Saturday, 11 December 2010

Katanagatari - Episode 12 (Completed)

Katanagatari's penultimate episode left us with possibly one of the cruellest cliff-hangers of all time - just as we seemed to be reaching the crux of Togame and Shichika's journey, so their whole quest was seemingly shattered in the course of a couple of bullets from Entou Jyuu and just as many minutes.

However, Togame's life isn't over just yet, with Emonzaemon"kindly" leaving her vital organs intact with his assault upon her, which in turn brings us over ten minutes of frank, emotional and heartfelt dialogue between our protagonist-cum-sword and his master.  While I've criticised Katanagatari for being overly verbose in the past I really can't do so here, as this final conversation between Togame and Shichika is both moving and excellently realised, peeling away the layers of Togame's personality in particular to reveal what lies beneath - a strange juxtaposition of love and selfishness which somehow manage to co-exist in a believable yet unfathomable way which leaves you wondering just what Togame's real drive and feelings were as well as whether they ever actually synchronised at all.

Of course, despite all this Togame's death leaves Shichika a broken individual mentally - gone is the need to protect either anyone else or himself, and removed is any need to hold himself back when it comes to his fighting style.  Thus, most of the remainder of the episode sees Shichika taking on the forces of the Owari Shogunate as the Shogun himself meets with Princess Hitei on the basis of what she purports to be able to promise him as a descendant of no less than Kiki Shikizaki himself.  Indeed, even Shichika's appearance all seems to be part of Hitei's plan, but that takes something of a back seat as we simply get to marvel at this new-look, incredibly powerful Shichika as he makes mincemeat of the other Deviant Blades.. not, he claims, on a hunt for revenge, but simply because he wishes to die himself.

In fact, this entire final episode of Katanagatari is really an exercise in deciphering (or rather, deciding) what is true and what is a lie.  What is the truth of Togame's relationship with Shichika?  What is Princess Hitei's true aim, if she even has one?  Does Shichika really want to die rather than act in vengeance for Togame's death?  Your answer to these questions will doubtless be subjective ones with neither a right nor a wrong response, and that's the beauty of how this series is closed out - nobody's motivations are truly clear, and it makes for a complex, fascinating and actually rather personal journey that you can take as much or as little as you wish from come its equally intriguing ending.

After a slow start, Katanagatari ends as not far short of a brilliant work - from proving ponderous and far too needlessly dialogue-heavy in its early instalments, this series slowly but surely turned itself around as its main characters grew, morphed and changed, in turn raising the stakes and providing plenty of fodder for improved action, tension, intrigue and (of course) a few almost unbearable cliff-hangers.  From looking like a show that was trying to hard to "be smart", Katanagatari ended up proving that it actually was an intelligently written piece of work that ticked almost all of the right boxes.  Our journey with Togame and Shichika took us almost an entire year, but come the end of it all it feels as though it was well worth every minute of that journey.

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