Review: Katanagatari – “A Tale of Swords”


Here on The Chewns, Anime Reviews are normally done by my very good friend, Yanas (the in-house anime expert). And by anime reviews I mean the big, on-going anime such as Naruto and One Piece in particular. They are so good! So do yourself a favour and check them out! But it’s not always that easy to watch every anime that gets released, not to mention the personal genres that every anime viewer enjoys. So in this anime review, I, also known as Dup or the Pack-Man, will provide you with my thoughts and impressions on the anime: Katanagatari, “Tale of Swords”.

Beware, light spoilers ahead!

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Katanagatari – A brief overview

What do you fight for? Or more simply put, what do you live for? This is no simple question to answer. But the bigger question is, do you have the power or the will to fulfil that dream or desire? We rarely realise it, but life is a series of events that prepares you for what is to come. That dream or desire that defines your life’s purpose.

In Katanagatari, we follow the story of Yasuri Shichika and Togame “the strategian” on their journey to collect the 12 deviant swords. Shichika, the 7th generation head of the “Kyotouryuu” swordless swordsman style, lives on a deserted island along with his big sister, Yasuri Nanami. However, he is recruited by the shogunate’s (military governor) military strategist, Togame, to collect all 12 deviant blades created by the legendary swordsmith, Shikizaki Kiki. Little do they know how their histories and futures are intertwined within the story of Katanagatari.

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Plot Impressions

So this anime is a bit unusual – clocking in at 50 minutes for each of the 12 episodes. However, each episode is extremely interesting as it covers the acquisition of a specific sword by the main characters. In essence this is a simple concept, but you quickly get the impression that there may be a deeper, underlying plot. Who doesn’t enjoy an underlying plot? But when it takes about 11 out of the 12 episodes to provide clarity on this underlying plot, it is a little frustrating (however, this plot is ridiculously epic!).  Yes, each 50 minute episode provides a detailed account of how each sword is acquired – which is fantastic, but careful consideration needs to be taken into how each of these fits together into the bigger picture. I just have to give a special mention to the narrator of the anime. You really do get the feeling as if your own grandmother is telling you a story, and that just makes me appreciate the anime that much more as it creates that comfortable atmosphere.

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Characters

First off, I must say that the pacing of the character and story development in this anime is some of the best I have seen yet, particularly in regard to the two main characters. In episode 1, we are introduced to a somewhat “idiotic” and too-strong for his own knowledge, Shichika, whom is unaware of his own potential. We are also introduced to the self-centred and self-proclaimed strategian, Togame. Now, in all honesty, early on they both have minor flaws in their character designs. But these are quickly addressed early on and we get to see them develop as the story progresses – building on their experiences which they encountered along their journey.  For once this was a character progression which I felt was very realistic within their setting and somewhat relatable. Not in the sense of combat experience, but rather in the lessons each main character learned during each episode in their quest to obtain the 12 deviant swords.

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Animation and music

So this is not your typical anime when it comes to how it looks. They employ an older animation style that is somewhat basic in appearance. However, they do pay full attention to the drawing lines in order to ensure that the cinematics appear crisp and up to high definition standards while making full use of the colour pellet to highlight certain characteristics about the characters and scenes. They did this particularly well during the fight scenes, especially since full fight scenes were scarce throughout this anime. I feel that the addition of colour during the combat scenes was used well to showcase and highlight the powerful attacks, becoming more frequent as Shichika developed his own powers.

The music and sounds were used exquisitely to emphasise dramatic moments and highlight important actions which had an important influence on how the lead characters perceived their surroundings. Even though some music segments were used more than once, they did it well to associate a particular character with that specific sound to create an atmosphere that is easily identifiable by the viewer.

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 The Overall Verdict

Let me start with some of the bad. The underlying plot is not revealed right till the end of the storyline. I personally would have wanted to see this information revealed to the characters earlier. It definitely had the potential to provide a sense of urgency as their actions had a massive effect on the future of their world. Also, we never really get a glimpse of just how strong the main character, Shichika, truly is until the end, which makes his previous encounters and the whole build-up seem unnecessary at this point. Like, if he wanted to, he could have really caused some havoc, but he had to control his own power. It just seems like a waste of time when you suddenly realise that he could have demolished his previous enemies even though he was not allowed to.

In essence, this anime provides something new to the viewer. You are treated with 50 minute episodes, where you can thoroughly enjoy an interesting storyline with a deep sub-plot and a stylish showcase of martial arts. Not too much of the storyline is revealed where you lose interest in its validity or realism and not too little where you may feel like too little has been shown. They balance it perfectly – allowing you, the viewer, to simply enjoy this interesting story and its simplistic yet elegant martial arts for yourself in your own personal view.

I have no doubt that I will be recommending this anime to close friends and family members, as well as watching it again in the near future. It was simply just that good on so many aspects and this anime was definitely worth my time!

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Image credits: White Fox, NIS America

 

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My Stats
  • Art
  • Pacing
  • Character Development
  • Story
  • Impact
4.5