Katanagatari is the creation of one of my favorite writers in anime: NisiOisiN (well known by his series that ISN’T related to Katanagatari: The Monogatari Series). What Katanagatari has to offer is pretty unique. While it is an epic, twelve-part story about a Samurai, his master, and their journey to collect the 12 “Perfected Deviant Blades”, it isn’t anything you’d expect from that rather generic sounding description. And wow, doesn’t it sound generic? The story itself IS pretty generic; literally the entire show is the journey to collect these 12 blades. Since there are 12 episodes, you guessed it: each episode consists of them collecting a single blade. Oh, and there’s even a love story thrown in. The swordsman is in love with his master, isn’t that surprising?
So, have I convinced you to watch Katanagatari yet? After all, it is one of my favorites. And let me tell you something surprising: it isn’t even the slightest bit generic. So begins my in-depth, spoiler-free Katanagatari Review!
First and foremost, Katanagatari is very different from most anime. The art style, the music, the storytelling, the animation, the characters… everything is different. With the exception of one thing, which after my introduction should obviously be the story. But Katanagatari doesn’t need a complicated story. It has complicated characters. And man, do I love good characters.
There are two main characters in Katanagatari. The story is about Shichika Yasuri, the swordsman, meeting Togame the “Strategian”, falling in love with her and aiding her in her mission to collect the 12 Perfected Deviant Blades for the Shogunate. Shichika the swordsman, is the seventh generation head of the Kyotouryuu school of sword martial arts. Even though Kyotouryuu doesn’t use swords, Togame searches Shichika out to help her. Wait, a swordsman that doesn’t use swords? Ya, Kyotouryuu transforms the practitioner into becoming a sword. No, not like weapons in Soul Eater. Instead, it is somewhat of an anti-sword martial art. Anyway, Togame finds Shichika in order to enlist him as her sword on her journey. Throughout this wonderful journey, we witness the complete blossom of Shichika. Raised on a remote island with only his father and sister, he was rather emotionless to start. Each episode, Togame brings more and more of Shichika to life; so much so, that by the last episode we see the completed product of a person coming alive.Togame, on the other hand, is a very different case from Shichika. She has a past that is clouded and complicated, not revealing her motive early on. She is cunning and clumsy, and quite the schemer. Even with Shichika’s powerful Kyotouryuu, they are up against the 12 greatest swords ever created, so Togame is the self-titled Strategian. She plans their attacks; she wields her sword. And she does a damn fine job at it too. All in all, she’s a great character that fills all the gaps that Shichika can’t fill; and her slow evolution from the beginning to the end blossoms as well, but in a very different way from Shichika’s.
Aside from the two main characters, many characters aren’t static. There is Shichika’s sister, Nanami that plays a very important role near the halfway mark in the show. Her design, changes, and purpose are all wonderful as well, but certainly take a sideline to the two main characters. There is also Princess Hitei and her henchman, Emonzaemon, that play a very important role as the show begins to wrap up and unfold simultaneously. Hitei is Togame’s rival, always causing issues in any way she can. Lastly, there is the Maniwa Ninja Corp that consists of 12 ninjas that are also hoping to find the 12 Perfected Deviant Blades. As a group, the Maniwani (as Shichika calls them) create a wonderful obstacle for Togame and Shichika to work around. They aren’t necessarily against them, but having the same goal obviously doesn’t work. Each ninja in the corps is very unique and quite enjoyable to watch. As a whole, the Maniwani add quite a bit to the show, especially when the theme revealed at the end makes itself apparent.## **Art/Animation/Sound**
The art style of Katanagatari is most certainly unique. As you’ve seen in the pictures, it is definitely not typical anime art, yet still somehow something you’d expect to see come out of anime. Honestly, I keep getting the feeling that there was a good amount of Korean influence but I don’t know why. Anyway, despite a very strange art style, it works wonderfully. White Fox, known for Steins; Gate and Akame Ga Kill, does another great job with Katanagatari, even though it is one of their only shows that they break anime style norms. There is an unexpected amount of work that went into designing each set, each character, and the style of animation that each encounter had. While watching Katanagatari, be sure to look closely at each character’s motif and how it represents them, it can be quite thought provoking (especially with the two leads).
The animation is solid throughout, even adapting some different styles just to depict certain scenarios in a really creative way. For instance, there is a section that involves fighting a large group of enemies and it switches to a top down shooter style to show how easy it was for the character to overcome. Interestingly, despite being about swords, there isn’t a ton of fight scenes. There is a lot of planning and dialogue, but it is always interesting to watch. Just like the art motifs, each character interacts in a unique way that usually has deeper meanings that what is going on in the dialogue. Katanagari is full of visual information, which is really nice.
Music, I can’t say was fantastic, but it was very good. They used several different genres and it always fit the environment. It just wasn’t necessarily memorable and that’s okay. Voice acting was top notch as well, especially for the two main characters. Hosoya Yoshimasa does an incredible job of depicting the in pure innocence and curiosity of Shichika, while Tamura Yukari is able to portray the super demanding and scheming side of Togame to a an incredible degree. Best of all, neither voice actor has a ton of leading roles under their belt, so their voices didn’t sound familiar either.
This is a little bit different than normal because like I’ve said, Katanagatari throws a super generic story at you. What sets it apart however, is the storytelling. The way the story is told and why the story is told is something beautiful. While it may not necessarily sit well with everyone, Katanagatari has a brilliant ending when you look at the story that was being told. It is quite hard to explain without spoilers, but with attentiveness to everything on screen you can witness the unfolding of a brilliant work of art. NisiOisiN is known for heavy, long-winded dialogue so be prepared to read a lot of subtitles and comprehend a lot as well.
Let’s recap. So far in my Katanagatari Review, I’ve stated that there is a generic story lifted high by extraordinary characters, storytelling, and art. If I could sum up Katanagatari without spoiling it, that would have to be it. All in all, I have to recommend Katanagatari to everyone. Even those that haven’t seen anime before. If people can pay attention to the intriguing dialogue, then the story and journey that unfolds before them should astound them. I have also posted a spoiler-full Katanagatari write-up about the ending and some of the great recurring themes throughout the show, be sure to check that out after you have finished it as well. To cap off my Katanagatari Review, I’m giving Katanagatari 5/5 Stars.
Addison’s Rating Scale.