Between Linux and Anime

Kind of like Schrodinger's Cat

Katanagatari 7

It’s always a supreme effort to blog Katanagatari somehow, but I knew I simply had to blog this episode, all the way back when I watched it.

The nice thing about Katanagatari is this – even blogging this episode now I’m only one episode late :) Still, it somewhat saddens me that we’ve (probably) passed the halfway mark now. I remember shows that climax at this precise mark and fail to rescale the zenith for the rest of the show. However even if Katanagatari finds itself destined to enter this category, we can nonetheless take comfort in one thing: what a climax it was!

This is Nanami’s episode. No questions about that. The opening scenes take pains to reorient us once again to the kind of existence Nanami is. A terrible and insidiously harmful existence, alluded to here by her monologues and bitter smiles. What is good for her must be bad for the world, and vice versa, twisting the very nature of good and bad when viewed from her perspective. Back in the days when I still aspired to write stories and used to dream up concepts and ideas for them, the idea of a being whose very nature represents – who by simple virtue of existing becomes – a curse, is one that often fascinated me. What would happen should such a being come to be blessed with a human soul?

Hm? Or maybe I should say “cursed” with a human soul? Either is fine..

The game references peppered throughout this episode scarcely require additional noting. There may be something though to the idea that the slaughters she perpetrates could be little more than a game to Nanami. It is clear that she is in a completely different plane from all of her opponents. Murder committed across such level gaps tend to be mass, thoughtless, and executed with an air of nonchalance. Nanami goes about her acts of bloodshed in precisely such a manner – with the uncanny, almost curious detachment of a human child squishing a little bug.

The horror – and the tragedy – is that her malevolence is sealed by the fact that we are the bugs. The beginning events of the episode sets out to vividly illustrate the fearsomeness of someone with such insurmountable power, while at the same time underscoring the suffering Nanami had had to live through just for being born with it – a delicious setup of mixed feelings to whet our appetite for what comes after.

Nanami drops a similar analogy herself. I don’t think Nanami necessarily meant to compare her slaughtered victims to weeds as a display of arrogance or cruelty. It’s probably just the incredible divide of power between them. I might remind you that weeds are alive too. Being in that entirely different class must do something profound to your perception of the world and its inhabitants, especially if you’re alone up there and generously feared and despised.

Of course, the point of this first sibling skirmish was likely to establish a simple fact: that however outstanding a fighter Shichika might be, he is human class. Emonzaemon probably got it exactly right when he firmly pronounced the impossibility of Shichika’s chances against his sister. The knowledge of that fact, once clear, only hints yet again at the true nature of Nanami’s intentions.

What else could one such as her have wished for?

The final battle, fought in candlelight.

Personally I cannot believe that Nanami, whom I previously pronounced sharper than Togame is, simply fell for a strategy like taking out the lights – especially when even I thought of it. Of course, I also find it hard to believe that Togame could have figured out Shichika’s technique’s weakness. The fact is that Nanami isn’t trying to win, not by a long shot. It’s also interesting to see how earnestly Shichika sought to somehow avoid harming his sister. The siblings are pretty special to each other I think. If there had been one person Shichika would have had trouble slaying in cold blood even around the time he slew Meisai Tsuruga without blinking, I think it would be Nanami. And if there was a person in the world that Nanami might have properly related to and cared for as a human being, I think it would be Shichika. Here, however, that same special bond finds itself manifested in two polar forms. To the one the impending battle was intensely undesirable. To the other, it was inevitable.

Struck down, Nanami stirs awake the instant Shichika tells Togame to call a doctor. The naivette, of course, is not in that she did not expect Shichika and Togame to have so bested her.

“I am still alive. Come quickly and kill me.”

“Stop it! What meaning is there left to this?”
“There is no more reason for you two to fight!”

While she has proven herself to be a pretty good strategist after all, the fact remains that Togame isn’t the sharpest person in the cast. There was no way Nanami could have backed down at this point. How would she have continued living? What was there to return to? This was her biggest chance. Her only chance.

There was no turning back.

(btw, I totally called this hair cutting thing)

Shichika is ignited, and finally, truly, attacks.

“Shichika, my little brother, you have come to kill me at last..”

This is it, this is the climatic moment. That one blinding moment when it all comes together, when we are finally allowed a little peak into the tragic sorrow that was Nanami’s lifelong burden. The timing, presentation, music were all perfect for it.

