Posted on 11 December 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Katanagatari




Clocking in at 12 episodes of 50 minutes each, Katanagatari was definitely an interesting experiment of a series. At first sight it seems like a bit of a boring concept to base a series around a quest to gather a different superpowered sword every episode, in the middle of lots and lots of talking, but it’s got enough charms here.

I personally disliked Bakemonogatari, but Katanagatari finds a good balance between its dialogues. They’re interesting, varried and after a few episodes they become pretty able to carry the whole series. The dialogue does a good job at fleshing out the characters, and discussing what’s going on at the plot. The storyi itself is simple at first sight, but gets pretty detailed as it goes on, with quite a bit of historical significance, meshing in excellently with said dialogue.

Another thing that this series is really good at is its martial arts. The fights in this series are often short and to the point, but they’re often interesting looks at the applications of different fighting and weapon styles that together paint quite a complex exploration of martial arts.

There are some downsides to this, most of them having to do with the fact that this series can become a bit too shounen-ish for its own good. Fights are interesting to watch, but they’re also too unrealistic and too much based on logic and too little on physical flaws. It’s a good thing that this series doesn’t force its characters to play tic tac toe, because that would have kept them busy for an eternity.

That’s just a detail that is of course easy to ignore. What’s a bit less easy to ignore is that while most of the battles are down to earth and thought-provoking, there are these few battles that try to be epic and as a result go way too much in the Dragonball Z direction. Perhaps these battles aren’t incredibly long, but they do become rather uninspired with characters moving conveniently too fast for the naked eye to follow, eliminating any kind of strategy just for the sake of over the top fighting that’s done better in a ton of other series. Especially Emonzaemon is guilty of this, and he’s by far the least interesting characters of the series as well, and a very one-sided villain. That’s a big problem in the second half of the series because he features a lot there.

Togame and Shichika form a great led couple, though and the people they run into in every episode are varied and have great back-stories. When you want to watch this series, you really should take into account that relatively little happens in each episode, it’s a very slow paced series and the dialogues take up a HUGE focus of each episode. If you have the patience to appreciate this, then you’ll be rewarded with quite an enjoyable series.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Great use of dialogue to flesh out the story and characters. Great portrayal of martial arts.
Characters: 8/10 – The main villains could have been better, but the rest of the characters are well fleshed out, with the main characters well developed.
Production-Values: 8/10 – The animation is never spectacular, but does what it needs to do to make this series very stylish.
Setting: 8/10 – 5Interesting back-story in Japan’s history. Martial arts are interesting but unrealistic.

Suggestions:
Amatsuki
Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi
Blade of the Immortal

Posted on with categories: Katanagatari



Well, so it turned out to be a pretty good end here. It had some things I didn’t like, but overall there were enough things that surprised me and went against my fears. It’s an action-packed ending that at the same time still spends enough time on the dialogue and the conversations between people.

Togame’s death had an interesting effect on this episode, and I definitely liked it when she revealed that she was also planning to just get rid of Shichika after her mission ended; definitely gives a twist to the two of them being lead characters. I also liked how this episode also showed battles that showed exactly how not to use the first eleven defiant blades. That was definitely an interesting way to get rid of them, even though it may not make the most sense in the story.

I also liked the iron of the whole ending. We pretty much have Shichika trying the same thing as his sister, and failing. I really expected the princess to be this boring final villain, and yet instead she gave a nice little twist at the end. I liked that a lot.

Now, for the stuff I didn’t like, the battle between Emonzaemon and Shichika was as dull as I expected. Here, it was no longer a matter of martial arts but instead it was this over the top Dragonball Z esque fight in which people supposedly moved too fast for the naked eye to follow. That’s not epic, that’s just lazy, it’s a sign of the creators that they don’t know how to create an interesting final fight. On top of that, Shichika ended up with a dozen gunwounds, all of which just perfectly heal afterwards… that was just too shounen.

Overall, this wasn’t always the most interesting series to blog due to so little happening in each episode, but overall I liked this show. It’s definitely kept my attention, and in any case we need more series like this that go beyond the standard formats of broadcasting.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 15 November 2010 with categories: Katanagatari



And so, we’ve finally reached the penultimate episode of Katanagatari. It pretty much was the episode to wrap up all of the background behind this series by showing more about Shikizaki Kiki, along with finally putting an end to the Maniwa corps. It wasn’t my favourite episodes of the series so far, but I still liked it quite a bit.

