Moments of 2010: The Failure and Triumph of Katanagatari (Finale)

I’m not sure if the conceits of the show hang together in the end (I had just finished watching the finale), but right now it feels that way. And, for feeling that way, I feel rather fulfilled. The very ending gave me a “chin up, kid” kind of impression, something that I’d rather do without since I’d prefer a straight up harrowing tragedy of emotional wreckage, but I propose that it ties in symbolically with the word that can represent the subversive spirit of the show:


Togame dies, and her final wishes to Shichika include the quest to have the whole of Japan to adopt the word “cheerio” for encouragement.

This is representative of the whole conceit of altering the course of post-medieval Japanese history. Shikizaki Kiki saw a future Japan destroyed by foreigners (WWII, if my history is correct) and therefore seeks to correct the historical distortion of the Yanari Shogunate (which replaced the historical Tokugawa; again, if my history is correct). Kiki was a soothsayer from a clan of soothsayers. He used his ability to obtain designs and production methods to make his line of deviant blades.

Whether this succeeds or doesn’t is not quite resolved; even if the Yanari shogunate ended, I’m not sure if who replaced them is historically accurate. The primary sponsor of the Shikizaki plan: Princess Hitei, didn’t seem so thoroughly concerned with the outcome as much as she was concerned that the plan play out either way.

But if we can be fairly certain, that “cheerio” never caught on, and that Hitei never replaced Togame in Shichika’s heart – not that Hitei seemed that interested to do so… whether the real history (as experienced by the present Japanese) is affected  as a result of the events of Katanagatari is pretty much moot.

A useless exercise, except…

Katanagatari is showing me that a way to make a love story memorable is to destroy it. And it did. It destroyed the romance of it, and yet it becomes a romance in a greater sense… as Shichika plays out the machinations of Shikizaki and Hitei, it is very important to note that he isn’t quite doing it for Togame’s sake.

In the end every character retreats to the self, become smaller human beings… but truer, more authentic, and perhaps more beautiful in my eyes. Ironies abound… how the living weapon that is the 7th Master of the Kyotoryuu becomes truly human in his desire not so much to keep loving, but in his desire to die.

He did not lay siege to the Shogun’s fortress to exact revenge. He came there to die on his own terms. And in attempting to do so, he actually fails to die at all.


And yet, it leaves me with this yearning for what could no longer happen… a capricious journey throughout Japan by two strange people who fell for each other. Katanagatari reminds me of this sure-handedly by having Hitei follow Shichika in his travels, and having Shichika utter his and Togame’s shared words to her.

I feel like going further, but at that point I think I’d be already torn to pieces.

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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24 Responses to Moments of 2010: The Failure and Triumph of Katanagatari (Finale)

  1. ZeroOBK says:

    Couple interesting things:
    – Shichika’s desire to die after Togame’s death mirrors the desire of Nanami. Both are absurdly powerful. Neither can die against people who use swords (as a matter of narrative at least).

    – Togame and Hitei have similar personalities, except they’re reversed. Togame was an openly emotional person but could not help but treat everything as a pawn, whether it be Shichika or even her own emotions. Hitei comes across as using people as pawns with no problems, but does have a soft side to her.

    – Shichika gains a “cross-shaped scar” on his left cheek like another famous fictional swordsman.

    • 3 =! couple


      That aside,

      1. That does seem like a nice symmetrical touch (I’m a fool for symmetry so thanks for pointing it out).
      2. Another symmetrical touch, Hitei is the truly sentimental one. It also points out how this works in the juxtaposition between Shichika and Togame; though obviously Shichika is not a schemer in this comparison.
      3. The power of BULLETS. I Katanagatari, swords can be deviant enough to have infinite ammo.

      • redhale says:

        In addition to those points of symmetry I found that the last scene at the dango shop was very telling with regards to the state of both Hitei and Shichika after the events that unfolded. Apart from their conversation I found that the way they looked and dressed showed how much attachment they had with their respective dead partners. Hitei had Emonzaemon’s mask on while Shichika incorporated parts of Togame’s outfit into his get-up. I also liked the fact that the cross shaped car in Shichika’s left eye, matched Togame’s cross-shaped left eye.

  2. Jac says:

    Shichika and Hitei make a cute couple though, and their personalities are fascinating. I would love to watch stories of their travel together.

    My respects to Nisio Isin for a masterfully woven tale.

  3. When I finished this last episode, I knew there was a lot to say but I couldn’t feel like saying anything.

    Hitei-hime moe~?

    It signifies how hard this series has hit my home. I spent the subsequent hour sitting and doing nothing.

  4. Jack says:

    It really was quite a complex finale.

    Some things immediately appeared odd or unusual upon finishing the episode, but on reflection (and reading around some other places) many of these things made sense within the context of the show.

