Rough Notes Archive: Katanagatari

Management: So, I’ve gotten a few requests here and there to post the rest of my Katanagatari notes – I actually did post pieces for episodes 1/2 and episode 3, along with a final essay, but I never posted the rest of my episodic notes. That was mainly because around episode 4, my notes started getting pretty shorthandy – I wasn’t really explaining my thoughts in an entertaining way, I was attempting to break the show down for myself as I was watching it. But people still seem interested in reading that sort of thing, so I’ve decided to post them anyway – just keep in mind this is much more bare-bones than the writeups tend to be, since it was originally only intended for me. If that still sounds interesting, read away!

Episode 4

3:57 – “The more pure a swordsman you are, the more the poison affects you.” “He’s a man who lost too much of his humanity devoting himself to swordsmanship.” At this point, the character rapport is established and the aesthetic is consistently great, so I’m just gonna jot down the puzzle pieces

10:30 – The younger sister always did seem secretly terrifying. Looking forward to this thing’s resolution, even if she just talks the three ninjas to death

10:40 – “With these outfits, nobody suspected us.” “Well, I suppose we can use this act from time to time.” That’s cute, cutting back to our heroes at the ambiguous end of some wacky caper

11:40 – I’d complain about the ninjas announcing their obviously already-understood intentions for the audience’s benefit, but characters in this show announce their obvious intentions all the time, just for the hell of it – particularly all these melodramatic ninjas

13:14 – “I apologize once again, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to torture you now.” Adorable

25:56 – Developing this insect squad pretty significantly. What’s their importance? Do they represent anything, or is this just this episode’s fable?

Also, Nanami being ridiculously strong isn’t unexpected, but it’s still welcome. She’s got a pretty terrifying personality

27:12 – I love the staging of these scenes, with each of them framed by the trees and the falling leaves. It’s such a beautiful show

29:14 – My god that scary-ass smile. They’re using her really well

31:31 – “You have quite some nerve, calling yourself a swordsman using a technique like that.” “My ninpou is my ninpou, there’s no helping it.” That, and her own refusal to take a stance. Hm

32:40 – “That must have been passed down for generations. I’m quite jealous of that.” Well, obvious line there. But then “You of all people could never understand the feelings of someone who doesn’t know what it feels like to make an effort.” What to make of that one?

35:19 – “My power is deviant.” So either ‘deviant’ has some larger meaning outside of a title for the blades, or she actually is a blade herself. Neither would surprise me

41:43 – “Die by poison or the sword?” “By the sword, please.” Obviously

42:27 – “That sure was a tough battle!” “Yep, it sure was!” Ahahaha, what trolls

45:24 – “Shikizaki Kiki’s creation.” “An incomplete failed creation.” So yes, it’s quite likely some of the swords will be people, bloodlines honed to perfection, combining the ideas about swordsmanship with the focus on lineage

And Done

Most troll. As much as I’d enjoy a full episode of basking in this show’s excellent visual flare and vivid fights, this episode was excellent in its own right. Like all of them.

Episode 5

5:08 – Continuing in the anything-can-be-a-sword direction, I’m guessing his whole armor set is the sword

8:04 – Lot of “you haven’t been injured yet” repeating in this episode. Sounds like this fight’s gonna suck

10:00 – Shichika’s pretty oblivious to seduction. Normally that would bother me, but it’s pretty core to his general outlook

14:32 – “He would never take off that armor in front of anyone.” So he’s a woman? That means he’s a woman right?

15:10 – “Step on me more!”

24:52 – Welp, Shichika’s fighting for both his pride as the representative of his house and the woman he loves. Couldn’t have better motivation than that

26:44 – Without orders, he just acts on instinct. That deal made him uncomfortable, so he’s asserting his relationship with Togame by bullying her

40:10 – Doubting Togame’s orders? He must really be shook up by the thought of losing her

42:18 – ‘Resolve’ again? Togame got tripped up on that in the first conversation with the armor guy. What’s our thematic point here?

43:24 – “I’ve been thinking too much lately.” He has been thinking an awful lot this episode. I guess the sword is less sharp because it’s uncertain of its master’s intentions? When she made her position clear, he was ready to fight

And Done

Fine episode. Somewhat focused on developing the principle relationship. Probably a good call.

Episode 6

5:39 – I love the texture they’re using for these darkened interiors backgrounds, especially as it contrasts against the flat of the characters. The lack of detail allows them to create something that almost looks like a collage of different types of paper. The soundtrack for this show is also wacky as hell

9:23 – Oh jeez, revealing all the rest of the Maniwani? Looks like they’ll have outlived their relevance pretty soon

14:01 – Wow. Way too adorable. I think talking about this much anime is giving me moe poisoning

16:58 – She is remarkably cavalier about the recent deaths of everyone she knew!

