Home > Episode Reviews, Katanagatari > Katanagatari Episode 12 – A Legacy of Failure

Katanagatari Episode 12 – A Legacy of Failure

It’s been some time since the finale of Katanagatari aired, and since then I’ve had a variety of real life events (finals, the holiday season, etc.) to keep me from writing up a review. The real reason for my delay, however, is that I’ve loved the series, as I hope my reviews have shown. For months I was sure that this would be the best show of the year.

Thus, after seeing the last episode of Katanagatari, I had to spend a lot of time reflecting on what exactly to say. For if I am to properly explain why I think the series’ ending is a colossal disappointment, one which fails to properly deliver on almost every level, it’s important to be precise.

(My like for Katanagatari has led me to avoid putting major spoilers in reviews if possible, to preserve some of the clever surprises that made the show so good. That will even less possible here than it was for last episode, so fair warning.)

One thing that should not be a spoiler is that Shichika kills a lot of people. Last chance to stop reading

Last episode ending with Togame being mortally wounded by Emonzaemon, who nonetheless was “considerate” enough to avoid her heart or major organs, so that she’d have time for some conversation before she died. (Emonzaemon really seems to care about people’s last words, probably for some reason related to his never explained backstory.) Having no beef with Shichika, he leaves them alone for her final moments.

Togame’s final moments take over ten minutes, during which she makes it clear that she wants Shichika to move on. The reason for this isn’t, or isn’t just, that she cares for Shichika’s well-being, but that she feels guilty for having manipulated him as she did. According to her, everything she did to romance, befriend, and even help Shichika grow as a human person, was all just another one of her schemes. She was ultimately planning to kill him just for being the son of the man who killed her father.

Togame seems actually quite happy about her death; now that revenge is impossible she is free to be honest

I want to repeat this just to emphasize the point: her own feelings toward Shichika were a front: real in the sense that they reflected how she felt, but not in the sense they affected how she acted, planned, or schemed. When she got jealous in episode nine, when she was warmed by his growing regard for human life in episode six, when she insisted that she wanted him, and not another more “strategic” pick, to fight for her in episode five, even when she pledged to travel the country with him in episode 11—all this, and the emotions she felt as she did these things, were manipulated by some higher part of her brain toward achieving her end of revenge.

One could think that this admission was just a ruse to trick Shichika into not caring for her, which would better allow him to move on and not do something silly like get himself killed seeking revenge himself. But the various images that accompany her confession make it clear that she is being perfectly serious. Only in death, with all possibility of scheming her way out of things denied her, can she finally let her feelings be her feelings.

The serpent imagery that surrounds Togame makes it clear that her outlandish explanation about how she manipulates everything as part of her very nature is in fact true. That doesn't make it less outlandish, though, or edifying, or consistent with prior episodes

Keep in mind that for the last three episodes in particular, I’ve been gushing particularly about Togame’s character growth as a parallel to Shichika’s. I’ve pointed out how she’s come to accept her father’s death, and be more open about her affection for Shichika. And even before that, Togame—for all her selfishness, pride, and poor fashion sense—was really the moral heart of the show, or as close as the show got to one.

All that gets flushed down the toilet in the ten minutes it takes Togame to die. The show effectively reneges on all that, declares it a trick. In fact, Togame was at her core a woman bent on revenge, and would let that revenge drive even her deepest love for dark purposes and destructive ends (and leaving me wondering what the hell episode 10 was supposed to be about). Shichika later summarized her situation that she basically wasted her life thanks to these impulses.

If Togame was at any point expecting that Shichika would just move on as a result of her revelation, she has another reason for disappointment. He keeps of lock of her hair in his belt. It's a nice touch, but the animators could have been more subtle about it

Apparently out of rage for that, and not for her death per se, Shichika invades the castle of the Owari shogun, just as Hitei is meeting with him. Quickly ascertaining the situation, she tells the shogun that this too, was part of her ancestor Shikizaki’s plan. She convinces him that the best way to preserve the shogunate is to have his eleven most loyal retainers, along with Emonzaemon, take up Shikizaki’s swords and face off against Shichika one at a time.

It’s certainly a better plan than just letting Shichika mow through endless foot soldiers, but it’s not enough to stop Kyotouruu. Shichika is the finest “sword” Shikizaki crafted, and save for Entou Jyuu, Shichika knows the tricks of all the others. It helps that the people he’s fighting are all lesser combatants than what he’s faced before, foes whose inferiority reflects on the shogun who employs them.