The big difference between this episode and the other one so far is that there was surprisingly little focus on strategies: the main match was just a fight between Shichika and Houou until one of them went down, and it also lacked the build-up that made some of the other fights in the series so great. In the meantime though, it was a neat opportunity to look a bit into the mind of Shikizaki Kiki, and how he managed to forge all those weird swords anyway. It’s an interesting tiwst that because of his influence, these people with supernatural powers like the Maniwa corps started walking around.

As for the ending… yeah. It’s a common twist to pull on a penultimate episode, to put a main character on the verge of death with no apparent save. Remember the golden rule of anime, though: no character is dead unless confirmed. I’ve seen people in anime recover from wounds much more serious than Togame’s, and especially considering the incredible speed at which Maniwa Pengin recovered from his wounds, I really have no doubts that Togame is going walk out of this series alive.

If there’s one thing that has been bothering me for the past number of episodes, then it’s the pretty one-sided way in which Emonzaemon has been murdering off the Maniwa corps.His fights in this episode especially weren’t really that spectacular, with his fight against Houou becoming Dragon Ball Z-esque at times (“let me turn into a beam of light to show how fast I am!”), and in his fight against Pengin he just got lucky that Pengin was stupid enough to explain the exact details of his powers.

At this point, I’m not really sure what to expect of the final episode: one of the big reasons why this series was so good was because of the light-hearted banter between the different characters, the addictive style of storytelling and the way in which it took its time to analyze the different martial arts that Togame and Shichika ran into. I really fear that with that princess, those charms will disappear in favour of a more epic ending.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 16 October 2010 with categories: Katanagatari



A really good episode this time, whose entire purpose was to relate back to the past: for Togame it showed her childhood, and Shichika related back to his past matches. On top of that, it was quite an interesting episode in the way that the sword this time was one who produced illusions, making it an interesting one for the mind games, plus an actual sword with a self-consciousness.

I also feel like this series is getting better and better at pacing itself. Really, these episodes have more dialogue than you can shake a stick at, yet I wasn’t bored for a second, even though I my broken Japanese didn’t understand everything that was said. That’s exactly what I’m looking for in a “tons of dialogue”-series. I mean, it’s easy to read an entire essay that goes on for ages (just look at that recent Musashi movie from Mamoru Oshii), but it’s much more difficult to make the dialogue blend in with the animation and storytelling. I’m glad that Katanagatari found a way to keep itself from getting boring or tedious.

The thing I also like a lot here is that Togame and Shichika feel just like a real couple. Very refreshing in anime where half of the creators don’t know the meaning of that word at all. Finally we can see some actual intimacy, rather than people beating each other up at the slightest romantic tension.

As for the final episodes, I think we’ve established the final bad guys at this point by now. The next two episodes should resolve everything. With two hours left, that should be more than enough time, considering how easy it was to plan in this series over 12 episodes. My biggest worry right now is that Hitei might prove to not be the most interesting opponent. It’s all going to depend on how that final episode can give her more depth than she has now.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 11 September 2010 with categories: Katanagatari



During my past entries, I may have been a bit negative about this series, but don’t get me wrong here: I like this series. I just have no idea what to write about it. I know it’s a bit of a paradox with a series with so much dialogue, but usually I have no problems writing down three paragraphs per entry, and yet for Katanagatari I’m usually struggling to get there. BUT NOT THIS TIME, MUAHAHA!

I liked this episode more than usual, strangely enough. Even though it was just another “sword of the week” that was obviously building up to those final three episodes, the fight in this episode was probably the easiest fight so far, and the sword’s story was also the simplest one so far. At times like this I just don’t understand this series’ effect on me.

My guess would be that we finally saw Togame and Shichika kiss each other, and there was more romantic tension between them than ever: not just in their words, but most importantly in their acts. It was cliche, dammit, but the direction made up for it because of how hilarious those scenes were, especially with Shichika trying to stand in a proper kendo stance.

