Patricide, Uxoricide, Fratricide, Sororicide: the Sad Family of the Yasuri (Katanagatari 07)

katanagatari 07 yasuri couple togame

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:

[Mazui]_Katanagatari_-_07_[200C3AB0].mkv_snapshot_44.11_[2010.07.13_17.19.28]

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

katanagatari 07 world map

Quest-specific conversable NPC icon (the exclamation point to alert the player)

katanagatari 07 quest-specific converseable NPC

Visual Novel-style dialogue screen

katanagatari 07 VN dialogue screen togame shichika

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.

katanagatari 07 nanami shichika death blow -- a commenter in the post on ep 03 said that it's kind of taboo to depict a woman being killed by the hero -- this episode serves a whole host of taboos

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?

[Mazui]_Katanagatari_-_07_[200C3AB0].mkv_snapshot_46.04_[2010.07.13_17.22.02]

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.

Further Reading

The Cain and Abel story
6 Reasons Why Katanagatari is Kind of Awesome

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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23 Responses to Patricide, Uxoricide, Fratricide, Sororicide: the Sad Family of the Yasuri (Katanagatari 07)

  1. Will of the Wisps says:

    Perhaps it is not the killing of sibling alone, but the killing of someone one loves dearly. For me, beraft of brothers, I did not find the story of Abel and Cain as horrifying. (However, I do now thanks to the connection you made.) I did find the slaying of someone dear to one beyond contemplation in this episode.

    Then again, I was raised in Communist China before booking it out of there. So my emotional development is probably stunted.

    • Indeed, killing a parent is just as loaded or taboo. However, literary tradition is rife with parent vs child conflicts resulting in fighting and at times violence. Children rising up against parents is not an uncommon theme.

      For other “loved ones” the fear isn’t automatic because of the lack of blood relations. The blood relations make the taboo what it is I think. You can’t be biologically more similar than this and killing a blood relation is something like turning on yourself.

      So your context is the 1 child policy? My wife is also an only child but she was raised with an older foster sister, who was the one who felt the brunt of jealous feelings especially since she was not the true offspring.

      • Will of the wisps says:

        The idea of killing sibling close in blood being seen as killing oneself is definitely an interesting concept. I did come from the one-child policy, but I think the part abut blunted emotional development has more to do with the government’s policy at that time — emotions are considered counter-revolutionary, including love, so a generation grew up never discussing love with their parents. In one sense, it could be said that that generation did not have a model for how love should be during the critical period of childhood, so they have problem with love and emotions latter in life.

  2. Panther says:

    Shichika stopped their father from killing Nanami by killing him. In short he did it out of defense of Nanami. But as Nanami said, at the time she was already prepared to die, and had been looking forward to it to end her life.

    She did not know of anyone else, cooped up on the island as she had been. She decided to choose the person she was closest to and knew the most, that of her brother, whose hands she wanted to end her life with. She was seeking death, and her brother was the most fitting executioner for her. Add to this the fact that she mentions it is alright for Yasuri family members to kill one another, even though she probably does not truly believe it herself. There is little way to prove that Mutsue killed his wife, and Shichika did kill their father only out of defense for his sister.

    Of course, Shichika at the time had little idea of “right and wrong” being raised on an island apart from the rest of the world, and the taboo of family members killing one another. However, after the past 6 months of traveling with Togame he came to learn about life and preserving it, the happiness that comes with traveling with Togame, and lots of other little things, which was the reason he cried even as he delivered the final blow against his sister and called out her name in an attempt to rescue her.

    • I did not know of the context of Shichika and Matsu’s duel. Is this something directly mentioned?

      If I were to follow your line of thought and Shichika is completely a-moral, does it really follow that he would kill in order to protect Nanami? Wouldn’t it make sense to let her die and side with the master? It’s certainly less riskier in the immediate sense — and I can’t really credit Shichika of long-term judgment either.

  3. Jack says:

    While conflict between parents and children is fairly common, the brother-sister dynamic seems less fraught by serious conflict.

    Sisters are quite often there to be protected by their brothers : be it Annerose von Grünewald in “Legend of the Galactic Heroes” or Nunnally in Code Geass or Kumi in “Hajime no Ippo”.

    More interesting and devious works, such as “Revolutionary Girl Utena” enjoy playing with that dynamic and placing it on it’s head : see Touga/Nanami and Miki/Kozue.

    Considering this is a work by Nisio Isin I have little doubt that he’s deliberately playing with our expectations of how these two characters should interact.

    For a start, Shichika should be far more powerful then Nanami, but actually the reverse is true.

    She should also be more passive, while he is out adventuring. Yet, at the start of the episode all we see is Shichika riding around on a boat whilst Nanami covers great distances and destroys many foes. And so on.

    While I think that is interesting that the show chooses to highlight the “videogame-ness” of it’s narrative structure I don’t know if it’s a particularly wise decision. It certainly provides a visual gag and references another medium but that does little for me when it’s stretched out for more then a few seconds.