Shichika's take-no-prisoners approach is reflected in his treatment of the swords. He's stronger now and his opponents are weaker, but one of Kyotouryuu's strengths as a school is eliminating swords directly

Unfortunately, it means the fights aren’t particularly developed, or even interesting. The eleven retainers are all named and have unique character designs, but their roles are to march on screen and die, so they might as well be faceless mooks. Narratively, Shichika has to fight his way through them because that’s part of cliches that surround this sort of story, not because it is particularly necessary.

It’s not a complete loss; the fights reflect how Shichika has grown as a fighter over the last year, and how powerful he is freed from Togame’s restrictions to preserve the swords. While insufficient to serve as a climactic battle, at least the process is short; there’s less screen time of Shichika plowing through all eleven retainers than there was devoted to Togame’s death scene.

Well, I will also admit that the poor sap who was assigned the tenth sword, which isn't really a weapon at all, was good for a little laugh. The resolution of her combat is actually the most clever of any of the fights this episode, so I'll preserve the surprise of that, at least

The climactic fight is obviously going to be with Emonzaemon and the flame sword(s), which the audience could tell from the title of the episode. This too is a disappointment; the battle feels like a return to cost saving animation techniques that also plagued Shichika’s fight with his sister, with blurred arm combat meant to convey superhuman speed but really just saving the animators the work of getting something prettier on screen.

Worse, Shichika’s way of solving the battle, while thematic and tied to Togame’s death, is sort of dumb. Just as he, with Togame’s death, is freed from trying to protect the swords (and in fact seems like he’s trying to break them), he’s also free from trying to protect himself. He actually claims that the entire reason he’s fighting is simply to die. Thus, he wins out against the flame sword by not worrying too much on defense, allowing himself to be injured in order to get in the finishing blow.

Well, there's injured and then there's injured. Shichika reaches the second type, and beyond

I know this seems odd, given all the other fantastical things he and others have done in this series, but this broke suspension of disbelief for me. One thing consistent about Katanagatari is that however powerful someone is, blood loss, broken bones, and other injuries are still serious. Shichika takes an absurd pounding and still walks around fine, without any noticeable decrease of his combat ability. When a broken arm was all it took to hamper him before, this just isn’t something I find plausible.

More to the point, Shichika has been saying from the beginning that his point is not to get revenge for Togame but to die. But Shichika doesn’t die, and he does get revenge for Togame. I don’t necessarily mind the latter part, although calling the current Shogun responsible for her death, or even her wasted life, is a bit of a stretch. But if you’re an writer and you’re going to send your protagonist into a death trap, when he says he wants to die, and wound him as badly as he is, you should own up and have the balls to kill him.

Another contradiction: after saying he only has enough strength to kill either Hitei or the shogun, Shichika then splits the castle in half as he kills the latter. And that exertion still isn't enough to drop him

So, Katanagatari mars its character development and doesn’t really give the action the payoff it needs. Attempting to find some solace in the plot isn’t likely to help either. I’ve already discussed the battle parts of it, which seems more a concession to genre cliches than to productive narrative. (Hitei identifies that the fight is somehow necessary to fulfill Shikizaki’s plans, but gives no indication as to how.) Neither is the meta plot all that impressive.

Hitei eventually admits that her plan, following Shikizaki’s predictions, was to eliminate the Owari shogunate, just as the original historical shogunate in Edo was prevented from into coming into being by Shikizaki. The entire reason for creating the swords was to ensure that no shogunate would exist; by doing so, Shikizaki hoped that Japan would avoid a future calamity, which seems to be the atomic bomb droppings and occupation of Japan in World War II.

The show does everything possible to paint the shogun in a negative light. He's selfish, cowardly, and weak. That also means he's just not a strong enough villain to make his death to feel cathartic

I’ll put aside the irony of having two shows this year, independent of each other, featuring super-powered characters in intrigues based on the predictions of seers employing future technology to avoid the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But while in Night Raid, the attempt to alter the future fails because the heroes are unwilling to take the brutal actions necessary to do change history, in Katangatari the attempt just fails. The dead shogun is replaced by a relative. Thus ends the seer’s machinations.