22:06 – This scene between the two of them is great and adorable and really shows how well their personalities play off each other, but that last bit… “What are you going to do with me after our journey?” “I don’t have an answer for you yet.” Man, that just seems to be setting up the inevitable tragedy even more acutely – they’ll wait until the last couple episodes to truly resolve and move past their father’s feud, and that’ll make the ending even more painful. Fuck you Isin!

22:32 – “Tonight’s the first night you’ve fallen asleep before me.” Love the nice offhand comments like this defining and progressing their relationship. Good stuff

42:34 – Making him discover his resolve as a human, not just as a sword. Having this maybe dull his strength. He questions decisions, and has some form of morality now.

Episode 7

5:20 – Nanami seems to be a demon of strength despite being spurned by her family. Or is her place apart the cause for it? Gotta think about her purpose

7:46 – “Is it your fault he’s softened up, Strategian?” Yes, obviously. The more he gathers the swords with her, the less he has to value his own identity as a sword. Is the folly of reverence for the past the key here? Their connection to each other is what is important – her attempts to avenge her father, and his attempts to live up to his father’s legacy, only result in denying their own value

8:35 – “I don’t believe father brought you up to value your sister over your owner.” Perhaps originally he wouldn’t have

10:08 – It does feel like Togame’s strategian nature is sometimes just an excuse to have her handle exposition

12:12 – Yeah, she’s just a full sword. To her, there are only targets and obstacles – she’s a much more ideal sword than Shichika. Though she does seem to take pleasure in the killing – but even that may be like a sword, or at least like the ones they seek. Maybe it’s the legacy that adds that

13:21 – Each of Shichika’s battles imparts him with a piece of humanity, and puts a chink in his status as a sword. Nanami is the opposite

17:07 – This episode has used a number of videogame-ish tropes now – first Nanami walking sideways across the screen and dispatching enemies who all fell in the same way, now Shichika and Togame riding the boat, going across a loading screen, jumping off the boat in an adventure-game-ish screen and talking with the advisor while represented as sprites

…and then as soon as I notice that, they make it absurdly obvious with a Nanami bullet hell game

20:46 – And the Maniwani walk over a forest landscape that in no way touches their feet. Weird choice, this videogame motif

21:48 – The princess and her sword are clearly set up as foils for our heroes. Let’s see where they go with that

22:57 – “The holy land of swordsmen, where battle is the goal in life. Even more holy with Nanami ruling over it.” A land of corpses. The purity swords bring

24:40 – “Maybe I should break him.” “Don’t say such horrible things.” “What are you talking about? Doesn’t your quest involve plenty of horrible killing?” What makes them different? And then “So we can’t avoid a duel?” “There is no reason to avoid it.” Clearly Shichika’s personality has shifted from taking its cues from her to taking its cues from Togame. The sword reflects its owner

27:45 – He’s been softened by Togame’s influence, but he’s less brittle now, and probably more invested. When her concern for him is obvious, he forcefully agrees to a rematch

30:30 – “I’m sure she doesn’t really believe that one needs no reason to fight.” But that’s kind of how swords work – they’re just an extension of will, they don’t question, they don’t feel

30:45 – “Kill me like you killed father.” A reason to fight… is she also a slave to their father’s legacy? Does she want him to succeed in order to prove her father was right, and that he should have been the successor?

34:14 – “It’s normal for our family members to kill each other.” That’s pretty much the ultimate sin according to Togame and Shichika’s initial perspectives

36:28 – You could also interpret Nanami’s mission here as her ensuring the family name is pristine – whether she kills Shichika or Shichika is forced to kill her and resharpen himself, the legacy will regain its purity and strength

37:23 – “I would have been fine with dying.” So Shichika killed his father to save Nanami? Jeez, how does that reflect on family tradition?

44:10 – “Is this what happens when a sword tries to use a sword?” Also, her using others’ techniques and relying upon them to become weaker… hm…

47:11 – “We have no family? Are you stupid? I have you and you have me, right?” And there’s the core theme right there. Nisio Isin is really interested in this topic, isn’t he?