    Film (and by extension television, animation etc) has it’s own powerful visual grammar that works to great effect. Sacrificing that to showcase a video-game inspired sequence or two (from a variety of game that is lacking in visual flair itself) seems like a bad trade off. I’d much rather see interesting cinematography, mise-en-scene, editing and so forth.

    • Very good observations.

      Did the video game referencing seem overlong for you? I find the whole sequence shorter than the Togame writing her report and picking out a catchphrase for Shichika sequence bit.

      I do think that it is the superfluous one between the two, an exercise made by the makers of the show instead of NisiOisiN. I thought it was clever, and called attention to the structure of the narrative overall, which seems rather solid despite the surprises the show has managed to pull (on me at least).

      • Will of the wisps says:

        I thought the novelty of it was entertaining. I personally laughed when I figured out what the studio was trying to do. I think it is like a parody — one finds it interesting how far the act is carried, and how will the studio parody something (in this case video games).

  4. Chronolynx says:

    As for why it had to be Shichika, I thought it was that only he could kill her. Back in episode fur, or whenever it was, I remember he saying that her body wouldn’t let her die, and I took that to mean it would defend itself regardless of her desire to die. Thus the need to disguise her suicide as a duel against the only person she thought could possibly kill her.

    • You could be right, her body could be one of those that would defend itself automatically and relentlessly. Only Shichika being the strongest fighter in the land would have any hope of beating her. And yet it still seems like she let him win.

      That said, I suppose that it’s less sororicide or fratricide that is the issue here but rather euthanasia.

  5. Universal Bunny says:

    I apologise for sidetracking from the post topic. I want to highlight an aspect of Shichika and indeed the show that was little raised: glorification of murder. Please don’t take this as tree hugging whining for I do like a slaughterfest called Hellsing OVA among other things. But in contrast to Hellsing – or better yet Shigurui – Katanagatari glorifies the aesthetic of murder. To put in an obscure way: Hellsing is Clarkson where as Katanagatari tries to be May, but fails unlike Shigurui. Put another way: Hellsing is all about “cool” and “awesome” with no pretension to depth of plot or characterisation, it doesn’t attempt to justify deaths. It’s fairly mindless entertainment and poses itself as such.

    Katanagatari is different. There are attempts at moral dilemmas, there is philosophising, as well as fair dose of “deep” whatever that means. None of these are a problem were they not used for a glorification of the aesthetic of murder. I can’t recall who of the bloggers described Shigurui as an anime that presents swords solely as tools that damage and mutilate bodies and (possibly false memory) as a story largely devoid of romanticisation of death. If I were to stretch these words: Shigurui presents an ugly savage that exists in humans. By contrast, Katanagatari glorifies that savage by replacing ugliness with fantasy.

    Just follow the plot: the guy lives on an island where he is approached to help recover some blades. Ok, says he, and goes off to kill a ninja. Granted, the ninja started it. But our hero then goes and kills a guy sitting in a middle of a desert. What for? He then goes and kills a girl running a convent. What did she do to our hero? Than he offs a swordsman (though we don’t see it) who probably didn’t cause many problems either. His next two victims live but by that point he is a fairly rotten hero. He then goes to kill his sister, and while the affair is complex using a haircut as a last excuse makes me wonder which of the siblings should be first in line to see a psychiatrist.

    I can’t figure out if the authors continue to present Shichika in positive light because they actually see him as such or because they want to raise him before slamming his character into the ground.

    • Hmmm.

      I think there is a moral issue in the show. Shichika is a “sword that ‘shouldn’t’ care what his wielder thinks.” He is a tool, as opposed to an autonomous (moral) agent.

      I think it gets played up quite obviously, without being overbearing with it. Swords are for cutting, that’s plain and the show never questions it. The very idea of “deviant blades” makes the cutting aspect of the sword never questionable.

      Shichika is the sword that is superior to the 12 deviant blades. It will be proven so because while those swords are ‘only’ for cutting, Shichika through Togame will become something else, something ‘more,’ if he isn’t one already — as Nanami laments.

      Shichika’s softness, or dullness — his reticence to cut (kill) is against the purpose of the sword, but is well within the realm of a sword wielder. He is becoming more samurai than sword, someone worth loving and being in a relationship with — as opposed to something to own or use.

  6. Universal Bunny says:

    The authors may call him what they want, but he is human. He and only he is responsible for his actions. I recall another “sword”: Shinta/Kenshin from Samurai X. In Trust and Betrayal he was – just like Shichika – presented as a sword, but not only did he understand his actions to a great degree, but also bore the sins of those actions. Where as, at least for the moment, Shichika is largely oblivious to the question “why”. He ignores the question with, as you say, “I’m Togame’s sword; swords don’t ask questions”. For me, he fails as a character because he doesn’t steer any emotions in me; I’ll exaggerate a bit and say: he isn’t human, yet drawn as such.

