Review by: Kiki Van de Kamp
Publisher: NIS America
MSRP: $69.99 US
Running Time: 308 minutes
Release Date: Available Now
All good journeys must come to an end.
NIS America has certainly proved this year that it is more than capable of bringing anime fans quality animation and the proof is in offerings like Volume 1 of Katanagatari. The first volume of the series really made quite an impression but it is Volume 2 of the series that makes this a near perfect series that will have you on the edge of your seat as the curtains fall on this enchanting tale.
When a Strategemist with a lengthy title met the inheritor of a sword-less fighting style, it was clear that the pair were destined to go on a dangerous journey together. Their quest to collect the swords crafted by the legendary blacksmith, Shikizaki Kiki, will take them far and across distant lands. Of course, it’s not an easy task but the boy named Shichika is a talented fighter who actually enjoys being Togame’s “sword.”
So far they had managed to collect a few of the swords already as Shichika proved that he is a very capable fighter and Togame a very bright Strategemist. In the end of Volume 1, however, Shichika has met his match because his opponent is none other than his own sister, Nanami, who possesses one of the swords she obtained herself by way of slaughtering its protector. Sure Shichika loves his sister but his loyalty to Togame is surprisingly more important to him than family blood ties so he is willing to kill Nanami for the sword.
The fight does not go the way Shichika thought but Nanami is willing to give him another chance to slay her and take the sword. In a rematch that is nothing short of riveting, Shichika manages to not only obtain the sword but also get an invitation from Princess Denial by way of her trusted vassal, Souda Emon-Zaemon. As it turns out, Princess Denial and Togame have something of a history that is actually something akin to love-hate with emphasis on the second as far as Togame is concerned. Their little meeting has left Togame wonder just what is the Princess’ real agenda. Also, we finally find who was responsible for Togame’s misuse of the word “Cheerio!”
The pair continue on their quest to collect the remaining swords and find themselves realizing that the next sword is actually a mechanized doll called the Biyori Go programmed to patrol a nearby lake and kill any human that gets near it. The doll just so happens to be a deadly weapon that isn’t easy to defeat so Shichika relies on Togame to come up with a strategy that will defeat it. The result is a nail-biting sequence that is but one of many highlights of Volume 2.
Moving on, they encounter the next possessor of one of Shikizaki Kiki’s swords who happens to be an honorable swordswoman named Kiguchi Zanaki and master of the Shin’o Isso Ryu. She absolutely refuses to duel with Shichika unless he masters a wooden sword and offers to train the young man. As a result, Togame becomes increasingly jealous of the girl and her imagination goes to work overtime by imagining a tryst between the two. We know that Togame has feelings for Shichika but we didn’t know to what extent until now.
Meanwhile, the Maniwa Ninjun is still on their trail as the mysterious Emon-Zaemon manages to track them down individually and lock blades with them in battles to the death. Emon-Zaemon, we find out, is without mercy and a talented killer but the leader of the remaining ninja unit manages to get his hands on one of the Kiki swords that suddenly possesses him and turns the ninja into a killing machine.
Continuing on their journey, Togame has dreams of a grim past that is actually connected to Shichika’s father that explains everything. In the meantime, they meet Higaki Rinne a powerful sage that is 300 years old but appears as a little girl and happens to possess the next sword. Once collected, Shichika and Togame face off against the leader of the Maniwa who is possessed by the spirit of somebody unexpected.
We also learn a secret about the swords and the man who made them as – at journey’s end – a tragedy occurs that changes everything. Suddenly, Shichika becomes an avenging force as he confronts Princess Denial and, of course, Emon-Zaemon. I won’t reveal what happens since doing so will ruin one of the best surprises this series has thrown at us but the finale is both exciting and heartbreaking.
Volume 2 of Katanagatari is a fitting ending to a series that has all the makings of an instant classic as the story reaches a surprising, heartbreaking and exciting final chapter. Togame and Shichika’s journey was one that proved to be interesting and immensely appealing to follow from start to finish and even more so in this final volume. This is definitely a Must Have for anyone who enjoys a series with plenty of wit, action, romance and original animation.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
The Strategemist Togame and her “living sword” Shichika continue their journey to collect the famous blacksmith’s swords. Of course, they encounter a number of obstacles to get these swords as they find the Maniwa ninja still after them and we finally meet Princess Denial and her deadly vassal named Emon-Zaemon.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The DVD version looks really good but if you have a Blu-ray player then I highly recommend you watch it the way it was meant to be seen since the animation is colorful and original. Everything from the backgrounds to the characters looks good.
AUDIO QUALITY: A-
Taku Iwasaki’s masterful score is just one of the highlights of the audio experience this series has provided from the start as well as the lovely closing theme songs like “Seeking A Lost Child.” Then there’s the voice acting with Yukari Tamura, Mai Nakahara and Yoshimasa Hosoya standing out among the already impressive cast.
The Premium Edition set includes both the DVD and Blu-ray discs but the extras come in the form of the clean opening and closing animation on the discs. Of course, the real treat comes in the form of the xx-page hardcover book with artwork, poems, and episode guide as well as character design galleries. It’s great stuff that makes for a complete package with a lot to offer.
A near perfect ending to a near perfect anime series, Volume 2 of Katanagari is every bit as mesmerizing, enjoyable and meaningful as the first volume but this final chapter manages to be slightly better thanks to its heartbreaking and action-packed finale. As a whole, this series has not failed to surprise and keep us glued to our seats so if you bought the first volume then you do not want to miss Volume 2.
Review copy provided by NIS America