Episode 8

4:10 – Wide, slow pans and more meditative pacing. Already it feels like they’re using a different directorial affectation for this episode. I wish I had the grounding to place it

12:00 – “What’s that weirdly-shaped iron thing? It doesn’t suit you – I can throw it away for you if you want” Oh jeez, a gun? And Togame’s understandably disdainful of it, considering both her quest and her lover (who’s now also her family). Surely they will have further significance

18:00 – “It’s a sword. And I don’t mean that thing it’s holding.” It’s like the original definition is entirely irrelevant

27:30 – “I see no reason to avenge a 170 year old grudge.” Man, EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER is living in the shadow of their family name

29:20 – So the revolvers themselves are a Perfected Deviant Blade? That’s pretty interesting

30:09 – It seems like Shichika has gotten a lot more playful over the episodes

40:23 – Alright, Shichika finally gets his big speech explaining how now that he actually fights according to his own will and beliefs, he is a human and not a sword. Not that we needed it, but it’s nice that he finally realizes it

44:17 – “I kind of feel sorry for it.” “Are you stupid? You can’t empathize with a doll.” But he was the same way, Togame!

Episode 9

10:21 – This episode’s weird. It’s deliberately contrasting these moments of perceived sexual tension with a lack of awareness from either one or both of the characters. What’s the angle?

12:55 – I guess I appreciate that the show kinda lampshades how ridiculous introducing love misunderstandings is by framing that alleged kiss in the shoujo aesthetic

13:25 – This woman’s sword-hair is pretty crazy

21:10 – “This blade has been handed down for generations, it proves my identity.” So obviously the blades are linked to their owner’s ambitions and pasts – but does this also mean that this sword collection mission is symbolic of the end of the sword? Collecting the great swords of the past, removing the centerpieces of the identities of these great military houses and families, and transitioning into an era where that kind of pride, that kind of lineage, and that kind of warlike attitude are no longer relevant?

21:48 – “The Shino Issou school is not one of blood inheritance.” That seems like an important distinction, especially for the owner of the one unpoisoned sword, who practices a school that abstains from all violence

24:04 – “I’m jealous of you and Togame.” “There’s nothing wrong with living the life of a sword.” “But what can a sword do in this day and age?” Making that idea more overt – Shichika’s development mirrors the country as a whole

24:46 – Shichika is coming to terms with the fact that accepting his love of Togame means giving up on his father’s legacy

32:52 – “You need not understand, for you will die here anyway.” Shichika’s foil even has his own catchphrase

35:37 – And the guns end an honorable battle with dishonor, as the ninja who stuck to her beliefs dreams of a peaceful future that her kind will never see. Transition directly into “I’d prefer to avoid a dirty fight” by Shichika. Brilliant stuff. The end of the sword’s era is just really evocative in general

37:52 – Oh man that kiss. Adorable, a great gag, and actually makes thematic sense. You don’t get that very often

42:11 – Shichika’s expressed his regret about killing Tsuruga (the 1000 swords woman) a couple times this episode

43:53 – “Becoming weaker when wielding a sword is almost like a curse.” Hm

Episode 10

7:52 – “It’s hard for me to just watch you being cornered like that.” Shichika has undergone so much fuckin’ character growth. Really nice work with him

9:12 – It’s just like Isin to have Togame’s return to her home involve her literally digging up the past

10:59 – “If what you say is true, then everything just becomes what you want to see.” And the Snow White mirror… hm. They’re talking specifically about perception of truth, but I don’t know how to exactly square that with the variable definitions of swords and family

12:07 – So his perspective has been shaped by the three women he lost to and the lady of one thousand swords. They’re definitely all critical to his development/undevelopment as a sword. Also, Isin is the weirdest feminist I’ve ever met.

15:34 – “I am but a relic of the previous generation… like all the other main characters.” The ninja Houou makes their fraying status overt.

18:20 – Dear god is this episode gonna work my brain. Okay, so they brought back that “being weaker when holding a sword is a curse” thing. They also added “to excel at an art is to excel at versatility,” and “the Kyoutoryu school may have some inescapable core tenets to it.” Think think think

19:04 – And then they cut to his sister. “We are both swords. The complete inability to use a sword is the essence of Kyoutoryu.” What, is he having second thoughts about his humanity? Can he not be a human and a sword, and if he is no longer a sword, does he require a sword to fight for Togame?

23:01 – Holy shit, the princess is the swordsmith’s descendant? OF COURSE. How did I not guess that? OBVIOUSLY in a show so obsessed with family and lineage, his own lineage would be critical. That’s such a huge fucking puzzle piece… hm. So when she fails, or IF she fails, what will that say?

