After a slightly slow-burning start, Katanagatari's opening episode turned out to be a deeply pleasing affair, although admittedly perhaps not in the way you'd expect from a series promising swordsman and ninjas.
If you were put off by the prevalence of dialogue over action in that opener, then you won't be any more satisfied by this second episode - Although it sees Shichika Yasuri and his "employer" Togame the self-styled strategist head overseas, first to Kyoto and then on to Inaba to find the second of the twelve swords Togame is searching for, in reality the dynamic between these two lead characters is the real focus of the day.
Thus, before we even reach the remote castle where this second sword known as Zantou Namakura is held, we're taken clothes shopping by Togame, before a long and drawn-out discussion which involves trying to figure out a catchphrase and a way to inject a little more character into the rather plain and strait-laced Shichika. Indeed, it's Togame that does the vast majority of the talking throughout this episode, leaving Shichika with little more than the occasional quip in return. Of course, this all turns around when it gets to the serious business of actually retrieving the sword from its current owner, a swordsman who can allegedly draw faster than the speed of light - Here Shichika comes into his own, with some cool lines and even cooler moves which (and I don't think this is too much of a spoiler) allow him to win the day.
Having watched this second episode, I'm actually finding it a little difficult to get a true handle on my feelings for this particular instalment of Katanagatari. On the one hand, the episode's villain wasn't really fleshed out as much as he probably deserved, and the action was as sparse as I've already mentioned (despite being arguably worth the wait). On the other however, I have an odd love for both Shichika and Togame's characters, with the former acting almost as a breath of fresh air in an anime world packed with cocky, mouthy male leads and also forming a genuinely interesting partnership with the latter, who happily blusters and talks her way through life, sounding smart but ultimately proving herself far less capable of formulating any kind of strategy or genuine thought than her partner in crime.
Then there's the animation, which somehow manages to be both lavish and simple at the same time - I love it for its colourful nature and simply for being different from your average anime, even if you could argue that it's less expressive than that more traditional 21st century style.
Overall then, I guess it's a net win for Katanagatari in terms of winning me over so far - Certainly, as a character study I really rather like it, and I think I'd probably follow Shichika and Togame's journey anywhere no matter how boring it may be in terms of an actual plot and story-telling. That thought does however bely this shows biggest weakness so far - Beyond that lead character dynamic it currently doesn't really have a bold or exciting enough plot to really hook me in, with a story that feels almost secondary to the entertaining dialogue. Compare and contrast with that other recently animated NisiOisiN work Bakemonogatari, which also sported sparkling dialogue, but coupled it with some top-notch stories within which to utilise its verbose characters. I can only hope that as Katanagatari progresses it will inject a little more of that smart and sassy story telling into its own mould.