Keep in mind Shikizaki has been capable of manipulating events down to controlling who wound up getting the poison sword, and where Togame would die and how it would affect Shichika. He’s really good at what he does. Thus, for him to concoct a plan so intricate, that fails on so obvious a point, after he’s already failed once to keep a shogunate from forming, breaks suspension of disbelief for me yet again. I appreciate that the show wants to illustrate the resilience of history, but it should be able to do that without (and I repeat myself) undoing or contradicting what we know about our characters. I want a better explanation for Shikizaki’s failure than: “That’s just the way things are.”

Princess Hitei, despite ostensibly planning to fulfill Shikizaki's plan for who knows how long, seems remarkably unconcerned about its success or failure. She could just be lying about it here to entice her subordinate to fight a battle he is destined to lose; I'm still trying to decide if that would make her actions better or worse

But that almost seems the point. The narrator summarizes the show as nothing but a series of failures. The failure to protect a fief, to enrich a ninja clan, to aid girls wounded by the world, to woo a woman—those Shichika fought had in a sense failed in their goals even before Shichika came along to defeat them. Togame failed in her attempt to find revenge (or redemption), Shikizaki failed to change the fate of Japan, and Shichika was once again proven inferior to his sister, who at least made sure that when she wanted to die, she died.

Given I’ve just recently praised Shiki for delving into dark themes of hopelessness, nihilism, and despair, I want to make clear I am not opposed to such themes in general. I am opposed to them here because they negate the natural flow and progression of the series which we’ve seen in previous episodes. Shichika and Togame’s journey was a progression and development toward something positive, more humane and mature than when they started, and having accomplished some great work in the process. Even if it were destined to end tragically (as these shows often are), this tragic ending is forced, out of place, and ultimately degrading to everything that has come before it. I can’t see this ending as anything other than an embodiment of the very failure it takes as its theme.

The episode is very direct in reinterpreting the show as being about failure. The narration for the final montage of characters makes it clear that this is what the show has been about from the beginning, even though there are cases, like with Kiguchi, where it's not really true

Series Review: Obviously, I’m not happy about the ending of Katanagatari. But what do I think about the show as a whole? And is there anything I think the ending didn’t ruin?

Katanagatari at its best featured clever action, witty dialogue, and fascinating if flawed characters who were trying, in most cases, to be better. Many anime series don’t achieve any of these things, much less all of them; that Katanagatari’s narrative is frequently strong enough to bring all them in at once is a particular treat. The antagonists, including even the Maniwas starting at episode four, were always at least somewhat nuanced and sympathetic, giving the audience a more nuanced perspective. Even Hitei proved an unpredictable foe, if so no other reason than that she seemed to take pleasure in contradicting herself.

I will admit to not liking Hitei. The amused disdain with which she responds to the death of Emonzaemon, a servant completely devoted to her, makes Togame look the picture of a kind and loving master by comparison. Granted, she treats even the prospect of her own death with the same disdain, but she might know by prophecy that she's destined to get out alive

Unfortunately, one of the reasons I loved the show was in how, for its shades of gray, it did show both Shichika and Togame mutually guiding each other to be better, more loving and life-affirming people. The knowledge that, at the end of the day, Togame was not really becoming a better person puts a bit of a damper on that, and makes entire episodes seem undone as a result.

That doesn’t keep Nanami’s life and death from being both chilling and tragic, or Konayuki from being charming and lovable. It doesn’t make Togame and Shichika’s travel dialogues less funny and well-written. It doesn’t keep the combats (most of them, anyway) from being lovely, innovative, and carefully integrated to the overall plot. It probably doesn’t even keep Katanagatari from being the best action show of the year. But it makes Katanagatari at best a flawed masterpiece, and possibly something far worse.

I also really, really didn't like the epilogue, where Shichika goes on the trip to map out all of Japan, only with Hitei inexplicably tagging along as a stand-in for Togame (right down to altering her hairstyle to the same bob she mocked Togame for having). I suppose I'm used to having Hitei do unfathomable things, but why Shichika lets her live, much less follow him, is beyond my powers to explain

I suspect that I’ll need more time to properly figure out whether the finale episode is like episode seven in not living up to expectations, like the end of Mai-HiME in marring a show I still otherwise enjoy and value, or something that ultimately will poison my perspective whenever I try to rewatch the series. The fact I am worked up about it, however, is enough to show how unique Katanagatari has been. Ordinary shows aren’t worth this much emotional investment.

