In this post, family infighting as a source of tragic drama.
But first off, an amazing episode. If anything, Katanagatari continues to present novel ways of serving fetishes and taboos to its viewers. To me it’s as if the source material had such a wealth of this, that the execution of the anime needed to do justice by doing its own tricks.
If in episode two the show riffed on the meta of writing and storytelling (Togame writing her report and insisting on catchphrases for Shichika) via dialogue, this time the direction and animation style does its own editorial on storytelling. Let us look into the structure of the show:
The structure of Katanagatari is quite comparable to that of a video game. There is a main quest that is rather mysterious – Togame’s overarching goal, and this main quest is fulfilled by accomplishing a series of item fetch quests.
Each quest item is guarded by a sub-boss character, who Shichika must fight in a way that very much resembles a video game boss battle: the boss has a gimmick, which needs to be countered or worked around for victory.
Parallel to this is the sub-plots of other sub-bosses, most notably Nanami. When she fights, there is still a semblance of a boss battle but she is shown to be the overwhelming boss of bosses she encounters. Leading up to the encounter between Shichika and Nanami, Katanagatari chooses to tell the story via video game tropes”:
The World Map
Quest-specific conversable NPC icon (the exclamation point to alert the player)
Visual Novel-style dialogue screen
Action game view recounting Nanami’s siege on the temple
The meat of this episode however is resolving Nanami’s story. It introduces new things about the Yasuri family as a whole, the main thing being the readiness of its members to kill each other, and the acceptance of each member to be killed by the others. Killing within the family is a serious taboo. I am ignorant of a culture that holds this to be an acceptable thing.
There’s something powerful in the idea of sibling killing. The feeling I have watching it seems to move through my guts and not just sit upon my brow. This is perhaps because it is the first story of death I probably ever learned, and indeed the first story of killing in the Judaic and Christian mythologies: that of Cain and Abel.
Upon their exile from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve started having children. Bereft of free food, the legacy of the children of Adam and Eve was to strive for sustenance. Their eldest son Cain became a farmer, and his brother Abel became a shepherd.
Even so, the tribe of Adam saw it fit to make thanksgiving to God despite the curse of strife after the exile from Eden. Cain offered some of his harvest, and Abel sacrificed a lamb. God showed favor to Abel, which drove Cain to a jealous rage. He asked Abel to follow him somewhere, and that place was where Cain committed the first murder.
God asked Cain where his brother was, and to which he answered “Why, am I my brother’s keeper?” For his acts (and probably the way he talked back at God) God cursed Cain to wander the Earth. If Adam and Eve (and their offspring) weren’t cursed enough, Cain was doubly cursed.
The murder is significant in that it was between siblings. A younger sibling is one’s first competition. Where once you’d think the world is your birthright, here comes another with just as much claim – and in the case of Shichika, usurped everything Nanami could have had for herself.
While she harbored no real malice towards him, it was a convincing enough pretext along with the insinuation that their father was in fact exiled on their island for murdering their mother, along with the fact that Shichika killed their father to become the 7th head of they Kyotoryuu martial art, that Nanami was prepared to Kill Shichika in their duel.
But instead she really wanted to get killed by him instead? But why by him? A convoluted way of suicide that happens by way of sororicide… is it just for the romance of it all? Nobody else was worth getting killed by? Is it just a means to deliver the deviant sword? Good trade?
Whatever her real reasons, the killing between family members is a particular taboo, which in this show feels like the other side of the coin; on one side we have the fetishes the show indulges. Katanagatari remains a novel way to serve course upon course of fetishes and taboos.