’s star asset was treated largely as a tool by her master. As a result of this Sayaka in the beginning while certainly, a powerful Toji that was benefiting of the title of genius Toji was someone that apart from her duty as a Toji had very little personal life and indeed a sense of self either. As a result of her treatment by her master, Sayaka had few if any friends and was unused to the kindness that most teenagers of her age would be familiar with. Indeed, it can be said that Sayaka, in the beginning, did not even know what the concept of happiness actually was.
As the series progresses though this begins to change especially after Sayaka encounters Kanami and Hiyori as part of her missions and hears their impressions of her swordsmanship after clashing with her. After this and after meeting Mai Sayaka’s personality changes substantially. As a result of being treated as a tool much of her life and being used as such by Renpu’s master being treated like a normal human and being showered by kindness and care was not something that Sayaka had ever encountered in her life. Combined with the fact that for the first time someone was actively working to protect her from being abused caused Sayaka to finally awaken something that had been unknown to her all this time which was her emotions and sense of being. After Sayaka’s awakening Sayaka’s personality gradually starts to change as she develops and begins to understand feelings and emotions and for the first time live her life the way that she wants to without worrying about being punished. While still getting used to her new-found feelings Sayaka gradually begins to be more be upfront with them instead of hiding and repressing them as she used to do. Arguably the most important change that came about due to the awakening was the introduction of friendships to Sayaka and the strengths that they bring to her. In the past, Sayaka was of the belief that she was but an empty vessel and that friendship was something that she did not need. But after seeing Mai’s fierce defence of her as she protected her from her master this belief largely vanished and Sayaka began to see the strength that friendship can bring to her. As a result, Sayaka began to gradually form friendships with her allies notably with Mai and for the first time in her life act like a girl her age. The character of Sayaka I felt was pretty well designed and developed with Sayaka’s struggle of finding the courage needed to reject her master and live her life the way that she wants to being one of the best aspects of her character. I felt that her seiyuu Hina Kino did an excellent job of portraying the character of Sayaka.
Hiyori Jujo played by veteran seiyuu Saori Oonishi of Food wars and Denpa Kyoushi fame is one of the main characters of the series and is one of the six heroes of the series. A 14-year-old third-year middle school student from Heijou academy Hiyori initially was a quiet, focused and determined young woman that was also cool, and level-headed and well versed in working alone. At the beginning of the series as a result of her personal quest, Hiyori was someone that while a very skilled Toji was someone that was very hard to get close to even by those Toji that were in the same school as her. This aloof attitude of hers ensured that Hiyori had very few friends and contributed greatly to her awkwardness around girls her age when interacting with them which is best shown in her early interactions with Kanami and Mai. While a relatively straightforward girl Hiyori is also a resolute and steadfast girl that stands fast in her beliefs and actions and would fight hard to defend them even against superior foes. However, behind this serious side of her, it can be seen that Hiyori can also be understanding and considerate of others and willing to spare people from having to fight their friends by ending her partnerships with people before that happens. A prominent trait of Hiyori during her initial personality phase was her wiliness to do what she needs to do in order to attain her goal something that I find chilling as it meant potentially using lethal force against her fellow Toji. As a result of her independent nature, Hiyori is someone that in the beginning did not trust others easily which served as a barrier that stopped the others from getting to know her even after the situation changed.
As the series progresses and the situation becomes more complex Hiyori’s personality gradually starts to change as a result of the struggles that she had managed to overcome alongside her friends both on a personal level and on a tactical level. While still aloof to some degree Hiyori, as the series progresses gradually, becomes more positive and talkative and begins opening up to her friends slowly and willing to show her feelings on the surface, unlike her past self. At the same time Hiyori also begins to develop more trust in her allies and after overcoming some friction even willing to fight alongside her former enemies against a common enemy showing her growth as a character. Arguably the most important part of her development was her coming to terms with her mistaken personal quest and the actions of the past which had for so long anchored her on a destructive path that had only constrained her life. I felt that the character of Hiyori was one that was both well designed and developed with her evolution from an aloof and serious girl that was intent on revenge to one that fought hard to protect her friends and the new-found bonds that she had forged with them as they stood against impossible odds being the best aspect of her character. I felt that her seiyuu Saori Oonishi really did a fantastic job at portraying the character of Hiyori.
