Home > Episode Reviews, Katanagatari > Katanagatari Episode 9 – The Exception that Proves the Rule

Katanagatari Episode 9 – The Exception that Proves the Rule

Katanagatari has had several running themes throughout the series, but of them the largest has been that the deviant blades of Kiki Shikizaki, while all very powerful, are in some sense corrupting. The wielders of those swords may not all be rampaging monsters, but their time with their particular weapon has not left them unaffected.

This episode tosses that completely out the window. The sword Togame and Shichika are after this time can hardly be called a blade at all; it’s crafted as a wooden practice sword, with seemingly no ability at all. And its bearer, Zanki Kiguchi, is perhaps the most honorable and fair-dealing character in the show. This makes it all the more ironic that recovering the sword this time presents the most time-consuming challenge yet.

Everything about Kiguchi's character design screams out her devotion to swordsmanship

Kiguchi insists, for example that it would be unfair to face Shichika while he’s unarmed, and thus equips him for a practice kendo outfit for their duel. With the Yasuri family’s facility with actual swords being somewhere between non-existent and suicidally incompetent, he of course loses. But Kiguchi, so upset about their difference in skill level, offers to have a rematch for the sword, after she’s had a chance to train him properly.

The training period takes over a week, during which Shichika makes remarkably little progress. But it also reveals how little Kiguchi’s blade has in common with the rest of the set. Before she inherited the blade Nokogiri, Kiguchi was a worse person than she is now, ignoring her training and responsibilities to the dojo in the pursuit of playing shougi (Japanese chess), which is the pastime of the town. Nokogiri has no unique combat ability, but alone out of the swords it lacks a corrupting element; if anything, it seems to ennoble its owner.

Normal people would look at Mekki and back away slowly. Houou has already grafted the arm of a dead compatriot into his body, however, so perhaps he's a bit more accepting of the whole "evil" idea

Perhaps as a contrast, this episode also has the surviving Maniwa ninjas locate Mekki, the so-called “poison sword”—the only sword aside from Nanami’s Bita to exude a visible miasma of evil. Their success is interrupted by the arrival of Hitei’s pet ninja Emonzaemon, who has orders to kill the head of the clan. Houou escapes, leaving Oshidori to face Emonzaemon alone.

Rationally speaking, it would make more sense for all three remaining Maniwas to jump Emonzaemon at once, but that would go against the style of this show. As it happens, Oshidori likely would have been able to take Emonzaemon by herself, had not the latter brought the flame sword (which probably shouldn’t be classified as one weapon, or as a sword, but oh well) with him. Here, at least, the show is willing to depart from formula.

The flame sword seems to be a perfectly ordinary revolver and automatic pistol. That alone makes it an alien and powerful weapon

The confrontation there provides the epic fight that viewers have come to expect, which is good since Shichika and Kiguchi aren’t going to provide one. Aside from affording opportunities for Togame to walk in on their training and completely misinterpret innocent coincidences, not much productive comes from their time together.

Much like last episode, then, this episode is more about deepening Shichika’s relationship with Togame than anything else. If Shichika dealt with the sting of jealousy and doubt in episode five, Togame must face that now, as both of them have cause to reexamine the nature of their relationship. As Shichika is slowly learning to be human, Togame is still learning to treat him as such; although both have made great strides, it’s the conflict presented here—contrived or not—that gives the needed impetus to push them further.

Togame's fantasy version of Kiguchi's "training sessions" is hilariously outside of the normal art style

All of that aside, they still need to beat Kiguchi at her own honorable game, and Togame initially suggests they use a method similar to what Konayuki pulled on them: be so amateurish that the ultra-skilled Kiguchi won’t know how to properly counter. When Shichika notes that, with ten days of training under his belt, he’s no longer a true amateur, Togame employs a surefire method to make him forget his training, by giving him his first kiss.

Now, technically, Shichika’s amateurishness doesn’t have anything to do with how they actually win the fight; that relies much more on Togame’s customary trickery than anything Shichika does. (As always, I won’t spoil the method.) This disconnect actually qualifies as a rather major plot hole, which I would be very upset about save for the fact that they finally kissed. It’s only been nine episodes and nine months of “real time” so it’s not like they weren’t due.

Shichika had previously seemed completely ignorant about how men and women interact. Not anymore

Having defeated Kiguchi and had her relinquish the sword (which she does without complaint), Togame is left to consider some deeper concerns. Given how weak Nokogiri is, it surprises her that none of the previous attempts to gather the 12 deviant blades managed to collect even this one. A century and a half back the shogun spent an army trying to gather them up, and the attempt was completely fruitless. But there’s no real reason given as to why.

Based on the titles of the remaining episodes, Houou Maniwa and Emonzaemon will continue to play cat and mouse with each other while Togame and Shichika collect the tenth sword, and then will face Houou and Emonzaemon in turn for the eleventh and twelfth. But Togame’s speculation here, like the occasion hints of the influence of Shikizaki in the development of the Kyotouryuu school, points to a deeper plot.

Just to show that it wasn't a fluke, Shichika does face Kiguchi unencumbered. He beats her at 60% strength

Of course, this show could drop a series of completely out-of-the-blue revelations from here until December and find a way to make me like them. Katanagatari has earned enough respect from me that I look forward to anything it might throw out with a palpable sense of anticipation. The year cannot end fast enough.

This episode is brought to you by the Ministry of Silly Walks

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