Friday, February 12, 2010

Katanagatari 02: A Castle on Sand

EPISODE 02: Zantou Namakura

After their long journey by boat, Shichika and Togame finally arrive in the mainland. But Shichika is so unused to other people that he mistakes another woman of Togame's height as the real deal. Togame thinks this has to be remedied and so for several days, while lodging in the city, she gets Shichika to memorize all her features -- her color, scent and even (le gasp!) taste. She also makes Shichika put some brand new clothes on as walking around in the city with a half-naked man makes them too conspicuous, but has to compromise since Shichika thinks clothes hinder his movements. One night, while they are on their way out of the city, they encounter two would-be bandits, whom Shichika makes short work of. Shichika would have finished them off if Togame hadn't stopped him, saying that even though they are bad guys they need not be killed. Later, they arrive in the desert and Togame explains that their next target is Uneri Ginkaku, a ronin and lord of Inaba Castle, also the possessor of the Zantou Namakura. She adds that even though the sword is called "Blunt," it is actually very sharp and reputed to be able to cut through anything. To occupy their time while trying to find Ginkaku's castle, Togame suggests that Shichika come up with some cool catchphrases to say in a fight. Shichika sees little point in this but (again) decides to go along with Togame on this, finally settling on "However, by then you would have been torn to pieces." The Inaba Castle suddenly appears in front of them like a mirage and right below it is the body of one Maniwa Shirasagi, the "backwards-talking" ninja of the Maniwa Clan. They immediately realize that Shirasagi had tried taking the Zantou for himself but got cut by Ginkaku. Even against this kind of enemy, Togame insists on going through the front door. They find Ginkaku sitting alone in a small room. Without stepping inside, Togame introduces herself and offers to give Ginakaku anything he asks for, including removing the bounty over his head, if he would only give her the Zantou. Before giving his answer, Ginkaku asks her to step inside but before Togame's foot could even touch the floor, Shichika suddenly kicks her back. An infuriated Togame demands to know why he did it but stops talking as soon as she notices the clean horizontal cut through her clothes. Ginkaku had tried to kill her. Shichika and Togame make a tactical retreat in order to assess their situation and come up with a plan to take Ginkaku down. Shichika's first idea gets shot down, mainly because it involves Togame getting cut in half. Which leaves only his second idea -- but it might prove to be the best. Then Shichika asks Togame to always stay behind him, saying that a swordsman is only strong if he has something to protect. In his face-off with Ginkaku, Shichika uses the fifth Kyoutouryuu stance "Iris" to create an illusion of himself, thereby confusing Ginkaku into cutting the illusion and allowing the real Shichika to finish him off with "Rose." However, because Shichika did not expect Ginkaku's strike to be that strong, he holds back on this last stance and therefore does little damage to the opponent. Realizing that Shichika is no ordinary swordsman, Ginkaku prepares to go all out. He purposely wounds himself, explaining that the blood makes for a perfect lube, virtually erasing the friction between his blade and the scabbard, and thus making his draw that much faster. Shichika again uses "Iris" but Ginkaku's blade is so fast he has to use his back-up plan, which is to use Togame as a literal springboard in order to get to the roof, the only spot that Ginkaku can't reach, and use the hidden Kyoutouryuu move to finish him off. Much later, a sulking Togame packs the Zantou Namakura into a box while Shichika tries to apologize. After some more prodding from Shichika, Togame finally talks to him. Shichika says that Ginkaku's catchphrase was cool but Togame disagrees, saying that it wasn't a catchphrase at all but Ginkaku's final words, something that a person can only say once. Then she adds that for Shichika, there won't be any final word allowed.


Such a talky episode. But so entertaining and effective at advancing the plot, the almost one hour episode just zipped by. It's a shame the action scene wasn't that much defined. I mean, yes, I know the essence of samurai swordplay is really in the quick draw. Kinda like a Western movie. But an hour of talking and then one second of action? Not many people are going to want to watch that.

I do like the voice actors for Shichika and Togame. Shichika's especially, Hosoya Yoshimasa. He doesn't have a lot in his repertoire. Interestingly, so does the voice actress for Togame. For a moment there, I thought the seiyuu for Togame is the same one who did Holo in Spice and Wolf. Guess I was wrong.

The guy who voiced Shirasagi must have had a lot of fun with what few lines he had. Reverse speech. heehehe And according to Togame, Shirasagi does it in order to not be boring. Shichika like, "WTF? Ninjas worry about that?" And here I thought that the fact you are a ninja, already makes you kinda awesome.

FYI: we are supposed to think that Togame is wearing many layers of clothing. :) Also, she is older than Shichika if that girl in the flashback from episode one is really her.

I'm actually looking forward to the next episode next month.