Star Driver 11

Rather than quicken in pace as the season nears the end, this episode delves into Simone’s past and motivations. That’s not a bad thing: I’ve always liked the quiet little servant girl, her barely-masked contempt for her mistress Kanako, and her relationship with fellow servant Takashi, but up until now we’ve known very little about her. This corrects that.

We not only learn that Simone is not her real name, and she’s Kanako’s husband’s daughter (making Kanako her stepmother despite being about the same age), but that she changed her identity so she could seek revenge on the woman who stole her dad. But that’s not the end of it: it turns out Kanako knew all about this, and actually saved Simone’s life after a car accident. This makes their relationship even more intriguing.

Still, the reason Simone wanted Tauburn defeated (and lends her cybody to her lover to try to do so) was so he could become the leader of Glittering Star, and would become his boss’s boss. Now that she knows a little more about Kanako (and the tandem of Simon and Takashi lose to Takuto and Sugata), those motivations would seem misguided..but not altogether unwarranted, as Kanako is still irritating. Rating: 3.5

Shiki 19

The war begins between the surviving humans and the Shiki, as Chizuru is very publicly exposed and staked and Toshio is finally able to convince a mob to join him in driving out the “pests”. Yet we’re on the fence as to who’s truly in the right here; since we’ve learned so much about the Shiki. They aren’t killing because they’re evil demons. They’re killing because they need human blood to survive.

The Shiki must kill humans to live; the humans must destroy the Shiki to live. No wonder coexistence is so tough. Even if a segment of humans were okay with giving blood to feed them – and there is – there will always be extremists on both sides who will sabotage any chance at peace. Both overly wild and violent vampires and intolerant humans won’t agree to even the most mutually amicable compromise.

Sunako sheds tears not only for her child Chizuru, but because after coming so close to realizing the dream of a Shiki village, Toshio now threatens to crush that dream. Even worse, when day breaks, she falls asleep, leaving her defenseless. Who has been charged with protecting her in the basement? A supine, anemic, Seishin. Meaning if the mob finds them, they’re toast. Rating: 3.5

Katanagatari 12 and Wrap-up

There is no scheme that can stop Togame’s blood loss, and so she ends up passing away from Emonzaemon’s attack. After a year of so much idle banter, her final conversation with Shichika is the most poignant and revealing yet. She reproaches herself for using everyone she ever knew as a tool, and for living by calculation and for revenge alone. Meeting Shichika mellowed her out, however, just as it helped him grow into a real human being; ironic considering she used and referred to him as a tool almost the whole time.

Her final order to him is to forget about her and live on. He does not obey. This was a long death scene – more than fifteen minutes, It was quite moving; when Togame finally breathed her last, I am not ashamed to admit to welling up a bit. Togame deserved a scene of this length and breadth. After all, we’ve known her just as long as Shichika…a whole friggin’ year!

Hell hath no fury like a Shichika scorned…though when he storms Owari Castle and begins mowing effortlessly into its thousand-man garrison, he does so not to avenge Togame, but out of a desire to end his own life. Shichika’s eyes have become steelier, and his voice is much less wistful than we’re used to. He means business.

As the Princess meets with the shogun atop the castle, Emonzaemon interrupts and notifies her of the situation. The shogun’s band of eleven retainers take up the eleven deviant blades and occupy the eleven levels of the castle, with Emonzemon at the top as the Princess Hitei’s last defense. “This is the end for us both,” Hitei tells the shogun with a knowing smirk. She wonders if this was her ancestor Shikizaki Kiki’s plan all along: for Shichika to go berserk.

Twelve levels; twelve bosses, and surging battle music. The video game references are obvious, as Katanagatari has done it before, but this is a whole new level (no pun intended). Shichika is able to reuse all of the knowledge he attained fighting the deviant blades the first time around, only this time, he is allowed to shatter the swords. A great trip down memory lane ensues. Each battle is dealt with in a different way, but are all flawless victories. I appreciate the trouble taken to design a whole new group of eleven unique-looking opponents, who are all defeated in short order. The kid with the bladeless hilt was probably the most hilarious; and Shichika doesn’t kill her out of pity

Wanting to die, Shichika sought Emonzaemon, the only one he believed could kill him. He definitely puts up a strong fight, but no longer bound by any restrictions, and no longer prohibited from harming his body, Shichika is unstoppable. He defeats Emonzaemon and becomes the final completed blade, Kyotou Yasuri. Now at the top of the castle, Shichika takes one more life: that of the shogun who sent Togame on the mission in the first place. Hitei is spared.

What then? Well, it would seem Shichika could not disobey Togame, and keeps on living. He travels across Japan, making the map he promised to make with Togame, only instead accompanied by Princess Hitei. It turns out she didn’t hate or even dislike Togame. Her new haircut, outfit, and mannerisms in the epilogue suggest she had a lot more in common with her than not.

So there you have it: twelve months, twelve hours, twelve swords. It was quite a ride, which ended strong. I’ll admit I will miss the time when I could look forward to a new installment each month. While Shichika’s journey continues even without his beloved, petite, white-haired master, our ability to continue watching it unfold has come to a close. Rating: 4