24:27 – It’s weird. It’s been taking me a long time to get through this series, but it’s so fucking good. I feel like I could watch this again and again and again

26:37 – “You can’t win against people weaker than you.” Kinda true

28:27 – “I think that history is the proof that humans lived. That they lived to their utmost.” Legacy

29:13 – “If history goes according to my predictions, you will be the sole survivor. The samurai code says I should kill you, but that is something I cannot do even for the sake of correcting history.

31:38 – “Fighting is futile. There’s no meaning to victory or defeat. Any experience you get from fighting is pointless.” I want to watch this goddamn episode, but there’s too much important stuff

31:59 – “She takes fighting too far. It’s almost like the concept of life itself is a fight for her.”

33:40 – “You sympathize with her – your feelings don’t resemble love. And whatever her purpose is, it’s clearly not worth killing or dying for. You’ve killed many people, robbing them of their greatest purpose – life itself.”

35:08 – “I fight for Togame. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t fight at all!” Is he equating fighting with living here? If not for her, he would indeed still be a sword without a purpose, not a human being

36:43 – “A fight is an agreement between two parties. If they run, you can’t win.” “That’s not true. In fact… oh.” And then she remembers her father’s choice. He chose to have her run, and gave himself up so the fight would be over – so the killing wouldn’t have to continue – SO THE LEGACY COULD END THERE. But that just made her vow to avenge him, and the cycle continued

39:32 – So you don’t even need a blade – you just need resolve? And that’s what the hilt represents?

42:06 – And Kyoutoryuu itself is the last Deviant Blade, so the legacy tangles all three of them – hell, probably all four, depending on who the Princess’s guard really is

42:55 – “Ambitions, aspirations, vengeance… you must throw all these away for the sake of your true objective.” To live? To be a human being?

43:20 – “I understand. I can throw away everything but my objective.” NOOO

44:59 – It’s funny that all this time, Togame’s been emphasizing the importance of not damaging the blades, but she herself has basically broken Shichika’s pure nature as a blade

Episode 11

1:06 – “A swordsman is only halfway to maturity after killing 300 people.”

3:12 – “I don’t care whether we’re at war or peace. I follow the way of the sword for myself.” “I guess you could say I’m fighting history itself”

5:37 – The swordsmith is wearing Togame’s colors

7:59 – “Our journey… there isn’t much left, is there?” As the brown leaves begin to fall. Shichika’s entire visual motif: a leaf in motion, destined to dance briefly and then fall

14:22 – The Princess’s guard was once a ninja, but lost his own will, and now lives as a sword

25:17 – And Togame finally says it: “Any grudge I had against Kyoutoryuu died with your father. It has nothing to do with us.” But the narrator warns that the end of any journey is the end of everything – the past can be denied, but it cannot be forgotten. Even as these characters attempt to renounce their era and legacy and move on… and then, as that’s stated, those dying leaves twist across the screen again

26:45 – “Has that Kyoutoryuu changed the Strategian?” Yep! He has also given her a reason to be her own human, and not the sword of her family name. She doesn’t need to be utterly calculating anymore – she can be herself, even if it means being a weaker sword

27:57 – And of course Shichika’s foil decides to kill the foe immediately, so no future threats can grow

30:46 – “I don’t want to die. I didn’t want this fight!” They’re really drilling in the brutality of his actions. And he claims he’s working in the name of history – does that put him against our heroes, who are attempting to sidestep history’s momentum?

32:42 – Shikizaki Kiki contained himself in one of his swords. His intent passed down in truest form – he is his own legacy. And he immediately destroys the Maniwani legacy

36:09 – Imported sword-building techniques from the future? Which also makes him someone probably interested in shaping the course of history

37:28 – Her father wanted to return history to its rightful state. Many of these families, including Togame, the Maniwani, and obviously Kyoutoryuu, would not exist without his intervention. How does this relate to legacy?

38:54 – “No one really needs to know about their origins. You only live your own life, after all.” This Shikizaki. What a joke

40:17 – “It’s not even your body!” “But it is my history.” Shikizaki has become the synthesis of legacy and self

42:33 – Shikizaki dies happy at the hands of his perfect creation. His legacy has achieved immortality even as his memory dies

44:20 – Man, this whole damn show is a eulogy for all these dying legacies and the human lives that are forced to bear their burden. It’s kind of heartbreaking

Episode 12

4:35 – “I get it now… Entou Jyuu.” “Who cares how his sword works?!”

Also, “bind history, open it, and then close it” with the white screen becoming stained red

6:04 – “Without you, I can’t do anything!” That was true once, Shichika.

