Katanagatari 01 isn’t completely brilliant, but it definitely has me intrigued. In fact I was already half convinced that I want to watch this 5 minutes into the first episode. The obvious thematic elements – swords, martial arts, romance in the medieval orient – already evoked thrilling recollections of the Kenshin OVA I watched so long ago (which definitely deserves a good post one fine day). And while the episode itself didn’t really go anywhere (yet), it already has a good number of colourful, potentially promising groundwork laid out. This could be quite a fun ride!
Cliched as it may be, I thought the opening burning-castle scene was quite well done. The silhouettes in the flames, the constant flashes of the man’s eye, the very interesting background music with the peculiar chanting noises. The unusual stylistic elements of the show already begins to show here. I particularly liked the scene when the invading man stood over the rebel leader, who was calmly seated amidst the flames.
And then the OP bursts in with a sudden eruption of colour , and I thought it was great, really setting the tone for the feel we could expect of this show. It becomes apparent here that we get a different caricaturisation technique for the human characters than we’re used to in anime. The backgrounds on the other hand are reminiscent of traditional, canvas/cloth-bound artwork. All in all the OP is definitely a stylistic orientation, and it felt like a nice breath of fresh air to me. I liked it.
And then things slow down as we move into the introductory scenes of the story. With double the length of a traditional episode to fill, the producers (White Fox, I think) seem to be taking their time with things. However the long stretches of relative uneventfulness are fortunately not without interesting things to note.
(Oh, and quick glance in Wikipedia just revealed that Katanagatari was written by Nisio Isin of Bakemonogatari fame. Wow, everything makes sense now)
I like how Nanami is initially portrayed here standing delicately at the doorstep hidden in the shadows of the curtains. A recurring theme in medieval-Japanese stories is the subservient, quiet roles of the females. Sit tight, because I think Katanagatari already has a good bit to say about this in the very first episode.
It isn’t quite obvious at first, but it’s interesting that the reason Shichika cites for not wanting to leave the island was because he valued his inheritance from his father. You’d naturally assume that he didn’t want to leave his sister behind alone and unprovided for. If we pay attention though, this premise will soon prove unlikely.
*whistle* Any show that draws a blade like that can’t be bad. No it can’t :)
Shichika returns with Togame in a bucket! Nanami bending over speechless with Shichika looking all “what, is something amiss?” is pretty funny. Is Nanami really the elder of the two?
Of course, Togame eventually awakes, and they begin their long conversation. Now that I think about it that should probably have been a dead giveaway for Nisio Isin’s involvement :P
Again, as official matters are brought to the table, Nanami withdraws from the main area of the room as is customary. However, it soon becomes apparent that the one truly conversing with Togame and evaluating her propositions is Nanami and not Shichika. It’s clear as day that she inherited the better brain of the two. Not as clear, though, is the fact that..
Nanami: If I recall, he [Shikizaki Kiki] was a famous swordsmith of the Sengoku period.
Togame: Within 25 countries, he [Shikizaki Kiki] gave out 1000 swords.
Shichika: That’s a lot.
Nanami: Not too many.
Shichika: Not too many then.
Nanami: What’s a “Strategian”? Is it a post created within the recent 20 years?
She knows a lot more about the outside world than she’s letting on, and
Shichika: I don’t really get what you’re saying.
Togame: You don’t??
Nanami: Togame-san, being born on this island we don’t know the outside world well, it’s better if you assume we don’t understand wordy language.
She’s consciously and subtly covering for her brother’s forthright cluelessness, and
She’s smarter and sharper than Togame is. I love how this episode subtly estabilishes a clear hierarchy of smartness amongst the three main interacting characters. At the initial meeting between Togame and Shichika…
Shichika: Carrying a katana on this island is absolutely forbidden.
Togame: Is that so? [ie, “why so?” Or “why do you think I care?”]
Shichika is a fully straightforward fellow who completely fails to see the questions and sarcasms embedded in Togame’s remarks, taking everything at face value and giving honest answers. Fast forwarding to the conversation in the house…
Nanami: I heard you have come to visit my father. What is your connection with him?
Togame: I don’t really have any connection with him
Nanami: You don’t? [ie, “then what are you here for?”]
A similar scenario, only this time Nanami is the subtle one. It’s pretty cool, intelligence here is alluded to by how well one is able to understand subtlety and hidden meaning, and the result is clear. In order of increasing smartness, we have Shichika, Togame, Nanami.
