Katanagatari – Final Impression

The first images people often visualize when someone mentions “Japan” are samurai, sushi, and super packed cities.  At least, that’s what I think about.  This doesn’t really have much to do with today’s post on Katangatari, with the exception of the samurai image, but it’s enough of a comparison to point out the popularity of feudal-Japan, more specifically Edo period, settings.  This period is popular in several artistic endeavors, including art, literature, theater, and film.

Katanagatari

The alternate Edo-period story of Katangatari absorbed a good bit of my 2010 excitement as the summation of its plot, art, and dialogue added up to something I had never before seen in anime.  Following the pattern of the light novels, producer White Fox decided to release one episode a month, starting with January and ending in December, with a total of 12 episodes.  This decision was both frustrating and ingenious; although I knew the pattern of the episodes and knew the same structure would probably apply to the following episodes, the anticipation from waiting heightened my interest in the possible twists to the inevitable.  Despite this predictability, Katanagatari excels in art and dialogue, as these two factors are what hold this anime together and drive the plot forward.

Plot
As already mentioned, the plot of Katanagatari is yawningly easy to foresee.  From the very first episode when Togame proposes the retrieval of all 12 of Shikizaki Kiki’s deviant blades, we already know how each episode will most likely progress.  As there are 12 episodes, 12 blades, and Yasuri Shichika retrieves the first blade in the first episode, we can assume that he will most likely acquire a blade per episode by battling each of their respective wielders.  The ending episode will probably do something epic with all 12.

We also find out that Togame originally set out to the island where siblings Shichika and Nanami live to employ their father, Yasuri Mutsue, the previous head of the Kyotou-style of swordsmanship.  As he died a year prior to these events, Togame instead must convince the current head, Shichika, to enlist in her endeavors to collect these swords for the Yanari shogun family of the Owari shogunate.  She is able to convince him, and the two begin their journey, leaving Nanami behind.

Over the course of the season, Shichika defeats each of the deviant blade wielders.  Sometimes the battle ends quickly due to the overwhelming capability of kyotouryuu, and at other times it ends all thanks to Togame’s tactics.  This fairly easy acquisition gets kinked  with the meddling of Princess Hitei and her retainer, Emonzaemon, who begin collecting the swords from both their original wielders, and from the Maniwa ninjas.  By the end, we have a showdown between the Togame/Shichika and the Princess Hitei/Emonzaemon parties.

Character
Katanagatari has characters alright…a shit-ton of characters.  This is another weakness of the anime, as there are so many intriguing characters, you end up feeling cheated by the end since we hardly get any face time with them, besides our two protagonists.

From left to right, top to bottom: Maniwa Kamakiri, Maniwa Mitsubachi, Maniwa Chouchou, Maniwa Kawauso, Maniwa Koumori, Maniwa Kyouken, Maniwa Shirasagi, Maniwa Houou, Maniwa Oshidori, Togame, Yasuri Shichika, Yasuri Nanami, Maniwa Umigame, Maniwa Pengin, Maniwa Kuizame, Tsuruga Meisai, Kiguchi Zanki, Uneri Ginkaku, Itezora Konayuki, Biyorigou, Higaki Rinne, Sabi Hakuhei, Princess Hitei, Souda Emonzaemon

Togame the “Strategian”
Of the multitude of characters that populate Katanagatari, I find Togame to be the most engrossing of them all (well, with the exception of Emonzaemon, who fascinates me as well).  The first episode opens up with fire and blood, and we witness the death of rebel leader, Hida Takahito, at the hands of Yasuri Mutsue.  A little girl stands in the wreckage, and we watch as in the horror of the death and loss, her hair turns white.

Birth of a life-long revenge

We see her many years later as a young woman, rowing to the island home of the remaining two survivors of the Yasuri clan.  Though she now calls herself Togame, she is in truth Princess Yousha, and for the greater part of the anime, she plays convincingly the part of the government official and strategist to Shichika’s battles.  We also begin to see true affection blossom between her and Shichika.  She is both serious and intelligent, yet we also get to see her vulnerable uncertainty towards reciprocated love from Shichika.  She uses “Cheerio!” as a type of catchphrase, mistaking its meaning as a greeting for a chest punch.

A+ for cuteness

In the moving last episode, Togame dies to a gunshot wound by Emonzaemon’s hand; however, she reveals her true intentions before dying.  Given her tragic childhood and ultimate patience, she had hoped to use the deviant swords for her vengeance.  Despite truly caring for Shichika, the side of her that fell for him is just another pawn in the greater plan, one that would have ultimately ended in his death.  Her unforeseen death surprises Togame, yet also relieves her from the pain of having to kill Shichika.

