Katanagatari – 12 [End]
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!