Katanagatari, “Zettō Kanna”
Posted by Doug on January 28, 2010
I’m a huge fan of Nisio Isin—he is the creator of Bakemonogatari, which came out of nowhere last July and planted itself firmly on my short list of great anime. Hearing that another of his Nisio Isin’s works was to be animated naturally piqued my interest, and now having seen the first episode of Katanagatari, I can say that this is shaping up to be another top-tier anime.
The story goes something like this: Togame, a strategist (and daughter of the now-deceased leader of the last rebellion against the shogun) seeks the help of the head of the Yaguri family (who is heir to the ultimate style of swordsmanship, which paradoxically uses no sword) to track down and recover twelve legendary swords. She travels to the island where the head of the Yaguri family was exiled, only to find that the head of the Yaguri family is now a young man named Shichika.
The Major Characters (so far):
Twenty-four-year-old Yaguri Shichika is the seventh head of the Kyotō (“swordless”) school of swordsmanship, in which he uses his body as a “sword” (so, technically, it’s an unarmed fighting style and not a style of swordsmanship, but nevermind that). His father used the Kyotō swordsmanship to defeat the leader of the rebellion twenty years ago, but the shogun feared his talents and banished him to a remote island. Shichika has lived most of his life on that island with father and his older sister Nanami, training to master the Kyotō style. After his father died a year ago, he became the family head. Once Shichika learns Togame’s secret, he readily agrees to help her in her quest.
Shichika’s voice actor is Hosoya Yoshimasa, who has done voice work in a number of other series, but none that I recognize.
Togame styles herself as a strategist, working for the shogun to recover the twelve legendary swords crafted by the master smith Shikizaki Kiki. Secretly, she is the daughter of Hida Takahito, the leader of the rebellion twenty years ago, and is amassing the swords for her own purposes. She’s definitely clumsy, and a bit of a cloudcuckoolander (she cannot trust the help of those who seek the swords for money or honor, so she tells Shichika that she wants him to help her out of love…for her…and yeah, they just met), but I’m not sure if the latter is just obfuscating stupidity or not. At times her right eye turns darker and the pupil changes to a cross; it’s not clear as of yet if this indicates she is using some form of special power or not.
Togame’s voice actress is Tamura Yukari, who has done a lot of voice acting. Most of the roles I recognize her from are secondary characters: she was Midori in My-HiME, Iori in Idolmaster: Xenoglossia, Ichigo in Onegai Teacher and Onegai Twins, and Lu Amano in the little-known but stupidfun Miami Guns.
Nanami is Shichika’s older sister (at first I thought she was his younger sister due to her small size and soft-spoken nature). She’s not in good health, it seems—likely this will be a plot point later on—but she’s quick and alert enough to save Shichika and Togame from an assassin’s surprise attack. It would not surprise me at all to find out that she is capable of some serious Kyotō-style juju.
It just occurred to me that Nanami and Shichika’s names are both written with the kanji for “seven”, which can be pronounced nana or shichi. I wonder if that’s a pun; Nisio Isin has a love of puns and clever turns of phrase, which unfortunately tend to be utterly lost in the translation…
In any case, Nanami’s voice actress is Nakahara Mai, who also has done a considerable amount of voice acting (and that’s an understatement). She was Mai in My-HiME and My-Otome, Peppo in Gankutsuou, Midori in Midori Days, Maika in Magikano (I loved her in this role), Captain Nanaha Misaki in Tactical Roar (another good but unknown series), Ritsuko in Idolmaster: Xenoglossia, Nola in Spice and Wolf, Shino in Kannagi…man, the list just goes on and on. Hopefully Nanami won’t get relegated to minor-character status in the episodes to come.
Kōmori is one of the twelve heads of the Maniwa corps of ninja, who are also seeking out Shikizaki Kiki’s legendary swords. Kōmori has two noteworthy abilities (beyond the standard-issue crazy ninja skillz): he can change his appearance to mimic anyone, male or female, and he can store fairly large objects inside his body by swallowing them (he carries a complete change of clothes for use as a disguise and a meter-long unsheathed sword this way. No, really). Also, he possesses one of Shikizaki’s swords, the Zettō Kanna, which according to Kōmori, fills its wielder with the desire to cut people’s heads off. Thinking of heads, what is the deal with that ball cap, really? Strangely, it doesn’t detract much, but it is a severe anachronism in a series that otherwise seems very rooted in feudal-era Japan.
Kōmori’s voice actor is Suzuki Chihiro, who has done a lot of minor parts in a variety of anime…and he was fricking Arima Sōichirō in His and Hers Circumstances? Whoa, that one came as a surprise to me—the characters of Kōmori and Sōichirō not only sound but act so utterly different. I guess it’s no different from a movie or TV actor playing radically different parts, but still, that came as a bit of a surprise.
The Opening and Ending (both in HD!)
Just for the record, the songs are “Meiya Kadenrō” by Kuribayashi Minami (opening), and “Tasogare no Getsuka” by Yōsei Teikoku (ending).
I really like the style of Katanagatari. At first I thought the way they drew the characters (in particular, the eyes) would be a huge turn-off for me, but it has grown on me. All in all Katanagatari art reminds me of Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei art-wise. I mean, really, I am totally digging the art in this series. It looks like it’s time for some more gratuitous screencaps!
The story so far is rather talky, and kind of bogs down a little, but then again, this is the first episode, so they might just be getting all the exposition out of the way so that future episodes can get right down to the nitty-gritty. This episode was fifty minutes long, twice as long as a regular anime episode. As I understand it, one fifty-minute episode of Katanagatari is going to be released each month (I’m not sure of the exact schedule), for a total of twelve episodes. I like the double-length episodes, as they allow the sequence of events to flow better than splitting it up into two regular-length episodes; however, patience is not my strong suite, and waiting a month for each new episode is going to be a challenge.
So, it pretty much goes without saying that I’ll be following Katanagatari each month as the new episodes are released. I’m not going to add Katanagatari to the Every Anime I Can Remember Reviewed page quite yet, but I am fairly certain that if I did, it would be at least Grade A and possibly even Grade S. It will probably be years before this series comes stateside, but I’m hoping that when they do, they get Chris Patton and Luci Christian (Sousuke and Kanami from Full Metal Panic!) to play Shichika and Togame. They would be perfect for these roles.