The main male protagonist with a penchant for everything Canada.
As promised in my last blog entry for Legend of Legendary Heroes, I am going to review Katanagatari today. Written by the same person who also does Bakemonogatari (those two titles are not related though – but comparisons will be inevitable), this anime then will compete with K-On!! for the ‘Anime of the Year 2010’ title. And actually, this anime has a great chance to wrest the title from the latter. Read on to see whether this anime managed to do so or not.
Our main male protagonist, part of a small family of swordsmen exiled to an island after a rebellion, was summoned by a representative of the reigning shogunate in a secret mission to find to 12 legendary swords forged by a famous swordsmith hundreds of years before. Incidentally, this anime has 12 monthly episodes, therefore he spent each episode seeking the sword of the month by fighting in the duel of the month, one month at a time (in the anime and also in real world).
The story in this anime is great, and just like in Bakemonogatari, has good pacing and flawless plot progression. One thing I like about the story is how in episode 4, the anime shows the main male protagonist sister’s battles instead of the duel of the century between the main protagonist and the strongest swordsman in ancient Japan, Sabi Hakuhei. The writer sure has a lot of balls to do such a radical thing, doing an extremely important story progression event off-screen while highlighting another event that is less important at that time. And this choice of events allows the writer to set up the duel of the millennium instead that occurred in episode 7. But a certain weakness of this anime somewhat reduced the impact that episode 7 should have had, and I will return to that later.
While the writer has flunked the ending of Bakemonogatari, this anime’s ending is solid and beautifully written (although it has a somewhat unbelievable longest ‘last words’ in anime history). The certain weakness I have mentioned before also affected the ending to a degree though, causing the presentation of the ending to be less than perfect. The ending isn’t written to accommodate a sequel though, so I do not expect to see one unlike Bakemonogatari.
Character development in this anime’s small cast of recurring characters is also done very well. The best and most interesting characters in this anime are definitely the two main protagonists, each of them having their own character development strategies.
Character designs in this anime is completely different than the one in Bakemonogatari. While the designs in the latter will be home in any Japanese shounen genre titles, the designs in this anime reminds me of Cartoon Network’s Samurai Jack. Black hair are common in this fictional Bakufu-era anime though, which is a good thing. A positive aspect for this anime.
Swords’ designs in this anime is mixed bag though, the above sword is one of the better designed ones.
Voice acting in this anime is really good overall, and this is important because this title has a lot of dialogues. The main male protagonist and the princess are two outstanding characters in this regard. Another positive aspect for this anime.
The OST in this anime is decent. But from the very many OP/ED themes in this anime, only the 1st OP theme and the 1st and 5th ED themes are any good.
In some certain fast-paced action scenes, but not all of them, the blurry animation technique are used, therefore one point will be docked from this anime final evaluation. A pity because Bakemonogatari doesn’t have the same problem. Apart from that, the animation quality in this anime is good, even in fast-paced scenes.
The main weakness I have mentioned in the story section above is the almost below average choreography that this anime has. When I first start watching this anime and see that the main male protagonist is a swordsman that doesn’t use swords, I started to imagine a character whose abilities is similar to Mou Ming (‘Nameless’ or ‘Tanpa Nama’ as we call him in these shores) from the Hong Kong wuxia comic titled ‘Fung Wan’. But what you got instead is a character whose fighting skills is not too much different than Sanji in One Piece. The only difference between them is that the main male protagonist uses his hand more often in battles (if he is not using it to stroke hairs of little young girls).
Therefore, with the main male protagonist best described as a street brawler instead of a swordsman (weaponless or not), the fighting sequences in this is pretty much ordinary at best, most of the time. Remember the decision to not show the duel of the century between the main male protagonist and Sabi Hakuhei in episode 4, while using the said episode as a springboard for the sibling’s duel of the millennia. A duel of the millennia deserve awesome fighting scenes right? Right?
Unfortunately, the duel of the millennia, between two siblings of all things (showing the excellent build-ups by the writer that starts from episode 4) consists of lame fighting scenes that doesn’t deserve its title. While the writing is good, the execution is not, and this caused episode 7 to be less stellar than it should be. The average choreography also affected the events in the final episode, but not as much as it does to episode 7. Only the duel between the main male protagonist and the robo-sword in episode 8 has somewhat decent choreography in it.
The directing is flawless, and the director uses some good camera angles in certain scenes.
9 out of 10, despite the choreography problems mentioned above. Only the usage of the blurry animation technique prevents this anime from getting a perfect score. With this, this anime will replace K-On!! as the newest ‘Anime of the Year 2010’ title holder, with its strong storyline and also strong ending. As for the next title that I will review next, those who visit this blog’s Facebook page will know what it is already, because this anime is the third from four titles I wanted to watch.