Ellen voiced by veteran seiyuu Eri Suzuki of Girlish Number and Amanchu fame is one of the main characters of the series and is one of the six heroes of the series. A 16-year-old first-year high school student of Osafune girls academy Ellen is a positive, energetic and carefree girl by nature that’s also friendly and endearing. A confident young woman that’s also intelligent and fast thinking Ellen is someone that can easily switch between being serious and being relaxed seemingly at the flip of a switch showing that beneath her cheerful personality Ellen is also someone well versed at subterfuge and adept at ferreting out information from people. Her ability to lie convincingly I felt contrasted well with her usual laid-back attitude. Ellen has a number of prominent traits that enable her to become a very effective mood-setter within the team that serves to enhance her existing personality. These include her love of giving half intros to people that they just met that leaves plenty of info out and her ability to tease everyone that she encounters whether they enemies or allies and whether they are higher ranked or lower ranked than her.
Ellen’s ability to come up with and gives nicknames to everyone that she meets I felt was the most endearing trait for her character. I felt that her seiyuu Eri Suzuki really did an excellent job at portraying her and I particularly liked the fact that Ellen would add des to all her words as well as inject random English words into her phrases as well something that reminds me of veteran seiyuu Nao Toyama’s portrayal of Kongo in Kancolle.
Yukari Origami voiced by veteran seiyuu Asami Seto of Tokyo Ghoul fame is one of the main support characters of the series and served as the main villain during the first cour of the series. A well-known hero and a veteran Toji that is famous for leading the team that ended the great disaster 20 years ago Yukari is a calm, composed and intelligent woman that while somewhat arrogant is also someone that respects those that have courage and boldness. After her return during the second cour, it can be seen that Yukari’s personality has undergone some changes. While still calm, composed and confident Yukari is shown to be more cautious and more conservative with her assets while at the same time being far more diplomatic than her previous form. While shown to a limited extent in the first cour it is in the second cour that we got to see Yukari’s keen analytical mind and her intuitive use of tactics both in melee combat and as a field commander and it can be seen that she has lost none of these skills despite her time off the field. Arguably the greatest change to Yukari’s personality in cour 2 is that of regret for the actions that she was forced to do back in cour 1 that has affected countless people. These regrets though however also serve as a powerful motivator for Yukari as more than ever Yukari seeks atonement for all the grief that she has caused and will not let anyone stand in her way to get them.
Suzuka Konohana voiced by veteran seiyuu Mao of School Live and Digimon Tri movies fame is one of the main support characters of the series. A 16-year-old girl and the second seat of the Sword administrations elite guard Toji unit Suzuka is a confident, perceptive and intelligent person by nature that while playful and loving to tease people is someone that knows when she has gone too far. Unlike her opposite number, Suzuka is also a calm and composed person and is able to weather anger and taunts far more easily than her fellow elite guards. Within the guard Suzuka as the units, second seat constantly reminds Maki to not overstep their bounds showing the trust that exists between them. While a positive and playful person by nature it can be seen that Suzuka actually has two different sides to her personality with the first one being the positive and cheerful diplomatic persona that she adapts when in the public. Her second and more serious personality is one that manifests itself when in serious situations such as in battle and in this persona Suzuka is cold, analytical and cunning easily exploiting gaps in the enemy’s defences. In her initial personality, Suzuka possessed a certain level of arrogance stemming from her overconfidence in her skills as a Toji. However, after her return to active duty in cour 2 it can be seen that this part of her personality has changed as Suzuka has become more loyal to her friends and Kohai’s and willing to shoulder the hard burdens to spare others from doing things they may not like. While far more experienced than Kanami and her friends it can be seen that after her return that Suzuka has become somewhat humble and willing to defer judgement to her Kohai’s even if she has more experience in such matters.
The character of Suzuka I felt was an interesting character that was both well designed and developed. The two different sides of her personality I felt was interesting and contrasted well with each other matching well with the fact that while she is a highly trained Toji she is also a teenage girl as well. Her interactions and relationship with her superior and friend Maki were also pretty interesting and funny with Suzuka being able to offset Maki’s serious nature with her playful side. I felt that her seiyuu Mao did an excellent job of portraying the character of Suzuka.
