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.
I simply cannot grasp why this anime receives so much praise.
White Fox adapted this from the light novel Katanagatari, and although they have the same author and a similar name, it has no connection to the Monogatari series in style, substance or story. The two main characters romp through a mythologized version of feudal Japan, neatly divided into formulaic episodes, collecting swords and killing fucking everyone they see.
Katanagatari is by no means a terrible anime, but if you look at the way it is treated, you might think it’s an absolute masterpiece, or panders to the shounen crowd excessively. Neither is true. The world and
action are so ridiculous and clichéd that you might be forgiven for thinking it is simply a parody. If Katanagatari deserves any praise (which indeed it does), it is for managing a certain level of uniqueness. However, uniqueness alone is not enough to carry a series.
This is a twelve episode anime about collecting twelve swords. As such, you may begin to notice a pattern that the anime follows. In case you can’t I can spell it out for you: find the sword, find the wielder of the sword, get ready to kill sword wielder, fight scene, kill sword wielder, take sword. Fortunately, Katanagatari is not so obtuse as to staunchly follow this formula for every episode, but it can get pretty tedious at times; sometimes the biggest surprise an episode will shock you with is how few people die.
That’s right, none of the characters have any qualms about killing even friendly characters, resulting in one of the highest body counts per episode I’ve seen in anime. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing, but Katanagatari just makes it annoying; out of a cast of dozens of characters, you can count on one hand those alive at the end. There is even a set of twelve characters who exist for no purpose other than dying violent deaths as soon as they’ve received their quota of characterization.
This “quota of characterization” brings me to another annoying habit of this show: a naruto-esqe need to explain every technique and move of every character. Announcing attacks beforehand already makes the action scenes a little silly, and very few characters indeed do not at least once give a lecture on their fighting style, magical moves or weapons, usually in the middle of a fight. This highlights the more prevalent flaw of excessive dialogue. For an “action” show there is not nearly enough action. A lot of this does contribute to the story and characters, but some of it makes me wonder if it wasn’t just to fill up their 50 minute time slot.
I feel that the ending deserves special attention. Jarring would be an understatement, a better description would be “feels like it’s from a different show.” All of the characters in the final episode have their personalities nearly reversed, and events transpire that makes the rest of the series relatively meaningless. It feels terribly contrived and without spoiling too much, it is a massive disappointment.
The art in this show is unique. Opinions on the character designs will be very subjective; they are certainly atypical of anime. Over the course of the series they will likely grow on the viewers. Backgrounds are colorful and charming. The art really does not fit the story and setting but some will love it.
The real weakness of this show’s art is the animation. It starts out passable, but as it goes on you can almost see a counter on the screen as White Fox’s budget for this show drops. Fight scenes are the only part that gets any special attention as the show goes on, and even their quality drops over time. It starts out fairly pretty but increases in still frames, simple designs and reused animation become more obvious. If I did not know they spent a month on each episode I would say it looks rushed. Overall this extreme inconsistency leads to some parts looking quite attractive and others looking really awful.
The music in Katanagatari is pretty lackluster, but often fits very well with the show. The music definitely contributes to the mood of scenes. The voice actors complement the show far worse. Tamura Yukari does a brilliant job as Togame. Unfortunately other characters generally deliver their lines with all the emotion of reading a string of numbers with a director over their shoulder shouting “sound angry for this scene!” The sound effects really shine.
The characters are the point of Katanagatari. Whether you like the show are not, everyone will agree that the action, story and everything else are secondary to the character development. Unfortunately, this means the show puts incredible effort into one area that ultimately falls flat on its face. The only good thing I can say about the characters is they are not stereotypes.
The side characters are particularly unimpressive. They are incredibly shallow and most are killed off as soon as they receive just enough development to elicit an emotional reaction from the lowest common denominator. I also can't count the number of "Japan's strongest" that come out of the woodwork.
Togame, Shichika and their relationship are the real focus of the show. Throughout the show they slowly develop from a largely superficial relationship into one of real trust between partners. Finally, at nobody’s surprise, romantic love blossoms between the two. Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding this make it unsatisfactory. And it happens during the final episode, which I have mentioned involves everyone acting tremendously out of character.
Although their interactions are very strong, Togame and Shichika themselves are rather weak characters. Shichika especially is quite the Gary Stu, with a lot of forced development. “Why does he fall for Togame in minutes?” Because he does. “Why does he suddenly get way stronger?” Because he does. “Why is he unable to use a sword?” Because it makes a convenient plot device. This sort of thing is constant.
One last problem that bugs me particularly is that Katanagatari succumbs to temptation and commits one of the cardinal sins of anime character development: “cHAIRacter development.” This is changing hair style, especially cutting a female’s hair short, to demonstrate character development. It is usually done when the character is so weak that a superficial change is required to show growth. It was completely unnecessary and just annoying.
It isn’t hard to get caught up in Katanagatari. If you can overlook some flaws then there isn’t any reason you can’t enjoy watching it. The ending is lousy, but the ride to get there can be pretty fun at times.
The art and focus on characters make this show unique, but uneven animation, disappointing characters and the ending cause this show to fail at being what it wanted so desperately to be: special.
What’s more important: the destination, or the journey it takes to get there? If you put every ounce of your blood, sweat and tears towards achieving your goal, and still fail, was it all for nothing? Inversely, if you accomplish all of your goals without breaking a sweat, are you really accomplishing anything? Due to the fact that the outcome of nearly every shounen anime every made is never in any real question what so ever, this is not a theme we have ever seen explored in anime. At least, not until Katanagatari was released. This anime is perhaps the only show ever
made that can justifiably be called a proper deconstruction of the modern shounen; it takes the aspects and clichés that you would ordinarily assume about a narrative and promptly beats you over the head with them. It examines the inner workings and conceptual concepts of the genre and makes you completely rethink the priorities of storytelling. As if that weren’t enough, it also proceeds to accomplish all of this without sacrificing an ounce of entertainment, comedy, action, wit, pacing, or essentially anything. This anim- …no… This MASTERPIECE deserves a hell of a lot more credit than it gets, even if it isn’t perfect. Presenting one of my all time favorites: Katanagatari.
Synopsis: Yasuri Shichika, the 7th successor of the Kyoto Ryu style sword art, lives on an isolated island with his older sister, Nanami; he has never had any other human contact. One day, the island is visited by a woman named Togame, who requests his aid in her quest to find and collect the twelve legendary swords forged by the master swordsmith Shikizaki Kiki. And thus, the “Sword Story” begins.
At first glance, Katanagatari’s storyline is nothing special. In fact, in may take you quite a few glances to realize that there is more to this simple “Sword Story” than you are made to initially think. Largely episodic in nature, each episode consists of Shichika and Togame locating and obtaining one of the 12 swords. Conveniently, there are 12 episodes in the show (each of them twice as long as a normal anime episode, doing wonders for the pacing of the anime). Now, that information alone might make you assume quite a few things. However, you’re going to want to take my advice: Don’t. Katanagatari teaches you relatively early on that you should not assume a single thing about it. It is NOT an average shounen. Episode 4, perhaps the most trolltastic anime episode ever aired, is more than enough to demonstrate this. This show doesn’t just avoid its genre’s traditional tropes, it laughs in the face of them. It completely dismantles what an average plot might consider to be important and demonstrates the things that are REALLY important when you are telling a story: Character development, motivations, pacing, engaging dialogue, and much more. It’s genius. Pure and utter genius. Katanagatari makes fun of or completely deconstructs an uncountable number of clichés, and yet it always does so with the most impeccable sense of execution and taste. Ah, but I’ll stop clumsily trying to discuss the show’s themes while attempting to avoid spoilers. Let’s get to the other aspects of the storyline:
Something you will initially notice about this anime is that is has a LOT of dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a very fair share of action, but the majority of the screen time is spent showing the characters having conversations with one another. The reason that this is a good thing is because it’s VERY well written dialogue; sometimes hilarious, sometimes deep, but always witty and/or thoughtful. One of the best scripts I’ve ever seen. The emotional highs are high, the emotional lows are low, the comedic timing is flawless when applicable, and the show always seems to know just what to say. Katanagatari covers the entire range of the emotional spectrum; it will make you feel EVERY emotion. I can’t say the same thing for any other anime I’ve ever watched, or at least not to the same extent. The one and only complaint I can make about the storyline is that it gets a bit lax when fleshing out its plot developments toward the end, but none of it really matters in the end. Did I mention that this series has, quite possibly, the greatest final episode in anime history? Enough said.
