Katanagatari poses the question: Which is more important, the destination or the journey? It's in this way that this anime properly serves as a deconstruction of the modern shounen, taking the normal clichés and mechanics and turning them on its head. Indeed, Katanagatari forces viewers to rethink the conventions and concepts of the genre and prioritize the enjoyment of storytelling itself. What's more is that the show manages to accomplish this without sacrificing any of its wit, pacing, action, or comedy in the process.
Katanagatari serves as a testament to the writing prowess of Monogatari author Nisio Isin, as it offers compelling depth while retaining the charm that its art style suggests. It's hard to find other narratives out there that manage to balance mature themes with a jovial nature, as too often anime favor one aspect over the other. Because of this, Katanagatari oozes a humanity that's hard to encapsulate.
The following are twelve reasons why Katanagatari deserves more praise than it receives and why every second of its twelve-episode run is worth any anime fan's time. During the journey, this anime will make viewers laugh, cry, and feel every emotion in between – making the journey far more worthwhile than any destination.
Katanagatari Has A Compelling Story
At first glance, Katanagatari's story is nothing special. Shichika Yasuri, the seventh successor of the Kyoto Ryu style sword art, lives on an isolated island with his older sister, Nanami, and has never had any other human contact. One day, the island is visited by a strange woman named Togame, who requests Shichika's aid in her quest to find and collect the twelve legendary swords forged by the master sword smith Shikizaki Kiki. From this point on, this "sword story" (Katanagatari literally translates to this in English) sees Shichika and Togame working together to locate and obtain one sword per episode.
Though this may sound like a pretty generic shounen plot, Katanagatari teaches viewers early on that they should not assume a single thing about it. This show doesn't just avoid its genre’s traditional tropes, it occasionally makes fun of them. It does this all while demonstrating what aspects of a story are truly worthwhile in anime, neatly packing character development, worthwhile motivations, and engaging dialogue within an excellent pacing that makes each episode feel as if it's its own self-contained narrative.
Shichika Yasuri Is A Hero With An Indomitable Will
When the 7th successor of the Kyoto Ryu style sword art is introduced to viewers, he's nothing more than a fairly ordinary shounen protagonist. His thoughts and motivations seem unbelievable and downright detestable, as he joins Togame on her quest to collect all twelve swords simply because he supposedly fell in love with her at first sight. For the first couple of episodes, Shichika possesses the qualities of a generic, lifeless hero that's meant to simply act as a lens for viewers to see through.
It's when viewers venture further into Katanagatari where they realize that Shichika is really much more of a child than an unpromising human being. Having lived his whole life in isolation, he gradually learns about himself and the world around him, thereby opening up his personality and becoming a very likable person in the process.
Togame is the polar opposite of Shichika in that she commands the respect of the viewer from the outset. She witnessed her father's beheading at the hands of Shichika's father as a child, and her sole motivation is to avenge her father's murder and carry out his will by collecting all twelve of master swordsmith Shikizaki Kiki's swords.
Despite her tragic backstory, her intelligence, and the battle expertise she offers to her companion throughout the course of Katanagatari, Togame is often prone to clumsiness and bad judgment. As robotic and narrow-focused as she may appear to be at the outset, Togame eventually proves to audiences that she's just as adorable, full of energy, and funny as any of her counterparts on the show. She compliments Shichika well because while he learns to find his human characteristics, Togame learns to unsheathe hers.
Nanami Yasuri is Shichika's older sister and is regarded as gentle, soft-spoken, and weak – at least during the first episode. Initially, like her brother, she possesses very little in the way of human empathy and shows a general disregard for basic human values – perhaps due to the fact that her father tried to kill her when she was a child. Nanami wasn't directly taught her family's fighting style, rather, she had to learn simply through observation.
Whereas Shichika and Togame each learn to build their personalities in Katanagatari, Nanami gradually loses what little she has. This makes for an interesting development that's brought to fruition towards the later half of the show.