Leveling the Field; Katanagatari Episode 5

Although this may have been the most fun episode yet, Katanagatari Episode 5 carried a lot of weight.

All love that has not friendship for its base, is like a mansion built upon the sand.

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

It may or may not be a surprise that I’m a huge shipper when it comes to TV shows (anime or not), and Katanagatari is no exception to the rule. Togame/Shichika for the past three or four episodes have really struck me as an admirable and well-executed ship. The two make up for each other’s weaknesses and improve on each other’s strengths – something clearly displayed in this episode, which ended up being all about respect and the willpower to fight – and love.

Katanagatari progresses according to Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs (as shown below). After all, the show first established the essential needs of a human being – ’employment’ being Togame hiring Shichika, ‘family’ being equivalent to Shicihika and Nanami’s relationship being established,  ‘health’ as Togame commands Shichika to take care of her and his own self.  Friendship and family are also developed as Togame and Shichika begin to respect each other throughout the episodes, and Nanami’s true nature being revealed. The idea of ‘love’ and ‘belonging’ are also developed with the opponents’ stories, through Ginkaku and Tsuruga and how they sought to be accepted by someone and/or society. Katanagatari has also taken a look at the Esteem level: the importance of fighting, the perseverance of self-worth, confidence, justice and pride.  What we work on next then, is respect: respect of others, by others, but also respect for oneself. Katanagatari takes a look at this through the nature of a relationship: a bond we share with another human being. At the heart of this bond lies empathy – the essential knot of the tie that connects these two people together. In order to empathize, we must first understand. To understand, we have to be aware. To be aware, we need to first overcome self-worth, confidence, justice and pride – the qualities established in the previous episodes.

Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs. In order to satisfy the metaneeds (the concepts at the top of the triangle), basic needs (concepts toward the bottom levels) must first be met.

Shichika and Togame’s relationship is thus put truly to the test as they’re challenged by Azekura, the King of Pirates, and his proposal to ‘win Togame over’ – literally. But neither character is as dim-witted as they may appear. While Shichika may be a foreigner to the emotions of jealousy (let’s face it, the guy has never been in love and has never interacted with any human being other than his sister), he’s more than aware of the fact that this is a battle he can’t lose – not just for the swords, but for Togame herself. Togame, on the other hand, talks about what a relationship should really be about in a more dramatic way: A relationship built on love is one that has respect and willpower. A man cannot just ‘steal’ a woman’s heart; as said before, empathy and understanding is needed in order to see eye-to-eye. Azekura’s interest in Togame is nothing more than a faint desire to atone for his past – a temporary cover up for a small weakness he had displayed so long ago.

A pirate can only take, Togame says, and in many ways, she is right: the idea that a man must be dominant and hold the upper hand in a romantic relationship with the ‘damsel in distress’ is not just problematic, but unbalanced. Azekura holds no real ‘respect’ for Togame; he only wishes to obtain her, like he would with any sort of riches or goods. Shichika on the other hand, fundamentally depends on Togame, breaking the idea of men being dominant in a relationship. We could simplify the relationship to ‘brains and brawn’, but it’s more than that. Togame and Shichika have instilled confidence in one another; they respect each other’s views and privacy. Shichika does not comment on Togame’s misinterpretation of “Cheerio!” despite knowing what it truly means, but why? It’s not out of arrogance. Shichika knows Togame gets a kick out of it (literally) and he leaves it at that. It’s because he empathizes and holds a respect for Togame’s nature and antics. Togame never doubts Shichika’s words, whether they may be of truth or fiction, because she knows that he will follow the rules she told him in the first episode: that he will protect her, and protect himself; that Shichika holds Togame in the highest esteem and respects her. Shichika and Togame’s relationship is built upon friendship, the Third Level of the Hierarchy. There is an actual base to their bond: a base of respect. Friendship is not possessive – it’s created by something shared, and it’s that exact reason why Shichika and Togame persevere and defeat Azekura in this episode. It’s through something different than Kyotouryuu. If Shichika was alone, would he have defeated Azekura? Probably not. Togame didn’t give him the answer – she gave him the courage to find the answer for himself. Likewise, Shichika’s determination and stone-tough but simple faith in Togame is what propels her to continue finding the swords and abandon the thought that Shichika could ever betray her. Despite coming from different worlds, different societies; despite the fact that Shichika’s father was the reason for Togame’s demise of power, the two share an uncanny friendship that cannot be broken. It’s what glues their resolution together as well as vice versa, and allows them to level the field whenever it’s raised.

In terms of plot – if last episode was a foothold to developing the story, this episode was about progressing those developments a little further, though not in the way I imagined. The ‘mysterious disappearance’ of the three ninjas, who were brutally killed in the previous episode, are mentioned as yet another Maniwani Corp is introduced. However, unlike the previous three Maniwanis, this one is no novice to negotiations or dealing with his opponents. The fact that he had the common sense to strike up a ‘temporary pact’ with Shichika and Togame makes me wary though – include this with him cutting off his own arm so easily (and still being able to kill pirates) and Togame telling Shichika to stay on his guard, and I’m sure we’ve set ourselves up here for a final antagonist of sorts. How long will this truce last? It’s hard to tell, but one thing is for sure: there’s certainly more than one foe that Shichika and Togame have to face, as other enemies are finally showing up with hidden motives and intents.

You should never trust a guy who nonchalantly rips off his arm to talk to you….

Weaving this in with other subtle hints – the leader of the Maniwanis (who was seen at the beginning of the episode) being someone Togame is extremely interested in, Azekura wisely predicting, “You can’t live with someone without hurting them at the same time,” as well as how Shichika simply states that his father is dead, which may cover up a more traumatic and interesting past that’s been witheld from us for some time now – and it seems that the stage for a darker, more ominous side of Katanagatari has been set. Amongst all this lighthearted humor and the positive outlook on love and its triumphs, both on the battlefield and in the heart, I feel that something is stirring up, and it does not bode well for our heroes. Every lesson has a painful sacrifice, and as we finish the Esteem level and head for the last ‘Self Actualization’ level and raise the stakes, I just can’t shake off the feeling that happy times do not last for long in this show.

Well, regardless, it doesn’t matter where Togame or Shichika end up at….by that time, a lot of conventional tropes will have been torn up into pieces. Or so I hope.

Enjoyment Level: 8/10

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One response to “Leveling the Field; Katanagatari Episode 5

  1. Pingback: The Will of a Blade; Katanagatari Episode 8 | Isn't It Electrifying?·

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