If you want to know how to write good characters, look no further than Katanagarari’s incredibly memorable, masterfully written and downright lovable cast. Y’know how Cowboy Bebop became wildly popular because of its ability to introduce new characters every episode and still end the episode arc with them feeling fully fleshed out (among other things)? Well, Katanagatari does it even better. From compelling backstories to unique personalities to complex motivations, the side characters in this show are among the greatest and most interesting in the entire medium considering the circumstances. However, even without them, the character cast would be totally unforgettable thanks to the duo of Shichika and Togame; both of whom are some of my favorite characters of all time. Shichika, besides being likable, is one of the finest examples of character development I’ve ever seen. His thoughts and actions carry unfathomable thematic weight and his personality is unique as well as perfect for the tone of show. Did I mention that he is also a badass? Shichika is quite possibly my favorite anime character of all time; he was written so goddamn well that it’s inspiring. Togame is just as complex as Shichika, but her motives are shrouded in mystery. Really, before anything else, Togame should be lauded for being one of the most likeable characters ever conceived. She is laugh out loud hilarious, full of energy, absurdly adorable, and STILL manages to command the respect of the viewer and be legitimately multi-facetted. Really, I struggle to find the words to do this pair justice. Easily the highlight to an already incredible show, and I haven’t even mentioned that the character designs are astonishingly awesome; easily my all time favorite. What a stupendous job by the writers in this department. The characters stand out as the best part of an already amazing anime.
Some people really like the art style of Katanagatari while others dislike it, but I never understood how anyone could possible not think this show looks good. The bold colors and lines are pure eye candy, and I’ve already mentioned that the character designs are the most beautiful, diverse, and creative examples in the industry. The action scenes are animated wonderfully and even the dialogue scenes never seem to lack energy. I LOVED the animation for this show, even though some people disagree for whatever reason. There is much less debate about the music and voice-acting, however, which are both nearly flawless in execution. Katanagatari has maybe the best and most varied original score I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. From haunting and intense melodies with a traditional Japanese theme to the occasional hip-hop track that gives even the likes of Samurai Champloo a run for its money to everything in between, believe me when I say that this soundtrack has it all. The two OPs really aren’t anything special, but Katanagatari re-aired on television in 2013 with a brand new OP, and THAT one is fucking incredible. Probably the most underrated OP of all time, and one of my personal favorites. When it comes to presentation, I struggle to find a single thing to complain about.
I hate to end this review with a cliché (ironically), but I’m going to anyway: This anime will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you feel every emotion in between. It’s intelligent and has tons of depth while being simultaneously entertaining and filled to the brim with charm. If you don't watch Katanagatari, you are doing yourself a major disservice. I highly doubt that there will ever be another anime that manages to balance themes and entertainment as well as this series; it’s one of a kind. Not bad for a Sword Story.
What is it that you fight for? Money? Power? Honor? Love? Revenge? Out of all the millions of reasons , in the end does it really matter? These are some of the things you will ponder while watching Katanagatari. Nisio Isin, the mind behind the monogatari-series, which some might call a twist on the harem genre, has used his deft hand at creating unique characters and worlds, in what would traditionally be a shounen premise. The end result, is a masterfully crafted tale that blends Japanese folklore, romance, and martial arts with a very contemporary touch that makes Katanagatari feel both modern and old at
the same time. Simply put it, Katanagatari is a story of both the ages, and the here and now. It is a wonderfully crafted tale that I had the pleasure of watching.
Story(9/10)- Katanagatari's premise is essentially the typical shounen premise. Yasuri Shichika, master of the swordless sword style, Kyotouryuu, lives on an island with his older sister, Nanami. They know nothing of what life is like in the outside world, until one day an intruder interrupts the tranquility of their island. Togame, a self-proclaimed strategian, enlists the help of Shichikia to acquire the 12 deviant blades for the shogunate. In any one elses hands, Katanagatari would've been ridden with cliches and tropes found in many popular shounen anime/manga. However, Katanagatari is anything but typical.
In all of Nisio Isin's works, dialogue is always at the forefront. Katanagatari is no different, it is probably even more so since each episode is a whomping 50 minutes long. But that is exactly where the show succeeds, in it's dialogue. The dialogue is witty, clever, intelligent and insightful. All without being verbose and mundane. The conversations often provide background and motivations for characters and do a phenomenal job at world building, bringing the world and characters to life while giving it a touch of realism.That is not to say the plot itself isn't interesting either.
As the story progresses, there are a lot of unforeseen twists and turns that serve to deepen the plot without being convoluted or contrived. All the plot points are revealed at the right time to cause the greatest impact on the viewer. It is not this often that a story is able to hit all the right notes.
Art(9/10)- The art for Katanagatari is nothing short of beautiful. It has a very vibrant color scheme that your screen will be glowing the entire time. The character designs are a bit atypical because they seem more.....cartoonish. They aren't overly detailed but aren't so base that you can't remember what they look like. The backgrounds are detailed to that point where the world itself becomes a character.
Sound(9/10)- The soundtrack is nothing short of memorable. It is composed by Iwasaki Taku who is famous for his work on Rurouni Kenshin Trust and Betrayal, Now and Then Here and There. The soundtrack is a unique blend of jazz, Indian flutes, and traditional pieces that compliment the world adding to its character.
Character(9/10)- By far, the best thing about Katanagatari is the relationship between Shichika and Togame; how their relationship grows and how they mature throughout the story. Shichika starts out as a bland individual. He lacks any traits, besides his strength, that cause him to stand out. He is essentially a living weapon. Each encounter he has with an enemy, leaves a lasting impression on him, causing him to change little by little. Throughout the show, you see him make the transition from a mere weapon, to a human being. You feel as though you are changing with him.
The encounters not only change the characters themselves, but also serves to deepen their relationship. With each encounter Shichika has with an enemy, it adds another dimension to his relationship with Togame. He starts out as merely a tool for her to use, but slowly she grows to love Shichika. The same for Shichika as well. He follows Togame blindly without any reason but over time he finds a reason to fight.
The villains are not mere caricatures either. Due to the length of the episodes, the villains are fleshed out to the point where they are human. They each have their own reasons for pursuing the deviant blade, along with a distinct personality and world view. It is rare that a show gives development to almost every character in the cast, in a seemingly short time frame.
Conclusion(9/10)- Katanagatari is a tale both grand in ambition and in scope. It is one of the view anime that accomplishes what it wants to without compromises. A stong narrative, and strong lead characters put it head and shoulders above nearly every anime out there. If you have the patience to withstand the lengthy conversations, the pay off is well worth it. I give Katanagatari 9/10.
Katanagatari is interesting because it's one of the better anime in recent time (that I have seen), one of the best anime from 2010 (that I have seen) and arguably the best work of NisiOisiN (that I have seen, even though this only includes two titles).
Now, Katanagatari is great, it's absolutely wonderful, but depending on your ability to immerse yourself in a story so much that you forget time this may or may not be for you. If you are like me with the attention span of a goldfish, initially the 50-minute long episodes might scare you off. If you are able to put up
with it, however, you are in for a treat.
I will not summarise the series because frankly you can look at the anime description for that, that and I doubt I will make it that much more interesting. I will just go through why I like it.
First of all there are the characters, which I think are the main driving force behind this anime. They bounce off each other really well, providing good (but not ROFLOL hilarious) comedy and creating an overall likable character dynamic. The side characters are also fairly good, they do their thing, but for the most part you will not see them for more than one episode, so they do not matter too much. I will also give points to the incredibly forced romance. I like that Katanagatari doesn't even try to build it up naturally but instead approaches it like "Yeah, we're in love even though we've shared a whole of five miniutes of screen time. Deal with it."
The action scenes are short but very energetic and well directed. While they are very good, be warned if you are going into Katana thinking it wll be 90% action; it will not. In fact, much of the anime is spent on dialogue. Think Bakemonogatari, just not quite the same bullet pace.
The sound track is excellent, and while I do not think it stands out per se the music tracks are used very efficiently, creating just the right mood every single time.
The art can be descriped as fairly minimalistic - it certainly does not stand out in terms of production values - but it gets its job done and does it well.
Overall, Katanagatari is gud, you should definitely check it out if you like dialogue and good action scenes, but due to the length of the episodes you may or may not be able to marathon through it. Also: dat last episode.
