I love stories like this, that try to do something different while still staying the same; adding a little bit of creativity to an over used plot. I didn’t think it would work for my tastes but by the end of 12 episodes, i was hooked. And while i doubt there will be another season, i will hold onto hope.
Yasuri Shichika is the seventh head of the Kyotoryuu school of fighting, a sword less but powerful sword style. Having lived peacefully on an isolated island all his life with his sister Nanami (crazy as hell), Yasuri’s peaceful life is shattered by the arrival of Togame, the self titled strategist of the shogunate. Togame is in search of the 12 deviant swords, distinct weapons crafted by Kiki Shikizaki ages ago. Wile Kiki’s blade work were widely popular during the last war, the 12 out of all that he had crafted before were rumored to have been especially created with the use of alchemy, the occult and other magical methodology. The weapons, which are supposed to be katana but have been known to take other shapes, are said to possess great power along with a poisonous essence that has and will corrupt any and all that might seek to wield them and loose there power, hence the ‘deviant
Togame has trusted before several other partners to aid her in pursuing and acquiring all 12 of the deviant blades in service of the shogunate but each time she
has been betrayed, with her former partners lusting after and losing themselves to the greed and lust for the deviant’s power.
This time she adopts a different strategy, she will get Yasuri to ‘fall for her’
and in turn gain his aid in pursuing the blades, believing that love will surpass all other temptations that might befall Yasuri. But her quest might not be as easy as she hoped. For one thing, Togame is actually princess Yosha, daughter to Takahito Hida, a former feudal lord that led the last rebellion against the shogunate and whom Mutsue Yasuri, Yasuri’s father andwielder of the monstrous Kyotoryuu style killed in service of the shogunate, an act that had him hailed hero of the land as well as exiled. As such her hair turned white on witnessing the death of her father, and the eye that witnessed the incident will take on a snake like form when she is scheming and plotting. Even if the pair were to forge past this bit of history, Yasuri is far from capable when it comes to dealing with humanity and the world. Having been raised on the island and having only known his father and sister, Yasuri is beyond backward and rustic. Beyond incapability to understand common customs and behaviors, Yasuri can’t even recognize or distinguish between faces, having known no other but his sister.
This total and utter innocence/stupidity on Yasuri’s part is more than a stumbling block to Togame’s plans. None the less she chooses to forge ahead in pursuit of her dreams, which it turns out are beyond mere service to the very monarch that led her father down a path of death. Even as she struggles to understand him, Yasuri is usually in awe of just how brutal and maniacal the child like woman’s schemes can be, usually in contrast to her girly cheerful attitude (most times) and her insistence on acting as and being handled like the royalty she isn’t.
ON their backs and equally motivated are the Maniwa corps, the 12 elite guards of a remote village, once members of the shogunate but who chose to rebel, and whose dangerous ninja skills are the very reason the helpless and physically useless Togame sought out the services of one such as Yasuri.
But even beyond the maniwa corps, Togame’s schemes and plans for the deviant blades as well as her fear that Yasuri might succumb to their poison even as she schools him in the ways of the world as one would a child, are the stories and lives of those that wield the deviant blades.
I have come across some surprising criticism for this series with regards to the graphics, which in my opinion are one of its strong points. katanagatara has always looked more like a play on screen to me than an actual anime, but maybe its my mind playing tricks on me. I like how they will play with the graphics depending on the scene at hand. You might come across a beautifully animated scene in a quite forest, during which time the characters are participating in a fast paced shinobi battle, with every blow, kunai thrown and special moved unleashed perfectly animated. The you might come across another scene, minutes later showing the protagonists moving across the sea in a boat. And this time the water is nothing more than the jagged
card board you would see on stage mimicking water. You might think to impute this to a low budget or laziness but i don’t blame either. I would call this an impressive attempt by the director to display the emotion of a scene through animation.
