Big Things Come in Small Packages; Katanagatari Episode 4

I knew Nisiosin was up to something, but not this. Where was that fight scene showed in the preview again?

This episode was one thing, and one thing alone: terrifying. There wasn’t a single drop of blood shown, nor were there deformed bodies and gore, but nevertheless, it sent shivers down my spine. Talk about tables being turned: Katanagatari has much darker and sinister undertones than I thought it did.

Rather than having yet another episode on Togame and her adventures with Shichika, the show decides to take a look at Nanami, the cute, intelligent, and calm sister. The last time we saw Togame was when she bid farewell to her brother as he left the shores of the island with Togame, and I assumed that we wouldn’t really see her again until the end when Shichika finished his journey. Turns out that I was completely wrong. Not only was this an episode that fully focused on the ‘monster’ Nanami really is, but it’s also an episode that fleshed out the ‘bad guys’ which we had taken advantage of for so long.

But first, Nanami. I’m glad the image of a docile, harmless, fragile and innocent girl was completely turned around as we learn that Nanami is horrifying. I mean, forget sociopathic levels – there’s a difference when a killer takes delight in what she or he is doing and a killer who kills because it’s simply in his or her nature to do so; that killing is something she or he cannot stop doing. Nanami is obviously the latter. She’s so intelligent she instantly can pick up any ability that would take years to practice for anyone else. Of course, no power can come without a price. I’m not sure if it’s because of her talent that she’s sick – that her body can’t handle that much power – or if it’s something else. Either way, even Nanami has limits, though they are far from the normal limits we’ve seen in Katanagatari. The fact that she was born like this, along with the reveal that she was originally chosen to be the leader of Kyotoryuu, would make her somewhat easy to sympathize with, but Nisiosin makes this difficult for us as Nanami easily tortures three ninjas without a single drop of remorse. This is something I still am thankful for. Katanagatari continues its descending staircase into the depths of moral relativity, and Nanami is no exception to the rule.

It also makes me wonder if Nanami harbors a sort of tired jealousy against her own brother. It’s not that she wasn’t chosen because she was a female, but it is just as bad: Nanami wasn’t chosen because of something inherent in her. She didn’t choose to be the way she is, and yet it’s because of it that her own father chose Shichika over her. Her calm statement of tearing off her own brother’s fingernails because he used to constantly bite them horrifies me (as someone who bites their nails frequently) but it also serves a point as to how Nanami really views the world. Whereas Shichika acts on instinct, without thinking, Nanami carefully plans out her actions and fully analyzes her opponents before completely obliterating them. Nanami leaves no mercy, even for her own family. “The ends justify the means” would work here, but at the same time, I feel like Nanami has no control over ‘the end’ she sees. Much like we categorize things into percentages – some decisions having a higher percentage of failing than others – Nanami functions like a robot, only following the instructions coded into her own nature. The fact that she was like this at the very beginning makes her even more creepy and tragic at the same time. She is a monster with no control over her own power; and yet, she expresses no regret about it.

If this wasn’t depressing enough, Katanagatari also uses this episode as an opportunity to look into the infamous Maniwani Corps, specifically the three ninjas who come to attack Nanami. Whereas all of the episodes before have made the Maniwani ninjas pretty flat in terms of characterization, here, these Ninjas are more emotionally accessible than Nanami is. From the leader, Kamakiri, who lets himself be tortured and dies without revealing any information about his comrades, to Chocho, who dies without ever revealing his love to another Maniwani, to the young and naive Mitsubachi, who asks Nanami to kill him instead of committing suicide so he could die with ‘honor’ alongside his friends: Katanagatari shows no mercy in its despair. It goes as far as to make these characters people we care about, and then snatches them away from us; in fact, nearly every secondary character has been killed off in the same episode that they were introduced in. And yet, it never really feels repetitious; every death has value or significance to the story, and that’s something I can appreciate in a show where three out of four episodes have followed a standard format.

Oh, it’s not like I needed my heart for emotions or anything. Again.

What’s interesting is that so far is that every episode, despite being somewhat formulaic, has had a certain theme behind it. The last three episodes focused on a certain topic: here, the episode doesn’t follow that format, nor does it really have a recurrent idea behind it. I feel like it was more of an episode that made sure we were still on our toes. With the Maniwani Corps being something different than we expected, and with Nanami being a lot more terrifying than any of us could have imagined (plus the idea that she might join and ‘discipline’ Shichika…yikes), Katanagatari in this installment refreshes the mind with something new. While I am slightly sad about the lack of action on Shichika’s side, I’m more than happy to see that this show has a lot of surprises up its sleeves, and this is only the beginning of it. Something tells me there’s an awful lot of foreshadowing going on that I’m missing, but to look on the bright side: at least things are getting interesting….

*Note: That said aside, I am never trusting the ending previews for this show again. Damn you, Nisiosin.

Enjoyment Level: 9/10

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2 responses to “Big Things Come in Small Packages; Katanagatari Episode 4

  1. Oh gosh, I know that feeling of disappointment when approaching this episode. I was totally pumped and loyally waited for a month to see Shichika duke it out, but this totally faked me out.

    As for the episode’s underlying message, I believe that it firmly ties into Katanagatari’s overarching struggle: a search for the humanity within. It became obvious in episode 3 with Shichika’s brutal killing, and it carries over here. Up until this episode, the Maniwani Corps have been portrayed in a rather negative light and have been the least developed characters by far. But contrary to what we’ve already seen, they have lives outside of the killing biz and like you said, they’re definitely the sympathetic ones when compared to the machine-like Nanami.

    Freaky bug ninja killing machines are people too.

    • Luckily I’m marathoning this show (well, marathoning it at a slow pace) but I can just imagine the frustration people had when they were expecting a full blown fight, but only getting this episode in return!

      At the same time it was oddly satisfying? Nanami’s true nature was really fun and interesting to see. But I agree! I think Katanagatari, as I said last post, is more about the journey than the destination, and that journey is the struggle of humanity and trying to find this balance of expectations: what we expect from ourselves, and what others expect of us. What’s brilliant is that Katanagatari doesn’t shy from the darker elements of this journey, and it’s brilliant.

      I really hope the rest of the Maniwani Corps follow these three bug ninja dorks in terms of characterization; it’d be a shame to see them as just another group of random antagonists. Something tells me that the latter won’t happen and I’ll be satisfied (though I am trying to keep myself as spoiler-free as possible). But thanks for reading!

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