    It was certainly very satisfying, and it contained plenty of trademark Nisio Isin subversion.

    • I think the blade without a blade… which contained Kiki’s will serves to set everything up. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate the work put in this story and this show.

      There was so much effort put in creating all those blade quests, the subplot of the Maniwani, not to mention the characters doing the effort…

      I can’t forget the image of Togame digging her hole… making peace with her memories… and all of that for nothing.

      As I mentioned to Numbers and Space above, it’s ruthless storytelling and I am happy for it.

  5. skygrinder says:

    After this episode I was left in a state of mind slush. It’s hard to think about endings when emotions fleshed out through the last few meters of the rise is then brought back down to earth.
    Katanagatari is a mindfuck for doing so. It was a story of a journey; it had a beginning and an end. The same could be said about relationships, Shichika and

    • skygrinder says:

      Lol @ that fail, I accidentally posted before I even finished.

      … Shichika and Togame, Hitei-hime and Emonzaemon, Shichika and Hitei. It was as hard to oppress the thought of Togame’s death as it was to think that Shichika has moved on with Hitei but it was an essential theme to story. Damn though, I can’t think straight because of this. I need to watch the whole series again this winter.

    • I don’t think Shichika has ‘moved on’ with Hitei. Hitei merely attached herself to his journey. There was nothing more to the story after she joins him into the twilight of his travels so I don’t even think there’s a lot of value speculating on a possible romance between them.

  6. santao says:

    My eyes are flooded throughout the entire episode.
    This is an emotional death scene for this series and although I love the little humour about ‘cheerio’ she ask him to spread to wrong meaning to the whole country but I can’t make myself to laugh. I love the way Shichika bring Togame’s hair with him like she always by his side.

    I think that Hitei and Shichika travel together has nothing to do about romance feeling it just like both of them lost their partner and she decide to join him in his journey.
    I also think that the one who Shichika has ‘move on’ is Togame.

    Also love Shichika line that he said ‘Togame was really selfish for telling him to live as he wish but he can’t help to fall in love with her because of that’.
    The last Cheerio is WIN!

    • It is quite a dance between selfishness and selflessness, and the show did a good performance. Shichika did live on, but not because he followed Togame’s wishes. He simply failed to die.

      • santao says:

        Yeah I already got that were between selfishness and selflessness and he just failed to die but it isn’t good enough that he did live on (as she wish in final moment) with some of her remainder with him. That way make this story more memorable.

  7. Pingback: Katanagatari review | 毎日アニメ夢

  8. That was a beautiful last statement, just as it had been in the series. I think ingot much the same feeling from the finale that you did.and I thought I preferred a total tragedy as well. But like with many of my favorite shows, I appreciate the honesty. Katanagatari did an excellent job of keeping the watcher off balance while still giving us fair warning as to what to expect from it. The unyielding, brutal, sometimes unnecessary deaths, the lengthy, involved conversations, the ability to draw out the humanity out of the many professionals, freaks and killers; these are all hallmarks and impressive efforts of the show. I take comfort despite all the hell and sadness, that Shichika lived. No matter how long or short the life.

    I’m also happy for Hitei-hime’s survival. ^__^

    • That’s just the thing. Sometimes, we end up wanting what we get and in those times — we’re the ones who did the growing. It’s our tastes that get a little stretched. We learn to like different things a little more.

      When we get what we want… sometimes we can take it for granted, or act as if this is how things should always be. When things go differently we end up saying stupid things like anime is doomed, cancer, etc.

      This show never behaved in the way I expected it to. It never really did what I asked for it to do. And the fact that I found it great nonetheless, I feel that it is I who grew a little more, and in the best way possible.

  9. I had to get this in before I forget…

    It’s amazing how a show full of so much tragic failure can be such a success and leave me at peace at the same time.

  10. Catachan says:

    Personally, I loved Togame. I felt like throwing up when they killed her. I actually was pretty dumbfounded at the ending – I was wondering why Hitei lived, whereas Togame died. To me, that was unfair, as I assumed they’d done the same (reportedly) horrible things. I accepted it on the simple basis that some people live, and some die. But the answer was staring at me in the face the whole time – Hitei is NOT the same as Togame. Togame has the burden of revenge consuming her every being. She might have changed, but with the end of the journey so close…it was probably not possible for her to do it before deciding to kill Shichika. Or maybe she could have. Such is the story, we’ll never know. With the way he’d written the past 11 novels, this was probably the best possible ending.

    I’m all for Shichika moving on. I couldn’t imagine it at first but now I can. There was another ronin with a cross-shaped scar out there in the world of anime, who found happiness by moving on….

    • From what you wrote I’m getting the impression that this anime should follow an idealized notion of fairness that doesn’t even exist in reality.


      I don’t know if it is indeed the best possible ending given I have no experience with the novels, but I think I like it very much :3

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