I remember a scene when an especially powerful character storms a castle manned by hundreds of well trained and well armed monks, ready to fight to the death to defend their master and his weapon. You would have anticipated one epic battle with this new protagonist/antagonist displaying an amazing show of power against overwhelming odds. However the series chose to treat this like an old videogame, with the camera shifting to the sky as the dot like figures of men and weapon ducked, flipped and strayed left and right while firing off red and blue curved lasers. This scene was done complete with those funny noises and beeps you would expect from a video game, and again this might seem like a cop out from showing an incredible battle; but if you really take the time to watch and think about this scene, you will understand the idea that the director was trying to convey, that this one opponent was so overwhelming that the combatant took about the same amount of energy you would use to tap a few buttons to take mow down a hundred foes.
Most anime relies on music and lighting to convey the emotion of a scene; i liked how katanagatara would vary its animation graphics completely to convey the same meanings. When it had to be serious, then the battles were animated beautifully, and when it wasn’t, the director added some creativity to the episode. In short, Katanagatari is simply good to look at, at least for me. As such i would rate it a4/5 in terms of art and animation.
But besides the art, this was a fun show to watch primarily because of the characters and their interactions. This i love, an anime with characters that can literally carry the entire show by simply being themselves, and with katanagari, the existence of a pretty decent story only added to its brilliance. Yasuri is fun as a clueless idiot, and having watched shonen anime for a while now, i usually hate such protagonists. He literally doesn’t know anything, not even how to spell his own name. I loved Yasuri having to remind Togame how they all, as human beings, looked the same each time
he couldn’t find her. It was an insult she couldn’t even voice because no insult she hurled at him would register. There was a point in time where it seemed like Togame had made it a game to try and seduce Yasuri. This happened after she came into the room their first night as partners at an inn naked and not only didn’t he butt an eye but after a prolonged stare between them, he took her silence as a command to help her get dressed. You would have to hear their conversations to understand just why all the hidden sexual hints veiled within so many of Togame’s words were so hilarious. It as almost like she was spending so much time during their missions just trying to find out what made him tick. And while you might assume that this has all been done before, Katanagatari manages to approach it with a fresh prespective.
This does play a pivotal role in their relationship as Togame comes to realize that not only does she not understand him but he probably doesn’t even understand himself either. She then can’t help but wonder why he chose to become her sword, because clearly he doesn’t understand what she meant by having him fall for her, or what he meant when he said he had done so. Besides mere relations, there is the problem of controlling Yasuri’s actions, especially in the area of death. Yasuri quickly shows, time and time again, how much little regard he has for life, with the way he will take it with no remorse whatsoever. Be it man, woman or child, to yasuri a fight must end in death. The problem that Togame has stems from Yasuri’s upbringing. She isn’t dealing with some crazy psycho who must be reminded about the beauty of life and vileness of his blood lust. To Yasuri, killing is no different from taking out the laundry or throwing a stone. It is simply an act that must be carried out once in a while, there is no moral argument involved. It is not different to an infant sticking a dagger in you and not feeling anything, because he doesn't or can’t understand the logic or moral element barring him from carrying out such an action.
And as such it is quite interesting to watch Togame work through this obstacle and try to figure out a way to get some of these basic concepts about life and death into Yasuri. It isn’t a matter of simply stopping him from killing when she orders it so, because he pretty much does as she asks, it is a matter of Yasuri himself learning to make the distinction between when and when it isn’t necessary to take a life. Togame only understands just how much of an obstacle this is when Yasuri doesn’t show the slightest sign of remorse when he mentions killing is father, the sixth head of the school.
Besides the shenanigans of these two, there are the blades them selves to consider with regards to Kyotoryuu and how Yasuri as a sword less master uses it to defeat their distinct abilities. But usually their is more drama with relation to their owners than simply acquiring the swords from. While usually enemies of the shogunate and worth the distaste of Togame, enough that she would seek to destroy them for seeking the blades, not all of them can be categorized so easily as vile. There is Koumori, member of the maniwa corps and wielder of Kanna, the hardest blade that can neither bend nor break: kaoumori, completely overtaken by the poison seeks only power and darkness in the other deviant blades.
