WARNING: Hide yourself in a room where no one can hear you; this one is for the laughs and chuckles. But where there’s hilarity, there’s also an unprecedented amount of subtlety (and shippity fanservice).
At first glance, Katanagatari Episode 9 is probably the loosest and least serious of the lot. There’s a lot of flirting; there’s a girl who deems justice as the most important thing in life to the point where she’s incorruptible, and there’s also the continuation of the Maniwani massacre and the search for the swords. Hell, there’s even a lot of pandering fanservice at points! But to say that Episode 9 is just your run-of-the-mill comedy and entertainment would be getting ahead of ourselves. We are dealing with Nisiosin here – a man who has given us yandere sisters, an awesome previewed fight that actually never happened, and regular monthly opponents with heartbreaking backgrounds and interesting depth to them. But more than anything, he has given us this: a show that relies on simplicity to tell a story effectively, while layering many other themes under the surface.
Perhaps that’s why Katanagatari Episode 9 seems so…dull, if not ordinary in its appearance. I don’t really find myself sympathizing with Zanki. I don’t find anything spectacular about the Deviant Sword of the Month. There isn’t really a central theme that is at work here, which binds together the story of the sword and the opponent’s tale at once. But it’s because of those lack of things that the smaller details begin to stand out – and it’s important that they do, because it looks like there are some gone unnoticed which are starting to come together and create the final climax of this show.
For starters, we could talk about the plot revelations. I didn’t even think that the basic plot mattered, because it was so relatively simple, and the character interactions were much more exciting. But apparently, there’s a twist. Why the 12 Deviant Swords were unable to be collected when some of them – namely this one – were so harmless is beyond me. What I do suspect is that it’s tied to whatever Himei is scheming, and it’s not a good thing. But if we think about it, it IS strange. Why do the Deviant Swords even have evil aura to begin with? Why only 12? What really makes them so powerful than the other swords, and why do they possess such unique characteristics? If we look further, we find that the root of this plot twist is the sword itself. This episode’s Deviant Sword is anything but Deviant; it in fact, instills a sense of nobility and honor into its user, in contrast to the very poisonous and harmful Mekki, which is so full of malicious intent that it cannot be directly touched. Nokogiri is deemed as a potentially harmless sword, but Mekki is considered to be extremely potent. Why is there such a sharp contrast in ‘deviant’ levels? This foreshadowing has opened up plenty of questions that I haven’t thought about before. It’s a nice touch, considering how I’ve underestimated the importance of the actual ~plot~ in relationship to the themes and characterization that take a heavy priority in the show. But I also hope that this doesn’t become like Tsuritama where characterization is uprooted by the plot as it becomes the main focus.
There’s also the interesting notion that lately Katanagatari‘s main focus has diverged sharply, as the storylines of Emonzaemon with the Princess and the Maniwani Corps become much more prominent than before. This episode, we witness yet another Maniwani leader be slaughtered at the hands of the Princess’ servant, but it’s also in this battle that we learn that there might be a hidden motive behind just killing off the Maniwanis for their disobedience. Logically speaking, we’re dealing with two ultimate schemers here – so it’s not out of the question for the Princess to knock off the third party so that the showdown is just between her and Togame. So far I still hold onto the feeling that Nanami would have made for a better final antagonist than the Princess, but all these hidden smirks revealing an algid personality (along with the fact that one of the most dangerous Deviant Blades is in her possession) gives me a sinking feeling that she’s much worse than Nanami or anyone we’ve met in Katangatari.
Lastly is the main ‘antagonist’ of this episode, Zanki, who wasn’t as enthralling to watch as Tsuraga from Episode 3, but still was an interesting slow-burner. Her personality – one that prides justice and the way of the sword over all else – comes directly into conflict with Togame’s manipulative and adaptability, which makes for some fantastic comedy and ship feels:
But if there’s one really interesting thing that came out of this episode, it’s the dialogue she shared with Shichika when talking about duty and the commitment to the way of the sword – especially when it’s passed down through the family. Zanki almost laments giving up the easygoing life of falling in love and being tempted by emotion, and while Shichika hasn’t really done the same, he too, has felt the burden of carrying an entire history of sword art into his own body. It makes for a very intimate conversation that brings out the personal side of Shichika that we, the audience, rarely see. I do think that the show, having forgotten to really go into Shichika’s past, is a slight disadvantage as I’d like to get to know him better, but on the other hand, slips like these reveal far more about his character than a proper backstory ever would.
Apparently Episode 10 is when things really start to get into motion, so I look forward to seeing how all of these burning (and newly-formed, if not late) questions are answered, as well as for a very intense climax. I still think it’d be hard to top off an episode like 7, but Katanagatari has showed me that more than anything, it always has a trick up its sleeve, and that the greatest danger lies in the unexpected. I’m really looking forward to seeing how things wrap up, but at the same time, not so much (I haven’t been spoiled, as hard as that is, but I have heard….things), but I guess we’ll have to leave the next episode to confirm those hints, won’t we?