Character Cache: Yasuri Nanami

 

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Given that Katanagatari is the only show I’ve seen four times since I picked up anime in mid 2011, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say Katanagatari is the anime which has fascinated me most.  And within Katanagatari, Yasuri Nanami is the character who fascinates me most.  There will be spoilers, so if you’ve not seen Katanagatari yet I highly recommend you do so.

Before it even comes to character traits what I love about Nanami is her character concept – namely that she’s a character who is so strong her power is killing her.  Actually it’s so strong it’s been crippling her since birth and she’s now reaching the point where it will kill her at age 21 (I think), but that’s too in depth to sound slick and cool.  This is concept is not unique but it is sort of a more typical “stronger spells/jutsus/techniques/etc. have greater consequences when used” just taken to an extreme.  What really sets Nanami apart though is that she can’t turn her power off and she did not do anything to obtain it – she’s just born with an awesome power which was always too much for her body to handle.

I’m a huge fan of the general stronger move has stronger consequences concept and I hate it when shows just sort of sidestep it *oh shit we can’t have Sasuke go blind from overusing his power, quick get him new eyes so his powers no longer have consequences that sounds cool right?*  The fact that Nanami has had this power from birth and suffered the consequences from birth makes it a cut above though, especially as it helps play an important role in the kind of person she is and the decisions she ultimately makes during the course of the show.  For context her power is that she can copy any move she sees, with the caveat she needs to see it twice for the copy to be perfect.  If her claims are to be believed she can see through the all the moves any martial art might have just based on the stance her opponent takes, which is why she doesn’t ever use stances when fighting – in sharp contrast to her brother Shichika who puts a lot of emphasis on his stance throughout the course of the show.  Also this power allowed her to absorb the superhuman strength of one the mythical clans present in the show, the Itezora clan, still not sure how that works but whatever.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Katanagatari is set in alternate timeline of Japanese history where a certain soothsayer creates 12 magic swords during the Sengoku Jidai – the war where Oda Nobunaga becomes famous – to distort history.  He does this because he can see the future and knows about Japan’s downfall under the Tokugawa Shogunate and thus manipulates history to attempt a different outcome.  Because of this history meddling Katanagatari is full of abnormal abilities and clans which are described as something which could have potentially taken place in our history – though obviously they didn’t.  The 12 magic swords are only known to high level government officials and their agents, the sword masters who wield them and the Maniwa Ninjas.  What no one realizes until very late in the show is that Shikizaki Kiki – the soothsayer who made the swords – actually made a 13th sword, the sword which isn’t a sword, Kyotou Yasuri.  This manifests as the special martial art which mimics swordsmanship native only to the Yasuri family, Kyotouryuu – the flow of the empty sword.

Despite being the eldest child Nanami isn’t taught Kyotouryuu by her father, who appoints Shichika as the head of the clan – but she watches Shichika learn so she learns it anyway and is ultimately far better at it than Shichika due to her eyes.  The Yasuri family and the 7 siblings (there are only two siblings but Shichi and Nana both mean 7 and they are the 7th generation of the clan) are all a peculiar bunch but it’s most heavily pronounced among Shichika and Nanami.  The two live on an island with only their father for company for 19 years and live another year alone after he passes.  In addition both are raised to think of themselves as swords instead of people, which is why Shichika initially has no compunction killing female or weak opponents.  But Shichika is ultimately recruited on a mission to retrieve the 12 magic swords and that journey humanizes him – Nanami on the other hand only really sees Shichika and the woman who recruits him, Togame, as humans.  Her relationship with Shichika largely maternal as most of what she does is in his bests interests and she thanks Togame for taking him away because she thought it be a waste to see him rust away unused on the island.

Regarding everyone else Nanami is a psychopath.  In fairness this in part her father’s influence since he taught her to be a weapon instead of a human.  However as the show progresses Nanami gets borderline genocidal as she wipes out the entire populations of three key locations in the story.  Perhaps genocidal is too harsh as it’s not as though race has any bearing in her decision making, she describes the rest of humanity as weeds and thinks of her mass murder sprees as nothing more than weeding.  She also has a very dark and twisted sense of humor and seems to believe she should’ve either never been born or been killed long ago – and when she enters the story as Shichika’s opponent for the 7th magic sword in episode 7 – she does so because she wants Shichika to kill her.

In retrospect I have to wonder just how genuine her behavior is.  She makes it quite clear the reasons she confronts Shichika is that she wants to die and for whatever reason suicide isn’t an option, though she also wants him to learn the weakness of the new special technique he invents in episode 1.  She also makes it clear that she would’ve have been fine with their father killing her the previous year, something Shichika stops by killing their father.  However as Shichika has progressed on his journey, and more specifically his last two opponents, he has learned to show mercy where he can and given his natural instinct to care for Nanami as seen in episode 1 it wouldn’t be all that unthinkable for Nanami to believe she would need to resort to extreme measures to get him to kill her.  He in fact proves that to be true as he doesn’t agree to fight her to the death until she threatens Togame.  That being said their odd upbringing, her knowledge of the fact that her father allegedly killed her mother, and by extension her belief that inter-familial killings were part and parcel of the Yasuri clan and her generally weird state of mind make her thoughts difficult to track even if her endgame is clear as day.

