What They Say:
Yasuri Shichika and the Stratagemist Togame have reached the middle of their katana collection journey. Realizing that Togame has so far succeeded, Princess Denial initiates countermeasures to simultaneously help and hinder the woman she hates the most in the world. The final few katana are held by even more fierce and dangerous foes, not to mention the Maniwa Ningun, who grow more and more desperate to reclaim their village’s honor.
It’s up to the power of Kyoto Ryu and Shichika to see this journey to its completion, accomplishing what the Old Shogun tried to accomplish with an army of thousands. His only weapons are his fists and Togame’s always-devious stratagems. When they learn one of Shikizaki Kiki’s katana is held by none other than Shichika’s sister, Nanami, they find it prudent to track her down as soon as possible…
Please Note: This review covers on the DVDs themselves from the DVD/BD Premium Edition combo release. You can read the Blu-ray and packaging review here.
Like part 1, this part has only 2.0 Japanese stereo included for the audio. The audio in 2.0 works as well as one can expect, but during such wonderful set pieces (such as the last half of the final episode), a 5.1 soundtrack would have been incredibly beneficial.
While watching this set, I found no weird glitches or distortions. The video transfer is solid and with no errors. With a series as amazingly stylized as this one, an HD version is indeed preferable so that every line and color can be represented in all its glory. It is series such as this that reminds me of how truly limited the DVD medium is. Not to say that it looks bad, but it can only look so good and is never fully representative of what an animated film can look like at its best. It pains me to say this, but for best results… check the Blu-ray. You won’t be left with this visual gauze that DVD has a tendency of putting up.
The menus in this set are a bit more exciting to look at than in the previous set. Once again, like its predecessor, it consists of a picture border with the options in a square in the middle left. On these two discs in the set, however, they have chosen pictures that are quite a bit more colorful than in the last set. Overall, the menus still feel the same, but the increase in amount of color really does make a difference in a good way.
I understood that the first set would have few extras since it is the first in half a series. However, I do now find myself incredibly disappointed that NIS America couldn’t find anything of real value to put in this set. Like in the first part, there are only clean openings and endings. As a fan of the actual series, however, I would have loved to see anything in the form of documentaries, interviews, etc. of the Japanese crew, as I find myself very interested in how this anime was created. Alas, this is not the case, and I suppose this lack of extras is why NIS America decided to go with a more physical bonus extra route (i.e. the color booklet, etc. that come in the set).
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Katanagatari is a series I found myself wary of going into the first half. It had a lot going against it. It was a period piece, heavy in dialogue, and a whole lot of Japanese names that I knew I wouldn’t want to bother remembering. But with its unique visual style, wonderfully paced plot, and simultaneously simple-yet-complex characters, it completely won me over. Needless to say, going into the second half, my expectations were much higher. I am more than happy to say that not only does this set live up to the first, but it exceeds it on all fronts with an increased emphasis on action, plot, and character development.
The first episode we are treated to is a strange one, and perhaps the black sheep of the series. It was as though the animation budget from the previous six episodes was cut, and the director had to find creative ways around it. Rather than the typical, stylized, animation, episode seven comes across as a strange marriage between what we have grown to love about Katanagatari, and flash animation. Lines are thicker and blacker, and the characters and background more colorful. At some points, the episode looks more like a hand drawn side-scrolling video game rather than an actual anime. It is all used to great effect, and fits in very well into the series, as this is the pivotal episode of the series.
We are thrown right into the plot, with Shichika facing off against his psychotic sister. Plot-wise, it is done in a very interesting fashion that almost makes you feel like you had missed an episode of the series somewhere down the line, but ultimately this feeling is a welcome one, as it makes for a much faster-paced episode, where it is the emotions and character that are paramount, rather than its plot. As if taking its cue from this episode, much of the series continues in this fashion, focusing very little on actual plot, and using each scene as an opportunity for us to prove into the relationships and character psyche.
I had become so invested in the characters that by the end, even when they were throwing so many names at me that I hadn’t quite bothered to remember, it really didn’t matter. It had managed to keep the goals of the characters clear, primal, relatable, and interesting. As the two protagonists got closer and closer to finding the final katana, I could almost feel the heavy destiny lingering in the air, waiting to fall. We also get to know our group of antagonists fairly well in this set, and had learned to sympathize with them. The four remaining ninja of the 12 Shadows are an interesting group of underdogs, that, despite their savage and cold nature, you can’t help but silently root for, even if it means that our protagonists will fail. Princess Denial is truly a horrible and despicably manipulative creature, but you still can’t love her for the same reasons you have grown to love Togame—since they are essentially the same character with slightly different pasts and opposing goals. To top it all off, we get to see the intimidating physical presence of Emon-Zaemon, Princess Denial’s loyal vassal, who is the also the mirror image of Shichika in the same way as Denial is to Togame.
The goals of these three different groups culminate into a shocking plot twist that leads to perhaps one of the most rewarding final fights of any anime series I have seen. At the end of it all, it is wonderful to see how much the two main protagonists have grown as humans. In the case of Shichika, it becomes apparent how utterly wooden and awkward he was at the beginning compared to the emotional being we see at the end. Togame, while still quirky and interesting at the beginning, finds herself less and less able to simply consider Shichika as a mere pawn in her plans. While a bit on-the-head at some points, their character arcs are rewarding and quite necessary, and as a result, we are treated to an emotional climax that, by all accounts, should feel ridiculous and perhaps almost laughable, but for the invested, it is worth every second.
This is a series that truly builds on itself. From its static, almost-lifeless first episode, it is a series that relies on style to grab its audience early on, but is slowly able to keep the attention through carefully placed substance throughout. While the heavy Japanese name-dropping may throw off some, it never truly detracts from the beautifully simple yet interesting plot, and I rarely found myself caring that I don’t quite understand which katana is which or what region of Japan they meant to travel to before realizing they were going the wrong way—those are all just details that, to be honest, don’t matter in the emotional and primal context. Any series that is able to succeed in spite of this can be described as nothing short of fantastic
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Two Clean Openings, Six Clean Endings
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: NIS America
Release Date: September 20th, 2011
Running Time: 308 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL-40EX400 BRAVIA EX400 LCD hdtv 40 inch. Sony SLV-D370P DVD Player. Electrohome ELE-HTB920E 5.1 Channel Surround Sound Home Theater Speaker System