In an Edo-era Japan lush with a variety of sword-fighting styles, Shichika Yasuri practices the most unique one: Kyotouryuu, a technique in which the user's own body is wielded as a blade. The enigmatic seventh head of the Kyotouryuu school, Shichika lives quietly in exile with his sister Nanami until one day—the wildly ambitious strategist Togame barges into their lives.
Togame brazenly requests that Shichika help in her mission to collect twelve unique swords, known as the "Deviant Blades," for the shogunate. Shichika accepts, interested in the girl herself rather than petty politics, and thus sets out on a journey. Standing in their way are the fierce wielders of these legendary weapons as well as other power-hungry entities who seek to thwart Togame's objective. In order to prevail against their enemies, the duo must become an unbreakable team as they forge ahead on a path of uncertainty and peril.
#01: "Tasogare no Gekka (誰そ彼の月華)" by Yousei Teikoku #02: "Refulgence" by Shoujobyo #03: "Senbonsenyo no Hamariuta" (千本千女の刃毬唄) by Hata Aki #04: "Kyomu no Hana" (虚無の華) by kukui #05: "Ai to Makoto" (愛と誠) by Tamura Yukari #06: "Yuki no Onna" (雪ノ女) by ALI PROJECT #07: "Mayoigo Sagashi" (迷い子さがし) by Nakahara Mai #08: "Karakuri Nemuri Dan" (からくり眠り談) by Nomiko #09: "Akashi (証)" by Annabel #10: "Ina, to Hime wa Subete wo Katarazu (否、と姫は全てを語らず)" by Tomatsu Haruka
#11: "Bourei-tachi yo Yabou no Hate ni Nemure (亡霊達よ野望の果てに眠れ)" by Faylan #12: "Toki Sude ni Hajimari wo Kizamu (時すでに始まりを刻む)" by Kuribayashi Minami #R1: "Koto no Ha (言ノ葉)" by Piko (noitaminA rebroadcast)
Since 2006, light novel adaptations have gradually become a regular feature in anime as producers in the industry scrabble around in their attempts to find the biggest cash cow since the advent of Suzumiya Haruhi. The surprising thing is that the fallout from this has actually been a lot better for fans than one might expect, and while titles like Guin Saga, Kemono no Souja Erin, Ghost Hunt, Baccano!, Kure-nai, Rental Magica, Spice & Wolf, and NHK ni Youkoso! may not be as commercially successful as KyoAni's behemoth, they do represent a gradual shift in the industry towards creativity and originality.
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 ...
'Katanagatari' ('Tale of Swords') is about Togame, a self-claimed "General Director of Military and Offering Affairs serving under Yanari Shogun Family of Owari Shogunate", and Yasuri Shichika, the last inheritor of swordless swordsmanship "Kyotouryuu", and their adventure to collect 12 legendary swords.
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.
"I have just come to a realization! This scroll by Broken Sword contains no secrets of his swordsmanship. What this reveals is his highest ideal. In the first state, man and sword become one..." - King of Qin, Hero
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!
What do you fight for? That is a question with no simple answer. People say that they wish to accomplish some sort of dream or aspiration. To achieve fame, fortune, love, or maybe even revenge. Some are simple and others ambitious beyond belief. The real question is, do you have the will to fulfill that dream? Is it truly what you wish for? Are willing to struggle to the end for it? Many people try to fulfill their aspirations. Many people simply die in regret and are forgotten. Others fulfill a dream so large they are remembered for all time.
To explore this question is the main purpose of the work “Katanagatari”. Now ask yourself “what will your dying words be?” Words to be remembered? Or words of regret?
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.
Martial arts are an expression of power, showcasing the potential of the human body when pushed to its physical limit. It also makes for exciting anime, and allows animators and directors to showcase their prowess as things get heated.
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