Another fascinating thing about Nanami is that she proves herself to be the most dangerous being in the entire show, to the point where Shichika can’t beat her in a fair fight.  Though Nanami herself has few cryptic lines to suggest her strength in earlier episodes it’s not until episode 4 that Nanami bursts off the page and jumps to the top of Katanagatari’s power level charts.  Personally I find the scene where she fights Maniwa Chocho to be what seals the deal, she ends their pre-fight banter with this evil little smile that sends chills down my spine every fucking time I see it.  Though the fact she takes on three Maniwa ninjas and kills them in quick succession help.  She also wipes out two “Special Disaster Zones” which are areas so dangerous the Shogunate won’t touch them, with remarkable speed as she has strict time limit while fighting.  And the sole survivor of the Nanamicide, Shichika’s opponent in episode 6 remembers her in this split second artsy flashback shot where she looks like some hellish spirit, it’s fucking rad.  And like I said she is the only opponent Shichika seriously loses to, as he and Togame have to use a special trick to temporarily blind her so Shichika can steal the 7th sword from her.

One of the more interesting parts of Nanami’s mindset is her relationship with geniuses and talent.  Geniuses and talent, as well as how geniuses interact with normal people are themes which consistently appear in NisioisiN’s – Katanagatari’s and the more famous Bakemonogatari’s author, works.  In Bakemonogatari for instance there are entire arcs dedicated to the weirdness surrounding Hanekawa due to her genius state of being.  And in Medaka Box arguing about the nature of talent, luck and geniuses is central to several major arcs and all the important characters’ development.  In Nanami’s case specifically she envies everyone else’s ability to work hard and achieve something because she can take up anything with ease and as such can never get that feeling of accomplishment.  And I have to say that while nothing will ever come as easily to me as it does to Nanami and I don’t think I’m a an actual genius, I agree with her sentiments – I’d rather feel accomplished after hard work that just get everything without breaking a sweat, no matter convenient or helpful that might seem during moments of frustration.

Another of the many bizarre facets of Nanami’s character are some her dying words.  She mentions how relying on the 7th magic sword, which forcibly healed whomever it was stabbed into was absurd and weakened her despite ostensibly removing her time limit while fighting.  Part of her justification was that a sword shouldn’t use a sword though I feel like relying on it did in fact weaken her as Shichika is able to kill her in fair fight once the sword is removed – something he previously couldn’t do even before she got the sword.  She also said that by gaining powers with her eyes she was ultimately weakening her powers, a dubious claim considering the range of powers she gets but one that might not be entirely false as she was able to handily defeat Shichika with non-lethal techniques, something she wasn’t shown to be able to do previously – though in this specific case it’s hard to say what other options she had as she had no intentions of killing Shichika even if she wasn’t just going to let him win.

Nanami is a difficult character to parse.  One second she is the caring maternal figure, the next a mass murdering maniac – though I suppose she can be both at once given that she taught Shichika to stop chewing on his fingernails by ripping them out.  Until she obtains the 7th sword her thoughts appear entirely lucid even if they are abnormal or outright fucked up.  Even with her “it’s good, or maybe it’s bad?” lines after she grabs the 7th sword it’s hard to tell if she’s genuinely losing her mind or if that’s the result of her naturally warped sense of humor.  Likewise when she really goes overboard and seems to showcase a total lack of regard for humanity, is that genuine or was it an act to convince her brother to kill her?  Probably both given her upbringing, though she shows no outward sadistic tendencies or overblown personality traits prior to episode 7.  The only thing which I believe one can rightly attribute to Nanami is an acceptance of and familiarity with death.  Nanami wants to die.  Nanami also kills more people than anyone else in Katangatari.  Therefore Nanami and death go hand in hand.

The difficulty and darkness associated with Nanami as a character, as well as her overwhelming power and its consequences, are what draw me to her – though her fantastic character design certainly helps.  I’ve yet to find another character even remotely like her and trying to plumb the depths hidden behind her all-seeing purple eyes is an endeavor I find endlessly intriguing.  That, among many other reasons, is why Katanagatari is one of my favorite anime of all time, and if you made it through this entire post without having seen it, I once again highly recommend that you do.  Hope you enjoyed this post.

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Understanding Re:Creators – Mind Over Matter

 

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Re:Creators episode 17 proves 2 things beyond a shadow of a doubt. 1 – Setsuna is even more pathetic I expected (see this and this for reference) because instead of just committing suicide she also wrote revenge into Altair’s story.  2 – The real villains of this story aren’t the people with evil intent, it’s the people who refuse to open their minds and engage with this world.  There will be spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned.

