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Katanagatari – 12 [End]

December 14, 2010

So here we are, the finale of Katanagatari – it’s so hard to believe its been nearly a full year since this show started airing, I’ve really enjoyed blogging it.  As finale’s go, Katanagatari’s was excellent even though some of the finer aspects of the plot seemed a bit random and really didn’t make much sense in the end.  However that didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of this series, because at its core Katanagatari is a character driven show, and I’m very pleased with the ending our characters were given.

So Togame really did end up dying, and her death was needed to complete Shichika’s evolution as a character.  I really liked the imagery of a white snake representing Togame’s burden of revenge twisted around her until the very end, when she finally expressed her honest feelings of loving Shichika.  Togame’s revelation that she had planned to kill Shichika after the sword hunt was complete despite of her feelings for him, and her declaration that everything around her, including her own emotions, were treated as pawns for her to manipulate in order to achieve her vengeance, came as a surprise to me.  It was upsetting to learn that the burden her father’s murder placed on Togame, twisted her thoughts so much that she would even use her own emotions as a method to insure her scheme’s came to fruition.

I ended up crying in the end, as it was heartbreaking to see Togame be so dismissive of her own worth.  She first tries to pass her dying wish off as wanting the world to adopt ‘Cheerio!’ as an expression of encouragement, but in the face of Shichika’s stark grief and tears, Togame ends up confessing all the heavy, twisted emotions she was harbouring.  We haven’t really seen this retrospective, dark version of Togame often – when she says;

This is the way someone like me should die.  I was never qualified to hold you.

Togame really believes it – she feels that her corrupted revenge seeking heart, has absolutely no right to love Shichika, who despite the amount of blood staining his hands (including that of his only family), remains remarkably pure.  Some part of Togame surely hated Shichika for that as much as she ultimately came to love him for it.  It’s tragic that these two couldn’t be together in the end, but with Togame’s death, Shichika finally becomes a complete person, and a character who is completely different to the one we 1st met a year ago.

With Togame’s influence removed, Shichika is now completely alone in the world and forced for the very first time to act in his own interest and for his own sake.  The time Shichika spent with Togame, the people he met, places he traveled to and the lives he took, have all left their unique stain on him – we’ve seen over the course of Katanagatari how Shichika has gradually changed from a dull, clueless character with very few emotions, into an animated, vibrant man capable of independent thought and action.  With Togame’s death the final limiter on Shichika’s power & personality is removed – he’s often been called a sword, and as a sword he’s had various masters (his father, his sister and then Togame), but now Shichika has no master, no-one to tell him what to do or where to go.  It’s a sign of how far Shichika has come and how strong-willed he really is that he doesn’t break – rather with Togame’s death Shichika becomes sharper and acts with more precision and clarity than we’ve ever seen him do before – Kyoutouryou finally honed to perfection.

Of course Hitei & Emonzaemon mistake this new Shichika as someone hell-bent on revenge, which is a pretty natural conclusion to jump to given the fact they’ve just killed the love of Shichika’s life, and he’s now adopted a style of dress similar to Togame, and has a lock of her hair tied to his belt.  However Shichika claims to be completely driven by his own motivations – he wants to end things on his own terms, see what he can achieve when completely unfettered by Togame’s rules (don’t get yourself hurt, don’t destroy the Deviant Blades) and is looking for his own destruction (especially since Togame urged him to live).

I didn’t come here to avenge Togame; I came here to die.

Shichika attacks Owari castle because that’s where the Deviant Blades and Emonzaemon are, and he fully believes that the only ones that could possibly end his life are those in that castle.

Of course Shichika breezes through the new wielders of the 11 Deviant Blades he collected – but I was just as surprised as Hitei at how quickly and easily he managed to clear them all.  Seems Togame’s instructions were nothing but a hinderance to Shichika, as he demonstrates a frightening level of strength and competence when able to completely destroy both the Blades & their wielders, and able to be completely unmindful of his own safety.

The only challenge is of course presented by Emonzaemon.  It’s a great pity we never do get any more information on his character, and the fight between him and Shichika, although visually stunning, was short and typically shounen in nature – the power-levels got a touch out of hand in the end, and its hard to believe Shichika is still standing given the amount of blood he’s lost and how many bullets he’s taken.  Emonzaemon’s loyalty to Hitei remains unexplained, and even his final words of “Princess, please forgive me for dying for your sake” lack impact because we don’t really know anything about Emonzaemon and Hitei’s relationship.  This scene could have been much more powerful than it was, but I did like that Shichika took the time to listen to Emonzaemon’s dying words and conveyed them to Hitei – it’s the same courtesy Emonzaemon showed Shichika when he shot Togame.