Maki Shido voiced by veteran seiyuu Yumi Uchiyama of Asterisk Wars and the Irregular at Magic High school fame is one of the main support characters of the series. A 16-year-old girl and an alumna of Heijou academy Maki is a quiet, confident and calm person by nature that matches well with her role as first seat of the Sword administrations elite guard Toji unit that is charged with protecting its head Yukari Origami. A dutiful and determined person by nature Maki though not as cheerful as her fellow elite guard member and second seat Suzuka approaches her role as commander of the guard with due reverence and professionalism and though a girl of few words emits an air of confidence that shows how she earned that role. As the commander of the elite guard Maki while a powerful swordswoman is also noted to be a fast thinking, perceptive and intelligent person that’s not just a powerful Toji but also a capable field commander as well. While very confident in her skill with the blade Maki can be seen to be someone that cannot stay still and indeed believes that only with training would you be able to master it to its highest level. A core motivation and a prominent personality trait of Maki is her belief in justice and more specifically the belief that only with strength would you be able to protect others and gain justice for those that have died.
As the series progresses however and as Maki and the guard clash with Kanami and the others this sense of justice of her’s gradually crumbles as she realises that despite the power that they had gained this power while making them more powerful does not prevent death and worst will not allow them to even gain a decent burial should the worst happen to them. As a result of this, it can be said that Maki gained a very large mental shock that affected her greatly and for the first time create a sense of doubt within her. After the end of the first cour Maki rather than face censure and arrest for her actions chose to embark on a journey of her own to both rediscover her sense of justice and to hunt down those that are truly responsible for these turns of events. While doing her best to avoid the mainline Toji it can be seen that she still see’s herself as one and will not hesitate to help them even in her state showing that she is still very much loyal to her duty. As a result of her journey and investigation Maki is able to determine the true culprit behind these turns of events and embarks on a quest to end it willing to stake her life on it showing how determined she is to redeem herself and the guard much to Suzuka’s shock and dismay. Arguably the greatest change that Maki goes through after the second cour is the immense sense of regret that she feels as a result of seeing the death of one of her fellow guard members due to their new-found powers and as a result was both reluctant to come back to the administration and help protect the princesses when strength was needed. From the beginning, it can be seen that Maki like Suzuka was very loyal to their commander Yukari and was willing to obey her every command even if the commands pitted them against their fellow Toji. As a result of this after the end of the first cour Maki like Suzuka expressed worry that they wouldn’t be able to face her again due to their inability to stop her. However, after seeing her return and after expressing their regrets and worries that had been penned up inside them Maki was at last able to come to terms with the errors that she had made in the past and resolved to stop them from happening again by electing to take up her sword once more and fight alongside her fellow Toji to protect the world from a repeat of the disaster 20 years ago. The character of Maki I felt was an interesting one that was both well designed and developed with her evolution from a powerful but blind member of the guard to one who seeks atonement for all the mistakes and regrets that she has made by taking on the true villain being the best parts of her character. I felt that her seiyuu Yumi Uchiyama really did an excellent job at portraying the character of Maki.
In terms of animation, I felt that the series did a very good job at showcasing the various locations and settings that the girls visit over the course of the series with the locations not just being fully functional in their intended roles but also beautiful and varied in their scenery as well. The character designs for the characters I felt were also pretty well done with each character’s design matching well with their assigned personalities. This is especially so for the uniform designs for each of the girls that belong to one of the five schools that make up the sword administration and I felt that their uniforms complemented each character’s design really well not just in allowing us to see which schools each girl belongs to but also the temperament of each school as well. Something that will have an effect on that girl’s innate personality. In addition to the five schools, the uniform of the imperial guard that make their appearance during the second cour of the series I felt was also well done as it gave a more sinister feel to them which was benefiting of their intended role within the series. The aradama which served as the series main hostile faction I felt were used to their fullest not just as the regular monster faction that most animes would treat them as but as a faction that only become what it was due to humanity’s foolishness. Key to this success was the continuous introduction of newer, larger and more fearsome aradama that the cast face as series goes on as this keeps the fights between the cast and the aradama interesting while showing the fact that while the Toji are improving in their skills so too are the aradama. As an adventure and fantasy themed anime the combat animations for the series was something that the series really needed to get right and in this, I felt that the series truly did and even excelled at. The combat animations within the series as well as the many fights between the Toji and the aradama and their allies I felt was both well designed and executed with the animations themselves being both fluid and intense and did a great job of featuring the many sects of swordsmanship that each girl and their school excelled at. While the combat animations were fluid I felt that this was backed up well with the special abilities that the Toji themselves possess abilities that made great use of the lore that was behind them and only got more powerful as the series progressed.
