Addiction and freedom and paradoxes in Katanagatari 03

katanagatari 03 shichika kills tsuruga

Shichika kills Tsuruga Meisai and gives life back to the shrine. Shichika who is an inexperienced fighter (only 2 or 3 battles) solves his far more experienced opponent’s cunning trap through his own experience in making a mistake in setting a trap. Tsuruga Meisai as a false name gives its bearer her true self. The medicine that Tsuruga Meisai administers to his broken shrine maidens become poisonous addictions. Shichika’s choise to give/bind the entirety of his being to Togame (to be her sword) liberates him completely in battle.

This episode is a litany of paradoxes, delivered well both through clever dialogue and characterization. Outside of Togame and Shichika, the bearer of Tsurugi is the most fleshed-out character in the show. True to character for the show, it (un)subtly calls attention to how the character (Tsuruga) fleshes herself out.

katanagatari 03 tsuruga meisai hospitality

She used appeals to sympathy, and other stories that revealed her character – she tried everything to avoid a fight. The whole scene where she tried to have a few drinks with Shichika is well within the technique used in the previous episode where Togame was basically being a NisiOisiN proxy and telling us viewers how the character (Shichika) is going to be portrayed.

I think the Tsuruga scene here is superior in that the plot relation is far less tenuous albeit the conversation itself is arguably less interesting. I was riveted anyway and not tempted to distraction as I was in the previous episodes. Obviously, Tsuruga is meant to be sympathetic and the show telegraphs this. And it works.

katanagatari 03 tsuruga meisai sympathy tactic 01katanagatari 03 tsuruga meisai sympathy tactic 02 katanagatari 03 tsuruga meisai sympathy tactic 03

Of all the paradoxes in this show, I enjoyed how Shichika choosing to do everything for Togame, to forfeit his free will, leads to his total freedom in the context of combat. Tsuruga questioned him about it, how it could really just be laziness. Decisions can be a hassle, and Shichika acknowledges this. He then just puts things in a cool way. He is Togame’s sword, and in this fantasy world, the sword chooses its master.

It glorified fighting, and death in the context of the ‘honorable’ battle. The paradox here: it’s great to get violently killed, as long as you were trying to kill your opponent with everything you’ve got.

katanagatari 03 anime logic with shichika tsuruga and togame

The one thing that could have made this episode a lot more enjoyable for me is if it had better animated combat scenes. Now I’m not asking it to become Sword of the Stranger, but blacking out to obscure the actual killing strike is annoying. In a swordplay anime, I want to see actual swordplay! Fancy techniques and super powers don’t have to obscure the complexity of the passes, parries, and strikes. Budget limitations I suppose, but this hasn’t stopped me from liking this episode the most so far —  not quite a paradox, but still rather ironic.

Further Reading

A take on the various swordplay anime I’ve seen through the years, noting my impressions on the portrayal of swordplay and fighting [->]

The final attacks in this episode of Katanagatari are animated in the tradition of Revolutionary Girl Utena. It is however, far more than just a swordplay show! [->]

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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13 Responses to Addiction and freedom and paradoxes in Katanagatari 03

  1. IKnight says:

    I was under the impression that this is very clearly a non-swordplay anime.

  2. donkangoljones says:

    It’s been awhile since I haven’t been able to figure out how I want to respond to a post. It usually comes to me instantly. I suppose the paradox that stood out to me was Meisai’s logic and techniques in regards to saving the broken women of that temple. I never really grasped the need to have these swords used as healing mediums for these women. Giving them swords that they likely would never wield against anyone to make them feel strong. It feeds them something false and it doesn’t seem to translate into anything they could use in the real world. Then again, maybe they really never intended to go back.

    • I don’t think they meant to go back either, but I can’t say I fully grasp how the swords ‘heal’ them.

      Maybe it’s a gender politics thing. The sword gives them the destructive power that usually only a man wields. This allows them to stand on equal ground, which becomes the foundation of their recovery… self-esteem, etc.

