Katanagatari

Friday, July 18, 2014

Katanagatari

Katanagatari is a light novel series written by NISIOISIN and received an anime adapation from White Fox. I've read most of the novels and watched the anime multiple times and will just share some thoughts on it.
Being a sword doesn't sound that complicated but one might still wonder how it is done.

I like NISIOISIN's novels, but from that perspective Katanagatari doesn't offer enough to make that a positive or negative point. Katanagatari is a mixed bag when it gets to the point of  fanwhoring about the author because it walks the line between the really obvious NISIOISIN narrative nonsense and a conventional fiction novel. Some people will like Katanagatari more than any other of the adaptations his works have received (which would be just Shaftmonogatari and Medaka Box actually) and will keep saying "this is his best work", other people would just say this is his most boring or straight forward story.
Let's just assume the viewer isn't Michael Bay or a Gold Fish and can sit through of at least 30 minutes (of 40) of nothing happening per episode. That would be the only negative point I could mention about Katanagatari.

Normally you would write a plot driven story or a character driven story, but Katanagatari uses the plot as a plot device for a character driven story if that makes sense. A lot of detail put into the narrative isn't for the plot but for the characters, in this case, the main characters. They are anything other than boring, actually almost cartoonish, not only in visual presentation. They display personalities looking like a mix of a marvel comic and a real life drama novel.
The casual western anime viewer will miss a lot of the fanservice for fans of Nisio's previous works or other stuff his is rather famous for. A little easier to figure out is the relation of the names to the story and the characters personality but this is a just a minor example of what the author would be capable of. Luckily Katanagatari doesn't come with a NISIOISIN writing overload, which doesn't leave people wondering if they missed out on half the meaning of what they just listened to or watched. But theming is a strong suit of the author and noticeable throughout Katanagatari as well.
One of the strengths of the lengthy dialogues isn't just that it's not boringly presented (given you're neither Michael Bay or the Gold Fish), but usually always comes back to theme of the current story, even if it looked like casual banter nonsense. Granted, the dialogues in Katanagatari aren't really wasted time at any point anyway, and is usually more obvious situation focused. Unlike a lot of modern anime which just present annoyingly boring expositions and whatnot, for the sake of understanding what's going on right now.

There's another reason why I think this story will leave a positive impression on people. A lot of the the author's stories follow similar structures of the jo-ha-kyū style.
Each episode follows that principle as well as the entire series. It's not like an actual mind-blowing twist that's happening suddenly which makes the stories interesting but just that swift change of pace during the finale. This works so well because the slow starts of Nisio's stories, including Katanagatari, leave a lot of room for character and theme establishment and character interactions, to make any following events relevant. There aren't many stories that made me cry in any media in general, but Katanagatari made me sob like a child. And that only because I could relate to the feelings the characters went through until the end, thanks to the time the story invested in building their relationship and empathizing on it on the right moment.

Something I personally like as well is taking the principle of "telling instead showing" to the extreme. A lot of people criticize this, especially about Nisio, and that he needs to focus more (which is up to interpretation...), but some moments in Katanagatari feature exactly that on purpose and it's just fun since NISIOISIN often toys with this concept. This also leaves a bit room for speculations and interpretations in a not so suggestive or complicated story, and it also doesn't feel like you're being treated like an idiot at times. Which is one of the things that's recently getting on my nerves in anime and manga. Just serving me anything on a silver plate, which I could have figured out on my own often ruins the soup for me. And that's just for basic narrative styles.

The visuals are also fine, obviously trying to stay close to Take's illustrations (they tried even harder, later in the series) and the action scenes are actually fun to watch because they don't drag. Sound, especially voice actors are very likeable in my opinion.
The music is great, as well as the OPs and EDs and I normally wouldn't mention that but Katanagatari received two extra songs for the new most recent TV re-run.


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