Thus, I’m going to have to put Katanagatari in the recommended watch category. I know my reaction to the show is not universal (my co-blogger will be demonstrating that later this week), and even if you dislike the ending as much as I do, there’s far too many good things in the rest of the series to discard it for a single episode. I just wish the ending were good enough that I didn’t have to offer that proviso in the first place.

  1. Tinil
    January 5, 2011 at 1:56 am

    I have to say, I agree with the general feeling. I felt punched in the gut after watching the ending, and all the points you hit on excellently illustrate EVERYTHING I hated.

    But on that same note, there is something I still respect about it. This series has always been very, very aware of itself and it’s genre and it has shown before (Episode 4 being the best example) that it isn’t afraid about leading you along so perfectly that you are convinced you are about to see something and then completely pull the rug out from beneath you.

    “Haha”, it taunts, “You think you know me? You don’t know anything!” Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That being said…being fooled the first time didn’t feel so bad because they substituted your expectations with a great alternative that made you think. With this switch, they pretty much explicitly prevent you from thinking. There is nothing deep about the ending, after all the depth of the first 11 episodes. Shichika even speaks for the audience in the epilogue! “I don’t know about all that changing history stuff, it sounds really stupid”, he says (paraphrased, of course).

    The message of failure, like you mentioned, is the one aspect where it really feels like there was meaning in what happened in the end. At least that ties into episode 10 somewhat, with all the talk of how the only way to succeed is to not try to win. Every single plan in the series ended in failure.

    But I suppose what feels the worst is simple. I was enjoying the series, having fun watching it, and then episode 12 came and stole my enjoyment away, made me not enjoy watching it. And now the series is over, completely wrapped up, done.

    I just can’t help but feel the whole togame speech only existed to make me feel horrible. All the themes and messages I can see in the finale, EVERYTHING would be the same if Togame wasn’t planning to kill Shichika. You can reveal just how self-centered in other ways. You can redeem her in other ways. You can shatter Shichika in other ways. The way it was written just makes me feel like they writer wants me to feel bad. Was I that bad a of a viewer? Am I being punished?

    Oh well, this is more or less what you, yourself said. I agree. I even agree that overall I really enjoyed the series and would recommend it to other people.

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      January 5, 2011 at 9:56 pm

      That being said…being fooled the first time didn’t feel so bad because they substituted your expectations with a great alternative that made you think. With this switch, they pretty much explicitly prevent you from thinking.

      Another way of looking at it is that the surprise of ep 4 was a crucial development to the plot, and that it replaced a moment of great action with a moment of great drama (and a genuinely scary character). The main revelation of this episode, regarding Togame’s true disposition, didn’t replace anything; it changed it. It’s not that the audience is surprised or caught off guard. … Actually, I think we’re just saying the same thing.

      At least that ties into episode 10 somewhat, with all the talk of how the only way to succeed is to not try to win. Every single plan in the series ended in failure.

      Good catch on that–I was too busy thinking of ep 10 as Togame’s pretend development episode to notice the linkage. I wouldn’t say the show is entirely about failure; if anything Kiguchi seems to be succeeding now that she’s missing the sword. But the show can be cast in such a manner. The problem with that is, with the exterior part of Shichika’s journey left in failure, that means the interior part should have some greater meaning to counterbalance it. I don’t think that it does.

      Oh, and regarding your email: Yes, that was a perfectly appropriate way to let us know you wanted to see the review. (We were going to run it on Wednesday, but with your note I decided to move the post up a day. Our readership is pretty quiet compared to some other sites, so we always welcome feedback and commentary. Thanks for offering yours, and I’m happy you enjoyed my reviews.

  2. Tinil
    January 6, 2011 at 1:29 am

    The problem with that is, with the exterior part of Shichika’s journey left in failure, that means the interior part should have some greater meaning to counterbalance it. I don’t think that it does.

    I think it definitely did though. Shichika at the very beginning of the series was a sword, not a person. He was trained that way by his father and it was constantly reinforced by a psychotic sister. Although he sort of reverted his growth in the final episode itself, in the short epilogue, it’s clear that the changes were real. He is his own person. He doesn’t need ANYONE to “wield” him, not his sister, not Togame. He decided to go on a journey to map Japan with no ulterior motive, no real purpose. It’s hard to believe he is doing it to make a profit or anything. It is just a personal expression of love for Togame, one that she basically commanded him not to do but he refused to follow. I suppose that more than anything was the purpose

    After all, it isn’t just about failure, it is a specific type: Failure to succeed in your plans. Shichika failed externally to complete his goal, but in becoming a human he succeeded, something he never planned. You could argue that Kiguchi never succeded with her plans either, and her happiness after all events are said and done are specifically because her plans failed.

