Katanagatari Set 1
Taking place in the Edo era of Japan, a young man and his sister are the last survivors of the Kyoto Ryu martial arts family on an island their family was exiled to after the previous revolution. One day, a woman named Togame arrives looking for the head of Kyoto Ryu, currently seventh generation Shichika. Working for the shogunate as a master strategist, Togame needs Shichika to be her sword as she searches for twelve legendary swords made by the legendary sword maker Shikizaki Kiki to bring ultimate power to the government.
Good and the Bad
I admit it, I’ve been having a torrid love affair. The name of my affections vary but the source is always that which adapts the works of NisiOisin. It started innocently enough with Bakemonogatari but then I met Katanagatari and knew that my heart would be forever stolen by these series. In my defense however, it’s only because this one in particular is so good.
For the entire length of this set, Katanagatari is going to challenge the audience in many different ways. First of all, this is an action series that chooses to go a slightly different route with as an action series. Yes, there is action in every episode but they aren’t always the defining moment of the episode. If you’re looking for an action series that is going to deliver this non stop, you’re in for a world of disappointment.
What truly defines this series is the artwork and writing which make this series stand far away from all of its predecessors of the genre. For the look of this series, studio White Fox went with liberal use of colors and the character designs from Tsuyoshi Kawada are cartoony and lack any real definition. The look of the series is admittedly something to get used to but it’s also thanks to these unique fixtures that this series looks nothing like any other series in recent history that I can think of.
Then there’s the writing and storytelling. The endless writing. The writing that will go on… and on… and on sometimes. As a twelve episode series told in hour long chunks, Katanagatari keeps itself moving forward by being a dialogue and banter based series. The good news is that this banter and storytelling is constantly doing something interesting to keep the viewers attention and this is where the series earned it’s highest marks with me.
Katanagatari is plain fearless when it comes to playing with the audience and constantly taking them on journeys or detours that they were not expecting to take. Most of the time, the audience is allowed to go along and enjoy things as they come. Some times, things are made a little easier with episodes flat out spoiling what is coming next or breaking the fourth wall for a short joke.
Still other times, the series goes with a bait and switch approach. In one episode, the next episode preview features an epic battle as Shichika does battle for one of the twelve swords… and that ends up being the most you ever see of the battle as the next episodes features none of it. In yet another instance, a certain character will be introduced with one personality, only to be revealed to be almost yandere and delivering the line “My apologies. I must commit torture now.” These are just a few examples of the many ways Katanagatari keeps the audience guessing and wanting to see more with a sense of humor.
Like the animation, the background music composed by Taku Iwasaki is interesting in its many different styles and genres being brought together. For quieter scenes involving lots of dialogue, there are more traditional sounds including strong, full string themes. But then there are times when things are the complete opposite and you’re hearing a soft hip hop beat for a lecture from Togame or one of the battle scenes. The unique mix worked well for this series and felt particularly well in place during the funnier or more flirtatious moments featuring the lead couple.
As with all NIS America sets, it’s hard to complain about the packaging or extras. Along with the oversized box there is the collector’s book included with this set which is a wealth of artwork and information including episode and character guides as well as liner notes (which would’ve been easier to read had they been alphabetized).
This is going to stand out as one of the better releases of the year. The quality of the series is high and the packaging is just an appropriate bonus. This is a different type of action series and it’s better because of it. Stylish and fun, this is worth going onto your shelves.