One of the other reasons I’ve liked this show so far was simply because I like martial arts. Practicing karate myself, I’m really interested in those topics, and Katanagatari proved to be quite an interesting tour of weapons and fighting styles. This show analyzes them, talks about and shows their strengths and weaknesses, and creates interesting battles around them. I like that, though there is one beef I have with the way this series treats its characters like mathematical functions: everything is reduced to simple rules and tactics, both in terms of the body and the minds of the characters, with luck and characters’ whimsical feelings reduced to absolutely nothing, even though in real fights these play huge roles as well.

It isn’t a 100% bad thing, though, as it is refreshing to see another series within this perspective. Especially since that last rule is popular to abuse within anime in order to come up with reasons to let the lead character win.

Oh, and I applaud the animators of this episode: there were some neat shots and scenes with interesting animation, there were some very neat camera angles and I hardly spotted any weaknesses other than some still frames in this episode.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 17 August 2010 with categories: Katanagatari



Whoa, we got a musical upgrade this episode. There were new background songs and a brand new OP and ED. I like the former a lot. The latter… not so much. I finally realized what has been bugging me about the ALI Project. I mean, their biggest complaint is that all of their songs sound the same, but that’s nust one part of the problem. They’re really good composers, and you can only say that their work looks the same on their least inspired OPs and EDs. The thing is more tha their OPs and EDs often feel completely out of place.

I mean, their OPs and EDs are perfect for chaotic series, or series with a soundtrack that is all over the place like most of the Bee-Train series. Most of the time they’re into series that completely don’t fit the mood of these chaotic and random songs, and the same goes here: the new OP is nice and all, but it in no way fits Katanagatari’s style or substance. The ALI Project really have a unique sound, and most anime producers just don’t seem to know how to use them well. I don’t like the ED either, but the reason for that is far simpler: the incredibly squeaky voice annoys me.

This was a fairly standard episode, though I liked the chemistry between Togame and Shichika in this episode. They were just like a bickering couple. The interesting part is that the sword in this episode was a doll, where the main battle against it consisted out of fighting it until its energy was drained.

On a side-note: as soon as the upcoming autumn season start, I might stop blogging this series. This first of all is because it’s going to be the first season this year in which I won’t have a quantity problem and there actually seem plenty of bloggable series to debut, but the biggest reason is going to be that… I just don’t know what to write about this series weekly. And really, don’t get me wrong: this is far from a bad series; it really is quite good, and I’m enjoying it a lot more than Bakemonogatari. The episodes are well paced and told as well with few hiccups and no moments of stupidity. But the thing is that for me, nothing stands out: neither good or bad. For the past number of episodes, I have found myself struggling to come up with things to actually say about the episodes of this series, more and more with every episode. This episode was no different, unfortunately.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 11 July 2010 with categories: Katanagatari



Well, the graphics really were all over the place in this episode. It’s a shame to see that the budget for this series is starting to run out, because this episode was full off models, the characters were suddenly drawn with incredibly thick lines, and a lot of the fights boiled down to people moving so conveniently fast that all the animators had to do was to draw a bunch of curved lines.

It’s a shame, for a series with so many still frames, you’d expect the art at least to be crisp. I think the worst part of the graphics in this episode was how ridiculously small Nanami’s feet were drawn. Normally I like it when artists take an interesting graphical approach to an episode… but this was just the sign of either a very low budget… or a really bad outsourcing decision.

It’s a shame, because this episode was was all about Nanami again. I still find the concept of her powers a bit hard to grasp. Unable to die? Well, why don’t you commit suicide then? Still, the relationship between these two siblings, the extra info about their parents. It was well worth it. The graphics may have cut corners, but the series still is as good as it has ever been with its dialogue and build-up.

In any case, this also destroys the theories of “Nanami as the end boss”. With this episode, this series seemingly closed off Nanami’s story here, but I wonder whether we get to know more about their parents. Either way, the time has really come for this series to actually start some kind of finale now. We’ve gotten a few hints as to what it might be about, but something tells me that the creators still have a number of tricks on their sleeve. The cutting of hair always seems to be a solid symbol of change, after all.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 5 June 2010 with categories: Katanagatari



Not exactly the best episode of Katanagatari so far, but definitely fun. This episode had fun in making the tiniest character ridiculously strong, and most of the combat played with that. Her back-story was very simple, but it worked (was it just me or did it seem like her family got killed off by that guy Shichika ‘defeated’ in episode four?), but to make up for it we got a much more prominent role for the Maniwani.

