The big potential pitfall for this series was becoming too formulaic. You know, having every episode consist out of talking that leads up to a fight between Shichika and whoever holds the next of the twelve swords, in which we get to see the story of that swordsman examined. So what does this episode do? It just skips all of this in order to focus on something completely different. Nice. I love it when shows pull twists like that.
And on top of that, this episode was surprisingly intense. This episode completely reversed the parts of good and evil in this series. While Katanagatari wasn’t exactly a battle between good and evil to begin with, there always was a clear side of protagonists: Togame and Shichika, while the antagonists were also pretty well defined. This episode however… wow. Shichika’s sister is evil.
At first sight it seems a bit boring to have three random maniwani try to attack her, but this is really one of those cases in which the creators’ decision to go with double-length episodes pay off. If this had to be condensed into 20 minutes it would have just failed, but with forty minutes we really could get to know these guys beyond the shallow appearances that the maniwani had made thus far in this series. On top of that, Nanami’s monologues were really intense to watch in the way that she completely killed off the first people she was able to talk to since years, aside from her brother and Togame. It made for a very slow-paced episode though. This episode might actually have the most dialogue out of any Katanagatari episodes yet. Ah, those poor subbers.
Overall it was one of the best episodes so far, however it did seem that a part of the animators was on some sort of holiday or something. There was an unusual amount of still frames and extreme close-ups that were shot so that the creators wouldn’t have to animate the characters’ mouths. Thankfully it was nowhere near as bad as with Bakemonogatari, but it still stood out. With these series that show a lot of long monologues, it’s of course no problem if you cut away to a few photos and pictures to illustrate your point or show the surroundings, but there is a thing as overdoing it, and this episode felt to me like it was cutting a few too many corners.
Rating: ** (Excellent)