I admit that the only reason I started watching Katanagatari was because the writer was the same person that wrote the story for Bakemonogatari (Nisiosin), but after completing the series I’m glad that I did see it. For those of you who haven’t heard of Katanagatari or don’t know what it’s about, here’s the plot summary from myanimelist:
A swordfight story taking place in Edo era (17th – 19th century). Yasuri Shichika is the seventh head of the Kyoutou school of Japanese sword martial arts and lives in Fushou Island with his sister Nanami. With the order from a female samurai general Togame, he sets out for a trip to collect the twelve treasured swords created by the legendary swordsmith Shikizaki Kiki.
Katanagatari is basically a samurai anime, but instead of using a sword, Shichika himself is the sword (in other words, he fights bare-handed). Unlike regular anime, Katanagatari did not air on a weekly basis, instead opting for monthly broadcasts. I think this was done to help coincide with Shichika and Togame’s journey across Japan because every month they would end up at a new place and obtain another sword.
While one might predict that Katanagatari is predictable with the 1 sword and location per month formula, it manages to keep the audience wanting more by showing next episode previews that give leave you hanging. I would recommend not watching the previews until you have time to watch the next episode. The previews themselves don’t necessarily take scenes from the next episode so I wouldn’t tell anyone to avoid them altogether. In fact, one entire battle was shown in a preview, with the episode it was previewing only showing the aftermath.
With that said, for a samurai anime, there isn’t as much action as you would expect. Unlike most shounen series, Katanagatari focuses on dialog between the characters. Most episodes involve Togame planning a strategy for half of the time and the fight only lasts for a few minutes. Even with the lack of action, I found every episode to be entertaining.
Shichika and Togame are not your typical heroes. Neither Togame nor Shichika are the type to go on a journey and help people. Togame is out to seek power and get revenge by collecting all of the swords while Shichika is accompanying her for the heck of it and kills a lot of people in the process. Also, when you think of a general, you don’t normally think of a young girl that mistakes “chesto” for “cheerio” when they punch someone. As for Shichika, he seems like an apathetic kind of guy with a hair fetish, but he’s actually a cold-blooded killer. This weird duo makes things interesting though, and the conversations and expeiences that they have together help to develop each other’s personalities. Togame eventually starts to feel close to someone for the first time, and Shichika learns of the world and how to interact with people.
Besides the two main characters, I found the Maniwa Corps ninjas to be rather amusing. Initially, they were the main enemy as they were also after the 12 swords. Each member of the corps represents some kind of animal and has a special skill. What I like about them is their funky costumes. When you think ninja, you think of people dressed in black clothing. These guys had elaborate clothes in all colours and some even looked like they were trying to dress like certain animals; I don’t know how they can fight in those things.
The animation style and music are in my opinion, the best parts about this anime. The use of vivid bright colours and oddly drawn eyes and clothing makes Katanagatari stand out from your average cutesy anime. I still don’t understand why Togame has a cross in her eyes or why Nanami had pink spots in her hair though. The music sounds more traditional rather than the rock music you’d find in most action anime.
Looking back, I think Katanagatari could have been improved a lot, especially the plot. Except for the last few episodes, nothing really changes; Togame and Shichika find the owner of a sword, fight the owner, win, take sword home. The things keeping viewers around are the nice visuals and audio, and the humourous characters. Considering the length of the anime, there should have been less focus on the side characters and more story development. Overall though, Katanagatari was still an enjoyable watch, and the last two episodes are definitely worth viewing if you decide to start the anime.