Considering the amount of love this show has received, it feels risky giving a comparatively low score to Katanagatari, although I don't personally consider a 7 by any means low. Please don't label this review as "not helpful" just because you disagree with the scores or think they are too low. This is a difficult show to review because a) most of my complaints are directed to the plot and character development, both of which are difficult to describe without spoilers, and b) some of the complaints can also be considered reasons why this show is amazing or unique. Unique is indeed one of the
better ways to describe Katanagatari, but let us get into the review.
*STORY -- 5 -- MEDIOCRE*
Again, it is difficult to explain the score without specifics, but the best way I can describe this show's plot is that it is both far too predictable, and far too unpredictable. The show's structure is essentially as follows: each episode takes place a month apart and features the two protagonists, Yasuri Shichika and Togame, locating one of the twelve legendary swords and obtaining it in one way or another. Having a show running on a formula such as this runs the risk of killing the show's unpredictability, since the plot is literally formulaic. You KNOW that the protagonists are going to succeed and take the sword that episode. This makes some of the more drawn-out segments that rely on suspense fall somewhat flat, since you already know the outcome.
Perhaps in an effort to counter this predictability, the show throws many moments that seemingly come completely out of nowhere, but rather than feeling excitingly unexpected, these moments often feel cheap or underdeveloped. There is often a lack of proper build-up to many of the show's twists or turns, making the viewer feel cheated or downright confused. There are the occasional moments where this unexpectedness works extremely well, particularly in episode 4, although that episode in particular highlights an issue regarding the anime's characters which I cannot explain without spoiling it (basically, it highlights how uninteresting the two protagonists are). Unfortunately, these better moments are few and far between. The last few episodes in particular, while praised as some of the best in anime by some, feel particularly prone to random new plot threads that the show expects its audience to accept. "AHA SURPRISE! THIS WAS ACTUALLY THE PLAN ALL ALONG!" is not a good plot device, nor is having one of the characters go around performing unexplainably overpowered deeds and him simply explaining it by saying "It is not necessary for you to understand what just happened."
The show is definitely inconsistent in its quality. Certain episodes are actually quite excellent and well-paced. Others are downright awful and are entirely exposition where the protagonist goes on some mind-bending LSD adventure in an effort to get him to understand something of great importance -- a common trope in anime. The quality of the episode seems very much related to the characters featured, so I will touch on that later.
The anime's focus seems to be on its dialogue, which is mostly a good call, since the interactions between characters are the show's strongest moments. However, it often feels that the show's writers know that the dialogue is good, and decide to take it too far. As a result, many of the dialogue scenes drag horribly with seemingly no reason but to fill time or show off. The pacing definitely could have used a bit of work.
Although the dialogue is generally excellently written, the actual writing of the show is surprisingly poor. If that's confusing, let me try to explain by saying that the show has a tendency to tell rather than show, which is not a good writing strategy. Sometimes a character may be telling something rather well, but that doesn't negate the fact that they shouldn't be telling it in the first place.
Of course, the show's unpredictability and copious amounts of dialogue can be used as examples of why Katanagatari is unique and therefore deserves praise. Although aspects are certainly unique, it still feels very much like a typical anime at most times. Even when the show manages to be unique, a show needs to be more than just that -- it actually has to be well executed. I simply cannot call Katanagatari's story well executed despite its attempts to be different.
*CHARACTER -- 6 -- FAIR*
The characters are what manage to save the show's content from disaster, although they are very far from being excellent. The protagonists in particular are a great target of criticism. Togame's character is overall extremely static. She hardly changes, aside from her feelings and attitude towards Shichika. This wouldn't be a huge issue on its own were her character not so stock and boring. She is the stereotypical high-tempered, jealous, easily embarrassed, pouty female trying to make a name for herself but unable to alone because she is essentially incompetent. She definitely improves in the competency department later on, making some successful strategies, but she is a far cry from being interesting or unique. Some of her backstory is better than her actual character, but suffers from the plot's problem of throwing sudden, unexpected globs of information at the audience and expecting you to care.
Shichika is the other protagonist and his "development" in particular bothers me. He displays the guise of having tremendous character development, changing from being a completely blank person -- literally a tool (sword, in this case) -- to a caring human being. He can best be described as a robot learning he has feelings. Unfortunately, it is not impressive character development to go from nothing to a human being. What IS impressive character development is to go from a human being to an INTERESTING human being, which Shichika never becomes. He essentially manages to become a normal stock character, which almost makes him less interesting than how he starts out as. At least when he is nothing but a tool, he has that unique aspect of having no idea about human emotions or the outside world, which is played off for humour decently well. He does display the odd quirky moment, and you can only wish there were more of such glimmers of personality.
What, then, manages to save this show? That would be some of its secondary characters -- namely, those who wield the swords the protagonists must obtain. These characters are certainly not all great (one character in an episode in Ezo in particular was simply terribly developed, or rather, wasn't at all), but a few of them bring you into their world and make you care about their fates. This is extremely effective and is one of the ways the show's predictability is somewhat mitigated. By knowing that these swordsmen are going to lose, the episode becomes something of a tragedy, as you realize this world they have developed and rely on the sword to maintain are going to be destroyed by the two protagonists. As such, episodes that feature the most interesting swordsmen are also the best episodes. Unfortunately, only a few of these swordsmen end up being this interesting, so the praise can only really apply to a few episodes.
The Maniwa Corps, a ninja corps that appears throughout the entire show, is a particularly strange presence. Without spoiling too much, their appearance in each episode eventually becomes something of a running gag that I personally found quite humorous. This could probably be a criticism, and in a way it is, because these characters are woefully underdeveloped, but in this case, that actually feels intentional and in a way that doesn't feel contrived or cheap. Still, they certainly could have done without them entirely for the most part, which probably isn't the best sort of characters to have.
Nanami, Shichika's sister, is probably the worst-written character in the entire show in my opinion, which is an incredible shame because she starts off as potentially one of the most interesting. She makes an appearance early on that completely steals the episode in a surprising way, which is one of the show's best moments, but the next time she is featured, her character is so poorly and suddenly developed and the episode's contents are so messily executed that I would probably consider said episode the worst in the series. They eventually explain what happens at the end of the episode, but by that point, the damage has already been done.
There are a massive host of other characters, namely a couple that appear in the latter stages of the journey, many of which are also underdeveloped. There are simply too many characters for this show to handle in its time frame, which is a shame, because all of the voice performances are generally excellent.
*ART -- 9 -- GREAT*
This show's art is by far its strongest aspect. The production in general is fantastic, with a unique art style that, while not personally my favourite, has moments of startling beauty and a sort of painting-like quality that makes many frames feel like classic Japanese art. Some of the character designs are a bit questionable, but overall, the art is superb. Unfortunately, there is one episode in the middle of the series where the art style completely changes, and while I can't comment on any possible artistic reasoning, all I can say is that the episode feels like it was produced on a budget. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea, but there is noticeably less movement and quality in the art, which is a shame, since this episode is particularly important plot-wise.
I don't want to give the best aspect of the show such a short piece of the review, but aside from that one episode mentioned, there isn't much to say aside from the art being excellent.
*SOUND -- 8 -- VERY GOOD*
The sound is not as stand-out as the art but still good. There is some good music, although nothing in particular really stands out. The sound effects are also fine, but again, nothing outstanding. As mentioned, the voice performances are fantastic, which gives a great boost to the sound's score. Because the rest of the sound is otherwise rather average, I can't give it higher than an 8, but it is still quite good nonetheless. I do have one huge nitpick regarding the sound design: there are on occasion songs placed into the background, and the lyrics often clash with the atmosphere of the scene or appear underneath dialogue. This gives this weird feeling where you hear voices but don't understand where they are coming from until you realize they are in the background music. A mostly minor complaint, but it practically ruined one or two scenes.
*ENJOYMENT -- 7 -- GOOD*
This was one of those shows that rarely gripped me, but also never got bad enough to make me stop watching. It was mildly entertaining throughout, with some fantastic moments sprinkled in with some maddeningly poor ones, but even those poor moments helped keep me watching if only out of outrage, so perhaps they were doing something right. This wasn't a show I ever felt like dropping, nor was it a show I couldn't wait to watch the next episode of.
*OVERALL -- 7 -- GOOD*
Considering how badly I bashed the story and many of the characters, even a 7 may sound surprisingly high, but the production values really go a long way in elevating the show's quality. Even the story and characters, while highly flawed, are serviceable enough to be enjoyable. Perhaps the best way to describe Katanagatari is as an aspiring epic crammed into far too short a time span. The anime simply tries to tackle far more than it can handle, from too much dialogue to too many characters to too many new subplots to too many unexpected twists. The show definitely could have benefitted from either being longer or trimming its excess fat. Being longer would perhaps give those poorly-developed, unexpected moments a great chance to become legitimately believable or well-built-up.
