The Burning Flames of Revenge; Katanagatari Episode 1 (Part Two)

(Continued from Part 1, which can be found here.)

The setup of Kyoutouryuu reminds me vaguely of how Captain America fights crime with a shield; it’s a way of the sword, without using the sword. Rather than using an actual molded weapon, a Kyoutoryuu master uses his limbs as ‘swords’ to both defend and attack. There seem to be many variations, as Shichika uses the different ‘dances’ and moves that he’s made up himself (the Ultimate Technique,  Shichika Hachiretsu). What is notable about Kyoutouryuu is how it seems to follow along the lines of Taijutsu from Naruto. Shichika uses his arms and legs not only to ‘cut down’ his opponent but targets specific parts of the body, manipulating energy rather than speed and strength. These two factors are obviously important as well, but Kyoutoryuu relies much more on using the energy of the body, mind as well as the surroundings (mainly, the opponent) to redirect that movement and use it as an attack. It’s all about recycling. Even when Shichika uses his finishing blow, none of his attacks are in waste. He attacks the chest and pectorals and then the spinal cord, completely immobilizing his enemy. This can be a winning tactic against swords, which can be harder to direct because they are linear (similar to limbs, but limbs can bend and are much more flexible as they depend upon the main body to twist and turn) and are not simple extensions of the body. Using a sword can waste energy if it doesn’t pinpoint the target properly. So far we’ve only seen the basics of Kyoutoryuu and the Deviant Swords but I really look forward to the mechanics and techniques of these styles in the show.

But why does Shichika choose to join up with Togame after all? Despite understanding everything- revealing the truth behind her motives, the desperateness of her situation, as well as her traumatic past – why does he choose to go with her? On a certain level, this can be answered in a single conversation:

“I have fallen in love with you!” for short. Shichika, who has been separated from society, has been struck by a girl who not only possesses his level of strength on a different level, but a girl who has risen from the outcasts of society – a princess thrown from the lofty throne that should have been hers (no thanks to his father) – who now seeks revenge not against the person who made it happen, but the society that allowed it to happen. Shichika is struck by the sheer intensity of Togame’s force. In a world where no power comes without a price, Shichika decides to devote his power and life to protecting Shichika and obtaining the 12 Deviant Swords, through the contract of ‘love’. This contract is much more powerful and sacred than other contracts; in feudal periods, swordsmen took up the oath to protecting their shoguns and daimyos, also known as the Bushido. This contract was bound by honor and was maintained for generations. Shichika and Togame’s ‘contract’ is also bound by honor and allegiance, but the interesting thing is that Shichika does not share Togame’s vision or ideals (or at least, he doesn’t voice it if he does). Shichika is not bound to Togame through family (ironically he  should be unbound because of it) and he has nothing to obtain or gain from Togame for his services. Togame in the beginning of the episode told Shichika that she would not hire him for money, for duty, or for protection – in other words, for some ulterior motive. She is using him for an ulterior motive of course, but Shichika has nothing to gain from this adventure except simply being with Togame. One could say that this bargain is hardly a bargain since the sides are obtaining unequally. But that’s why it is so fascinating. Because it is unequal. Shichika follows Togame off the island out of nothing but respect, awe, and love.

Togame’s four commands, deconstructing the ‘bodyguard’ trope- she asks him to protect her because it’s necessary and it’s a tool, but she chooses him out of feelings as both a bodyguard and as a weapon. Not for money, not for any sort of shared ideal, but out of love and love only.

Love, a worthy contrast to the prospect of revenge. “I must use my feelings as a tool for revenge,” Togame thinks early in the show. For Togame, everything can be, and will be used against her in society – especially her gender, considering that she is a girl and thus it’s unlikely for her to take the Shogunate’s place. But Togame uses that idea against society. She does the unequaled, and the opposite. She makes a bond with the son of the father who killed her very family, and she uses her image of a ‘helpless damsel’ to get what she wants. Both love and revenge are rooted in passion, and for Togame, it’s to the extent of pushing for these trump cards that will probably make her a very successful victor. Yet for Togame, her trump cards might be her very demise. How? It’s just purely speculation at this point, but love can be a formidable weapon as it can be one’s greatest weakness. Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones tells it all: “The more people you love, the weaker you are.”  For Togame, those words could become the real strategy she needs to follow in life. Her relationship with Shichika could be used against her – as it was, in this episode alone, when our ninja foe turned into Togame to ‘betray’ and kill Shichika (which failed hilariously by Shichika’s instincts). But at the same time, love can be the pliant support Togame needs to achieve her revenge. We know that revenge often consumes people- I have a feeling that Shichika, though an ‘object’ to complete her task, will be essentially the person who grounds her in humanity. We’re not talking about a strict monster-human relationship; no, this goes to a grayer area, where Togame’s instincts and her mind are constantly in conflict with one another, but Shichika in his simplicity might break the cycle that could turn Togame into just another mindless tool of the Shogunate. For Togame’s arc seems to be not just one of revenge, but of individuality; she’s so driven by her own interests that cooperating with others seems almost impossible for her. Her relationship with Shichika is even more crucial, as it allows her to understand the idea of teamwork, and not just being the ‘brains’ of a single-minded operation. I’m hoping to see some of this in the next episodes, because Togame’s relationship with her revenge but also Shichika who has fallen for her really looks interesting.

In terms of animation, consider me a great fan. Katangatari uses some really interesting character animation. In contrast to usual anime-like designs, the show decides to follow a more simplistic version. It almost verges on cartoon-like anime, not actual anime that we would see from White Fox, whose previous works have been more or less,  on a relatively lower budget. Jormungand and Steins;Gate both use more 3D animation, but here, most design is focused to a 2D level. That said, it uses a variety color schemes that can be pitted against Casshern Sins’  level. Everything is bright and vivid about this show, right down to the beautiful orange-reds to the deep blues and greens. The frame rate is so fluid I would almost think that this was a Flash cartoon. I’ll be focusing a little more on the actual designs and use of animation as a way of storytelling next time, but there’s no doubt that this show is flashy and bold: just the way I like it.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first episode; there’s plenty to come, as we have to battle our way through yet another 11 enemies who all seem pretty formidable in their own special way. The animation is flashy, the story seems well-developed and headed in a solid direction. We have a likable cast of characters, though small, but in time I think the show will flesh them out along with the side characters.  I’m looking more forward as to how Togame and Shichika’s relationship will develop throughout the adventure and more importantly, how Togame will progress, looking inside and outside the cycle of revenge and internalizing it so that it doesn’t consume her. Will the ends justify the means? Wil our heroes prevail and be satisfied with their work? What lies ahead of them? …..Only time can tell.

Larger images: Here and here.

Enjoyment Level: 9/10   

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