It’s always hard to put into words episodes of such caliber as the eleven of Katanagatari. Penultimate episodes often outdo the ultimate ones, because they build up so many possibilities that are still beyond our sight. It’s always best when a finale is the quintessential embodiment of all the episodes that preceded it, but with so much amazing action, music, atmosphere, dialogue, ideas, and revelations, I can say with certainty it will have to be unbelievably good to surpass this. Major spoilers ahead.
All of Shikikazi Kiki’s Perfected Deviant Blades have now been accounted for. The twin pistols are one of them; they were always in possession of Princess Hitei, who is a descendant of Kiki. Another was the blade that Houou took; it allegedly contains Kiki’s soul, which possesses Houou’s body. This happens when Pengin innocently tosses the sword to Houou, fearful that Emonzaemon is about to defeat him. Houou goes crazy and escapes, injuring Emonzaemon in the process.
Pengin Maniwa is definitely one of the more interesting Maniwa heads; and there’s a good reason an otherwise weak, shy little kid is the second-most feared of all ninja, after Houou: his ninpou is either exceptional luck or the manipulation of fate, such that even bullets will dodge him. Emonzaemon finds a contradiction in the ninpou and defeats him. This, after Togame and Shichika spared Pengin out of sympathy (and as a bargaining chip).
The final blade is Shichika, the last student of the school of Kyoutouryuu, crafted over centuries and lifetimes of accumulated knowledge. Kiki trained the founder of Kyoutouryuu. Kiki turns out to be more intriguing than I could have predicted. He came not from a family of swordsmiths, but of soothsayers. Able to see deep into the future, he was able to take master sword-making techniques from that future to create his Deviant Blades. The reason his physics- and psychology-exploiting blades are so peerless is because they never should have existed in this timeline. (An aside; a spin-off to this series in which Kiki literally visits those futures could potentially be cool.)
Even so, in a battle between Kiki and all his accumulated knowledge, within the body of the ultimate Maniwa ninja, his final sword Shichika, is able to quickly dispatch him. We’re left wondering if Kiki was really within Houou, or if Houou simply went insane, believing he was Kiki. The distinction is broad, but we don’t find out the answer. I’m glad we don’t…I don’t want all the answers yet.
Throughout this episode, Togame and Shichika reflect on the last ten eleven months: how many places they’ve visited; how many people they’ve meet; how much both of them have grown and evolved. Indeed, Togame started out as a noisy tsundere and Shichika a ignorant chunkhead. There’s some great moments where the two confirm their affection for one another, and their intention to stay together after the sword-collecting is over. After all, she has ‘her own battle’ to fight when it is.
Which brings us to the heartbreaking closing scene. Togame correctly predicted that the princess would be in possession of the final blade (the twin pistols), in order to be able to negotiate with Togame, who has the other eleven. So she and Shichika return to Iga to begin the “political war”. Emonzaemon is waiting for them with the pistols. He reveals Togame’s true name – Daughter of the former Lord of Oushuu, Hida Takahito, Princess Yousha. She’s also a princess. Then, before Shichika can react, Emonzaemon yells “Forgive Me!”, and puts two bullets right into Togame’s chest.
And in three seconds, the young woman we’ve been watching for nearly a whole year, falls to the ground and doesn’t come back up. The narrator then announces that Shichika, the Deviant Blade, has, of this moment, become Perfected. The entire sword-collecting journey, it would seem, was a means of perfecting him..for Hitei. The moment she knew all the swords were secure, she made her move, and it would also seem that Togame miscalculated. Or did she? We’ll have to wait a month…which sucks. Rating: 4