The beheading scene was a bit too much, though. Even though there was a good reason for that badger (at least, I think he was dressed up like a badger), to kill him at a point when more than half of the other Maniwani are already dead is just stupid. And to do this in front of Togame and Shichika made even less sense.

Oh, and the creators used blushes in this episode to develop the relationship between Togame and Shichika. Simple, but refreshing considering how oblivious they were for each other early on in the series. In any case, this seemed like an episode meant to set a bunch of things up. The fights were quite exciting, nevertheless.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 22 May 2010 with categories: Katanagatari



I’m pleasantly surprised how good this series has turned into. It’s a show that may have a bit of a formulaic formula, but it knows that it shouldn’t just do the same thing over and over. The episodes so far have been pleasantly varied and interesting. This episode finally introduces some romantic tension between Togame and Shichika, also answering my pleas for character-development.

Again, even though this was an episodes of more than half an hour of talking, I wasn’t bored at all. I’m really getting warmed up to this series at this point and I really have to praise both NishiOisin and the staff of the anime for pacing out the series well to make it interesting without becoming boring or tedious. And even though it’s nowhere near the best of the genre, this still is what I’m looking for in a “ton of dialogue”-anime.

It of course had it coming that a bit of chemistry would develop between the two of them, after having been this close for a relatively long amount of time. The only thing that was needed at this point was this getting through Shichika’s thick skull (having lived alone with his sister for more than a decade). The interesting question now is what the creators are planning to use this for. At the least, the romance has felt subtle enough not to feel like cliches or cheese, which definitely is a step into the right direction.

This episode also set itself apart with these weird tantrums of Togame… which were definitely fun to watch, especially with the weird background music that this series has been using.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 17 April 2010 with categories: Katanagatari



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)

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  • ninjarealist
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 11:49 PM)
    @Emma I think Deen makes some really good looking anime. People tend to give them crap for some of their mid-2000 stuff and justifiably, but their recent stuff and early stuff is really quite visually arresting.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 11:43 PM)
    Now granted,deens adaptation of sankarea had some pretty neat visuals behind it.
  • ninjarealist
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 11:14 PM)
    Granted that none of those manga had the type of mass appeal that Sankarea has, but they’re some pof the best manga I’ve read within their specific genre (sentimental ecchi comedies/romances). I love his art style too. It just works so well for sappy romantic stuff. Inu Neko Jump will always be one of my favorite manga.
  • ninjarealist
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 11:12 PM)
    On the subject of Sankarea, I’m about as big of a Hattori Mitsuru fanboy as anyone could be and I have to say that Sankarea is my least favorite manga of his. His strengths and weaknesses just don’t lend themselves very well to that type of horror/drama plot. Umisho, Inu Neko Jump, and Otogi no Machi no Rena even were all better manga.
  • k-off
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 08:47 PM)
    To be fair to the series though, I thought that the owl was pretty cool.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 06:18 PM)
    But I’ve heard complaints about the fanservice of rea not making sense considering her past/background and I’m inclined to agree.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 06:16 PM)
    Ha, and once again another shounen ruined by not being a seinen manga.
    @Aidan: Sometimes..sometimes I feel its the fans that should be writing these things instead…well the good ones =P
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 06:05 PM)
    @K-Off, Potentail for Rea to go berserk and starting a zombie apocalypse? Or at least enough to have her slowly lose her mind and chiro having to resort to more and more desperate measures to protect her and stop her from hurting others. There was plently of potentail in the premise, just that the author didn’t have the balls to take it that far.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 05:51 PM)
    Wasn’t awful now by any means but I’d rather stop with it before any good memories of it get ruined =<
    I think I'm just fed up with these shounen comedies/dramas and pandora hearts is also the last time I take a chance on a shounen fantasy show.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 05:48 PM)
    Although as a whole sankarea never really geled together for me, series of genre clashing and a master of none, there were little pockets of interest and the art was good and moments did feel like something more. Some of the fanservice, comedy also felt misplaced.

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