Monday, 15 November 2010

Katanagatari - Episode 11

Wow, are we really already at the penultimate episode of this series?  It seems like only yesterday that I was complaining about this series for its wordiness and lack of vibrancy, yet in the intervening months Katanagatari has evolved, grown and blossomed and very much for the better, making for an almighty piece of compelling viewing as we reach this juncture.

With just a couple of swords left to collect, we start out by back-tracking a little... well, a lot in the case of the episode's first scene, which sees a certain swordsmith talking to a wannabe young swordsmen who shows no potential with a blade in his hand - No need to guess who these two individuals from several centuries past are.  We then slip straight back to the show's present, as the only two remaining Maniwa heads soon find themselves tracked down by Emonzaemon at the behest of Princess Hitei.  Again, Emonzaemon seems to know all about at least one the ninjas he is pursuing, even claiming to be Houou Maniwa as the pair come to blows.  What is originally set-up as a battle free of specialist weapons is complicated as Pengin tosses the Deviant Blade Dokutou Mekki into the mix - the sword is caught by Houou, and chaos ensues.

This brings us back to where we were at the end of the previous episode, with Togame and Shichika (who are already thinking of their futures once this sword-hunting quest is over) coming across a barely conscious Pengin and rescuing him to find out what has happened.  This sets them off an a search for the now seemingly insane Houou, and it doesn't take them long to find him at the Maniwa's current village, leaving Pengin in the "safety" of their hotel - not that anywhere is safe when Emonzaemon Souda is on your tail.

So, Shichika and Houou face off with the latter now believing that he's Kiki Shikizaki, bringing with him revelations as to the true nature of his Deviant Blades and why they were created.  After a battle that is surprisingly brief given its potential importance, Shichika and Togame find themselves one blade short of completing their collection... or is it two blades?  There is one sword that is still yet to be perfected, but the climax to this episode and the horrifying cliffhanger that it leaves soon puts paid to that thought.

After making so many leaps and bounds as this series has progressed, rather oddly this episode of Katanagatari almost threatens to slip back into its overly verbose ways from time to time courtesy of some decidedly hefty chunks of dialogue.  Thankfully, there is a lot to explain at times during this episode, so such scenes are both passable and acceptable, although as a result Shichika's big fight for this episode is rather more brief than you might have expected.

Of course, the reason for all of this is made clear in the final moments of the episode - the agonising, horrifying, open-mouthed, heart rending moments which are unveiled superbly yet gruesomely to set up the cruellest of cliffhangers and explain everything that the last couple of episodes in particular (if not the whole series) has been building up to.  There's so much power contained in those two short, simple minutes of anime that it serves to justify so much of all that has gone before, leaving with it a tantalising subject for the final series of what has become and increasingly admirable effort.  I realise we're going to have to wait for this dénouement, but December needs to start, and fast.

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