A lot of people love NISIOISIN’s Monogatari series to pieces, but the same author’s 2007 series, Katanagatari, is much more obscure. In fact, I wouldn’t have known about it if my friend who’s been lending me the Monogatari novels hadn’t also lent me this. Published in omnibus form by Vertical Inc., this series can now be experienced in English. Each of my reviews will cover three volumes due to the aforementioned omnibus format.
The big thing about Katanagatari is that it seems deceptively simple. The main character, Yasuri Shichika, lives alone on an island with his sister until he is approached by a girl named Togame. She tells him about these twelve powerful swords forged by a famous swordsmith named Shikizaki and offers to help her obtain the swords. Since there would be no series if he didn’t decide to tag along with her, Shichika decides to tag along with her. Given the amount of swords, the amount of volumes, and the fact that each volume, so far, has been named after one of the swords, it is easy to infer that Katanagatari follows a monster-of-the-week formula, with each volume consisting of going to where the next MacGuffin is, then fighting the person who’s wielding it.
NISI, do you actually think you can fool me? (And well, if the series actually stays this simplistic all the way to the end, then yes, you have fooled me.)
Since this is by the author of Monogatari, you’d naturally expect some phenomenally complex characters (and if you haven’t read Monogatari, just know that this author is known for phenomenally complex characters). But again, they seem deceptively simple! Shichika is kind the antithesis of Araragi. Unlike the iconic Monogatari tragic hero, he doesn’t like thinking too hard, and is pretty much an idiot when it comes to anything other than fighting. He sounds an awful lot like a cardboard cutout battle shounen protagonist… NISI, just what are you playing at? Regardless, the fact that he fights armed swordsmen without using a sword himself is cool.
Togame, meanwhile, seems to be just a waifu. She’s good at tactical stuff, but she can’t fight to save her life. So, Shichika has to protect her (NISI, do you actually want your FANS to like this series?). There are strong implications of ulterior motives on her part, but it shouldn’t be anything that would offset her need to be “protecc-ted.” Despite how bland these characters seem, they still have some great (and long) interactions between each other, as to be expected from NISI.
The biggest challenge from reading this book is visualizing it. As you can tell from the cover, this has an appealing and unusual art style. At first, I had a very hard time picturing things because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to picture it exactly like the illustrations or in a modern anime style. I ultimately settled on a weird combination of both, but it might not be so easy for you.
So far, so good. Due to its simpler format, this is a much easier series to recommend to people than Monogatari, or if they’re intimidated by Monogatari, then they can use this to get an impression of NISI’s writing style. If there’s any concern I have, it’s that the basic plot formula won’t change much, and I’ll have problems writing posts for subsequent volumes… But for entertainment value, this is shaping up to be a great series for Monogatari fans who need a break from Araragi’s constant existential crises.