Aresol’s Archives: Katanagatari(Sword Story)

Does a sword feel remorse over the lives that it has taken? Now while that is easily the most hypothetical question that I’ve ever started an article out on, it nevertheless has the most connection to this week’s character. Now usually I’d go off on some pseudo pretentious tangent about the deeper meaning behind the remorse of a weapon after it’s been used to kill a person but that’s really not what this is about. Today is about a character who has been used as if he were nothing more than a tool. He, just like every tool, has been bestowed a predestined purpose, a goal he must and will inevitably reach. He is a soulless weapon created for a single outcome.

Having my last three articles be primarily focused around dreams and ambition I felt that this was a nice offset to that. The concept of predestination seemed a nice parallel to those I had previously discussed, the idea that no matter what we do, think or dream everything about us and our lives has been decided outside of our control. Really, before I even get into my analysis of the character what I want you to keep in mind is that this idea of predestination is this article’s and this character’s end result. This is what I’m building towards and this is what you’re getting, regardless of the course we take to get there. Shichika couldn’t control his fate in the end, but the question I can’t answer here is whether any of us really can. Despite all of our choices, be they significant or not, are we just tools to be manipulated by someone else’s wishes? Yasuri Shichika most certainly was.

-Warning: There are things past this point that are spoilers. You’ve been warned, so don’t come complaining if something gets spoiled for you.-

Shichika is a sword. A weapon to be used and forgotten. As we first see Shichika he is the perfect mirror of this description, a tool without thought or will to be used however his master commands. He displays no emotion outside of a dulled intrigue and shows no real signs of ambition or want. He doesn’t speak often and when he does only has few words to say. Shichika shows no focus towards anything and does little more than carry out basic tasks without much of a thought. He is a blank slate. He is what comes before character, before personality, before the very concept of development. He is but an infant of a character without a grain of personality to himself but a great potential for growth.

Shichika’s life has always been one of solitude having been secluded to an uninhabited island with his sister for his whole life. Due to his solitary life he isn’t accustomed to other humans or culture to the point of not being able to differentiate between most people or even between gender. Again thanks to his seclusion from society he is without knowledge on any sort of customs resulting in much of what he says or does to come off as rude. Shichika has shown to be quite honest as he has never had much reason to lie, because of this honesty he again can appear quite rude as he knows no form of social etiquette. While he is honest Shichika is also a bit soft spoken and rarely speaks of anything that isn’t related to his current situation, often finding no reason to do so.

It isn’t until the arrival of the young strategian known as Togame, who attempts to enlist the help of Shichika for a mission to collect the twelve perfect deviant blades, that Shichika is introduced to the world outside of his tiny island. It is during this bargaining discussion between the two that we find that Shichika carries no desire for money, no pride as a swordsman and no loyalty to any country or family. Like his way of speaking to people if Shichika doesn’t see the need for something then he doesn’t desire it making him out to be quite the minimalist. This is reflected even in his clothing as what little that he does wear is usually of cheaper quality and is kept simple so as to not become a hindrance to himself. Since he only goes off of what he feels he needs or doesn’t need he initially sees the concept of money to be unnecessary, the idea of pride to simply be overconfidence and the concept of loyalty to be just a hindrance.

This is where we start to see Shichika’s form of blunt logic, doing nothing without necessity. If he feels no reason to speak then he won’t, and he’s often quick to point out very simple flaws in things that he deems complicated. Thanks to this blunt logic he doesn’t always understand the customs of others when they are taught to him, usually finding no need for them and as a result again comes off as being insulting. This way of thinking also makes Shichika come off as being rather lacking in intelligence, this is and isn’t always the case. The things that Shichika is presented as being unintelligent with are usually that which he’s never been introduced or grown accustomed to. On the other sides of things even when he has been properly introduced to the varying customs he shows little interest in them, again making him seem dull or stupid when in reality he just doesn‘t care. Still as previously stated Shichika often doesn’t understand customs or common place knowledge in the world and so he can be perceived as having less than average intelligence.

It isn’t until Togame offers the bargaining chip of her love that Shichika becomes intrigued. While he does eventually state that he has fallen for Togame it brings up the question of his own motives. Shichika is very clearly not the kind of person to devise any sort of scheme and even if he were he wouldn’t do such a thing being the honest person that he is. While it is to be believed that Shichika has truly fallen in love with Togame it’s still in question of whether or not Shichika truly understands what the concept of love means. As I stated previously he has had no contact with others outside of his own sister for most of his life meaning that the very idea of loving a person remains foreign to him. It could be perceived that Shichika may be going solely off of whatever emotion he felt at the time and attaching the word that Togame had used to that emotion, but having only just met Togame and not having prior knowledge to the concept of love this idea remains rather slim. The most likely conclusion may be that Shichika simply found the idea of love intriguing and agreed to accompany Togame simply to discover what the emotion truly was.

