Home > Episode Reviews, Katanagatari > Katanagatari Episode 5 – First Crush

Katanagatari Episode 5 – First Crush

I hope it’s been obvious from my previous reviews, but I’ve really liked Katanagatari. It’s clever, innovative, illustrated beautifully in its own particular style, and often touches on deeper themes, like the nature of violence, power, loyalty, and revenge. But there’s been a lingering issue with the show that has bothered me for some time, and that’s Shichika’s relationship with Togame.

Supposedly, Shichika is in love with Togame. He mentions that he’s fallen for her at least once per episode so far. The why of it is still unclear, although I’ve mentioned some of my suspicions on that front. The real problem is the how: For all Shichika’s protestations, he still doesn’t seem to understand what it means to love someone, and particularly what it means for a man to love a woman. Togame mentioned last episode that he doesn’t even seem to distinguish between men and women.

Togame even mentions that Shichika doesn't show the slightest interest in her naked body. A normal anime protagonist would have died from a nose bleed by now

Until now he hasn’t acted as anything other than Togame’s property—which Togame, for her part, is beginning to wonder about. As Shichika’s stated motivations about why he’s fighting for Togame don’t seem to have any connection to reality, we have a problem with the portrayal of his character. So I’m happy to say that Katanagatari has finally gotten around to addressing it.

This episode introduces something Shichika has never had before: a rival. Kanara Azekura, the sword wielder this time around, is a pirate king with a tragic past, and is immediately drawn to Togame because of her resemblance to his long dead sister. Like the previous two sword wielders, he issues a challenge, albeit with different stakes. He wants not the possession of the other swords, but Togame’s hand, and offers his services (and those of his men) in recovering the rest of the swords in return for that.

This month's "sword" is actually a suit of armor, so finely crafted that Shichika's armor-piercing attacks don't work on it

In effect, he’s offered to replace Shichika in all aspects, and the latter is uncharacteristically unnerved by the possibility that Togame might be interested. That Togame explicitly forbids him to kill Kanara in the coming duel—a reluctance actually based on Togame’s guilt over Meisai Tsuruga’s death two months prior—deepens his concern. He finds that by several measurements (raw strength and size, resources, and possibly combat skill), Kanara either matches or outdoes him.

But Shichika isn’t just unnerved; he’s also jealous. He starts taking out his frustration at Togame in various petty ways, although what would be little verbal snaps or embittered looks comes out as trips or other acts of minor physical aggression. He’s still just as emotionally stunted and clueless as ever (not even realizing why he’s acting as he is), but for the first time he’s acting like he has feelings for Togame, even if it’s not the most positive expression of those feelings he could be making.

Kanara was a victim of pirates before he became their leader, as his beloved sister was murdered before his eyes. It's not much development compared to Meisei, but it's still nice for the show to make an effort to humanize its antagonists

And he does wonder, too, if maybe Togame would be better off with Kanara as her protector. After his battle plan comes apart in the duel, and he realizes that his Kyotoryuu won’t be of any use against Kanara and his “sword,” he briefly considers giving up entirely, ceding Togame and the quest for the swords to the man Togame might want more than him anyway. Both martially and romantically, he hits the lowest point he has in the series thus far.

Because he is in love, it’s Togame’s encouragement he needs to hear. She delivers it in the abrasive, completely unromantic fashion she has been known for—Togame, too, has some personal issues she needs to work out—but she makes it clear that she has no desire to switch partners if she can help it. She’s made her bed with Shichika, and just because the two technically haven’t lain in it yet doesn’t mean she’s changed her mind.

Togame's rant unwittingly gives Shichika not just the motivation but the strategy to defeat Kanara. It won't be the last time

With Togame’s opinion firmly known, Shichika comes out of his slump and wins the fight in yet another creative fashion, and as per usual I won’t spoil the details. The greater victory, however, is won by the writers. While this episode doesn’t change the unconventional nature of Togame and Shichika’s relationship, it does finally take Shichika’s love out of “tell” and places it firmly into “show.” And that removes my greatest concern with the show thus far.

There are two other major plot points worth discussing this episode, although they don’t really connect with the main story at all. The first concerns the arrival of another Maniwa ninja clan head, who oddly is not there to fight. Rather, having noted the loss of half of the twelve heads over the past four months, he offers a truce with Togame, asking that they seek out differing swords for the time being. He even spices the pot by giving locations for several swords heretofore unknown to Togame, just to give her someplace else to go while his followers work on the others.

Here's the latest Maniwa, Houou—minus an arm. I'm still trying to decipher his motivations

He also, just to prove his sincerity, cuts off his own arm just to convince Togame to talk with him. So it’s clear that he really wants this truce to work out. I’m not quite certain why, though. Given that he and his ilk are, well, ninjas, one would think they could just collect swords surreptitiously and otherwise avoid Shichika. All this makes me suspicious that there might be a deeper motivation at work.

Also introduced is a figure at the imperial court, Princess Hitei, whose exact motivations are unknown but who seems to really dislike Togame. The feeling must be mutual: Just hearing that the former is moving behind the scenes at Owari is enough to motivate Togame to return herself, to make sure the political situation is in her favor. Or at least, she tries to.

Princess Hitei (and her henchman) never show their faces in this episode, but it's clear they will have a major role to play

Unfortunately for her, Shichika followed her orders and kept Kanara alive. (Another first for the series!) And while the humiliated pirate king kept his end of the bargain as far as the sword was concerned, he has the ship on which they leave sail for distant Ezo in the north rather than for Owari as they originally agreed. What that will mean in the long-term is anyone’s guess, but for now it means that Hitei’s maneuvering will go unchecked.

I don’t mind the delay in finding out what that will mean, because I will be around for the long term. This episode resolves my one lingering plot issue without sacrificing the humor, cleverness, and general intelligence that has characterized this show from the beginning. It’s still one of the best shows running this year and it’s only gotten better with each episode. If you aren’t watching this show yet, you really should start asking yourself why.

Togame's freak out here is in response to something predicted in the second episode, but it also illustrates how quickly you should go and get Katanagatari episodes to watch

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