The music for the series I felt was strong and definitely one of the strong points of the series with the OST doing an excellent job in showing the many moods and feelings that the girls encounter and face as they fight against the aradama and try and stop their plans. The series opening and ending themes of which there were four were Save me, Save you, Kokoro no Memoria, Shinkakei Colors and Mirai Epilogue that was performed by the seiyuu’s of the six main characters and I felt that these were very strong ones that complemented the series really well. The voice acting for the series I felt was one of the main strong points of the series and I felt that each member of the voice cast did an excellent job at portraying their assigned characters within the series. In particular I feel that Kaede Hondo, Azumi Waki, Hina Kino, Saori Oonishi, Eri Suzuki, Asami Seto, Mao and Yumi Uchiyama deserve special praise as I felt that they all did a fantastic job at portraying the characters of Kanami, Mai, Sayaka, Hiyori, Ellen, Yukari, Suzuka, and Maki respectively. In addition, while I didn’t cover them in this review I felt that the aradama princesses that served as the main antagonists of the series as well as their support cast also did a fantastic job at portraying their respective characters. These were princess Tagitsu that was portrayed by veteran seiyuu Rina Hidaka, princess Takiri who was portrayed by veteran seiyuu Chiwa Saito, princess Ichikishima that was portrayed by veteran seiyuu singer Eri Kitamura, Yukina that was portrayed by veteran seiyuu Yukana and Kanami’s fellow Toji and admirer Ayamu that was portrayed by Hitomi Owada.
Overall Katana Maidens was an anime that I really enjoyed watching with it being one of the heavy hitters from the previous season alongside Darling in the Franxx, Beatless, and Record of Grancrest war. Katana Maiden’s greatest strengths were its unique premise, excellent story, well designed and developed characters, amazing combat animations and its highly capable voice cast.
As someone that’s been watching anime for a long time, I can certainly understand the tendency for people to give anime’s whose premise looks genetic to them and label them as such. But looking through some of the impressions that people gave and labelled Katana maidens with I felt were unfair especially since they never even finished watching the whole thing. Far from being a normal anime about schoolgirls gaining powers, this is an anime that features an interesting premise, excellently designed and developed characters, an excellent story that’s full of twists and turns and amazing combat animations that’s backed by a highly capable voice cast.
The overall premise of the show I felt was a strong one and was one of the series main strong points. While our image of Miko’s and samurai are usually very distinct from each other as with the former we would usually picture them as guardians of the shrine that they work at and would help us at shrines by giving fortunes and tie emas and the latter with their famous blade the katana and the many famous samurai that existed in the past. But what if we combined them together as a highly trained force that fought with both katana's and the unique abilities that they have been trained to use and fight against monsters from a parallel dimension. While highly trained the Toji are still young girls that are in middle and high school but rather than hang out with other and chat about girls and tv shows as most girls their age would no doubt do the girls that take up the mantle of the Toji instead devote all of their time training with their assigned okatana’s and responding to the threat posed by the aradama and exercise them a task and burden that they cannot share with anyone else, not the SDF and certainly not the police. This life while not for everyone shows just how selfless that girls that chose to become Toji are and how hard they will fight to protect the common people from the threat posed by the aradama by fighting with all the skills that they have with their okatana and with their unique abilities similar to how the samurai of ancient Japan viewed themselves. This premise of combining the traditional roles of Miko’s whose main job in the past was to exorcise and purify demons and ancient spirits with another well-known force of the past the samurai I felt really made the premise special as it gave the Toji the ability to not just defend the innocent but also purify the aradama with their blades and abilities.
The overall story for the series I felt was a strong one and was one of the main strong points of the series. Similar to most full-season animes Katana maidens made use of the cour concept that divided the series main story into two distinct arcs. While the first season of the series focused on the introduction of the main cast and the fight against Yukari and her ally’s the second focused on dealing with the new enemies that arose from the defeat of the main villain that had been hidden behind the scenes. Both of these story arcs I felt were well designed and developed with the first doing an excellent job of not just introducing the main cast but also show what their motivations, goals, and feelings are towards the struggle with the aradama and their willingness to hunt for the truth even if they have to fight against their former allies when doing so. The second arc of the series though was markedly different that reflected on the new dimension that the fight against the aradama have changed to and while no less action-packed than the first half also featured deeper use of politics and deeper questions about the true nature of what an aradama actually is and whether or not the war against them was just or not questions that showed not just how much the girls have developed not just in terms of their skills in combat but also in their knowledge as well.