    I mean, yes, I guess you can say that there is no “greater meaning” in Shichika’s development along the journey, but it just seems to me that there WAS a lot of meaning there, they just did a HORRIBLE job of showing it (Being a few minutes at the very end of the show that seems like an afterthought instead of over the course of the entire final episode). Maybe you are implying something different than I am talking about?

    I guess the things that still confuse me are: What does Togame helping Shichika become human even mean? If she was planning on killing him after it was all over then he never, ever needed to become a better person. Hell, teaching him to disobey her and go against her wishes when he, for himself, deems it the right thing to do…why it not only is pointless, it is COMPLETELY against her stated goal! By letting him become a person, he may not allow himself to be thrown away like a now-useless tool after things are said and done, either through persuasion or even violence. It would seem better, under her stated goals, to keep him a “sharpened katana”.

    But maybe that itself may point back to what I was saying: Her goal of using and then disposing of Shichika was a complete failure. And yet what she never planned for, never intended (Shichika being a complete person, much better off than when he began the journey) happened.

    The last thing: What were hitei’s motivations anyway? Was she JUST aiming for what Shikizaki Kiki wanted, just a reflection of someone else? In that case, her plans failed too but she ended up happy. Or did she have separate goals that DID succeed? That was a bit confusing to me.

    Anyway, keep up the great work you two. I love both writers here. I was a bit confused since the listed email only mentioned applicants and not “If you just want to contact us”, but hey, it worked for the best. I would comment more on the blog, but simply put I don’t watch enough anime. Probably one series every other season. I’m so picky, and the industry is so clogged up with fanservice and moe and whathave you that I never get motivated to watch much. Have any good recommendations of upcoming or currently running series?

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      January 6, 2011 at 6:49 am

      As far as recommendations, you can keep track of our new season coverage as it comes out, although my automatic recommendations would be Kimi ni Todoke (if you like innocent romance series, and don’t mind digging up the first season) and the noitaminA shows. I don’t know much about either of the new airing this season, but the block has had such a great track record recently that I’m willing to recommend them blind anyway. Aside from that … we’ll have to see.

      (For older shows, I’d recommend any of the noitaminA shows Funimation currently has streaming on Hulu–including older ones like Eden of the East–along with Durarara and Time of Eve, to name two shows we’ve covered here and are now on Crunchyroll.)

  3. R
    February 26, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I agree with your well-nuanced review of the series as a whole. I just finished watching and had to go online to get an affirmation of how low the ending left me. I wish that the whole greater purpose of the swords had been developed in a totally different way in the last two episodes. On the one hand, success for the shogunate means the ruination for Japan. Success for the swords means success for… what… the Nazis?

    The whole experience was much more interesting and engaging when it was about Shichika being a sword and Togame learning how to justly wield that sword toward a greater purpose. Then the ending took the beautiful balance that had been established and turned the series into a breathtakingly executed swan-dive directly into concrete.

    The taste I get in my mouth at the very end is that those first ten episodes were put there because nobody would have wanted to watch the series if we’d have known what the ending was going to be. That goes beyond being laudable for breaking with anime traditions and turns it into the equivalent of asking the shy girl to prom so that you can dump her on stage, then upload it to the internet afterwards.

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      February 26, 2012 at 10:56 am

      And I thought I was upset by the ending. It is a fresh disappointment for you, though, so I shouldn’t be surprised that your response is so passionate.

      I would disagree with one little aspect of your commentary: “The whole experience was much more interesting and engaging when it was about Shichika being a sword and Togame learning how to justly wield that sword toward a greater purpose.” That certainly was interesting, but Shichika learning (with Togame’s encouragement) how to be more than a sword was also a wonderful example of character development, and perhaps the reason that episode eight is my favorite of the series.

      With a bit of distance from the series, I can say that the show now falls into the “Mai-HiME” category for me: a horrible ending which mars, but does not ruin, the series as a whole. As an anime fan, you sort of have to accept horrible endings from time to time. In this case, everything that came before it was solid enough for me to call that worth it.

