If the fifth episode was rather dull and felt cheap, this episode (six) fulfilled some of the expectations I had for the show as well as surprised me in good ways. I have not read the source material, but I will surmise that NisiOisiN is very clever with manipulating character and plot elements to come up with novel twists that keep the story interesting.
So here’s a list of what keeps me watching this show.
A casual narrative tone that makes it feel so easy
If there was one thing about Katanagatari that catches me off guard, and particularly during this episode, it’s how casual it is when it comes to what should have felt as dramatic or remarkably meaningful plot turns, and/or revelations. Everything in this episode moves very brisk and happens matter-of-factly, that it leaves me the impression that there is so much story in the material, and/or that NisiOisiN has me eating off the palm of his hand. It’s a pretty good feeling, to be played this way by an interesting work.
The cavalier attitude towards sad or tragic stories
From Ginkaku Uneri from episode 02 and Meisai Tsuruga from episode 03, to Itezora Konayuki in this episode; there are tragic or at least sad back stories to them. They are either doomed as if by fate, or in the case of Konayuki she is the last of her people… Katanagatari acts quite cavalier and even cheerful about these things, mainly through Shichika’s character progression. He is a sword, impartial but deadly.
In this episode Togame quizzes him whether he is ready to kill Konayuki despite her age and her circumstances. He says yes, but manages to spare her life. It’s all part of his growing humanity, that Togame is investing herself in. This will be further tested next episode.
Playfulness with carrots that feed the database animals
In the previous episode, the antagonist of the month (Azekura Kanara) takes romantic interest towards Togame. This interest is based on how she reminds him of his younger sister. The imoto-as-romance-object is a fairly often fetishized in anime and manga. This episode, the form of the antagonist is that of an 11 year old girl – a legitimate loli character. Togame manufactures romantic subtext by acting jealous and insinuating Shichika is attracted to her. Lolita characters are routine subjects of fetishes.
The playfulness here isn’t the fact that there are fetishized elements. It’s how otherwise non-database/fetish elements and plot turns are converted almost as an afterthought, but I to me obviously otherwise. I suspect NisiOisiN knows which side his bread is buttered on.
The love story is no joke, but it is funny
As opposed to a slow build up filled with half-starts, the primary couple became such moments after their initial meeting. They grow into the relationship already as partners. It is interesting how Shichika made up his mind knowing Togame’s identity, interpreting her seeking him (despite how his father killed hers) as a grand act of pride-swallowing. Casually enough, he reveals this to her this episode. She finds it endearing, but doesn’t uncomplicate her desire to exact revenge on his family. This may complicate her relationship with Nanami.
Shichika’s innocence in all matters sexual allows Togame to indulge her own halting, and seemingly chaste acts of gratification. The net effect is a teasing presentation.
The Ninjas are a Lie
The Maniwa Clan were set up (by Togame) as the principal antagonists in the narrative. The story is set up as a straightforward series of fetch-quests involving battles with the ninjas who possess one of the each 12 deviant blades. Instead the Maniwani are mostly fodder for either Shichika, and Shichika’s eventual opponents. The ninjas, who are always portrayed to have some power, competence, and ability – with some effort to appear novel and clever, serve to make sure we understand how powerful Shichika’s opponent actually is. Which leads us to…
Nanami will be the next opponent
I predicted that she will be the final boss, but Katanagatari proves to be hard to predict yet again. Nanami, had she been male, would’ve been the 7th Head of the Kyotooryu Swordsmanship Style… perhaps. Her father saw something truly monstrous in her that convinced him that she shouldn’t be trained in the martial arts. Three dead Maniwani (the most in a single episode) proved to us how powerful she is, capable of duplicating any technique she sees once, perfecting it if she sees it another time.
She started collecting deviant blades on her own, and the plot contrivances deliciously set up the confrontation for next episode. I prefer this over the cheesy younger sister as final boss scenario.
Database what? A theory by Azuma Hiroki about how contemporary viewers and specifically otaku consume media