Normally, you'd expect a series that's about to enter perhaps its most dramatic storyline yet to promote said story arc without giving too much away, keeping its powder dry and its cards close to its chest. Not so Katanagatari, which happily told us the crux of what was going to happen in this episode last month.
That said, this latest monthly instalment of the series begins with the welcome (or is it perhaps bad?) return of Shichika's sister Nanami - After seeing her terrifying abilities a few episodes back before she set off on her own journey, the Nanami we meet here seems to be all the more terrifying, completely destroying the village of Shireizan and all who reside there so that she can take hold of one of the deviant blades, Akutou Bita, safe in the knowledge that her possession of it will soon send her brother and Togame in her direction.
As it turns out, Shireizan wasn't the only target of her journey, as she holes herself up in a holy temple for swordsmen (which she also decimates the population of), while also later revealing herself to be responsible for wiping out the Itezora who we didn't meet last episode... because they were all dead but for one. There's little time for sympathy however, as brother and sister are thrown into a face-to-face battle, with Shichika seemingly having little chance against his sibling and her power to memorise and use any technique that she sees only once with no practice. With this in mind, and with Nanami's use of Akutou Bita negating her normal bodily weakness, Shichika is understandably left defeated and dejected, sending him into a spiral of depression until Togame snaps him out of it. Eventually, we're built up to a rematch between the two, where Togame's worth as a strategist finally seems to be proved while Nanami also gets what she wants in a climax that takes her to where we knew we were headed, but not without some big surprises and revelations along the way.
It probably shouldn't be a surprise that after Nanami stole the show back in episode four that she does so again here; indeed, she proves to be all the more fascinating in this episode as she bubbles throughout with undercurrents that make her difficult to read in absolute terms. She seems driven by demons, yet her only real determination is to be killed, and it's equally hard to pin-point whether possessing one of the supposedly corrupting deviant blades has actually changed her behaviour at all, especially when you consider the contradictory nature of the acts she's carried out in order to reach her final goal. Put simply, she's a fascinating character, and it's actually rather a shame to see her written out of it at this juncture when she could easily have illuminated this series to the end.
Thankfully it isn't all about Nanami however, and watching the growing understand between Shichika and Togame also proves to be great to watch (albeit more comical at times) - From a pairing that it was difficult to care much about initially, they now make for an easy target to get behind and cheer (or, rather, cheerio!). The combination of these elements make for what is easily the best episode of Katanagatari thus far - Its plot, script and dialogue were all sharp and well-paced, and the animation team also had funny by throwing in some video game spoofs to break things up a little early on. If only all of Katanagari had exhibited this sense of knowing what to with its craft, for this was an instalment which put on glittering show all of the expectations I had for the series as a whole - Expectations which, in some cases, I'd argue it shouldn't have taken seven episodes to meet.