Despite these plentiful criticisms, Katanagatari is an above-average show. It is beautiful, has some excellent moments, and is generally entertaining. You could certainly do better, and it isn't the masterpiece some herald it to be, but you could also certainly do much worse.
I was really excited for this show and hyped for its ending because I had heard really good things about it and its ending. On the r/anime subreddit I go to, people consistently put it up for "best endings" or most "solid arc" or "great character development", but while I liked this show initially, it started to lose its luster a bit with its episodic repetitiveness, long runtime (45 minutes approximately, which I think hurt it more than helped as I felt they rambled too much and could've had a faster pace). Some of the dialogue confused me a bit for the
talking, and I didn't care as much for the historical ties ultimately. The end was also disappointing even though it tied things up a bit at least.
It's probably because I prefer happy endings, but I was really disappointed with this episode. I think I really wanted to root for the love in this show, between the two MCs and how much they liked each other. I know Togame did some bad things for the wrong intentions, but I wanted her to redeem herself and the two to live happily, because I thought they both suffered enough through their lives and deserved happiness at the end of their quest. In this, even after losing both his family, Shichika is left without anyone close to him, and Togame was a tool until the very end - it just doesnt send the happiest/most hopeful message imo. Maybe it goes "deeper" and I miss something, but I ultimately think a happy ending would've been better/fine for this. What was there gained with Togame's death? What does that say about Shichika's and Togame's happiness? What message is the show trying to give with all this?
The gauntlet was honestly cool but also disappointing. I'm glad Shichika is stronger, but if he doesn't struggle and fight the swords at their best, there's not as much meaning.
I did like his eye change though, and it was heartwrenching, his goodbye. I found his following of Hitei to be ironic and somewhat interesting, but I also find it a bit weird. I don't know if I dislike it or not - probably a little glad he has some company but I'd've preferred to see him and Togame together at the end.
I think overall, this show is close to being good but not quite enough for me and falls as "above average but not that far above". I think some of the dialogue at times could be drawn out and a bit pointless (still better than Bakemonogatari but still bad in this), and some of the themes and ideas I just dont agree with. Things like "be a tool for another and its okay" or "fall in love and do whatever the person says"...things like that are...not good messages for a friendship or relationship, even if they're somewhat humorous and enjoyable to watch. The quirks and stuff for the characters were interesting, but the constant deaths and killings disappointed me. There was no sparing the good sword owners at all, and I didn't feel connected enough to a lot of the deaths ultimately. I'd prefer if the good people could live and find a purpose in life - I think that'd send a better message for the show. As it is, its a bit humorous and entertaining, but I'm not sure its in a way I enjoy as much.
I also felt the episodicness got repetitive after a while - there wasn't that much contuinousness - it was always just find new sword + find new way to obtain sword. Sure, some maniwani and shogun stuff happened in the background and the show tied more things together in the end, but for a good few episodes, it was a bit repetitive and I felt no new spark. And the initial enjoyment I got died out a bit.
Some good things: you did get to see Shichika really develop, and I did feel Togame and Shichika's bond through the episodes and really enjoyed that. I liked their romance, and it had some good humor between the two. It wasn't afraid to kill its characters (but imo it did it in a poor way, without letting us feel a connection. Other shows like HxH have more deaths too but we really feel the stakes more in those deaths imo) and push some common ideas/tropes out the window.
I'm actually astounded by the huge number of people lauding Katanagatari as a masterpiece, with high rating of 9's and 10's popping off everywhere in the reviews, claiming that it is perfect/flawless blah blah blah, listing everything positive about it then exaggerating it further. This makes it appear like it's 10/10 worthy solely from reviews when really, it's far from the truth. While Katanagatari isn't the worst out there which feels mentally violating or makes you want to smack your head against a brick wall or a sharp corner on your table, it is not on the same level as the masterpieces, which feels
like you're having an animegasm or ascending into heaven whenever you watch it. No, Katanagatari is far, far from it.
I'll also mention some other things:
- This is my first review on the site. Normally, I don't bother writing reviews because a lot of what I want to say about a particular anime has been already said in another. Thus, I see no reason to repeat what other people have said. It's also due to the fact that I'm lazy and it's hard to motivate myself to write one. :P
- Characters and plot are heavily weighted.
- Minor spoilers
Art and Sound - Both 7/10
I don't have much opinion on sound, other the opening being interesting and generally working well with the anime overall, which provides atmosphere.
The art I is quite unique. It's quite similar to the one you would find when you're looking at legends on screen, and indeed, Katanagatari is set during the Edo period, the reign of the Shoguns, so it's definitely good that they've used this style. The scenery is nice, though could have a bit more detail. Colours makes it look more vivid and lively most of the time, yet often dips into the darker shades as well, adding to the atmosphere already present . Characters are generally well drawn.
The one problem in this area though is that there has been a few cases where the art quality 'drops'. More specifically, there were cases where I've seen still frames and recycled animation used throughout the latter half of the series (often gives a shounen-esque feeling).
Other than that, the art is generally consistent throughout the show. It's good to see something new used here that's atypical of anime you see nowadays.
Characters - 12/30
One of my first major gripe with this show, and despite it being heavily emphasised through the anime, it hasn't been executed well, regardless of the widespread acclamation that this is the show's strong point.
The very first failure in this case is the HUGE abundance of characters in the entire show. This isn't bad on its own. In fact, as Monster has proved, such a diversity of characters allow for fresh and interesting situation to rise, while also giving us a new perspective for the story to be told. Given that Monster also had PLENTY of time for development, it felt like each character had a purpose in the anime (Johann being somewhat of an exception, despite him being portrayed really well). Katanagatari did not have that luxury. By trying to shove such a huge cast into 12 45-minute episodes, it has inevitably shot itself on the foot, as the said character(s) don't get enough development, and as a result, are forced into 2 situations:
1. Character feels underdeveloped, akin to one saying something like 'What's the point of this character?'
2. Character's development feels rushed and sudden, not gradually over time
The former can be said for ~95% of the entire roster. The development on the side characters, particularly the antagonists, are a joke - they barely had any time to develop before they get killed (granted, for some characters, we do see a slip of their past and how that has changed their outlook, particularly Meisai Tsuruga, who deserves some credit, but that's about it). The Maniwa Corps is the main target of the criticism here - every single character has been killed without been given a chance. A whole episode dedicated to them is not enough to be considered developemtn. I had hope for the penguin guy, seeing that he had the most potential, but nope. He dies. What a surprise. Every member of said corporation, and also a lot of the side characters, can be merely cast off with the question mentioned before, 'What's the point of this character? How is this character significant in the anime'? This is what's lacking in a lot of them. Apart from Yasuri's sister, who also received poor development and Meisai Tsuruga, I see barely any point in them. They're just a running gag in the anime.
And now, we get to the protagonists, Yasuri Shichiki and Togame, hailed by many for having excellent character development. Like... what? If anything, only Yasuri gets credit for 'proper' development, though it was one that could be labelled as 'expected' - a machine is expected to transform into a normal human being, in terms of developing empathy and emotion. It's nothing new here. It's uninteresting at best.
Togame didn't really change much, considering how much screen time she had. Essentially, she was emotionally scarred due to a past trauma that left her walking down a path of veangence and looking to carry out her father's wish. As a result, to hide this fact, she puts on a 'mask', a show where she's rather expressive and reluctantly collects the 12 swords for the 'Shogun'. During her travels, she falls in love with Yasuri. However, at the end just before she died, she openly admits WITHOUT hesitation that everything she worked for was for revenge and that she planned to kill Yasuri after collecting the 12 swords (12th is a gun by the way...). Really, all she had done was that she held onto her past trauma, put on a mask and embark onto a journey to collect swords. While all this time, she did not change her mindset... Nice development... It's static.
Story/Plot - 10/30
My second gripe with the series. Before I get into a rant, let me say that I consider Katanagatari to have 2 plots at work here that goes hand in hand: Togame collecting swords for the shogun and the other is Yasuri developing empathy, turning from a machine into a normal human being.
Now, for the people who say that the plot is 'so complex', or so 'simple that it's so good' and give a whopping 9 or 10. Like..... No... Just no... No matter how many times I rack my brain, I can NOT understand how the plot is 'complex' as people say (and I do have an eye for subtlety if I focus). Perhaps it was the excessive dialogue that switched me off (more into this later), or perhaps my expectations quickly died out after 3 episodes feeling like a grindfest trying to finish... Only God knows.