  3. Rakuen says:

    Really, the way I ended up looking at Tsuruga is as a character that wants to die. All her poking and prodding is to make sure Shichika is totally devoted to the idea of killing her, regardless of her background or circumstances. I mean, just look at her choice during the battle. Following him out of her absolute territory is a “blunder” of titanic proportions. In the end, this means she dies on her own terms, in honorable combat with probably the only person who could have killed her anyway. Like Ginkaku before her, she’s now liberated from her burden.

    • Very interesting. I can see how she’d want to be liberated from her burden. This is made easier because it seems her line of succession is already prepared.

      That said, the original sword was buried in the sand, outside the trap/absolute territory. This to me, is consistent with the ace in the hole/you actually made me reveal my true powers etc trope families in fighting stories. But she could very well know, as she is very familiar with the unarmed swordsmanship style, that she could easily die.

  4. redmaigo says:

    >The one thing that could have made this episode a lot more enjoyable for me is if it had better animated combat scenes. Now I’m not asking it to become Sword of the Stranger, but blacking out to obscure the actual killing strike is annoying. In a swordplay anime, I want to see actual swordplay!

    That’s because you can’t show a man killing a woman. I don’t care if she has slain armies all by herself, to put the beat down on a woman is to lessen the man who administers it.

    So you must fade to black and then only show the aftermath.

    That’s the way the world works.

    I’m sure you will get your swordplay in the next episode. The androgynous bishounen death machine that appears in the next episode will make us feel a lot less guilty about this paradox in male/female combat when Shickika lays his smack down.

    • Makes sense. Only villains are allowed to kill women on screen. This is consistent with all the gender politics in this episode.

      Even more interesting to consider is how the refugees will feel. They are not only disarmed, but also informed how the sword itself is useless against a man… an unarmed man at that. I don’t think this show will go further into this. It’d be very interesting if it did.

      • redmaigo says:

        They are not disarmed. They are free. They have their weapons, and they have their pride. It’s up to them if they put them down for a man. That is the true lesson the followers of the shrine must face: to trust a man or trust a man enough to further your own agenda or to lower your defenses in order to do what is right and/for their own happiness.

        Thus the dilemma, do you do the right thing or let them into your heart and let them do what they want?

        Shichika is an innocent. He has accepted the role as Togame’s sword and has made his decision. When a man loves a woman that is the be all end all of the relationship. To surrender and love someone or something more than you love yourself is to achieve devekluth. Devekluth is an old Kabbalistic concept which is to annihilate yourself and become one with God. To sacrifice who you are to become one with something greater than yourself.

        Shichika has made that choice.

        I love this person good or bad. I accept the person right or wrong.

        It is powerful . It is dangerous. But it does make you more than you can ever be. It’s almost like when you have your first child. Something so exhilarating that you could drown in it and die with no regret.

        I think that is how the refugees feel when they came to the shrine and met Tsuruga. To live and die for someone or something even when you have been abused and used by the world up to that point. No matter what you’ve been through you have found something and someone that you can believe in more than yourself.

        • Interesting. It will all depend on how the battle is accounted for. I assume it will be discussed at great length over the following weeks at the shrine.

          Good work in illustrating what makes Shichika powerful based on the choice he made. It is one of the paradoxes he presented to Tsuruga, and it isn’t a laziness or aversion to the hassle of decision-making. Rather, it is very powerful exercise of freedom, and it yields a tremendous kind of liberation during combat — which is the fulfillment of Shichika’s being (in the world).

  5. Kurotowa says:

    I do note that, again, Togame misses the climactic battle. Or at least doesn’t see Shichika pull out his fancy special moves. This is becoming a running theme, and I wonder what the eventual payoff will be.

  6. Pingback: Redmaigo on Shichika Yasuri of Katanagatari and the Choices that Await the Shrine Maidens « The Ghosts of Discussions

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