Finally we have Hitei – the mastermind behind this entire swordhunt and the descendant of Kiki Shikizaki who started the whole show of by creating his Deviant Blades and attempted to change history.  I can’t profess to really understand that whole plot, I’ve always been more interested in the characters than that weird underlying plot-thread.  Hitei is a strange character, in the end she professes to never have been all that concerned with seeing Shikizaki’s plot come to fruition – she would be just as happy if that plot was utterly destroyed instead.  Hitei seems to just want to bring this whole saga her family has been concerned about to an end, so she can get on with her own life.  In that regard she’s just as tragic a figure as Togame, who also had her fate twisted by the concerns of her family.  It’s in that respect that when Shichika baldly asks if Hitei truly hated Togame, that Hitei is forced to answer “I didn’t really dislike her”.  Hitei, like Shichika, seems to be fully willing to embrace her death at this point but Shichika has only enough strength to kill one more person and chooses to off the Shogan instead of Hitei, since ultimately its the Shogan that was the cause of so much of Togame suffering.

In the epilogue we see Shichika carrying out the promise he made with Togame, to travel all over Japan once again.  Surprisingly Hitei is the one to accompany him now, although it makes a lot of sense that she be there.  Afterall, with the deaths of Togame and Emonzaemon, and the destruction of the Deviant Blades, neither one of these two characters really have anything to anchor them any more – its pretty natural that they would end up turning to each other as the only survivors of the sword hunt.  Of course the void left in Shichika’s life by Togame’s death will never be filled, and he continues to wear her hair and style of kimono as if it’s a reminder of what he’s lost.  Hitei too cuts her hair and wears Emonzaemon’s mask, perhaps for exactly the same reason (it really is a shame we never got much back story for these two characters).  These two damaged souls wandering together is a really fitting end to Katanagatari.

Final Thoughts: Katanagatari was a really ambitious project – 12 episodes of 50mins each, spread out over the course of a year; it could have been a disaster and as it is the pacing put quite a lot of people off.  However I found the series endlessly fascinating.  I loved how it took the formulaic ‘sword of the month’ premise, and twisted it so the course of the story was never predictable.  The epic trolling of episode 4 still stands out in my mind as a fantastically brave decision, and even though I still feel cheated out of what promised to be a fantastic fight, the emergence of Nanami as a character to be reckoned with, was adequate compensation.

Of course at its core Katanagatari was really about Shichika’s evolution.  It was fantastic to see him change from a blank canvas into the man he is at the end of this twelfth episode.  Togame’s development was much more subtle as she kept her cards close to her chest right up to her final moments, but she was endless fun with her myriad expressions and excellent catchphrases.  It’s a shame our primary antagonists never got the same development, and the Shikizaki plotline will never make much sense, but in the grand scheme I feel that Katanagatari was a great success.

So now I’m finished – thanks to all that have followed this show with me, and commented on these (often messy) posts – its been a learning curve for me, but a wonderful experience.  At the end of this journey I’ve given Katanagatari 4.5/5 and hope that another show with a similar kind of ambition emerges soon!

 

13 Comments leave one →
  1. ukato permalink
    December 15, 2010 1:00 am

    Awesome blog about an awesome show Cara ^.^
    I totally agree with what you said about Shichika’s development as a human – that for me was the main drive that made me anxious to watch the next episodes (but darn, they made us wait a MONTH every time!! T.T)

    Here’s what my 2 cents on the whole series:

    Wow
    This is the one word i would use to describe Katanagatari. It simply far-exceeded my expectations of what seemed to be a typical shounen-esque sword hunt into a journey of the growth of our protagonist as a human being. I would have to admit that the first 2 episodes, i didnt really like Shichika’s character – it just totally random how he said “because i’ve fallen for you [Togame]” and be willing to follow her randomly across Japan to collect swords, when all his life he’s just lived on the island as a sword. That really irked me; how unbelievable his charater was. But then as this show progressed, it got exponentially better – and indeed, the TROLLOL of ep 4 will never be forgotten.

    The characters really did push the story along, although the endlessly funky SHAFT-esque art style is one to remember. I found it really awesome how there was a scene in ep 7 where Togame and Shichika get off a boat and talk to Emonzaemon, and the art is that of a Visual Novel, where a sprite of the character is shown and a text box comes up. Then later in the same ep, there’s Nanami “shooting” her energy at soldier-grunts like in those arcade spaceship-shooters. Hilarious.

    And what started off as a simple story line, it itself developed into a much more complex tale that explains why our characters are how they are. With a scheme that transcends through time, and the ramifications lingering on our cast, the unveiling of the plot in the mid-to-late eps not only drove the story along, but further added to the humanisation of our beloved characters.