  4. Tarik
    April 25, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Actually, i think that when Shichika says he wants to die, it’s actually a way that he found to keep up living, just as Togame asked. If you think about it, he destroy all swords he has collected with Togame + the last one of their mission together; i can only think about that as a way he has to “finish” their sstory and “kill” this part of him, so he can move on.
    About how he starts drawing the map of japan on the epilogue, i couldn’t figure out what was his true intention, but i guess it is better developed in the light novel (as well as Houou’s and emonzaemon backstory).

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      April 26, 2012 at 12:03 am

      I suppose that’s one way of thinking about it. I mean, it is a way of eliminating all the influence of Shikizaki from Japan (the same Shikizaki whose interference is the ultimate cause of Togame’s death), but that’s this is Shichika’s intention is at best an inference. Both of us are united, I think, in wanting the author to have some deeper purpose to Shichika’s actions, but I’m not sure this is it. Maybe I should rewatch it to consider the matter.

      I wasn’t upset that he found a new calling, although I was annoyed about Houou and Emonzaemon getting short shift, so I’m pleased to hear that there was further development in the original material. I suppose they just ran out of time, which happens when you are working with tv shows.

  5. Ihusmal
    November 10, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I read your review and you make solid points on your dislike of the final episode and I respect that. I also feel that the whole entire Shikizaki prophecy was forced and felt like total bullshit. There are two points I like to discuss however.

    1. You and many other reviewers also wondered why Shichika let Hitei live. Togame asked Shichika to say thanks to HItei. I think this is because after Hitei found out Togame’s true identity, Hitei knew Togame was planning to kill the Shogun. I believe in order to save Togame from the path of vengeance, which will ultimately destroy herself, Hitei decided to kill Togame. Maybe it wasn’t her true intentions but I think this is what Togame/Shichika wants to believe. I think that’s what Shichika realized/thought and made sure to double check if Hitei even hated Togame in the first place. And Hitei replied with she didn’t particularly dislike her.

    2. Togame’s speech. The things she said confused me and after analyzing it this is my personal conclusion. Obviously in the beginning she was planning to use Shichika and gather the 12 deviant blades and end up killing Shichika and achieve revenge. I believe one thing she wasn’t planning on was to actually fall in love with Shichka. In the end she had two conflicting sides of her feelings. Whether she continues on the path of vengeance that she worked her whole entire life for, or just let it all go and be w/ the one she loves and achieve true happiness. Both sides developed quite nicely throughout the show and they didn’t really flush away her character. I guess we will never know what her decision would have been in the end and I think she was just explaining her original plan and her past 20 years of life. So maybe this is another reason why she was happy she died. So she doesn’t have to make that tough decision and died in love. And I truly want to believe that she was saying all that to make the pain easier for Shichika. During that part her left eye did have the cross, meaning she was scheming. And at the end when the cross disappeared and the burdens(white snake) scattered her final words truly came from her heart. “Would you mind… if I fell for you?”

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      November 10, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      That’s an intriguing interpretation. I suppose one reason I’m skeptical of it is that Togame seems to say (at least, I remember her as saying; it’s been a while since I’ve seen the ending) that her falling in love with Shichika–that is, really falling in love with him–was part of her plan, and not an after the fact surprise. That is, she deliberately let herself fall for Shichika so that her “genuine” feelings for him would inspire feelings on his part, cementing their relationship until her planned betrayal. Sure, she could be happy that, dying, she wouldn’t have to kill Shichika. But she never had to kill Shichika in the first place–all she would have to do is choose another path, as you note. Perhaps when she was dying and her plans for vengeance were dashed, she could ignore that and focus on her romantic feelings. What I object to is the entire idea that she was driven by vengeance in the first place, particularly in such a weirdly convoluted way.

      Particularly with her development in episode 10, and the general lack of concern for revenge that pervades her presentation in the series (see for example my note in episode 6 contrasting her with Kyouken, saying “Vengeance is not a helpful emotion; one of Togame’s few positive traits is her complete disinterest in the subject”), the fact that her entire quest was driven not by ambition and entitlement but vengeance seems … out of the blue. There are so many plot elements–e.g. Emonzaemon’s backstory with Houou and Hitei–which are hinted at but never explained. Togame’s dying confession of her duplicity explained things, but what it explained was never hinted at in advance. I much prefer the former to the latter, particularly in a show that’s otherwise very good at foreshadowing.