On the other hand however, the plot being simple does not mean the plot is good. A plot being simple has to compensate in other areas, such as subtlety in thematics or in this case, characterisation. Otherwise, the whole anime suffers as a result. Due to characterisation, its saving grace, being quite lackluster, the plot was forced to suffer.
First, the sword collecting. While it does sound plain, lame, simple and boring, again, this isn't bad on its own. It had potential to change the direction of the narrative when needed. It had potential to add in twists and turns to keep the plot fresh. What is bad about it however, is seeing CONSTANT repetition of the following formula for 11 episodes STRAIGHT:
Arrive at new place -> meet new antagonist -> talk -> fight (?) -> win sword
It got so predictable to the point where I wasn't expecting anything new to show up. Turns out, from episode 3 onwards, up to 11, I was right. There were no twists, none of that unexpected event that puts you into a state of shock, none of that 'gamechanger'.
Second, Yasuri's development. This one is more important than the sword collecting part, and where people get the idea that the plot is quite 'complex'.
Let me say that having dialogue is fine. In fact, it's quite important, as it fills in the gaps when there's no action in the anime. It gives you an idea of what a particular character is thinking about another. It gives you an idea of their personality based on how they speak and interact with others verbally. However, there is a point where the amount of dialogue can become excessive. This has the effect of making the plot feeling like it's dragging on forever and stagnating in progress.
That's Katanagatari in a nutshell. There is a plethora of dialogue that shows the interaction between the 2 protagonists. Of course, with characterisation as it's focus, this was bound to happen. They needed to show how Yasuri and Tagome develop as protagonists. This, they did relatively well. You can see, through their interactions, how they change (?) throughout the course of the show. But they went over the top and added more dialogue that contributes to almost nothing. For 45 minutes. There's even dialogue in the action scenes for some reason...
Additional thoughts - 10/20
This section covers any additional thoughts I might have about the anime. This includes enjoyment and other comments I might make if it doesn't fit under the other major sub-topics. It also makes up the final 20 points available to bring up the total possible marks to 100.
For the first 3 episodes, I was drawn into the anime. But the interest was lost quickly due to how repetitive the plot was and how stale it became due to the excess amount of dialogue in 45 minutes.
For an anime listed under action, there's barely any actions and those actions aren't really well done.
I would've expected them to choreograph the scenes in a way that looks realistic, rather than being shounen-esque in looks or slinging multiple arms around while the torso remains in 1 spot... Something like the fight scene between Lancer and Archer in ufotable's work Fate/Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works.
Katanagatari is by the write of Bakemonogatari, knowing this, I watched it thinking it might be good. It isn't, the ONLY thing good about this anime IMO is the animations. It's boring, has very little fight scenes, and when it does have a fight scene they are usually very boring. The main character is Goku but even more bland, and the main female is an annoying bitch. The story had a good idea, go around Japan collecting legendary swords, but they made it so that each episode the main character meets some emo, then they talk for 40 minutes, spend about 5 minutes foreshadowing, then
have 1 minute worth of fighting, which is really more talking. Overall, I am not enjoying this anime, I thought it might get good, I really had hope in it, but now I am really considering dropping it. For all of you who don't want to waste time watching an unsatisfying anime, please avoid this one.
Katanagatari, the show that loves the number 12. 12 swords, 12 ninjas, 12 episode... and I'm half expecting it to turn out that the Shichika has 12 secret techniques at his disposal. Yes, Katanagatari is an interesting show about a young man and woman on a quest to gather the 12 ultimate swords. The premise sounds fairly cliche, but still interesting enough to watch solely based on that, but how does it really fare? Lets find out...
Now, let me start off by saying, if anime was judged on artistic style alone, Katanagatari would probably be one of the greatest of all time, as the artwork
is beautiful. Scenic landscapes, great character design, and a whole lot else to create a beautiful vision before your eyes. The plot.. starts off on a rather simple footing, with Shichika and Togame beginning their journey, but begins to branch out wildly, creating quite a lot of sub plots. And to make things better, Katanagatari does a very nice job of keeping these plots understandable, and doesn't let itself get drowned in side stories. Every episode you can begin to enjoy the very layered plot, starting with what the sword of the day is, followed by what Togame and Shichika's topic of the day will be, and maybe even the back story of an enemy ninja or swordsman that they have to fight. Needless to say, the story is well layered and overall very interesting to follow along.
As for the characters, Katanagatari seems to do a pretty decent job with them as well. Both Shichika and Togame are rather interesting to watch, and have a strange chemistry that makes you laugh and genuinely bond with them as characters. Each has a back story that even now (5 episodes in) has been looked into a fair bit, but still left in enough mystery to keep the viewer immersed in the series. The series being episodic by nature, has many MANY characters that appear for maybe an episode or 2 before disappearing or being killed. Each usually don't have much of a back story, but often are acted on really well and make one wonder what their life must be like. Overall the cast holds together quite well, with no one being particularly memorable, but nobody being bad by any means.
Now every series has some flaws and katangatari is no exception. Each episode happens to be set for 45 minutes, which helps make the one month wait less painful, but generally leads to a lot of filler. The action scenes are usually pretty short for what they could be, and the characters quite often seem to get caught up in idle conversation... that can be funny at times, but you know its just padding out the episode. Another problem is the release schedule for this anime. Now releasing one hour long episode every month for a year is a pretty unique way of doing it, and sounds pretty cool when they do it, but it really does dowse the overall feel of the series a little bit. One can forget a lot in a month, and usually you don't go into the new episode with quite as much enthusiasum as you might of a month earlier.
But really, those are rather small complaints. The story is good, the characters interesting, and the show itself works quite well. I'm not exactly a huge fan of the action genre, but Katanagatari definitely got my attention, and I plan to see it all the way to the end, and I recommend you do to.
Katanagatari: a tale of twelve twisted swords,
which keenly point their sharpened blades towards
just anyone who's thirsting for their mighty power
and therefore causing uproars and a troubled hour.
Harrying this ward -
the first sword
To wield a sword, you need courage and a certain reason
to use such a deathly tool for committing life treason.
Explore your innermost nature and understand the way!
"What do you fight for?"... it's not just a simple play.
Another slain lord -
the second sword
Now to find these swords and also their own true self,
our two heroes set sail in search for these twelve
relics of Shikizaki Kiki's most famous smithery,
which became an unfathomably perilous reality.
the third sword
So who are these guys who try to fulfil this task...
since this turns out to be a crucial question to ask!
In short: they are a pair like moon and sun,
and always questing for a way to get their fated journey done.
A wicked reward -
the fourth sword
On the one hand, we have the lovable and initially almost naive
swordless swordsman Shichika, who's always ready to receive
new inspirations to improve his Kyotouryuu style,
while learning who in this world is actually hostile.
Honour restored -
the fifth sword
But despite his godlike and agile physical condition,
his inability to deal with other people is obstructing the mission.
So what do you need?... that's right, some feminine support;
more so when she calls herself out of the strategic sort.
Lost in the ford -
the sixth sword
Her name is Togame, an ever so excitable mastermind,
directing Shichika out on their struggles to find
a clever solution to combine their strength and wits
and to make the best use out of their given skill kits.
By demons adored -
the seventh sword
Between the fights, some great character development is shown;
their interpersonal relations won't let them feel alone.
And even the romance part is not suffering in any sorts
during the time between "Cheerio!" and writing strange reports.
Never explored -
the eighth sword
Along the road they will encounter lots of mysterious guys,
adding an amount of serious dynamics and refreshing surprise.
Everything is held together by a fantastic animation flow;
this and an effective drawing style are defining the show.
Harder than steelboard -
the ninth sword
This tale takes place in much older Japanese times,
when it wasn't abnormal to suffer more from intrigues or crimes.
So although the music is decent, it's scarcely used, if yet at all.
Just focus on the perfect voices and how they will enthral.
Lunacy's accord -
the tenth sword
Do not be frightened off by the unusual episode length,
but instead try to find your cause to fight, your inner strength.
If you are fond of shows like "Bakemonogatari" or "Spice and Wolf"
it's a mostly guaranteed journey into your favourite gulf.
Containing a horde -
the eleventh sword
Finally, stanza number twelve... what have we learned so far?...
The so called "Deviant Blades" will always stay special and bizarre!
Now join Shichika and Togame's travel until the bloody end
and you will surely get into a yearning for all to comprehend!