During the beginning of their journey it becomes more apparent just how much Shichika is unable to differentiate between other people. Even in the case of Togame who stands out quite a bit within a crowd he is unable to identify her resulting in a constant dependency to be near her so as to not become lost or taken advantage of within his unfamiliar surroundings. It is also during this time that we begin to see Shichika’s lack of appreciation for life as he routinely kills people without any sort of hesitation or remorse. It’s not that Shichika kills people without reason, as it is usually out of self defense, but that he simply has no emotional attachment to the concept of life. He doesn’t like killing but neither does he feel guilt when he kills even those close to him, to Shichika it’s simply an action that takes place and then he carries on.

When Shichika was young he was trained by his father in a form of martial arts that would treat his body as if it were a sword. From the very beginning it is this idea that has consumed Shichika’s thoughts causing him to not only become more of a living weapon but to also view himself as such. This view of himself is never really something that Shichika sheds as he develops. He tends to keep a more materialized view of himself, rarely referring to himself as human at all and becomes totally subservient to his master Togame. It’s from this viewpoint and his previously mentioned traits that the comparison of Shichika to a sword derives and becomes almost eerily real. He really doesn’t show much of any emotion, shows no remorse or even any effects from the idea of death, and is totally at the beck and call of his user. For all intents and purposes Shichika is only a sword. It is most likely because of this idea of himself that Shichika deems death as nothing more than a logical step, he’s a sword and swords kill people, simple as that.

As I stated previously, though, Shichika is capable of a lot of growth and over the course of his journey he very slowly begins to understand the concepts of friendship, remorse and even anger. Thanks predominately to Togame’s influence Shichika’s shelled off personality begins to be chipped away and an almost cheerful, fulfilled persona begins to take its place. During part of his journey he meets a fellow swordsman by the name of Tsuruga Meisa whom he befriends despite knowing that he’d have to kill her eventually. When she attempts to use this to her advantage in order to psych him out before battle he simply states that killing is something he needs to do and it’s never once bothered him, even when he killed his own father. Later it’s revealed that at the time he did feel a tiny bit of remorse from killing Meisa but didn’t understand the feeling, so he did not think much about it. This feeling would only grow when he came face to face with his own sister, knowing that he’d have to kill her. During the course of this battle he showed hesitation as well as an uncharacteristic lack of focus and it wasn’t until after he managed to finally kill his sister that for the first time Shichika showed any sort of remorse. Despite his show of sadness, though, Shichika recovered from this emotional event at an almost inhuman pace, while he did dwell on it for a short time it was eventually reduced to just a lingering thought and buried away.

Carrying forward with his journey and his growth he eventually befriends a young girl, Konayuki, whom he for the first time outside of his battle with his sister shows a bit of hesitation towards harming his opponent. His hesitation is written off as not wanting to harm the child but it’s eventually revealed that Shichika was able to see through Konayuki’s cheerful demeanor and sense a feeling of loneliness. This event marks a growth in sympathy from Shichika, something that was utterly nonexistent before this point. Due to this newly developed trait Konayuki become one of the few opponents not to be killed by Shichika. This also paves the way for several future relationships to occur thanks to his growing understanding of peoples feelings, by result creating a far more ambitious and cheerful Shichika in the process. By this I mean that because of his sympathy he is capable of making companions far easier allowing him to open up to more people. While his dulled persona is still very dominant he’s now a slightly more open and understanding person becoming attached to those around him and ambitious in being with them.

I’ll discuss a portion of Shichika’s relationships here as the most predominant one is of course his traveling companion and master, Togame. The two stand as somewhat polar opposites of each other with Shichika being a strong in body master of combat and Togame being a very intelligent and strategic, but frail young woman. It is thanks to their partnership and the fact that the two cover each other’s weaknesses well that they are capable of making it so far in their journey. While when he first meets Togame he declares his love for her it does eventually become apparent that at some point over their journey this statement becomes true as well as mutual. When in regards to his companionship to her he displays an almost puppy like demeanor as he constantly stays by her side and even becomes uncharacteristically jealous when others come between them. Shichika also displays a somewhat fetish like obsession with her hair. Starting as a way to become more associated with her as an individual, so as not to confuse her with others, it eventually develops into a habit of his to want to touch her hair. This is usually displayed in a gentle way, again somewhat uncharacteristic of the rough, blunt Shcihika. It isn’t until a later event that Shichika’s love for Togame becomes unquestionable.