Aside: I believe Nanami. This does not mean that Shichika is merciless or particularly violent. Practiced fighting techniques work by encoding reflexes into your body – you practice swift sequences of moves frequently until the routine is precisely programmed into your body, so that you don’t need to consciously think when you are fighting. So if an initial attack sets off the first move, the rest would follow reflexively. Yeah, I used to do martial arts :)
Another revelation about Nanami – she’s (much!) stronger and faster than she looks – she pushed her brother, twice as large as she is, over with one hand. Also remember that in the morning she said that it was “her turn” to do the housework, and the housework in question had been to carry that enormous bucket to the spring for water. In all likelihood this girl has also received kenpo training from her father. I’d wager she could take care of herself a good long while if she wanted to. The cool thing about her though is that she never came close to flaunting that fact.
And then after the shuriken attack, while discussing if Togame could have been tailed..
Nanami: Did you row the boat on your own?
Togame: What a weird question!
Way to miss the point again, Togame. Ironic, especially since her next words were “My specialty is brain work.” :)
Talkative ninja appears as the antagonist of the ep. I was a little rattled by his immense talkativeness for awhile, but I guess I forgive him since it turned out that he had immediately realized that he’d never defeat Shichika head-on, and was probably gushing away to give himself time to devise a strategy.
And a pretty good strategy it was! Except, as my prof always says, it is not ideas but execution that really counts. Execution here was clearly somewhat lacklustre. No way in hell I’d believe that this slow-motion-running ‘gyahahaha~’ girl is the same pompous stiff-neck who had only a moment ago been ordering me around and making loud demands. This ninja guy needs to learn to act better.
So much for the talkative ninja. True to the nickname I have conveniently given him, he managed to blabber away on a tonne more stuff before finally going kaput.
Among which, significantly, includes Togame’s true identity and past.
I find it intriguing that the one thing that made an impact on Shichika was the revelation that Togame is the daughter of the rebel-leader his father slew. My interpretation is that Shichika, in his simplicity, understood what twisted-minded talkative ninja could not.
Ninja: She aims to be the right hand man of the current Shogun. I’m sure you understand what that means.
Togame: (thoughts) Father’s dreams, Father’s heart…
Shichika: (thoughts) She was willing to ask help from the people who slew her father…
Ninja: It must be clear to you by now what she’s planning – Vengeance!
When Shichika first engaged the talkative ninja, he hadn’t been quite enthusiastic about following through with Togame’s demands:
Shichika: It’s not like I said I’d accept your request anyway
But he underwent a complete change of heart after kicking ninja-guy’s ass.
I think Shichika understood that what Togame really wanted was not simple vengeance. She desired the fulfillment of her father’s dreams – the dreams which she inherited. Shichika, who had his own dead father’s inheritance as his sole possession of value, must have found a resonance in Togame’s earnest wish. And that resonance he interpreted as love, and we have our couple of the series.
Of course, it also helps that Togame is so darn cute and dojikko when she’s helplessly tangled up and unable to exercise her pompousness (Dustin needs to trademark this word or I’m gonna use it in every one of my posts from now on!).
And I happen to like this line because it sounds so familiar yet different. Shichika is an anti-Tsundere.
The episode closes with the two rowing off together into the sunset, but not without dropping a final hint on Ms Nanami. Shichika left without a shred of worry for his sister. On the other hand, at the very end Nanami stood on the beach alone and worried about the other two.
Btw I’m completely aghast at the fact that I’ve somehow written so much, but there is one last thing that begs discussion before I end off.
Yes, the cross-shaped pupil (cue influx of giddy recollections of “the cross-shaped scar”). Mysteriously at certain points throughout the episode, Togame’s left eye exhibited a peculiar metamorphosis – yielding a purple and cross-shaped pupil. Some of these moments are:
- When Togame first charged Shichika with her blade
- When Togame told Shichika “Fall for me!”
- When Togame thought about her father while bound to the tree
- When Shichika found her upside down, still bound to the tree
- When Togame told Shichika the fourth rule – to protect himself because she was concerned about him
There isn’t a clear pattern from which to deduce anything conclusive yet as far as I can see. However I think there are some pretty obvious hints that the cross-shaped pupil is tied to the moment of her father’s death. Notice that in this scene here, it looked like something happened in her eye, and then as she screamed her hair appeared to turn white.
That may hint that the cross-shaped pupil is supernatural in nature. I also have a hunch that the cross-shaped pupil is related to Togame’s innermost feelings and wishes. And with that thought, I’ll leave you here with one last piece of interesting dialog to mull over.
Ninja: When we first met, she terrified me. There is ambition in her “eye”.
Ninja: You can sense her willingness to sacrifice anyone and anything for her goals.
Shichika: So that’s the “eye” he was talking about.
Shichika: To me at least, it sparkles in quite a pretty way.
Now to get back to my neglected work… :(