    Some things to criticize though: Emonzaemon’s character was so mysterious and interesting it was a total shame that almost nothing of his history was revealed. Also, the Maniwa ninjas (maniwani) were totally destroyed by (mostly) Shichika way too easily, it makes it hard to believe that they were originally a force to be reckoned with. And as i said, i found the first and second eps a bit slow, but i guess every story needs some time to pick up, so that’s just a minor qualm.

    Oh but about this episode, that fight with the 10th(?) person in the castle, the little girl with the sword that was just the scabbard was so much lols. Love how Shichika told her to throw it at him, and since she had no other choice she did, but then Shichika kicks its right back at her, haha. At least she’s the only one he didnt kill (i think) which was nice. It would damage my image of Shichika had he killed a little girl like her who had already fainted.

    Oh and one more thing, Cara: I don’t know if you have an edit button but this sentence has a typo: “Shichika attacks Owari castle because THAT WERE the Deviant Blades and Emonzaemon are, and he fully believes that the only ones that could possibly end his life are those in that castle.” (that were -> that’s where?)

    Cheers, and thanks for the great year of blogging on this great show! ^.^

    I personally liked this more than Bakemonogatari – what about you?

    • December 15, 2010 10:06 pm

      Haha, thanks for the heads up on the typo, and thanks for sticking with me for the year!

      The highly stylised art was part of what made me love Katanagatari – you wouldn’t have thought that such simply designed character faces could be so expressive, but you only have to look at Togame over the series to see how varied it could be! I also really liked the different styled employed to make the long talking heads segments a bit more interesting.

      On the Bakemonogatari Vs Katanagatari front, I think Bakemongatari still has the edge for me. This is mainly because, due to the shorter running time, the series feels much tighter and the characters are endlessly fascinating. Katanagatari’s characters were very interesting, but they didn’t have quite the same appeal as Senjougohara, Araragi and the rest had. In addition I really liked what SHAFT did with the backgrounds and animation in general in Bakemongatari – there is a whole other layer of symbolisim there that White Fox didn’t really make full use of in Katanagatari. Although (as ghostlightning says below) Katanagatari feels more complete and satisfying as a story. Both shows were excellent though!

  2. December 15, 2010 6:26 am

    The show really surprised me. Not a single one of my hunches, my predictions, best guesses… none of them were correct. It isn’t even a mystery show! It really does well with its use of very familiar elements to veteran consumers of anime and manga.

    And while these tropes are used liberally as shorthand for characterization, structure; and shortcuts to presenting meaning… they are twisted, reversed, and played around with in such a cavalier fashion. It felt very sure-handed too, which is very reassuring.

    It rewards you for paying attention to detail, especially if you have an eye for symmetry. There are so many small touches, like those caught by the commenters here:

    http://ghostlightning.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/moments-of-2010-the-failure-and-triumph-of-katanagatari-finale/#comment-13090

    @Ukato,

    It’s a tough question, given how much I love Bakemonogatari… I think I still prefer Bakemonogatari, but I consider Katanagatari to be the more ambitious (and complete) work. Outside of this it’s a matter of one’s personal relationship with the show.

    • ukato permalink
      December 15, 2010 6:49 am

      @ghostlightning
      Cool blog you got as well, and indeed, intriguing comments over there. I didnt notice the star shaped scar on Shichika’s left eye either.

      Can’t wait for the author’s next work, which (in anime medium at least,) is probably Kizumonogatari airing some time next year. Hopefully by that time, i wont have been already torn to pieces by anticipation, waku waku~ : 3

    • December 15, 2010 10:21 pm

      It was truly impressive how Katanagatari could keep us guessing. Just when I was sure I had everything figured out, and knew where the story was going, another twist would come along and force me to reevaluate my opinion – it was a really fun ride!

      There are a myriad of layers to this show – its really difficult to appreciate them all (which is why observant commenters like yours are priceless!) as it can be quite a subtle variety of symbolisim.

  3. kony permalink
    December 15, 2010 7:49 am

    NOooooooooooooooooooooooo Togame ~~~~~
    one thing i never understood is why Hitei ordered Emon to kill Togame?? NOTHING seemed to point to the fact that Toame had to die. Hitei… as she admittedly says didn’t dislike her~. And didn’t togame already deal with the fact that shichika’s dad killed her dad like episodes ago? BLARG!!! I still want my epic Sabi hakuhei fight~~~

    This is why i dun like J drama… they have to insist on the lovers dying, after overcoming so many obstacles. anywho Cheerio! was fun. I almost liked as much as Sarai ya goyou (which was also completely diff from the norm anime~)

    • December 15, 2010 10:27 pm

      Hitei ordered Togame’s death as she was working towards completing Shikizaki’s plan at that time. Togame, as the daughter of the former rebel leader, was attempting something very similar to Hitei, but ultimately trying to twist history in the oposite direction – one of the two had to die, and Hitei was just that one step ahead of Togame. Hitei didn’t really dislike Togame, but in the bigger picture of altering history, personal feelings don’t count for much.

