Music By: Taku Iwasaki
Studio: White Fox
Licensed By: NIS America (NA)
Original Run: January 26th 2010 – December 11th 2010
Number of Episodes: 12
If I was to tell you that Katanagatari was a show about a martial artist and a strategist traveling around Japan looking for 12 magical swords with ninjas added to the mix because ninjas are awesome so why not, you’d probably think that Katanagatari was very formulaic shonenn anime and you’d be wrong.
Weighing in with 12 episodes that last 50 minutes a piece, Katanagatari is a very meaty anime that manages to focuses heavily on character building (there’s that word again). On top of this Katanagatari is also a surprisingly tragic show but more on that later.
At the start of the show Shichika and his older (and very creepy) sister Nanami are living on a deserted Island but this peaceful life is disrupted when the strategist Togame comes to the Island looking for their father, who was the hero of a rebellion. Sadly he died before the events of the show so Togame is forced to settle for his son Shichika.
Togame came to the deserted Island so she could recruit a member of the famous Shichika clan, who are masters of the Kyotouryuu school of Sword. This school uses the wielder body as a sword since the Shichika clan themselves can’t wield swords.
That last fact alone makes them the perfect target for Togame to recruit for her quest for the 12 Deviant Blades and speaking of these blades, each one gets their own time to shine (hence the 12 episodes) and the shows fight scenes are very entertaining if a little short.
The reason I’m bringing the fight scenes up this early in the review is because there arguable the least important part of the show and the build up to them tends to surpass the fight themselves. The worst example of this is episode 11 where after we get a lengthy conversation with (No I’m not going to name who), the fight itself barely lasts more than 4 minutes.
Of course the build up for these fights wouldn’t be so good if the “blades” themselves and their welders weren’t so interesting as well as a little tragic. The reason for this is because most of the 12 “blade” carry a “poison” in them that can turn even the most noble warrior into a person obsessed with keeping the swords even at the cost of their own lives.
For example the second episode focuses on a lone samurai called Mitsuru Miyamoto. His a master of a sword style capable of killing any opponent in one hit and his Deviant Blade Namakura makes it so he can do so perfectly very time. However Miyamoto lives in a castle in the region of Inaba, a once beautiful region which has been reduced to a desert and while he stayed everyone he loved ran from the desert.
You may have noticed by now that I’ve been using quotation marks whenever I right about the Deviant Blades. The reason for this is because some of these “blades” include a suit of Western armour, a wooden bokken and hell one is just a freaking hilt.
Moving back to the plot for a second I want to talk about Togame and Shickika’s past. These two really are the most unlikely of partners, especially when you consider that back when Togame was a kid, Shichika’s father killed her father. The trama of this event is what caused her hair to turn white and her right eye to make that weird snake shape whenever shes scheming.
Despite this she still searched out the Shickika clan but before hiring Shichika, Togame tried to collect the 12 “blades” by hiring the 12 heads of the Maniwani Ninja Corp. These 12 ninjas are split into four different groups and despite being labelled the antagonists early on, they very quickly start dying off to whoever is that episode focuses on, whether it’s a particular Deviant Blade owner, Shichikas sister or in one odd case their own leader.
Part of what I love about the Maniwani Ninja Corp is there outfits because each of them are dressed like the animal there based on. Their members include the bumblebee Mitsubachi, Oshidori the duck, their leader the phoenix Hoo and the cute Penguin Maniwani.
Something else I love about the Maniwani Corp is that as the show goes on they become the underdogs (who doesn’t love an underdog) and after a while you start to feel sorry for them because all of the heads are actually friends and the only reason they want the swords is to sell them to fund their failing ninja village.
Something else I loved about the show was the development of Shichika’s character. At the start of the show Shichika was more like Togames sword. He would jump-start into fights and didn’t really care about or think about killing people. Hell in the second episode Togame had to stop him from killing a group of thugs.
Yet throughout the journey Shichika slowly grows as he meets more interesting people and through his time as Togame. In essence he goes from being Togames heartless sword into a human being.
It’s also this character development that may cause some people to hate the final episode and yes there will be spoilers here. So now that those who want to avoid the spoilers has left, at the end of episode 11 Togame gets shot and killed because two pistols also count as Deviant Blades and despite Togame admitting that she never cared about Shichika and even planned to kill him, Shichika goes mad with grief, becomes a blade again ands the Shogunate and his retainer.
So people may hate the last episode because this goes completely against everything that Shichika went through but considering his grief, it made sense considering how he thinks.
Despite being at times a seriously depressing anime (I dare you to not want to cry at the start of the last episode) Katanagatari does have some moments of humor which always involve something between Togame and Shichika. Examples of this include Togames schemes which are always insanely evil and one involves roosting someone alive in armour and these moments just add to the shows at times unpredictable nature.
Almost as if they did it on purpose, Katanagatari animation style is very colourful especially when compared to the shows tone. Personally I really do like this style although characters bodies remind me of the character designs during the animated cut scenes of Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions.
Finally there’s the soundtrack which is awesome and better yet isn’t filled with generic samurai era music like say Samurai Gunn was. Instead we get some great tracks including that haunting main.
Something weird about the show is that for half of the series there’s no opening theme and even after they include one, the show consisted changes it.
So that’s my review of Katanagatari and I personally loved the show. The character development for the Deviant Blade wielders was great and there was moments when I genuinely felt sad when one of the “villains” died. I also loved watching Togame and Shichika together and the Maniwa Ninja Corp were also fun and once I started watched the show I couldn’t stop.
That being said I can’t recommend the show to everyone especially those who are looking for a high action show and laughs. That being said if the show sounds even remotely interesting I highly recommend checking it out.
Thanks for putting up for the long wait for this review. Katanagatari was simply one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written for this blog. I have seriously spent most of today writing and rewriting this review so I hope you liked it but come back on Friday because I’ll be reviewing the first Bleach movie called Memories of Nobody.