Then there is Meisai, wielder of Tsurugi, a blade that is actually one thousand swords, who, as priestess of the temple, has taken in lost and demented souls in the women that survived the last war; it is clear to Togame what Meisai’s intentions are in gifting each woman with a Tsurugi; it is the poison of the blades that comforts them and attempts to cure the demons of the war. Then there is Hakuhei, wielder of needle, a delicate sword, brittle as glass, but with which Hakuhei has achieved the title of strongest swordsman.
While all swords are poisonous, it is default to gauge the consequences of the infection and whether the result is always negative. It is impossible to allow these blades to continue their stay in the hands of human beings and allow their poisoning to continue, but because no wielder can ever willful give up his sword due to its curse, the act of causing them to relinquish control is usually easier said than done. That said, the unveiling of each sword reminds me of bleach where i would shift to the edge of my seat in anticipation of a newly revealed bankai and shikai.
The deviant abilities themselves are usually unique and impressive and usually only augmented by their wielders natural abilities. This is proven by Hakuhei who was already a powerful swordsman and only in whose hands could needle achieve such power, but which could be easily shattered if and when swung by unskilled hands. Then there is Namakura, the sharpest sword in existence, made for quick unsheathing; and its owner Ginkaku who guards a single room in a long abandoned castle from which none that enter can ever leave due to the near demonic swiftness of each attack. Most of these powers are actually cool to view. My favorite would undoubtedly be Ju, a pair of pistols, one a blue six chambered revolver and the other a red semi automatic that holds eleven bullets.
The mainwa corps provide entertainment in their search for the blades and pursuit of Togame; unfortunately they don’t reveal nearly as much as they should have about who the 12 are, the history of their village or even the danger they speak of, for which they seek the 12 deviant blades. Most are disappointments in that they held so much potential for great story and drama but had less screen time than should have been assigned to them.
Even the most mysterious of them, the phoenix like maniwa Houou doesn’t get the kind of exposition he should have, only a few words and hints with Emonzaemon, Princess Hitei’s retainer and Togame’s arch enemy. Maybe they didn’t want to stretch the story but it is a shame none the less; they could have done so much with these intriguing figures. Oh well.
Katanagatari is about a 24 year old man that must aid a young woman in her quest for revenge. On the way they encounter several mysterious and intriguing figures that have an impact on each of their lives. They must consider their pasts and the actions each of them was forced into executing if they wish to achieve the destinies they have set out for their individual lives. On this journey, they learn about and come to respect each other for who they are and could become and
hope that they can decipher and understand KIki Shichizaki’s messages and codes before the end of their mission. At at the end, what secrets will the 12 deviant blades reveal once collected? For what purpose did Kiki create the 12 cursed weapons and how are they connected to the Shichika line and the reason they are completely unable to use or even handle swords. All is revealed as they come into and gain control of each blade that comes their way, on the way to acquiring all the power that the blades have contained within. I give this story a 4/5
. For all this basic premise ‘mission to find 12 items’, it manages to deliver more that it promises.
I have to say that my favorite members of the quirky maniwa corps were the insect squad.
Music: This is worth mentioning, because while i really liked it, i didn’t get it. I kind of sounded like rap, but i can’t be sure. Either way i give it a 4/5
Each episode of Katanagatari runs for about an hour, so there is no to be continued at anyone point in time. Each episode begins with a new weapon, new characters and new mysteries and by the end of the hour all has been solved, which i think is great; it is kind of like you are watching a mini movie with each episode and it allows the story all the time in the world to delve into each character in detail and explore everything the plot for that episode has to offer. It is a perfect bargain for the fact that each episode came out once a month, which means that if you watched this when it was released, you watched it over the course of one year.OVERALL RATING:>
5/5 I definitely recommend this. And don’t let the graphics put you off. It is a great story.