Dialogue
The dialogue of Katanagatari brilliantly dazzles, yet sometimes blinds.  The script writers for the anime know they’re clever, and as such, feel that their clever dialogue deserves to fill up every damn second of screen time.  If new viewers aren’t turned off by the art style, then they most likely will get bored by all the talky-talk.  The dialogue takes part in the predictable structure of each episode, as we start to notice the trend: Talk, talk, talk, talk, little bit of ass-kicking, and talk.  I can’t help but think that they do this intentionally to partially nod at the habit of shounen action manga/anime of inserting pre-battle speech and asides into their fight scenes.  This is reflected in the first episode of Katanagatari when Togame encourages Shichika to pick a catchphrase.  He ends up using the line, “…though by then, you’ll be torn to pieces,” in every one of his fights thereafter.

Art
The art style of this anime is breathtaking, yet can be off-putting to the more traditional anime watcher.  They take special pains to include wood grain and textured materials in the background, yet give all characters rudimentary features.  The simplicity of the character design is balanced with brightly colored clothing, perhaps nodding at the modernity of its audience.

Overall
I ended up rating Katanagatari 9/10 (great); the only factors that prevented me from giving it a perfect 10 were the predictability and the ending which pissed me off.  The anime succeeded in making me an enemy of Princess Hitei, and seeing her by Shichika’s side did nothing to assuage the sadness I felt at Togame’s death.

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12 thoughts on “Katanagatari – Final Impression

  1. It looks like you just added another anime to my plan to watch list. I knew the streak wouldn’t last forever. I think I’ll wait quite a while to start it though so as to hopefully forget some of the stuff mentioned here, namely about Togame.

    I also wonder if the fact that I won’t have the anticipation factor you did will have an impact.

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    1. Yeah, I’m really wondering about that, too. I definitely plan to re-watch this show further down the road so I can marathon it and see how I react then. Togame is strange b/c people either end up really loving her, or hating her character.

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  2. So I decided to watch the first episode.

    I knew the moment Shichika accepted the quest after Koumori explained who Togame really was, I was in for a treat. That development moved me, and left me curious. It echoed of Shichika’s past with his father, as well as perhaps any feelings his father or himself have about the swordstyle/past.

    The contrast of Shichika’s dialogue and Togame’s works well, and I found myself laughing aloud at times when they would interact. I especially loved at the end of the first episode as he was rowing the boat and Togame suggested not to rush things, he plainly and quickly stated, “I love you”, and she returns with something along the lines with “Yup. Love me as much as you want.”

    You’re certainly right the writers’ knew they were clever and played that part up. You see this from the beginning where Togame’s eye (weird eye) is focused, then the next line of dialogue (many years later) has to do with sight and the island. Good scene editing and script writing happens throughout. Going to watch the rest in the coming weeks.

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  3. The first images people often visualize when someone mentions “Japan” are samurai, sushi, and super packed cities.

    “Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.”

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  4. I hate you for recommending this show.

    The final episode left me angry, bewildered, distraught, and smiling as Yasuri yells “Cheerio” into the Shogunate’s western-sized belly.

    A large portion of me wishes this show ended at episode 10. I had an inkling of what was going to happen at the end of ep. 11, but I didn’t want to believe it. And Togame’s final words left me betrayed. Stabbed in the fucking heart.

    In short, this was an excellent series. Go see it if you haven’t.

    And now that I’m re-reading your review, I see we agree on the ending. And since we seem to both have such strong emotional reactions to it, in a way, I think that should prove the series did many things well.

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    1. I must agree with you i hate togame’s final words and it annoys me how even though they fall for each other it never progresses further than that.

      But i actually liked how it ended with hitei following shichika i wish they had made just one episode following what happenes with those two.

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      1. Perhaps an extra episode might have made me feel a bit better about Hitei and Shichika ending up together, but I kinda doubt it. Despite this show lasting a year, it felt like it went by so fast and I miss it!

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  5. Great write up, while I loved the ending I agreed with most of your points. This was easily my favorite show of 2010 and it’s the show that got me into importing. I loved the hour long format and wish more shows would give it a shot. It’s funny how in live action, 1 hour is the norm but in animation 30 minutes is like an unbroken rule that must never be toyed with or bent.

    But anyways, good write up.

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    1. I’m curious what points you didn’t agree with, just so I can have more to think about and re-consider. I like differing opinions :) I’m not even sure if there ARE other shows like this that go outside the typical 30-min long episodes. If there are, I’d definitely be curious about trying them out.

      Anyways, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment!

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      1. No problem. The only thing I kinda disagreed with was the characters. While the many of them were there for only one episode, I felt that they were fully developed and when they eventually left the series I felt that their arc was complete and I was satisfied with them.

        I think the 1 hour time block let them go deeper in one episode than a lot of shows could do over multiple episodes since they didn’t have to cram in everything (action, comedy, character development) into 30 minute chunks and could let the characters breathe, so to say.

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      2. Ah, I can see where you’re coming from with the characters. Maybe for me it wasn’t so much a lack of character development in each episode, but more of me just being greedy and wanting to see more of them? GIMME MOAR! Anyways, thanks for the taking the time to explain!

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