Seeing the cast face down countless powerful enemies and improve their skills and knowledge about both the war and the nature of the aradama while trying to find and defeat the true threat to the world with both their friendship and their skills as Toji was something that I really enjoyed seeing in this series and I felt that it made great use of the themes of friendship, bonds and the hunt for the truth against impossible odds. Overall Katana Maidens was a series that I really enjoyed watching and definitely one of the best animes of last season that stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of the big three on account of its excellent story, premise, characters, stellar voice acting and excellent combat animations and battles and as a final score I can say with confidence that it easily deserves a final score of 10/10.
If there is an anime from 2018 that I consider to be underappreciated it would be Katana Maidens because despite having a low MAL score which I will never understand it manages to be the best two cour show from the Winter 18 season. The main reasons for why I think this show is better to compare to the likes of Darling in the Franxx, Beatless, and Record of the Grancrest War is one it’s very enjoyable to watch from start to finish, two the story and characters were well-handled and three and most importantly Katana Maidens actually respects its audience. Yes, this show is
not perfect, as it has some flaws which I will point out throughout this review but compare the other three two cour shows Katana Maidens positives outweigh the negatives to a point where I consider it to be one of the best animes of 2018
Since the ancient times, the Kannagi priestesses have used their swords, or Okatana, to exorcise the creatures known as Aratama that brought chaos upon the world of man. These maidens were known as Tojis, a special task force within the police allowed to have their Okatana on their person because they are government officials, but they mostly consist of school girls who go to one of five training schools. This spring, the top Tojis from five schools across the country have been gathered for a customary tournament where they will use their abilities and fight for the top position.
Just by reading the synopsis alone you the viewer would expect the show to be just another tournament anime that features cute girls with sword doing cute things you are dead wrong. The show destroyed the synopsis that I said in favour of a more intriguing action/adventure and espionage story that is well-executed and charming.
While the premise isn’t all that original it’s the way that it presented that made it intriguing to watch.
The Toji’s are basically magical girls but instead of using magical weapons they use actual weapons that we see in the real world.
The pacing in the show is very good for the most part as it knows how to pace itself as well as keeping the audience interested in the events that happen in the show. In addition, every episode in the show has a purpose and a point that nicely blends with the overall narrative of the story. Instead of pointless recap episodes (Beatless) and unneeded random subplots (Darling in The Franxx) the show makes every event inducing subplots to feel important to the overall plot not to mention unlike any other 2 cour show from the winter 18 seasons the show does a great job of making the audience care about the overall plot and characters.
The writing in the show is pretty surprisingly consistent. Yes! at times the show can have its hiccups in some areas but for the most part, I thought the writing of Kanata Maidens to be pretty good overall.
Katana Maidens intriguing and the unpredictable story is only made strong of how great chararter and nicely written the chararters are.
Kanami is a cheerful and positive girl who is also a big Kenjutsu enthusiast.
I really Kanami. She started a weak fight who constantly has to rely on others to win but as the series progresses she becomes a much stronger fighter who is able to stand on her own. I also loved her character interactions with the cast overall.
Hiyori is the Stoic and dedicated fighter of the group who carries a grudge towards the Origami family for her mother's death. Personally, I liked this character a lot. Her relationship with Kanami was well handed as she slowly starts to trust and respect Kanami as a fighter and a person.
Mai is Kanami best friend and acts as the older sister of the group as she is always kind and friendly to everyone that she meets. I really liked Mai as she is probably the most mature and responsible characters in the series as she is very intelligent and always willing to care for others.
Sayaka is an interesting character overall. She starts this emotionless girl who barely interacts to the group but as the series progresses she slowly starts to open up to others.
Kaoru is a fun character that I liked. She may a sluggish person but she has a good heart. I overall liked her relationship with Ellen because despite having an indifferent attitude to Ellen she actually cares for her as she's very good partners who get along with each other.
Ellen is the mood-maker of the group where she has a simplistic girlish personality.
