It's incredible just how far Katanagatari has progressed on its journey so far - not so much in terms of the plot and its sword collecting premise, but rather in how its turned from an overly verbose and slightly dull series into something that I genuinely look forward to the next instalment well in advance. So, here we are at episode nine, with Outou Nokogiri the next target for Togame and her human sword.
This particular Deviant Blade can be found residing with the current head of the Shinou Issou dojo, Kiguchi Zanki, a woman who seems to be quite the stickler for doing things right, refusing to fight against Shichika on account of his lacking the requisite sword and armour. Of course, to the head of Kyotouryuu family, trying to use a sword is a huge impediment, and thus Shichika is defeated in two seconds flat. Fortunately for himself and Togame, Kiguchi eventually realises that this made for a rather unfair bout, and offers a rematch, but only after training Shichika in the sword arts practised by the Shinou Issou school.
If Shichika's attitude towards Kiguchi Zanki was enough to make Togame jealous (and of course it was, it doesn't take much to rouse her jealousy it seems), then Shichika's daily training with Kiguchi sends this jealousy into the stratosphere, courtesy of a few unfortunate incidents which occur in time-honoured anime fashion ("oops, I tripped and fell on the pretty girl in an awkward position", and so on) just as Togame happens to be looking in on her comrade, leaving her more enraged and upset by the day.
However, credit has to go to Togame as she turns things around to become the real genius and star of the remainder of the episode - first, by using her feminine charms to manoeuvre Shichika into the position she requires, and then secondly by proving her strategic genius via some decidedly underhand yet incredibly successful tactics that allows even the inept Shichika to win largely by using a sword rather than himself. Thus, another sword is now tucked under the belt, but things are only going to get more difficult still from here... not least with the remaining Maniwa ninjas now holding a Deviant Blade of their own, Dokutou Mekki, while Emonzaemon continues to do Princess Hitei's bidding in his own frighteningly cool and accomplished manner.
While this episode of Katanagatari was never likely to compete with its direct predecessor in terms of action by its very nature, it did provide something that no previous episode has managed in such depth - A feast of all things Togame. While this cute yet scheming and slightly unhinged girl has been a larger than life character from the start, we get to see the full gamut of her wide emotional range here, taking her from seductive to angry to jealous to cunning in the blink of an eye. Everything about this instalment might as well have been a Togame tribute, with every shot, extreme close-up and camera angle designed to capture everything about her and the highs and lows of her experience on this occasion. Although this meant that the episode lacked the grit, action and relative depth of the past couple of outings, and while it employed some rampant clichés (and at least one terrible pun), it was nonetheless outstandingly fun to watch. Togame has been growing in stature throughout this series from a seemingly clumsy strategist who was getting by on luck and little else - whether she was simply hiding her real abilities early on or whether Shichika's presence has altered her, the Togame of recent episodes is far more of a force to be reckoned with, no matter who you are. Given that growth, she deserved an episode in the spotlight, and boy did she get it.