Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Katanagatari - Episode 3

Katanagatari third episode sees Togame and Shichika Yasuri on the hunt for the third sword in their quest, and we join them three months after the end of their last battle in this third month of 2010.

This time around, the sword that is the object of their attentions isn't actually a single sword at all, but Sentou Tsurugi, a collection of one thousand swords currently in the possession of a shrine owner known as Meisai Tsuruga - Herself a master in a fighting style known as Sentouryuu, and potentially a mortal rival to Shichika and his own Kyotouryuu style. Meisai has seeded her thousand swords out to a thousand shrine maidens who live at her temple, and as the episode progresses we learn just why these maidens are armed and how Meisai is trying to use the powers of this particular sword or swords to help them.

Whatever altruistic uses this sword has, this is of little concern to Shichika's rather simple-minded ways, while Togame's negotiations in an attempt to take the sword without force fails, leaving her instead forced to accept a compromise - That Sentou Tsurugi will be hers if she can identify the "original" sword from the collection of one thousand, and only then if Shichika can also defeat Meisai Tsuruga in battle. Even this plan looks to be in tatters when another Maniwa ninja, Maniwa Kuizame, appears, but his cameo ends up being an incredibly short-lived one as the story continues on its merry way with nary a backwards glance in his direction.

While previous episodes of Katanagatari almost chose to forgo much of their central plot in favour of long segments of dialogue and conversation, this third instalment keeps a tighter focus on its plot... albeit with huge amounts of dialogue once again. This is both a blessing and a curse for the episode, as its more focused attentions make it perhaps the most interesting episode of the bunch, while the dialogue itself isn't as sharp or witty as a result, and even interferes in proceedings a little at times. Again, you can't help but be slightly amazed that a series about swords and fighting contains so little in the way of action, with the quick despatch of the Maniwa ninja a telling point in how this show treats such scenes - If this had been Naruto, the battle between Kuizame and Meisai would have lasted about four months, but instead a single blow decides it in about twenty seconds flat.

As you can perhaps tell from that previous paragraph, I'm actually not entirely sure what to make of Katanagatari at this point - While I'm increasingly enjoying its colourful aesthetic and the dialogue and humour does hit the spot on occasion, it just doesn't feel "right" as an overall viewing experience. The pacing and story-telling often seems skewed towards the wrong areas, and much as Shichika is a unique action hero in terms of his personality it sometimes seems as though there's something missing that would help push the series up to the next level somehow. That said, the introduction of some more hints and queries about Togame's past and who she really is has added a certain extra dimension to proceedings, while Shichika's throwaway revelation could also bring some extra depth to his character, so when moments like that are coupled with the oddly addictive art style that this show houses I certainly won't be giving up on it any time soon.

1 comment:

JW said...

I find the pacing jarring. At the end of this episode, I felt like a crash test dummy speeding from 0 to 60 and back to 0 in minutes, plotwise.

Also, character development is given in small doses. You mention Shichika's reveal, but I found Togame's brief show of regret even more telling of her character than Shichika's.

My question is if she may consider restraining the sword she found in Shichika or maybe that was just something to show for this episode and will be discarded for the rest.