Home > Episode Reviews, Katanagatari > Katanagatari Episode 10 – Zen and the Art of Plot Revelations

Katanagatari Episode 10 – Zen and the Art of Plot Revelations

It says something about the quality of Katanagatari that whenever I come to an episode that isn’t superb, I feel somewhat cheated by it. The latest episode of Katanagatari is one of those less than superb ones, spending too much time setting up for the no doubt explosive finale to make a strong enough mark of its own. It mostly proves that the show as a whole is far more interesting for what it suggests rather than what it states outright.

It’s not as if there isn’t an solid-sounding set-up this time around: Rinne Higaki, a “holy man” rumored to be in possession of one of the deviant blades, happens to reside in the wasteland that was the home territory of Togame’s father, Takahito Hida. In the wake of his rebellion, the land was razed and the rebels executed en masse. The land is thus a magnet for bad memories, and Togame is going to find the task ahead of her as much a personal challenge as a test of cleverness or skill.

Those little dots are Shichika and Togame. The destruction unleashed as a result of the rebellion was immense

Hunting a holy man is a difficult task, particularly one who transcended humanity over 300 years ago. Agelessness is hardly his only ability, as he also can alter the perceptions of those around him. This shows up most distinctly in his own appearance, which automatically reflects the memories of whoever views him. Specifically, it reflects the memories the viewer doesn’t want to recall.

For Shichika, that means that Higaki appears as an amalgam of the four women he has fought. Nanami, Konayuki, and Kiguchi appear because they are the only ones to beat him, if only temporarily. Why Meisai Tsuruga is in the mix is unclear (Shichika declines to discuss it), but my guess is its because she’s the only person he’s killed that he didn’t have to.

Higaki has Nanami's hair, Konayuki's teeth, etc., but his cackle is distinctly that of an old man with a twisted sense of humor

For the most part, however, this episode isn’t about Shichika, but Togame. It is not enough that she has to return to her desolate homeland: Higaki insists that she, and she alone, dig up the sword where it was buried. As it happens, he was a friend of Kiki Shikizaki, who entrusted one of the deviant blades into his possession. Higaki was far too smart to keep that sort of thing on hand, and buried it; it’s implied that merely its presence underground is what drove Togame’s father to his ill-conceived rebellion.

Digging is hard work for a tiny girl who once claimed to be as strong and tough as the paper in a sliding door (in context, it’s actually one of the coolest lines she utters in the series), but it’s harder by far because every relic she uncovers reminds her of what else is buried under the earth. It’s only in doing so, however, that she can come to terms with her own feelings of anger and regret toward her father, and to accept that he did love her deeply.

The "sword of truth" is a hilt and scabbard without a blade. I'm not quite certain how it works, but I'm not certain how the hilt stays about the top of the scabbard when they don't actually touch. It's probably best not to think about it

This revelation is in turn what allows Togame to recognize the blade when she finds it; by accepting the reality of her memories, she can discern the reality of the sword. Thus, all this was for Togame’s ultimate good, etc., etc.; it all works out nicely, even if Higaki is more annoying that enlightening most of the time. But—and I’m not quite certain why—Togame’s cathartic moment just didn’t have the impact that it needs to carry the episode. The show has mostly been about Shichika’s development as a human, so it’s understandable that Togame needs an episode to herself. I just don’t think this was it.

Shichika, by comparison, feels shortchanged this time around. He has a fight with Higaki just for the heck of it, but it mostly consists of Higaki running away. Both note it doesn’t count as a real fight. The holy man reveals that Kyotouryuu is the thirteenth deviant blade—the entire fighting style and Yasuri bloodline being concocted somehow by Kiki Shikizaki, but attentive viewers should have figured this out by now. Just that knowledge by itself is too obvious to be a dramatic revelation to anyone but the protagonists.

Perhaps acknowledging that some action was needed, the writers have a flashback to a hand-to-hand match Kiguchi had with Shichika. Ostensibly it's inserted to demonstrate a plot point, but I think it's really just there to be cool (and it is)

The most interesting revelations happen elsewhere. Princess Hitei’s rather one-sided conversation with Emonzaemon all but confirms that Hitei, whose history is just as obscure to the public eye as Togame’s, is a descendant of Shikizaki, and that somehow she’s been undercutting Togame’s search from the very beginning. I think the show acknowledges this at least surreptitiously; the ending theme for this episode (it’s varied each time) is sung by Hitei’s voice actress, about the character.

And it seems Hitei’s pet ninja might have his own agenda. Houou notes that the Emonzaemon he knew would never consent to work for someone like Hitei; and a few subtle gestures here and there indicate that perhaps Hitei doesn’t know her servant as well as she thinks. If Hitei will eventually be shown to be tragically similar to Togame, the writers might try to redeem her somewhat in the end by having Emonzaemon betray her and become the main end threat instead.

I think what worries me most about this smile is that it's the first time Emonzaemon has shown any strong emotion

All that is speculation on one or two hints offered this episode, though. It would probably be better to base speculation on the end of the episode, which is the closest thing this series has had to a real cliffhanger. Traveling back to Owari, our heroes find Pengin, the other of the two surviving Maniwa heads, gravely wounded and lying in their path. He begs them to save Houou, but from what is unclear. Is this the result of the poison blade finally getting to Houou? Emonzaemon making another play for Houou’s life, and Pengin happened to be in the way?

Next episode Shichika will be fighting Houou, if the pattern holds, so I’m betting for the former, but there’s enough left unrevealed to leave open the possibility of a surprise. Either way, the next episode drops this coming weekend, so we won’t have to wait for long to find out.

Pengin has seemed the most innocent and harmless of the Maniwa heads (as well as the smallest). I suppose they had to concoct some way for Shichika not to have to take him out personally

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  1. January 5, 2011 at 10:04 pm

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