  6. Ihusmal
    November 11, 2013 at 3:02 am

    I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Her whole ambition in the first place was to avenge her father. There are multiple interpretations about Togame’s own psychological traumas (that was touched in episode 10) that getting into every point would take hours. One would be when Higaki told her to throw away her objectives (ambitions, vengeance, and aspirations) for her true objective. Who knows what the true objective was, but in the end she said she understands but would never throw away her objective (vengeance, ambition, etc. not whatever the ‘true’ is) and Higaki just sighed and called her stubborn. I guess you could arguably even say it was character retrogression, being reminded of her original roots. And I thought the show told us she was collecting the blades just to personally meet the shogun and assassinate him there. I guess that’s where her ambition lies in her quest. The ambition to avenge her father seems like a pretty good one to me.

    Also planning to fall in love with Shichika and still killing him at the end seems a little… off. I don’t believe she said anything about falling in love was part of the plan. The first 2 min. or so, she was rambling on about how she learned so much from their journey, learned how to live, felt all these emotions she never felt before, and thought she could actually change. So it seems like she wasn’t expecting to fall in love. If somehow it really was all a plan to fall in love, then she clearly underestimated (as cliche as this sounds) the power of love.

    In the end, like to my original point, she had trouble between the two conflicting feelings. Development over the course of 9 episodes, possible retrogression in episode 10, but other factors like how when she found out Shichika killed his own father was a giant leap in development. So she was obviously conflicted, happy that fate gave her a death with love, and her character development over the series wasn’t a complete waste. If it was a complete waste, she would’ve probably been cursing at the universe and fate for such a failed life while she was dying.

  7. Carina
    June 27, 2016 at 12:08 am

    I interpret the ending as a critique of old traditional Japanese values, especially the very ones that are usually held up and “praised” in martial-arts/samurai shows like these. Traditionally, the idea of being truly devoted to the person that you follow (your superior in the social hierarchy) was praised as a virtue in Japan, as well as discipline to the point where you no longer even have to “think” when you do things. A fighter who was able to act without thinking – do things automatically – was the ideal. Basically, the idea was to transform yourself (from a mere “person”) into a weapon (an object or thing).

    However, Shichika’s journey in the anime is the very opposite. He goes from being nothing more than a living “sword” that is just lying around waiting to be manipulated by the first person that comes along, to a person with his own thoughts and feelings. When Togame dies, Shichika is finally free to be his own person. Her confession at the end shows that no matter how devoted you are to the superior that you are serving, in the end you are only being manipulated and used as a means to their ends. You can never REALLY know for sure, and thus should never blindly follow the orders of another without thinking. I think she really did love him though, because if she were truly selfish she could have died with him still only knowing the “good” version of her. By confessing, she has freed him to become his own person and decide for himself what he wants to do with his life. Similarly, Hitei also becomes “freed” from her role at the end and decides to follow Shichika for lack of anything better to do. Neither hate each other because they realize they were just pawns in a huge game being manipulated by other “higher” people.
    *This is just a side-note but “hitei” actually means “deny” or “contradiction” in Japanese.

    I do not think the calamity that Hitei talked about trying to avert was the bombings. I think that rather she was talking about preventing just one person from holding ALL the power in the country and eventually using that power (and devotion that comes with it) to unite and militarize the whole nation, asking them to blindly follow the orders they are given. (as could be argued eventually ended up happening…)

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      July 2, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      That’s an intriguing spin on it. I certainly agree that having Shichika grow out of his role as a “sword” and into a person was a major part of the entire story (see especially my review of episode 8). I also agree that, if your interpretation is correct, then Togame had to die, in the same way that Jack in Titanic had to die. If the only form of freedom we recognize is independence, then Shichika being bound by love is no better than being bound by fear, or hate, or any other tie to human beings.

      I suppose the reason I did not immediately jump on your interpretation is that I reject that concept of freedom, at least as a positive thing. Our current culture valorizes independence (really autonomy), so it is quite possible that the author of Katanagatari was emphasizing that view. If he was, then it is ultimately view I have to reject. What I thought was the major theme of Katanagatari up to that point was that love–selfless love, sacrificial love, love that will give all for the sake of the beloved–that, and not mere freedom, was what made Shichika human. Radical autonomy might not make us robots, but it doesn’t make us satisfied human beings. I would ultimately argue that slavery to self is no different to any other form of slavery, and it is the love I just described that truly frees us to be what we are meant to be, but perhaps that is my religious/metaphysical commitments speaking for me.

      I suppose I also really wanted Hitei to die; I don’t buy the idea that she was a pawn so much as a willing participant. But that’s another response in itself.

  1. January 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm

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