Nanami bled. After spending the entire episode watching her draw copious amounts of her victims’ blood, how strange that watching Nanami’s own frail form bleed could be so excruciating.

And it ends. Almost unbearably, her last spoken words to her brother bore malice that her speaking heart never intended.

Malice unintentional – the story of Nanami’s life.

Of course, lots of other interesting things happened this episode. The cutting of Togame’s hair probably symbolizes the dawning new relationship between her and Shichika – one based on trust and affection rather than command and obedience – whilst the interactions between Emonzaemon and his mistress is undoubtedly already laying the stage for the next part of the story. But none of that is important right now. This episode is solely and sacredly Nanami’s. An awesome episode, an awesome show.

(notice Togame’s hair duly shortened)

Needless to say, of all of Katanagatari’s ED’s so far, this was the one that hit me hardest – by far. Definitely deserves an anisong post, and soon. Probably in a few days. Personally I could hardly imagine a more appropriately evoking conclusion to this chapter. Mai Nakahara just did a fantastic job on this piece – Nanami’s lonely song. It’s too bad we’ll probably never hear her again for the rest of Katanagatari. For those of us who will miss her and the tragic character she has portrayed so well, a parting gift:

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  1. ZW knows best

    Maybe you’ve alluded to it but one of the crucial plot points of this episode is that perhaps Nanami was planning to be killed by Shichika from the very beginning. She could have easily cut down Shichika during their first encounter but didn’t.

    I think that perhaps there are many reasons as to why she wanted to die. Firstly as you mentioned, she felt alone in the world. Being a genius, she could never understand the rest of us mere mortals and why we struggle. Even her own parents were afraid of her. Secondly, it was suggested that she is constantly in pain from her frail body which for some reason just lingers between life a death and refuses to let her die. Thirdly, perhaps it was out of pure boredom with living in the world? Since there is nothing in the world that would pose a challenge to her. To her, even fighting against the strongest of opponents is like pulling a weed. Lastly, true to her warrior spirit, perhaps she wanted an honorable death? She stabbed herself with Bita and used the inferior techniques of the opponents she defeated effortlessly with her own superior formless technique. This was to try and limit her own power as her weak body could not withstand it. So perhaps she knew that it wouldn’t be long before her body eventually gave in and wanted to die in battle against Shichika (now regarded as Japan’s strongest) before that happened.

    Anyways, at least I can take solace in the fact that it was portrayed that really, no one, not even Shichika could have defeated Nanami if she was serious. She could have easily conquered all of Japan but was simply uninterested.

  2. I have to agree with ZW. Nanami wanted to die and Shichika seemed to be her only option. He was the only person who possibly could even though he was far superior. In some ways I think she wanted him killing her to be his final training in becoming a great sword. I actually think the only reason she stuck around so long was because she felt some obligation to her brother. Why else would she leave the island after he did?

    She’s a complex character, but she was tired of the world I think.

  3. Jason "moofang"

    Yeah, I think it’s pretty clear that Nanami’s motive from the beginning was death by Shichika’s hand. What I’ve been trying to do in the post is muse lightly on why and how. I don’t think she got bored or tired of the world, she’s so young after all, and was just beginning to see the world beyond her little island. I think it has more to do with her simply not being able to fit in the world. The world had no place for one such as her, and as long as she lived she would only continue to cause fear and pain. She was probably the only person in the series so far that every side in the story unanimously desired dead. She probably knew that the world didn’t want her (plenty of evidence indicate she’s very intelligent). Even so, she probably feared dying and sought to prolong her existence, by using the blade and learning other people’s skills to preserve a frail body.

    Therein I think lies the tragedy. She doesn’t *really* want to die. She just didn’t have a way to go on living.

    If we approach from this angle then it perhaps explains her choice of death by Shichika’s hand. I don’t think that it has too much to do with Shichika being the only one strong enough to have a chance against her – he probably didn’t. I think it’s because of their intimacy – her brother was probably the person who appeared most human to her, and probably the person who treated her most like a human – a kin and a sibling that mattered to her. Utilising the final battle as a final training for Shichika might also have a part in it. After all, it’s probably all too human to wish for one’s own death to benefit people who mattered most to oneself. I think this episode highlighted that in spite of her monstrous power, Nanami had a purely human soul. And therein, again, lies the tragedy.

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