Despite her simplistic personality she actually a clever and brave fighter who is willing to risk her own life to protect her comrades in battle. Like with the other 6 girls she is a great character that I really liked.
The rest of the characters are pretty good and enjoyable as they are including the villains who were interesting.
Moving to the presentation side Katana Maidens visually is pretty good for the most part.
The character designs are cute and very appealing to the eye.
The background scenery is, for the most part, were solid it fits well with the series tone and atmosphere.
The show features some fan-service but thankfully the fan-service in the show didn't overstay as the fan-service scenes in the show were only used in the parts of the hot springs in series when the girls are not fighting.
I was glad there wasn't much fan-service in this show because this show could have taken the generic route where girls would often be wearing skimpy battle gear which they skin would often be exposed but am very glad that the show didn't follow the footsteps of a generic ecchi anime.
Speaking of battle gear I liked the girls battle as not only they were appealing to look at but they actually fit well the shows setting.
The actual animation is pretty good for the most part as the fight choreography was engaging and fun to watch.
However, the use of CGI at times can be pretty distracting especially in a final couple of where the use of CGI was an all-time low. I honestly wished the show handled its CGI because outside of that complaint the animation, especially for some of the fights, were pretty good.
Overall minus the awkward use of CGI especially in the last couple of episodes the visuals for Katana Maidens were pretty good.
So far I praised the show for having great chararters. an intriguing unpredictable story and good visuals. This, unfortunately, can't be said with the soundtrack.
Don’t me wrong the soundtrack is good for what it was but it didn’t really stand out which is a shame because some of the fights of the show were pretty good minus the awkward use of CGI that I just mentioned.
Luckily both opening and endings themes from are pretty great and memorable in their own rights.
The Seiyuus did a great job with roles that given for each girl. As you expect the subversion is great and well-acted.
The English dub done by Funimation is actually pretty good as each of the English voice actors managed to do a great job voicing each girl.
Katana Maidens is liking watching is underdog sports team grow into fame.
Despite having a low MAL score which I will never understand I really enjoyed the series thanks to how well executed and enjoyable it was. The story is great and very enjoyable, the characters are all charming and likeable in they own ways, the writing/pacing was pretty solid and the visuals were very good minus the awkward use of CGI at times. Is it the best anime of 2018? Sadly no as it, did have some problems that prevent it from being one of the true greats from 2018.
However, I will say this. Katana Maidens is easily the best two cour anime from the Winter 18 season and for me, it’s destroyed Beatless, Record of the Grancrest War and the now popular Darling in the Franxx. The show won’t be for everyone but if you want to check out an underrated anime from 2018 then I recommend Katana Maidens.
It is an anime that will stay with my heart for many years to come.
Why 10? I started this anime at the begginning of january and I knew it was for me. In general, my favorite animes of a airing seasons are slice-of-life. But Katana Maidens - Toji no Miko is an action anime. I think what it makes it great is the characters, who are the steel of the story: the past of Hiyori, the determination of Kanami, etc. The art is amazing, and probably one of my favorite! It fit perfectly with the emotions of the characters IMO. How much did I enjoy the serie? Man, I waited each friday with excitement to watch those! Ho, I
forgot to mention the 1st and 2nd OP/ED are amazing! So, overall, I have no complains: darker moments are necessary for the devellopement of the story (I won't spoil here) and are the key for some characters to improve themselves. It's in my 10 favorite animes of all-time, so I strongly recommend it!
(But I have really unpopular opinions, as an anti-normies, so find more info before starting it!).
This show...has a definite edge when it comes to the start of 2-cour shows of the year, but when all is said and done, it is still a good watch from start to end, even though I had a disdain for the premise of the show.
The story of Katana Maidens: Toji no Miko starts as bland, cookiecutter and generic (this is NOT CGDCT)...until the intense action starts building the story up...in a very slow fashion unfortunately. At first, I really don't seem to understand why this 2-cour show is that memorable, but after watching all the way through, it felt some sense of satisfaction, but
not by much.
In a nutshell, girls who wield katanas that are inherited by various groups of people, presumably from families or schools that have a reputation, fight the forces of evil that are called aradama, noro (or substances) that are the subject of experimentation, and started what was initially just a competition against different girls into something that triggered a national phenomenon that has been existing for a few decades, that is now threatening the lives of girls whom aspirations of being Toji, being used to exterminate the current setting yet again, and 6 girls whom have no affiliation with one another, combines their abilities together (with the power of their friendship) to stop the tragedy from happening again.