6:41 – “There are still things I need to do?” No. We can’t live for revenge. We have to just live

8:08 – “But in the end, I couldn’t change. I was never qualified to hold you.” She failed by failing to abandon her quest. In the end, her path as strategian and daughter led her to the same end as all the other stubborn old houses. She wasn’t brave enough to choose life and love over legacy

8:54 – And the strategian’s eye, her father’s eye, opens – “It was all a lie. I was going to kill you, like all the others before.” Her last scheme – a scheme to take his pain away

11:51 – “You kept lying to yourself and lying to yourself and lying to yourself, and for what? In the end you lie here in the center of the road, dying.” Shichika condemns all the legacies this show has built. Goddamnit people, live for yourselves

What is up with the white snake that represents Togame?

19:06 – “Togame… it doesn’t look like I can follow your order.” The first order he breaks. He can’t stop loving her, now that he has the right to control his life. He now bears the snake sash that constrained her path as well

22:39 – “There is no more need for pointless fights.” Not sure if Shichika’s actually killing here or not, but he’s certainly more of a sword than he’s been since the beginning. His goal is absolute – every fiber of his being needs to kill them

23:05 – “I didn’t come here to avenge Togame. I came here to die.” He’s ready to break the cycle. He will no longer let what killed Togame kill another


31:35 – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as epic as Shichika’s assent here. Dear god. So beautiful

33:28 – “Unpleasant. I did not wish to be fighting you like this. I wish to fight only for the princess’s sake. Fighting you for the sake of Shikizaki Kiki is extremely unpleasant.” In that they are once again alike – they fight for themselves or the people who they care about, and have forsaken legacy. Emonzaemon forsook legacy sooner than anyone else, in fact

33:45 – “maybe in the end it is pointless to fight for someone. For both humans and swords. I came to believe that after Togame died. Initially I fought with no resolve, but after a while I fought for her. If you have to think about it, you shouldn’t be fighting at all. She only thought about herself – she kept telling me to do what I wanted, even to her last breath. Very selfish of her – but I can’t help it. I fell in love with Togame because of that

37:08 – “Togame gave me an order to live. But I no longer have to obey that.” Togame, you gave him an order he can’t obey! Living means making choices for yourself, and he has chosen to end the legacies and die with you. To obey is to be a sword, and that is not living

40:50 – “Princess, please forgive me for dying for your sake.” Selfish man. Is she the only one living?

45:39 – And all those who couldn’t live for themselves are gone. However, Shichika now bears Togame’s mark over his left eye

45:51 – And history was not falsified. All the false swords lines died, as did the history they created

4 thoughts on “Rough Notes Archive: Katanagatari

  1. Well shit. I have some shows threatening to push Katanagatari out of my top 5 on MAL, but reading your write-ups is reminding me why it was there in the first place. I’m going to have some tough decisions coming up.

    I had actually not read any of your write-ups on this show, so I took the opportunity to read them all. It was like going on the journey all over again (which would be at least the third time). I thoroughly enjoyed everything you had to say about the series.

    In particular I agree with most of your comments about Isin’s dialogue style. I’ve tried to talk to monogatari fans about it, but they never seem to listen. The Monogatari characters all talk in a very non-human way and most of them have extremely similar styles of dialogue (Kaiki exlcuded) to the point where if you removed the gags you might be able to interchange who was saying what. Katanagatari was still long winded, but all of the characters came across as more natural and distinct. They talked like real people and they their different personalities were reflected their choice of words. Shichika in particular was excellently written. I also noticed an improvement of individuality of the dialogue the second season of Monogatari, which I believe was written after Kanatagatari. This leads me to conclude that he used Katanagatari to hone his craft a bit and branch off his dialogue styles, which added some much needed freshness to his more popular series.

    • Yeah, I also think Monogatari S2 featured a very pronounced improvement in the quality of dialogue. Heightened affectation is pretty much a given in fiction, but the earlier Monogatari seasons don’t really feature that – they too often have characters who all just sound like Isin talking through them. It’s a credit to Season 2 that in retrospect, the writing is now one of my favorite elements of Monogatari – he clearly made fantastic use of the lessons he learned working on other stories.

      • For what it’s worth, Katanagatari was written as a kind of publicity stunt. It was 12 volumes written over 12 months, his own personal NaNoWriMo stretched out for a year. It’s hard to imagine an experience like that not affecting his style.

      • I’m guessing it’s because Nisio was writing the early and later books for different reasons. Bake, Kizu, and Nise were all written in his free time just because he felt like it. They weren’t supposed to get published, but someone saw they were pretty good and convinced him to publish them. Once they got popular, he put more literary work into the later books since he knew they were going to get published.

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