You'll never get bored -
the twelfth sword
However, by that point you'll have been torn to pieces.
Dear those who want to watch Katanagatari...
You may have witnessed a lot of disappointment from those who watched this show. The main reason (and sometimes the only reason) behind these instances of disappointment is the extreme lack of action. People start watching this show expecting high octane martial arts fight scenes filled with badassness, but really, that's not the focus of this show at all. Instead, what people get is talking. At least 90% of this show is just pure dialogue.
I was one who knew about this dialogue
thing before I watched the series, and not because others told me about it beforehand, but because I noticed that this show is the pinnacle of the anime medium, a LIGHT NOVEL ADAPTATION! And who is light novel by? By none other than Nisio Isin, who is well known for the Monogatari franchise. If you keep in mind this fact, starting this show expecting anything other than talking is stupid in its own way.
So why do I love Talking: The Animation so much? It's simple. Katanagatari may be the least boring anime that I've ever seen.
The Monogatari series makes dialogue fun to watch in its own unique way, and that is SHAFT VISUALS. Through the constant transitions of scenes, imagery, weird poses and head tilts, the dialogue becomes bearable due to the weirdness happening around it. Katanagatari doesn't do this. When people talk, it just shows their lips moving real fast, with a couple of facial expressions here and there to spice things up. What makes Katanagatari's constant dialogue not boring is the sheer quality of the dialogue. Full of wit and borderline Gintama levels of self-awareness, the interactions and conversations that the characters have are just simply... entertaining.
There have been moments in almost every anime that I've watched where I had to check to see how much time was left in an episode, even in thrill rides like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Even despite the 50 minute episode length, this has never happened once during my watch of Katanagatari. 50 minutes just pass by in a flash, to the point where I watched 6 episodes in one day and had to force myself to take it slower.
Of course, I can't mention Katanagatari without mentioning the incredibly unique artstyle. Katanagatari is drawn like a Japanese painting, and while some may think that this classifies Katanagatari as an artsy show, it really isn't. It's just a simple adventure filled with wonderful character interactions. It doesn't have the incredibly deep themes, mysteries, and other philosophical ideas like other artsy shows, such as the Tatami Galaxy and others.
So what is the story of Katanagatari? It's basically a fetch quest. Well, I actually like to call it the epitome of "It's about the journey, not the destination." These are words that I've always lived my life by, and Katanagatari expresses it very well. The fact that the show focuses more on the character interactions, no matter how insignificant, rather than making a complex story, is basically telling you to enjoy all the things in between, not the beginning or the end. The relationship between Togame and Shichika is also a great example of living the present, while putting aside the past and future. I would go into more details, but that's spoiler territory.
And what else about our dynamic duo? Well, they are dynamic. In fact, they are probably the most dynamic pair of anime protagonists that I've ever seen. Togame and Shichika have incredibly contrasting personalities, to the point that they are almost polar opposites. This makes their interactions, both little and important, very refreshing and enjoyable. Shichika is emotionless, but not like the Kuudere type of emotionless, but like the innocent child who knows absolutely nothing type of emotionless. He also delivers a lot of punch lines, albeit unintentionally. Togame sets up all the comedy between them with her self centered and confident attitude, only to have her confidence shattered in the most hilarious of ways. Did I mention that this show is self aware? It really is. Togame almost breaks the 4th wall so many times, which I absolutely love. I really can't go into detail about their development together, so all I will say is...
I love the way they loved each other.
Oh, and that noitaminA opening? Absolutely EPIC!!!!!
Katanagatari is a 2010 anime produced by Studio WHITE FOX. It’s an adaptation of the light novels by NisiOisiN. It was directed by Keitarou Motonaga. Director of School Days and Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Katana is the story of ex military “strategist” Togame and legendary fighter Yasuri Shichika as they travel the land in search of 12 all powerful swords.
Katana’s protagonists are a good place to start. Shichika is a powerhouse swordfighter who uses his body as a sword. This thematically ties into his character, as he grew up pretty much alone on an island his whole life, and has no way of interacting
as an actual person. Thus, he acts as Togame’s sword. Togame is a clever tactician and A-Class conversationalist along with being charismatic in a pathetic sort of way.
There is a lot more to these characters than what meets the eye however. Shichika supposedly “falls in love” with Togame by episode 1 and the reasons for this are compelling yet aren’t spelled out for you. Thus, throughout their adventure, Togame and Shichika’s relationship slowly helps them grow as people. After a few episodes, Shichika seems rather simple. However, the more he lives and journeys with Togame, and the more we learn about his past, he becomes one of the most complex anime protagonists in the past decade. Togame, though her demeanor is rather slipshod and all over the place a lot of the time, she slowly reveals her true colors as well. It’s because of this, along with their endearing chemistry, that Togame and Shichika are quite possibly my all time favorite anime couple. Only really beat out by another Isin work.
Every villain is likable and reasonable in their own way, and every side character has a story and a life. They aren’t all Emiya Shirou, but I wasn’t expecting them to be, and you shouldn’t either. They are well developed for the time they have, which is good enough for me.
Considering this is Isin, expect a lot of talking. But also expect it to be constantly engaging, realistic, and often humorous. This isn’t just shown with Shichika and Togame, but with the entire cast. Witty, often self refrencial comments are thrown by the screen to the point that I found myself staring at the screen watching two fictional characters discuss moral troubles, which is an accomplishment.
Speaking of comedy, Katana has lots of it. Most of the time in anime, comedy blends awfully with dramatic action series like this one, but here, it works really well. That may be due to the tone changes being rather slow and not at all abrupt, but also due to just how funny the comedy is. I certainly laughed far more while watching Katana than I did while watching Nozaki-Kun or Maou Sama.
This sense of fun, even in times of darkness, may come from the vibrant colors and style of the animation. Which is not only fluid and expressive, but also very unique. A few episodes even have animation styles that are only in that episode. Episode 7, in particular, goes a bit overboard, and it ruined some of the episode. Nonetheless, the animation is overall very high quality. And, of course, the fight scenes. There are usually only 1 or 2 per episode, but when they do happen. OH MAI GAHD! Most notably, the fight with Sabi Hakuhei. The tension and build up to each fight helps this. The character designs are something that take a little getting used to, considering how odd they look, but I personally like them.
Katana’s musical score consists of choirs and sadness, as per usual for action anime. It’s a great fit, but I don’t have too much to say about it specifically. The voice acting in general is good, especially for the delivery of catchphrases. It also has 12 freakin’ ending songs, which is cool.
Thematically, this show is based around the chains of legacy and the pointlessness of fighting. Keep in mind, Katana is a tragedy, and it embodies that genre quite well. And then there is the ending. It’s sad and poignant yet completely inevitable. It’s a Gunbuster ending. The unfiltered ethos of the narrative in 50 minutes with tons of visual flare and dark colors, yet still enjoyable, Katana’s finale is something worth celebrating.
Katana isn’t told as a continuous story. Rather, it’s told in 12, 50 minute vignettes, each taking place roughly one month apart. With the string tying them all together being our “heroes.” Every one of these stories is compelling in their own way, in thanks to everything I’ve mentioned so far. The moral changes in how Shichika deals with his opponents throughout the series is something I personally really enjoyed.
The overall narrative of Katanagatari is based in history. More importantly, based in changing history which may be an absolute “Im watching this” or a definite “Im gonna stay away” depending on what type of person you are. Though, knowledge of samurai history will enhance your appreciation of this show, it is not necessary.
Now we get to flaws. This’ll be fun! Here’s the big one: This show is confusing. Not Evangelion or Lain confusing, but it certainly could be some trouble for someone not paying full attention and inferring a decent lot about some characters and backstories. I didn’t have too much trouble with it, but I do have some friends that were rather confused throughout the final few episodes.
There are a group of villains called the Maniwaningu that constantly interfere with our main characters and their quest throughout the show. And while they are thematically relevant, they also seem to be narrative throwaways. I get what they were trying to do, but they come off as silly some of the time. I don’t know how threatening Isin thinks Team Rocket with Ninja Penguins sounds, but it ain’t that scary when facing the 7 foot tall dude who kills things with his sword arms. Despite how fleshed out some of the one-off villains (and Hitei) are, these guys just pissed me off.
This is a more personal complaint, but I really did not enjoy episode 10. As much as I hate this word, it just came off as “pretentious” and worthless. I literally don’t understand what it was going for, and it came out of nowhere. I might just be “too dumb to understand its greatness” or something, but I just didn’t enjoy it.
