"Katanagatari" Part 2: Surprise! It’s Less Boring!
I wasn’t exactly thrilled with Katanagatari‘s first six episodes. As a professional, though, I agreed to review the last six of this familiar story of two characters, strategist Togame and isolated villager Shichika, out to collect twelve fabled swords, all with different characteristics. To my surprise, I did find the second half superior to the first.
What helps is that the opponents are more memorable this time around. To start with, Shichika faces off against his own sister, Yasuri, and there’s good conflict involving whether Shichika has the guts to kill her (long story). Biyori Go, a robotic doll, is next on the docket, and stands out from the other villains so far simply for her inhuman form. But it also provides some fine animation as Shichika jumps all over the place trying to avoid Biyori’s relentless attacks. Kiguchi Zanki also provides some unique aspects, in that she refuses to fight Shichika until she feels he’s competent with a sword. So the two train with each other; meanwhile Togame lets her imagination run wild and gets jealous because she thinks Shichika and Kiguchi have fallen in love. Her jealousy is played for laughs, mostly, and her lewd daydreams and transparent comments towards Shichika put a smile on my face. Higake Rinne, a shape-shifting character who looks like a little boy but is actually 300 years old, isn’t exactly new material but is done well, and I dig his distinct laugh and unique character design. Things falter a bit with the last two adversaries, though; they felt pretty cookie cutter to me; the last one in particular is of the emotionless variety, which isn’t very interesting.
On the other hand, a pretty significant event occurs in the last two episodes to make up for the two lackluster villains. I won’t give it away, but I’ll just say that the show must have been doing something right this whole time if I cared about what happened to Shichika and Togame. I don’t think it’s merely because I spent the equivalent of 24 episodes with these characters, either; there have been other shows with the same amount of material, such as Ragnarok, and I didn’t care what happened to the characters in that show. In retrospect, perhaps Katanagatari could have focused more on their relationship and less on the long-winded speeches about the unique characteristics of each sword and pre-fight taunts (neither of which interested me all that much); the show might have been stronger.
Disc-based extras are slim once again, with clean openings and endings as the only features. As with the first half, though, the collection comes housed in a sturdy tall artbox, and features a hard-cover art book. And the Blu-ray picture quality is crisp and clear. So despite the limited disc extras and no dub, it’s still a quality release.
Katanagatari‘s second half is an improvement over the first half; Shichika and Togame’s chemistry sneaks up on you, and there are some more memorable adversaries this time. But I still can’t quite recommend the series overall. It’s overly talky, slow-paced, and the animation is mostly only serviceable. I wish the fat had been trimmed; Katanagatari‘s philosophy seems to be to give us more dialog and exposition than we need until we’re uncomfortably stuffed. Sometimes, less is more.