      Togame made peace with her feelings regarding her father’s death, but as she herself said – she was using her own feelings as pawn pieces. Togame was so twisted with thoughts of revenge that even making peace with the fact Kyoutoryou took her father life was just another thing she could use to ensure the current Kyoutoryou head helped her achieve her revenge. Togame is quite a tragic figure, death was a kind of release for her – with her death she no longer has to war with her head and heart wanting different things.

  4. December 16, 2010 4:07 am

    I really love Katanagatari for Shichika’s evolution over time, and how he grew alongside Togame. Sure, the show is about killing people, getting swords, and thinking up schemes on the surface, but deep down it’s about Shichika becoming more than just a sword. The difference between Shichika in the beginning and the end is huge, and yet not so drastic that you roll your eyes at how obvious it is. I thought Togame was changing too, but I guess in the end she remained the same at heart (although, that’s arguable, since she fell for Shichika). I like how you mentioned that Shichika is the one who remained pure, because that is oh-so-true despite him being the one doing all the killing.

    I thought Togame was lying at first to get her companion to move on if he thought she didn’t love him but…wow, she wasn’t lying. I did NOT expect someone as seemingly cheerful as Togame to secretly be a cold, calculated schemer.

    I really wanted to find out why Emonzaemon was so loyal to Hitei too…All in all, Katanagatari was a great show, despite a few pacing flaws. =D

  5. taiyou permalink
    January 26, 2011 5:52 pm

    Whether or not Shichika intended it, though, because he “failed” to die at the hands of Emonzaemon we never hear Shichika’s last words. Certainly I thought Shichika would be recalling Togame ordering him never to utter this. It makes me want to go back and listen to the last words of every swordsman who died.

    I had a moment of freezer logic where I thought that the cross-shaped scar wasn’t just the show paying homage to Rurouni Kenshin. Because if you bring the parallels together (Tomoe and Togame both sought revenge but fell in love with the object of their revenge, Tomoe’s fiance and Emonzaemon who fought for their loves made the scar on the faces of the Kenshin and Shichika, both protagonists bloodstained, pure, and deciding in the end “to live”) it really leaves an opening to speculate for Hitei-hime and Shichika to form a deeper relationship.

    Of course there’s no knowing what’ll happen in the end. Often in anime I criticize women who put love before anything else, but I guess heroes have it easier that way rather than faced with someone complicated like Togame, who is cold and rational and despite her love for the hero uses her feelings to attain her objective.

    At the very least (because I would have HIGHLY preferred Togame surviving) the show has become much more memorable and truly achieved wabi-sabi with the way things turned out. The first thing I always think of are the sound of Emonzaemon’s shots (pong pong!), followed by the Ghost in the Shell Min-you singing and Togame falling slowly backwards.I’ll always remember Katanagatari with a pang in my heart, Togame’s death will always define this show for me. TogameXShichika forever :”'(

  6. Shinkonryu permalink
    March 5, 2011 1:38 am

    I always thought that episode 4 was something more like an April fool’s joke. It makes sense if you think about it. Nisio Isin tends to do a lot of this stuff.

  7. chaotic444 permalink
    January 26, 2013 4:01 am

    Nice. Although not many people know Katanagatari your blog has helped other people see how great this series is. It is true that most of the episodes are really messy or hard to understand but overall it is a great series and with your blog many more people might come to like it. I want to know though what Shichika’s words were after Togame died. There has been no explanation for it I think and i was wondering if you happen to know what he said.

  8. October 22, 2014 4:16 am

    Good post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte
    more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Cheers!

  9. Paajx permalink
    March 18, 2015 8:06 pm

    Hmmm. This sums everything up just about right. I did not particularly feel satisfied with the ending, but it was well written. I guess I also wanted Togame and Shichika to end up together. But her death was quite necessary for Shichika’s growth. And I also wanted to point out my perspective on Togame and Hitei. Togame denying her very being and saying it was all a tool and Hitei being quite “emotionless” to the fact that they were two princess’ and as Hitei had stated (I forgot which episode) that they could never act on what they “felt”. That ending for Togame was quite epic and touching though. “Would you mind if I fell for you?” – Togame

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