The story setting is what you'd expect from a generic battle-shoujo anime, but where I can give credit is with its building story arcs, basically from the time of welding to conquering the world in 24 episodes, and that's where it tipped me off the series. I was trying hard not to see it as a generic show, but it felt underwhelming. Yes, it is an original series, and credits to people whom have thought of such ideas, but aside from people really enjoying the series as a whole, if you're not a fan of confusing or yet slow-progressing story arcs, skip this immediately.
The characters are an interesting choice:
Starting off with the initial two: Etou Kanami and Juujou Hiyori, 2 ordinary yet extraordinary characters towards the end, they come off as your typical shoujo battle-sense girls, and throughout the course of the journey from strength to strength and courage to redemption, their feelings for each other have not changed, for the fact that they were the first to cross each other's paths and because of the whole aradama issue, their bonds are unbreakable whether together or separate from the rest of the group. Kanami is the happy-go-lucky, and watchman of the 6 girls, who vouches to protect them and get stronger and understand their emotions and puts it into practice. Hiyori on the other hand, she is the "act first, think later" archetype, knowing that her enemies will get the better of her, and doesn't acknowledge others' efforts but coming to understand people's worries for her too.
Sayaka Itomi and Yanase Mai are the striking silent duo of the group, because their experiences helm the way of their katana fighting. Sayaka is the worrywart of the group because of her experiences fighting with the enemy's side, then as lifeless as she comes, she learns to open up her feelings towards the group and gets courage from them to slowly get her out of the comfort zone. Mai is also somewhat of the same situation, though oppression and determination, she was the one leading Sayaka the entire way, and it's easy to see why they are so attached to one another, reassuring each other's security.
Ellen Kohagura and Kaoru Mashiko (with her good aradama Nene) come from the same school and have a good relationship with one another. Ellen the big-busted girl is someone that reeks of positivity, looking at everything on the bright side, even in battle, not giving people their way and motivating them to be better and stronger as they go. Kaoru might seem like the chibi annoying little brat (and she is), but her big wide sword means business and that means she's as serious as she comes, taking care of Nene as if it is her last pet.
Origami Yukari and the Elite Four:
At first they come off as enemies, once fighting for each other because of the control of aradama and how Yukari would turn the whole situation around, but after the 1st half, they find themselves in a nutshell because of the manifestation of aradama that's split off into different personalities and fighting with the 6 girls to regain control, this time for good. Yukari herself is sinister, with her plans and her resolve to see things through, that brings over to the end of the 2nd arc, someone that defines a firm believer of "power is king". The elite masters, most presumably Konohana Suzuka, Shidou Maki and Satsuki Yomi, are idolizes of power, and when tormented, they fight for their own ideals and come to the conclusion that even with power, their motivations are empty if not yet realized dreams are not brought to fruition. Especially that one character, Yukina Takatsu, is very adamant on power, and is always being used, all the way to the realization that no one is for her and her alone.
The art and animation is good, something to expect from studio Gokumi, who made Tsurezure Children last year, but that jarring CGI is the exact same reason why the producers went to full-on CGI for smooth battle scenes. Yes it's not heavily used but it's very noticeable. And something to note off of is the fact that while fanservice is little to nonexistent, Studio Gokumi is not a studio where they are capable to show, and while this doesn't hamper the show's quality, it's not something to be expected of here.
The music...is the weakest point of the series. I mentioned in Comic Girls where I have an absolute love-hate relationships for VAs in theme songs, and while the latter is extremely good, this WAS the series I was referring to, this both OP and EDs of the 2 cours are very unmemorable, to the point where I was potentially skipping ALL 4 tracks to get right into the story. If you can appreciate them on its own I have no questions, but it is unfortunately average in every conceivable way.
In the end, do I really hate this series with a flaming passion? Some things I still stand by a few months back, and while the series overall has improved, I'm just not the audience that it was tackling on, and call this a good battle shoujo if you want, but it's just not for me.
In these opening weeks of the Spring 2018 anime season, Steins;Gate 0 starts off as the by far highest rated anime, although Megalo Box is the new heavy hitter if we look past sequels. This and more in the opening edition of The Seasonal Quarterly.