Katanagatari was a series that got a good deal of hype back in 2010 that I never found myself getting into at the time. Notable in that each episode aired one time a month on Japanese pay-per-view channels throughout the year and each one aired at 50 minutes a piece, the series focused on skilled martial artist Shichika and a military adviser named Togame seeking out the whereabouts of 12 legendary swords called the Deviant Blades created by a recluse swordsman named Kiki Shikizaki, as each episode of the series focuses on our pair trying to seek out one of the 12 weapons. Shichika and
Togame aren't alone in this task as two other parties are trying to lay claim to the Deviant Blades in the form of a clan of ninjas called the Maniwa Ninja Corps and a princess named Hitei who is rival to Togame.
Katanagatari is different from typical feudal era titles in the fact that there is quite a bit of creativity put into the journey faced by Shichika and Togame. While the "collect them all" storyline with the Deviant Blades may seem like typical fare, a number of the weapons are not swords in the typical sense as some of them take on unique forms and many of them even have unique abilities that complicate the mission of our main pair in trying to collect them, especially as Shichika is not allowed to inflict any kind of damage to the Deviant Blades as he tries defeating their wielders. Some of these confrontations involve typical battles where Shichika tries to defeat their wielders, while others require him to get more creative under Togame's guidance to defeat them if conventional tactics aren't doable.
The series balances out its focus on the quest to gather the swords by offering solid exploration of a number of its major characters. Our lead pair and many of the Deviant Blade wielders get a good deal of focus in Katanagatari's unique run time as many of the latter group are focused on to explore their backgrounds, mentalities and why they wield the Deviant Blades they have possession of.
The unique pairing of Shichika and Togame lend a mixture of both comical and serious developments in their relationship and offer a fun foil to one another with Shichika being naive to the ways of the outside world in spite of his immense skill in martial arts and Togame trying to put on a regal facade in spite of her lowly status with the shogunate and her ability to develop tactics when confronting Deviant Blade wielders. Their chemistry is a genuine one as Shichika learns to develop a sense of self through his understanding of the outside world through Togame and our female lead grows to admire Shichika in spite of her original intentions to utilize his skills as a tool to gather the Deviant Blades for her personal gain. The series does drop hints of the two having a past connection to one another through Togame's rather tragic back story that are eluded to as the series progresses and helps add some engaging drama to the pairing's developing bond in later episodes.
Praises aside, I do have some issues with Katanagatari that hurt its quality to an extent. For anyone familiar with series creator Nisio Isin, you may remember his work with the Monogatari franchise. Much like that series, Katanagatari often likes to indulge in dragged out conversations between characters that cover ongoing elements of the show's plot and characters. Unlike the Monogatari franchise where this presentation approach worked because of the series being more character-driven, the heavy focus on conversations don't work as effectively at points for Katanagatari since the series is more plot-driven and causes the pacing of the series to often drag.
The series also has its bumps with characterization. While offering solid character depth with major players of the plot, there are some that don't get as much depth such as a number of members within the Maniwa Ninja Corps and Hitei's assistant Emonzaemon. And speaking of the former, their effectiveness as a threat in the hunt for the Deviant Blades diminishes quite a bit as the series progresses since the majority of their members get killed off rather easily in later episodes through Shichika and a few other characters.
Visually, Katanagatari is a bit of a mixed bag. While having beautiful background and scenic shots, character designs are a bit on the simple side sporting minimal details and facial designs looking rather out of the ordinary compared to more conventional designs. The series doesn't show off fluid movement often. But when it does, it creates some engaging action scenes that sport great choreography thanks to the unique abilities shown of the Deviant Blades and other fighters throughout the series, that include use of weapons, exotic abilities and hand-to-hand combat.
While some elements of its premise are a bit flawed and I do find the show's praise to be somewhat overhyped, Katanagatari is still a unique offering for a recent series offering fresh approaches with the character chemistry between Shichika and Togame, its "collect them all" premise and its feudal era action. Anyone looking for something different compared to many recent titles should give this title a shot.
“People who work for money are no good. People who work for honor are also no good. That leaves only one reason. People who work for love can be trusted. Yasuri Shichika… fall for me!” - Togame
Katanagatari is written by the well-known author Nisio Isin, original creator of the –monogatari series. This means that, if you were expecting a show with a ton of fighting, you might be disappointed. There is, however, at the very least one (pretty epic) fight throughout every episode. The runtime of each episode is 50 minutes, and I believe that this is beneficial to the series, since it allows for
both more dialogue and character building.
The premise of the story is quite simple. Because of events roughly 20 years before the story starts, Yasuri Shichika father, and his family, was exiled to a small, isolated island. After his father passes away, Shichika is now the seventh head of the Kyotoryu (bladeless) Sword Style. Enter Togame. She wants Shichika’s help in collecting the 12 Deviant Blades, the final masterpieces of the master swordsmith Shikizaki Kiki.
“Oh god,” you’re probably thinking. “That just sounds so bland! There’s no way I’ll like this.” But I’ll stop you right there. The power of the show isn’t in the story, like it is in some. The characters are what really bring out the goods in this series.
Katanagatari features a wide array of characters, and somehow, most of them don’t fall into some trope or cliche. Each episode focuses on a wielder of one of the Deviant Blades, and even though we only get 50 minutes with each, they all seem fleshed out and realistic, almost to the same level as series like Cowboy Bebop and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood does it.
Yasuri Shichika is one of the most well-developed characters in any anime I have seen. In the beginning of the series, he might come off as someone that would fall into the airhead trope. He even states it himself, “I’m not very good at thinking.” The thing is Shichika has only ever had contact with three other human beings. You come to realise that there is more to him that just being stupid, and he only seems that way in the beginning because of his life devoid of social contact. Important to Shichika is the reason he fights, and this is where most of his development comes. But I honestly don’t want to say anything about it, since it would be venturing into possible spoiler territory.
What places this anime as my favorite is not only Shichika’s development, but also the dialogue between the characters. It wouldn’t be a Nisio Isin anime, if more than 50% of the screen time was talking, would it? The banter and dynamic going between Togame and Shichika throughout the whole series almost reminds me of something out of S&W.
In my very biased opinion, this show features some of the best character design I have seen. Each character is unique and interesting. None of them are bland to look at.
Studio White Fox did an absolutely amazing job animating this anime. Yup, White Fox, the creators of series such as Steins;Gate, Hataraku Maou-Sama! and Akame ga Kill! All things I feel pretty safe assuming you’ve at least heard of.
Katanagatari has what is probably one of my favorite OSTs. It’s huge, and has everything from great battle music, to some kind of Vietnamese rap thing , and even to calming, tone setting melodies.
I don’t really want to say too much about the show, since I believe that coming to some of the conclusions I have come to is part of the watching experience. So go watch it. Like, right now. Go. Do it. You know you want to.
Katanagatari started as a light novel series by Isin Nisio. Who's written nothing else that I'm familiar with. He wrote some novelizations for both Death Note and xxxHolic, but I'm only familiar with the originals for those two and novels based on established series tend to vary a lot in quality. The anime adaptation was handled by the relatively new White Fox studio. They were behind both the Jormungand and Steins;Gate anime, so that could be a good sign. Then again, every studio tends to do some good and some bad work so this could be the first anime they've done that I dislike. Only
one way to find out.
The story follows a martial artist, who incorrectly refers to himself as a swordsman because this anime doesn't know what a sword is*, named Shichika. He lives with his sister in exile on an island. That ends when a woman named Togame shows up and asks Shichika to accompany her on a journey to collect twelve deviant blades. He agrees because he's fallen in love with her for no adequately explained reason. Did I mention he knows her for all of thirty minutes at that point? The story follows their journey to wade through a massive sea of exposition in order to collect the blades. This anime breaks the most important rule of story telling, show, don't tell. There's very little that happens with any bearing on the actual plot. The episodes are roughly fifty minutes long with most episodes using three minutes for the themes, eight minutes for action sequences, five minutes for plot relevant content and thirty four minutes for long stretches of exposition. I'm not even exaggerating when I say that one episode has a twenty minute stretch of dialogue that's nothing but the characters expositing over plot points. Because... showing the information in a natural way would've taken too long? One of the most inexcusable scenes happens in the middle of a fight scene. The characters just stop for more than five minutes so that one can exposit about her backstory. Then there's the narrator, whose only purpose is to waste time by telling you where they are, which they invariably mention in their exposition anyway, or to spoil what's going to happen in the next episode thereby killing any tension before it even has a chance to build. Smooth. The only real exception is the last episode, which spends most of its time with action sequences and a scene where someone, I won't spoil who, dies for fourteen and a half minutes. The worst part is that there's someone around who could've tied a tourniquet or something but prefers to spend the time crying because the first character is bleeding to death. Because.. death is more tragic if there's someone guilty of criminal negligence. The biggest issue that comes out of the whole thing is that it's boring. Stretches of dialogue can be interesting, but they barely have any actual dialogue. Most of it is incredibly stilted exposition, which isn't interesting. Then there's the romance, which never evolves beyond an attraction that comes out of nowhere. Nothing interesting is ever done with it, rather like the anime as a whole. The attempted comedy is so lacking in actual humour that it can be difficult to tell whether something is supposed to be a joke or it's just stupid. Then there's the ending, which features an anti-climax followed by abject stupidity.
