The beginning of Katanagatari's eighth instalment sees us pay a visit to Owari, the homeland of the Yanari Shogun, and also the home of one horribly overblown and garish mansion. Just make sure you don't mention that fact to Togame though....
That aside, Togame and Shichika arrive at Owari to pay a visit to Princess Hitei - We already know how much these two females despise one another, but to call the often petty rivalry between the two of them "bitchiness" would be to put it mildly. Still, Hitei does have some information which Togame most certainly needs; namely the location of another of the Perfect Deviant Blades, Bitou Kanzashi, which is supposedly located at the site of Shikizaki Kiki's workshop at Lake Fuyou in Edo. This isn't exactly an ideal destination for business or pleasure, which this lake currently existing as little more than a wasteland, while it's also supposedly watched over by a guardian monster known as Biyorigou.
Once Hitei's ninja turned butler Emonzaemon has led the way (and left Togame and Shichika to their own designs as he pursues his own orders, facing off against another of the Maniwa ninjas), it's time to go looking for the next sword of interest, and it doesn't take long to find it - of course, Biyorigou itself turns out to be the Deviant Blade they seek, functioning as a wonderful kind of robot doll-cum-sword. From here, much of the rest of the episode deals with Togame's formulation of a strategy to defeat Bitou Kanzashi - A process that reveals new depths both to Shichika and his feelings for Togame, while also providing us with what is by a million miles the best fight sequences seen in this series thus far.
Indeed, "best thus far" could sum up a lot of aspects of this particular episode of Katanagatari. From those clumsy and dialogue-heavy early episodes, all of those wordy conversation are now put to far better use, be it for a touch of comedy or revelling in the obvious affection between Togame and Shichika. The plot also feels far stronger now that its handful of factions have been given time to breathe and grow without giving away too much about their motives or final game plans, thus making the whole sword hunt far more compelling than it seemed earlier in the series. Then there's the action, which has all too often been given second billing to other elements of the series in the past, but here the fantastically designed Bitou Kanzashi is done full justice as Shichika fights against it in some brilliantly realised scenes. If only this kind of care and attention had been afforded this series from episode one, it could well have been some kind of absolute classic - As it is, this slow-burning monthly series has turned from a bit of a drag into a potentially sparkling gem which will be made or broken by the next few episodes I would wager. If this instalment is anything to go by however, I can't wait to see what it brings us next.