Katanagatari Review

Katanagatari Review

Katanagatari, as the name suggests, is an anime about swords. Except for one little thing. That the main character is NOT a sword user. Yeah. Go figure.
Actually it is not just about swords. (Okay, I lied back there.)
To quote the anime : 
"The ones who failed at revenge... The ones who failed at their goals... The ones who fell before achieving their aspirations... The ones who didn't succeed... The ones who lost... The ones who stumbled... The ones who rotted... The ones who fought with all their might, sacrificed everything, just to have their work be for naught, yielding fruitless results, who died unfairly or perhaps illogically, tragically, without face, full of regrets...
The story which offers a happy future to them, filled with hopes and dreams... is Katanagatari".(Okay, maybe it is not THAT grand as the quote makes it look. But do notice how the paragraph mentions exactly 12 people. Clever eh?)
In case that long paragraph didn't make sense here is what I meant : The whole anime is about loss. Losing. Failing. And also about not getting what you want, about being disappointed.
I was gonna give it a 10 but then I went ahead and "Denied" it.
Okay, enough with the references to the anime. Let's get into it.

So, the 7th generation Kyoutoryuu head, Yasuri Shichika is living a peaceful life on an isolated island with his elder sister. And one day a lady named Togame comes on the orders of the Shogunate that she needs Kyotouryuu to collect the 12 Deviant Blades forged by some legendary sword-smith Shikizaki Kiki in order to maintain peace in the land. And so they go on an adventure to collect all those swords from their different owners.
Now, seeing that the number of episodes equals to that of the number of swords mentioned, you might be thinking that they go around and meet one swordsman every episode, beat him, get the blade and move on i.e., an episodic anime. Well, you wouldn't be entirely wrong. While the anime IS episodic for the most part, it does hint of an overarching storyline. (And there is an overarching storyline) Because, let's be real, they are collecting 12 super powerful swords for "peace"? That's a load of crap! You might also be under the impression that the scale of the battles goes up with every blade they collect. Then you would be totally wrong! Because the swords are not your usual swords. One of the swords is an armor! And another one is just the sheath and the hilt. NO blade. I personally found that it was more about the people who wielded those blades and how it kind of warped their personality or how it suited their personality.

The story itself isn't so epic or a masterpiece if you just look at it. To be honest, it is just above average. But I think the way it is presented in the anime is what makes it stand out. Being an anime about swords, one might expect nothing but fight scenes 80% of the time, but that isn't the case here. The sword battles aren't unnecessarily dragged out. (I'm looking at you DBZ) They end quite quickly just like they should. The anime goes so far as to completely skip a battle, which I didn't like. Even after they gave you a teaser of it on the last episode. (Grrr.... 0_x) Though the quick battles are good for the most part but sometimes they just end way too quick and you are left disappointed as it didn't give you what you were hoping for.
But all of that was forgiven at the ending twist. It caught me off guard and I was kinda shocked but I made my peace with it because the anime ends in a kickass way, not perfect, a few 'questionable' things, but kicks ass. 
(Example : "Just because you don't die if I kill you, it doesn't mean you can't die if I keep killing you. From Red poppy to Daphne, a mixed-connection fist strike. You've died 272 times". Or this one -
"I came here to die". BAM!)

Katanagatari Gif 1

Let us go over the art and sound now.
I wouldn't be wrong if I said that Katanagatari is a work of art in terms of animation. Sure, it is not as beautiful as 5 cenimeters per second or as well refined/epic as Fate/Zero. It might even get lacklustre and sloppy at times. But it holds its own in its way of presentation. The character designs are way different that your usual anime. In the beginning it might even feel a bit weird. But you get used to it pretty quick. Also, I loved how the way every sword bearer's character looked and their expressions matched with their personality. Whether it be the Shogi-eyed Kiguchi or the Maniwani members. Though Togame's eyes were a mystery to me until the last two episodes. And also Shichika's dad's silhouette made him look like he was Goku. (And don't even get me started on Nanami, his sister.)
The blades are designed nicely and the fight scenes though sometimes over the top are satisfying. There is some fanservice here and there but it is not so over the top that it spoils the experience.

About the sound. This anime could not have started in a better way. The track at the opening is just epic. It reminded me of Making of a Cyborg from Ghost in the Shell. I loved it. (I can't remember the name of the style, but it is kind of similar to the japanese folk songs)
During the rest of the anime, you will experience a variety of styles. From rap to piano to violin to eerie music. Every major character has their own theme music. And some of these themes are pretty good. Since there is plenty of dialogue, I think I should mention that the voice actors did a good job here. I think Yukari Tamura did Togame pretty well. (I like when she switches to that serious tone at times like she did with Furude Rika in Higurashi.)

Now for the characters.
The characters are what make all the dialogue successful. As I previously mentioned in the animation section, the way the characters are designed and the expressions that they give suit their personality. I think it is impressive how every single character has different eyes, hair, their colour and build. Every character teaches something to the main character.
The thing that really stood out to me was how all the characters are so detached from western ideals. I'd say, they are very 'Japanese' (for the lack of a better word). That is to say that the author hasn't tried to westernise the characters to make them more relatable to the audience. I think that is a good point of the anime. Their motives are sometimes weird, sometimes justified and sometimes just stupid.
While the main characters are pretty fleshed out and most of the side characters get a good amount of screen time. There are some characters who were "forgotten" even though so much hype was built around them. For example, the anime completely skipped the battle between Sabi Hakuhei and our main character. So, we get no insight into what he was like. 

The main character Yasuri Shichika might seem like your stereotypical overpowered fool but his background actually justifies that. I mean the guy lived on an isolated island till he grew up and did nothing but train every single day. The only people he ever knew were his dad and his sister. So when he has no social skills and acts really stupid at times, it does not seem so odd. And overpowered, because, Kyoutoryuu is an overpowered style. It is established from the very start.
About the other main character, Strategian Togame, she is, well, like a typical woman. She talks a lot, you can't win an argument with her, gets jealous, craves attention, gives mixed signals, always keeps the man confused, never tells what she really feels, does not get along with other women of her age, and is pure evil when someone pisses her off. And till the very end, you can't tell what the hell she really wants. Enough said.

Katanagatari Gif 2

So, overall, the anime starts off with an amazing soundtrack and a seemingly average story, but the way it presents itself makes it stand out from all the other usual action anime. Also, artwise, this was something very different and unique. The characters weren't stereotypical. The ending twist was shocking and the climax was kickass. But most of all, the message it gave at the end was quite unusual yet made an impact.
I would definitely recommend this if you have grown a little tired of the usual stuff and need something different.
And so with that my friends, CHEERIO!

Katanagatari Rating

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