    • The conceit of the story and his characterization is that he is a tool; he belongs to the tradition of emotionless characters (more like the girls than anyone else) such as Nagato (from Haruhi), Ruri (from Nadesico), and Ayanami (from Evangelion). These are tools that accomplish their missions… while in varying degrees discover their own identity/human agency.

      He ‘fails’ as a character because he doesn’t stir emotions from you? This is strange. I know of brilliant characterizations that don’t particularly make me emotional or inspire love or hatred from me. Kaiji (Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji), Runge (Monster), Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell films and TV series) are apt examples I think.

      Remaining indifferent to a character isn’t the best barometer for evaluation I think. It can matter immensely, but I think the hyperbole of ‘fail’ is comical.

      I don’t even think the ambition for Shichika is that high. The ambition for this story as a whole is cleverness and novelty as entertainment — as opposed to the Liberal Humanist ideal of timelessness. It’s not quite over yet, but from how it has conducted itself so far I think Katanagatari is beautiful.

      • Universal Bunny says:

        Good points that make me confess: the idea that art fails when it does not excite any kind of emotion is not my own, but the one i’ve borrowed i forget from where. Furthermore, my criticism of Katanagatari is not based “objective” problems of the show. Rather, the criticism probably reflect my inability to understand or accept the show that is – as you say – beautiful in many of its aspects. I want to like it, but can’t and the latter requires a justification.

        • I get you. It really shouldn’t be a problem when we don’t like a show that people we like or find interesting are all excited about.

          Being an open-minded moderate, I actually get flak for ‘failing’ to appreciate shows like Strike Witches, which is simply something that doesn’t appeal to my tastes, but fans who are friends are tempted to cast me as some kind of prude or curmudgeon (or gasp, HATER) when I am quite a fan of fanservice (just not the perpetually exposed panties of little girls kind).

          Shockingly for some, I dropped Last Exile, Mushishi, and despite finishing FLCL I have no fondness for it whatsoever. All are acclaimed shows, and I don’t think there’s something objectively wrong about them at all, just shows that don’t engage me particularly.

          In many cases though, I simply just wasn’t ready for the shows: I dropped 9 (yes NINE) Gundam shows before finally liking my first which led to me becoming a very devoted fan. I had dropped GitS: SAC before devouring all of it recently and becoming quite a fan of the franchise.

          I do think that it’s good that you share your comments and opinions. It allows for this kind of conversation that I think can lead to better perspective (for myself at least).

  7. I felt watching this that Nanami was living out her life as a sword, though ironically in rebellion to her father’s wishes. And also because of that, I didn’t think she could see past being a sword. Shichika in her eyes had softened. Though he had gained experience in battle, socially and in human emotion, he still seemed no more threatened by him. That made me come to the conclusion that she was fulfilling her (perpetually) dying wish to live her life as a sword, something that would normally be her birthright.

    She lived her life on the outside, watching. And in the end she lived and died like the family she grew up in. In that way it’s somewhat normal. The whole family killing family thing is still f*cked up, don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way. I can’t even say it’s a modern or civilized thing. Pretty much 99% of the time in human history, it’s just not cool! I’m just saying, for her, it was her way of being normal.

    http://moby.to/dyu9zb

    • That’s an interesting way of looking at it, though I admit that I’d never would’ve come to that conclusion.

      While there was nothing normal about their orphaned situation… they hit puberty with no other humans in sight, to them that must have been quite normal-feeling. At least as far as Shichika was concerned he was fine being living out his life on the island. He isn’t very curious about things at all.

      Nanami however, is very intelligent and I still don’t know what kind of ambition she must have nurtured — then suppressed at some point. It’s all very interesting to me.

  8. Vendredi says:

    Having finally caught this episode of Katanagatari – having put the series on hold for a little while – I was actually caught off guard by the video game references, because the specific reference, right down to the sound effects, was definitely a call-out to a very specific game – Muramasa: the Demon Blade – a side scrolling game for Wii by Vanillaware that also revolves around the collection of swords, and has a similar abbreviated art style. There’s some definite intentionality in the comparison – even the exclamation points and Japanese drum sound effects are the same. I’ll let you compare for yourself:

    • Holy cow… you’re right!

      Referencing is, I think more of a web or matrix than a linear line, as if chronological. There’s a time component of course, but I seldom enjoy “who borrowed from whom first?” arguments as if this settled issues of overall quality.

      • Fronzel says:

        I find this interesting as one of the endings to Muramasa creates a situation so similar to Katanagatari (powerful male fighter in wholly willing service to a physically weak woman on a quest to collect strange and dangerous swords) that I thought it was a deliberate joking reference to it, the original novel having come out a few years before.

        The whole thing might be an affectionate counter-reference.

  9. Patches says:

    You know, I am also reminded of Hyakka Ryouran: Samurai Girls

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