Eventually the culmination of Shichika’s growth comes to a head during his final confrontation for one of the twelve swords. As he confronts this final opponent he is caught off guard and as a result Togame is slain by the enemy. With this Shichika fully breaks down. He exclaims that before he met her he had no goal in life, he was just a sword without an owner, but when he traveled with her it gave him purpose and above all it gave him hope. The very fact that Shichika was subservient to Togame is what changed him for the better and gave his life a meaning. Essentially Togame is the very reason that Shichika was capable of becoming the cheerful, fulfilled person he eventually did over his journey. As she died she told him to find a new master and to not bother going after her killer and to just forget her. At this point we now see Shichika’s full development, it’s not blind rage, it isn’t revenge or even love. Shichika has immersed himself as his own sword, he chooses how he should be wielded and he chooses who to kill. This is evident as he storms the Shogunate alone slaughtering everyone and everything in his path. He doesn’t do this out of revenge as he doesn’t see any logic behind fighting for someone who’s already dead. He doesn’t do this out of anger because why be upset over things outside of his control, though to be fair he is noticeable upset towards the end as he struggles to grasp the idea of why he‘s doing what he‘s doing. No, he kills everyone and breaks every sword that he journeyed so long to find because he wanted to. Then that’s it, Shichika disappears after that, whether his story ends or not can’t be said and whether he ever found any sort of purpose is just as unknown. Shichika simply wanders away with his purpose having been fulfilled.

Now lets rewind a bit as our story’s not quite clear just yet. You see most of what Shichika went through was of a preset path. Long ago the martial art form that Shichika utilizes, the school of Kyotoryu, was created by the same sword smith that created the very swords that Shichika set out to collect. It was created as a sword style that is unable to utilize sword but rather to turn the user into their own sword. The style and the 12 deviant swords were created in order to over throw the Shogunate and as the Kyotoryu was passed down through the generations it gradually became more and more perfect. When the Kyotoryu was eventually perfected by Shichika the events that surrounded his journey were set up and manipulated by the original sword smith’s descendants in order to use Shichika to overthrow the government. From the moment that Shichika was born his future was already set for him. Every action on his journey was manipulated by someone else until the final plan was set in motion with the calculated murder of Togame in order to finally push Shichika far enough to become the killing machine that he was always meant to be.

Knowing this lets flash forward back to that night of massacre as Shichika set out to attack the Shogunate. The big question here is whether or not this truly was Shichika’s chosen path or the path chosen for him. The idea of predestination is a somewhat simple one to state but complicated to fully understand. While to Shichika it may have seemed that the path he chose was his own in reality everything was perfected calculated to make him choose that. Shichika resolved to storm the Shogunate out of sorrow over Togame’s death but in reality it was the calculation of her death that was planned by those against the government that decided this action for him. As I stated it’s kind of a difficult thing to analyze a character with the factor of predestination in mind. While normally my analysis of a character is supposed to reveal the connections that lead to why a character is the way they are when the idea of predestination is involved it creates a situation where there is no mystery. My work can be summed up by that one word and no matter the logic or route I take to try to connect this character’s situation to his personality it always seems to come up short in the presence of that one idea. In a way, though, predestination makes sense in Shichika’s case. He was raised as a sword, taught to be and think like a sword and is forever treated as a sword. Swords don’t choose who they kill, where they go, or who wields them. Even if it seems like the soldier is in control the blade will always strike in the name of the country. The sword’s life isn’t a life of chance but of planning, unfortunately for Shichika it’s never the planning of sword itself.

Overall Shichika is kind of an odd protagonist for me to take on. He’s not really motivated by the things that a traditional protagonist would be such as justice, loyalty, or morality. Still despite this at his core Shichika is a good person with a kind soul who’s only wish was to fulfill the desire of the master that he had fallen for. Unfortunately for Shichika he really was just a sword who in the end fell right into the plans of a few unsavory people. While his actions throughout this story may not be of the humblest or most morally righteous course I still feel that even the best of men can fall victim to the foulest of judgments. Whether or not Shichika eventually found a path in life of his choosing is never known but for now this story on this day ends here.


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