Katanagatari: Truth, Lies, and History

Repeat a lie often enough and it will be believed.

Often misattributed in various incarnations to Vladamir Lenin or Joseph Goebbels, there is no official source for this statement. It is, however, an interesting way of interpreting “official” history. Another way to put it would be

History is written by the victors.

There is a difference between the two both in reality and in Katanagatari. The latter is what Shikizaki Kiki sought to accomplish, but the former is the fate that ultimately befell Togame.

Needless to say, spoilers ahead.

In episode 12, Togame’s denial of herself as she lay dying is a point of contention for many viewers. Was she telling the truth here? Was she lying so that Shichika would live on despite her death? Was Togame perhaps lying to herself? Or did Togame not truly know herself?

The text flashes that open the episode are worth considering:

     

Let’s say that history is nothing by words.
There is no way to determine if those words are the truth.

The Japanese term, “bunshou”, refers to written words, but what are written words but the thoughts or opinions of the person who wrote them? In this sense, history is merely something that someone wanted recorded in some way, and Togame’s words in these last two episodes are those which she wanted to express as part of her history. But there is nothing to determine if those words are the truth. They may be lies hiding the truth, hiding what she did not want to acknowledge, hiding that which she did not know. Perhaps, just like ‘real’ history, her words are merely representations of herself, representations of the true Togame that we saw in her behaviour as she fell in love with Shichika over the course of the series.

But who am I to guess? A person will seldom know everything about oneself, that is, one’s own history. I’d say that those around him or her will understand more, so the person that was Togame is ultimately just for Shichika to know.

     

Pardon me for jumping right to the end, but the penultimate and finale episodes of White Fox’s Taiga anime are arguably the meatier parts of the series. Whilst I did enjoy the development of Shichika’s character from the time he met Azekura Kanara (“Zokutou Yoroi”), Nisho Ishin’s examination of the philosophy of history is far more interesting. That said, with regards to how history is being written in the modern day, there are no real conclusions to to drawn from Katanagatari: what will be will probably be. In fact, even the idea that “history will correct itself” may have a huge amount of truth in it. Even if a small change is made at some point, e.g. if a particular leader is deposed, as a product of the same society, a individual baptised in the same wider social norms, that leader’s replacement would probably carve a similar path that would become history to all who follow. The eugenics movement that fell into disfavour because of its connections with the Nazis was actually being practised all around the globe at the start of the 20th century. If Hitler hadn’t taken it too far, chances are that someone else would have.

     

Coming off that tangent to talk about the show itself: perhaps it’s a reflection of the kinds of series I tend to watch these days, but I found myself annoyed at the amount of disbelief I had to suspend in order to watch this. Besides fantastical aspects such as Shikizaki Kiki’s seer abilities and the ninpou that the Maniwa ninjas employed, there was also the ridiculous twelve – or thirteen – tiered keep in the final episode (it’s just impossible to have such huge rooms without any interior support). Furthermore, I always rolled my eyes at the sheer amount of talking Shichika and his opponents managed to do even in the midst of fighting.

     

Put that all aside, however, and Katanagatari was an excellent year-long series, rage-inducing ending and all. The visuals were usually crisp, and the occasional style-changes were amusing, especially in the seventh episode. Take’s art is simply beautiful, and White Fox really pulled out all stops to bring it into motion here. On the acting front, Hosoya Yoshimasa really impressed over the last few episodes in particular – the blandness of the emotionless Shichika of the opening act contrasts magnificently with the finale, where icy cold anger follows passionate anguish. The novels may be an absolute chore to read – I certainly have no intention at present to read past the first one – but Nishio Ishin’s verbosity has been distilled into a far more accessible and palatable format in this adaptation. It’s been an interesting ride. 8/10

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

One Response to Katanagatari: Truth, Lies, and History

  1. Pingback: HAL: ‘these are a few of my favourite things…’ | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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