Ongoing Investigations: Case #109

After a full year Katanagatari comes to a close and it has been an interesting journey. Nisio Isin is still very obviously Nisio Isin no matter what he does. That means playing the with genre, winking at the audience, bizarre and sometimes immensely annoying characters, and metric tons of dialog. With 12 swords and 12 owners we have gotten a good deal variation in how the episodes felt. Some of the owners and swords were far more interesting than others but that is expected with having to create 12 pairs of antagonists and weapons. Also some of the later swords only count as swords because the author says so. I am going to assume that the episode that completely threw out the formula completely and had Nanami as the main charter was a highlight for most people.  The ending has parts that will either be very shocking or super obvious depending on who you are. It starts with a  speech that exemplifies the fact that characters do not stop talking no matter what happens. The final episode also has the prerequisite Boss Rush that seemed inevitable from the beginning. In the end everyone who had a plan involving the swords had an immensely elaborate Rube Goldberg styled plan that could have been simply solved without the swords in reflection. In fact there is some extremely sketchy logic that will probably annoy the daylights out of anyone not drawn in by the story. I enjoyed the story and like the Monogatari Series it proves he can write something I don’t utterly despise like the Zaregoto Series. But his style is still a hard pill to shallow and I can easily see why people would avoid his work like the plague.

I read Natsume’s Book of Friends vol. 1 which I was very excited about since I loved what I saw of the anime. This is the story of Natsume who can see yokai and who has felt isolation because of it. When he moves in with yet another set of relatives he starts to learn more about his long gone Grandmother who had the same power and used it to dominate the spirits. Things get hectic as spirit after spirit comes after Natsume to get back their “name, ” which his Grandmother had collected into a book. So far the stories have all been ones I watched on screen. Each has a little humor, a little nostalgia, and most times a very quiet and melancholy feel. Natsume is a really gentle soul and its wonderful to watch him listen to the stories of the yokai while also learning about his Grandmother. The artist’s lines are quite loose which adds the whimsy I am so found of to the stories. Though I have to say I enjoyed the anime just a bit more, the soft color palette and light music really added to the stories. Nevertheless, I want more Natsume and hope to find stories that weren’t animated in its pages.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #074

Detective Conan Movie 3: The Last Wizard of the Century was quite memorable thanks to a mystery that swirls into a full-blown historical conspiracy. And the appearance of that charming phantom thief Kaito Kid! When the Kid delivers his latest riddle about where he will strike of course everyone is in a uproar but Conan senses something different about this heist as Kid signs the message “The Last Wizard of the Century.” Once they decipher the target as the a recently discovered Fabergé egg belonging to Nicholas II of Russia, Conan is even more perplexed as the piece upon examination contains no jewels (Kid’s item of choice). And that is just the tip of the iceberg as Kid leads them on a chase into a mountain of clues and mysteries that come one after the other. And of course there is a murder afoot as well. Plus Heiji is also in tow as the game begins. Ah, they crammed everyone in this movie but it just makes it more fun and spectacular. The way it keeps leading you to the next mysterious piece of the puzzle is engrossing. This was a great ride!

I have always been distinctly aware of the Detective Conan franchise but never really watched any episodes before this movie. This was a good test of how accessible the movies are to someone who did not watch the TV series. I found that with my general knowledge of Conan and the little intro I was able to follow the story. I might not have understood all the nuances but I was never left scratching my head about anything. What starts as a simple case of stopping the legendary thief Kaito Kid becomes a series of murders surrounding the late Russian royal family. That of course means that Grigori Rasputin is also involved because you just can’t have a story about the fall of the Russian royalty without him. By law. I have to say that if nothing else the movie peeked my interest in watching the rest of the franchise as it seemed very enjoyable and fun. I did not realize what a utter putz Kogoro Mouri is. Also the detective kids seemed sort of tacked on because that is how movies based on TV series work. I will say as I have in the past if you want to see some lovely high budget animation got to the family friendly shows. They get the wide audience that lets them spend money as they will and it shows when they put on a theatrical piece. It was a fun romp with all the murder, action, and mystery you expect from the Conan series.

Since I don’t like NISIOISN I was a bit worried about watching Katanagatari, but something compelled me to do so anyway and I’m very glad I did. When the episode hit the ending credits, I turned to Hisui and said “I LOVED IT!” This is mostly owed to the fact that the characters really grew on me and didn’t drive me nuts and weren’t utter jerkfaces which is pretty much why I stay away from this writer. I really enjoy the simple-nature of Shichika that is dual to Togame’s attempts to be devious and “strategic.” And all the humor that goes along with them is charming. The styling of the show and its storytelling is this really lovely mixture of modern and flat but evokes a very fairytale or storybook feeling. I saw this especially in their use of music, such as the moment when Shichika and Togame meet for the first time. And I was happy to see that the fight was pretty cool despite the obvious animation saving tricks used in the beginning. The only real flaw with this episode was a load of story exposition that was dumped, but it lays everything out for you, and since the episode is 50 minutes long it didn’t come off as unbalanced as it could have otherwise. Katanagatari is like a familiar story that you can’t wait to watch even though you’ve heard it before.

I was wary going into Katanagatari. I both like and dislike NISIOISN as an author. The problem is that he has a good sense of how to make interesting stories but a penchant for making characters that get right on my nerves. The story is the standard fetch quest by way of beating highly skilled opponents with gimmick weapons.  This hardly dooms a show. It just means that how well the show does is reliant of two factors: how good the characters are and how cool the gimmick weapons are. So far I have greatly enjoyed Katanagatari because we have yet to encounter a “NISIOISN” style annoying jerk character especially as the one of the main characters. Togame and Shichika Yasuri seem very likable and have an easy comical chemistry between them. I’m sure they could add a new character I will want to strangle but so far this has not been the case. I am intrigued by the way the series is being released. It is being released on episode a month and each episode will tentatively be an hour long and based on one of the books in the series. So far great animation with a cool style, amusing characters with nice comedic timing, and the promise of some cool fights is keeping me watching.

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