Then you have the characters. First you have Shichika himself, who calls himself a sword because he formed a club with Gundam 00's Setsuna for people who think they're inanimate objects. He has very little in terms of personality. He's pretty much defined by being stupid, hitting things and falling for random strangers. He's your typical big dumb hero character. Then you've got Togame, one of those characters who's supposed to be clever but never acts clever or demonstrates any intelligence whatsoever. She can be recognised by yelling a lot, falling over, blushing and hitting Shichika while yelling "cheerio." She's a pretty typical tsundere character, except with fewer dimensions. There aren't any interesting characters in this. They just fill their role, spout exposition and then stay stagnant or die. The worst part of it is that they try to have tragic moments, but they've never given you any reason to care about any of the characters so they just fail.
Now for the art. I actually have a few positive things to say about it. The first is that there are some really nicely drawn backgrounds. The second is that the weapons, whether they're actually swords or not, are nicely designed, mostly. Now back to giving discredit where discredit is due. The character designs in this are horrible. The eyes are just off and convey no emotion other than dull surprise, and they show up in spite of being covered by hair on several occasions. The noses appear when the characters are in profile and vanish entirely when they're shown head on. White Fox does know that noses have depth, right? The characters really do look like badly made plastic dolls. The sad thing is that they try to have fan-service by giving Togame the occasional bum shot. Yeah, this art style doesn't work for that. The animation in this is frequently lazy. There are several cases where they just hold on the same image for no reason. The fight scenes are exceptionally bad. The characters are drawn so they're almost never actually coming into contact with one another and there's one fight scene where they play the same animation three times in a row.
The music is another thing that I'm going to give some actual praise to. The music is well done. It could've made it in a decent anime. Then there's the voice acting. This is another anime where no one seems to be trying. I know that several of the major seiyu can act. Tamura Yukari, Tomatsu Haruka, Okiayu Ryotaro and several others are skilled at their craft but none of them seem to be putting any effort into their performances. Although, to be fair, there are very few people who could sound natural while delivering all of that exposition.
The yuri factor is a 1/10. This has no yuri.
The final rating for Katanagatari is a 2/10. There's a pretty clear lack of effort on the parts of everyone involved. The story is mostly told through tedious exposition. Character development is absent. The fight scenes, and most of the art in general, are just poorly done and none of the seiyu seem to be trying. In the end, Katanagatari is by far the most boring anime I've ever seen and the few scenes that kind of work aren't worth sitting through the exposition for.
* They refer to Kunai as shuriken and every weapon, from guns to an android, as swords. They even refer to some non-weapons, like a suit of armour, as swords.
I hate Katanagatari, I hate it so much that I cannot describe how I hate it. I guess that it is time to stop reading synopses, because it never helps you and makes you decide the fate of the anime that you are about to watch beforehand. Katanagatari is one of these horrible examples: it shows you its synopsis, makes you think that it is generic and dull, and then it proves you that it is one of the most epic adventures that you will ever see in your life. When you see it, you will be surprised how masterfully Katanagatari reworks all clichés
making it a very unique and unusual fable.
I am sure that all fans of Ninja Scroll, Rurouni Kenshin, Samurai Champloo, and Bakemonogatari will find many things to love in Katanagatari. For those who are familiar with Rurouni Kenshin, Katanagatari is its twenty-first century equivalent, but it focuses more on the dialogues than on anything else. Of course, it does not mean that Katanagatari has no action, it has it and it is so beautiful and elegant that no words will describe it. However, if you are a fan of Bakemonogatari it will already give you a guarantee that you will like it, but if you still have not seen Bakemonogatari, Ninja Scroll, Rurouni Kenshin, or Samurai Champloo yet, do not be afraid to give Katanagatari a try.
So, without further ado, the story of Katanagatari tells us a story of a powerful martial artist Shichika and a self-proclaimed genius strategist Togame. The two should collect twelve unique swords, known as the "Deviant Blades," for the shogunate. But all these blades that the shogunate seeks to obtain already have their owners, which means that Shichika will have to obtain these swords by force. Everything seems to be easy; however, our heroes will have to overcome many hardships and the most important part of that will be the fact that there are thirteen swords. What hardships are waiting our heroes and what truth hides behind the thirteenth ultimate Completed Deviant Blade? That is the question that you will have to answer.
Without a doubt, the story of Katanagatari is not flawless. But the only obvious flaw of this anime is that you should be very attentive and you should put up with all these dialogues. That is the only problem of this anime; I cannot even call it a problem, to be honest. Of course, if you try to marathon Katanagatari in one day, you will not like it. But I would not even call it a problem, watch it little by little and you will surely enjoy it. I mean, the final episode will amaze you. It is worth it!
The weirdest thing about this anime is its animation. Saying that the animation is unusual will be the same as saying absolutely nothing. All characters look a bit cartoonish; however, at the same time, you understand that it is actually beautiful and you like it. Perhaps, the only two things that will stay in your mind about this anime are its ending and animation.
The OST is definitely memorable. With every episode we see new ED themes; however, I cannot say that they are memorable. The background music; however, is very appropriate to the Edo period depicted. You might even find something new for your collection. And of course the best part about sound is all that tremendous work that the voice actors invested in this anime. They did one hell of a job and because of that their characters are very enjoyable to follow.
The cast of this series is another reason for you to watch Katanagatari. At first, all characters look familiar and you have a feeling that you have already seen them somewhere. I would say that this feeling might be annoying for one, but after some time, you understand the uniqueness of all characters. I think that the fact that Katanagatari reworks all clichés making itself interesting and unique is very commendable. And it was possible thanks to the talent of the person that created this anime. Hopefully, there will be more anime that will be able to do so.
Anyway, Katanagatari’s cast consists of: main characters, Shichika and Togame, villains, and supporting characters. While the main characters and the villains receive enough development and are very interesting to follow, the supporting characters; however, leave much to be desired. I cannot criticize them that they are weak, but I think that they should have made them more interesting to follow. Yet, the main heroes and the villains compensate well the supporting characters, so I hope that it should not be a problem for you.
The main heroes of this anime are Shichika and Togame. Togame represent the brain of the duo, while Shichika represent more a blunt strength than anything else. Togame constantly rants about things and tries to change Shichika and Shichika tries to follow his new companion’s orders. For those who have already seen Spice and Wolf, the duo presented in Katanagatari is very similar to what you have already seen in Spice and Wolf. The only difference; however, will be the fact that Shichika undergoes more development than Lawrence. I cannot say that I am a fan of romance; sometimes it becomes boring a way too fast. Shichika and Togame; however, are more a comedy duo than lovers. But at the same time, the chemistry between them is amazing. It is never annoying and it only makes you worry about them more and more. After some time, you just understand that if something bad happens to them, you will be in one big depression.
The villains of this anime are another thing, which is worth mentioning. They are, mostly, the wielders of the "Deviant Blades.” Either bad guys that only seek for power to achieve their goals, or people corrupted by the power of their swords that have lost their purport of life; the villains of this series are definitely splendid. But, as I have already mentioned, the supporting characters are just bad. I believe that they should have paid more attention to that part, which is, in my opinion, very important.
All in all, I give this anime a very-very-very weak ten out of ten. This series is able to surprise its viewer, it has many aces in its sleeve, hence ten of ten. Of course, there are flaws and you will surely find things that you would like to change. Katanagatari does not deserve the title “the best,” but it does deserve the title of “one of the best.” For those who like very unusual series (Samurai Champloo), epic journeys (Spice and Wolf), do not hesitate to give Katanagatari a try. However, I am insisting on the fact that you should not marathon it. Of course, if you are a fan of Nisio Isin, or just a hardcore anime fan, you can marathon it, if not, I would not recommend you to do that.