Re:Creators planted the seeds for the second revelation a long time ago and now as the show steadily makes it’s way to the climax those seeds have borne fruit.  The idea that the characters could and in all known cases would change by engaging with the world of the “gods” was established early on to excellent effect.  Mamika was the main poster child of this idea as her character evolved the most rapidly but Meteora playing the game she was from to affirm her creator’s love of the world and the personal growth which resulted from it was another great example.  Enter Blitz.  Blitz has had the least amount of screen time relative to how long he’s been in our world among the Creations.  All we really know about him is that he’s an older mercenary type, fights with a gun and has gadgets which can mess with gravity, and that he’s from what looks to be a popular seinen manga.  And most importantly he was forced to kill his own daughter in the manga and this is the source of his grudge against his Creator – and why he’s on Altair’s side.

Where I think Blitz starts getting interesting is in two short scenes where he talks with fellow Creations on Altair’s side, because the two reactions he gets pretty much lays out the basis for this post’s thesis – the villains are those who refuse to think for themselves.  In the first of these scenes Blitz talks with Aliceteria and this exchange goes quite poorly, Aliceteria shows no interest in Blitz’s reasoning and makes two crucial remarks, the first is that they can both read other’s stories to get an idea of why they act as they do, and more importantly that Blitz seemed fake or hollow compared to Mamika.  This is of course reflective of the rift forming between Aliceteria and her fellow Altair-followers, she is starting to think for herself and it more or less causes her to change teams overnight.  The second remark is especially important as I think it best details the difference between the villains and heroes of Re:Creators – those who can think and grow soon find those who cannot to be fake or hollow in comparison, and they reject this fakeness/hollowness.  Aliceteria even reaches out to Magane (BEST GIRL) at one point, even though she hates Magane, because she at least Magane isn’t like Blitz or Altair.

The second exchange this one between Blitz and Shou (the hero character and rival to Yuya) where Shou shows no interest in bringing down his creator to fix the parts of the story he doesn’t like – like his sister’s death at Yuya’s hands – but instead wants to settle accounts with Yuya.  This reaction is exactly what you’d expect from the character in the game, he’s not grown at all since coming to our world and he’s not even invested in Altair’s goal – he just wants follow the scenario laid out for him in the game by his Creator and joins Altair’s side because Yuya is on the other side.  This is to say Shou is not a villain in the same sense as Altair, he’s not trying to destroy the world because he doesn’t give a shit about the wider implications of either the world of the “gods” or Altair’s plan – he just wants to fight Yuya.  But because he’s mindlessly on Altair’s side he is still a villain, his willful ignorance is his own undoing.  Because I very much doubt he’d be on Altair’s side if he really knew what she was doing and had engages with the world at all, because he’s a hero – I expect given the chance he would’ve either switched sides or tried to stop Altair on his own Mamika-style.

What this is all building up to though is episode 17, specifically the scene where Blitz confronts his Creator.  This confrontation is ultimately the most important one, it means far more than the flashy fight with Altair (who I admit largely bores me at this point since all she ever seems to be is invincible).  In the beginning of this confrontation Blitz is hostile to his Creator and even shoots her after confirming that the reason he had to kill his daughter was because the Creator thought it would make the story more interesting.  Up through the shooting Blitz is the one in control of the situation though his Creator proves that he hasn’t learned a thing from this world right away by predicting specific phrases in his speech and saying that they were the exact lines she’d have him say in the scenario.  This control shifts after the shooting though and the main spark is that Blitz continues to think of his own Creator as a devil while he thinks Setsuna is worthy of praise.

This line in particular sets his Creator and me off.  Setsuna is not worthy of praise, she is not special because she was rejected by the wider world.  As his Creator aptly explains Setsuna creating a character to get revenge for her isn’t even a story – it’s drivel masquerading as speech.  This is because Setsuna is a child, she was enjoying steadily growing success up to that point and then when she hits her first real roadblock she killed herself and blamed the world for all her problems.  What she seemingly failed to realize is as Blitz’s creator points out, no one is successful at first – or as I prefer, you have to suck at something before you get good at it.  And as Blitz’s creator  describes with total accuracy even when make something that’s accepted it’s never good enough.  You run into people you think are better than you and strive to grow or get depressed, and then you get back to work.

I can vouch for everything she said because I feel the same way.  I’ve tried writing plenty of stories I scrapped for being too shit before starting one I was semi-ok with – and even then I keep going through the parts I’ve written and messing with things, worrying that the pacing is too fast or the narration too confusing.  Likewise I’ve done some pretty expansive mods that totally overhaul a game’s campaign, units and map – and then I play it for a while and get struck with the “this isn’t good enough” feeling, like this version doesn’t add up what I’d envisioned when I started it and I need to do more before I finally reach that perfect version locked in my head – which I know for fact I will never reach.  It’s constant, you finish something creative and then wonder how to do it better and then you work on it again and this cycle repeats endlessly.  Even with this blog which is only 2 years old I’ve found posts I was embarrassed to have written, things that make me feel like I am indeed shit at writing.

Getting away from me though, what Blitz’s Creator reveals is how rigid Blitz’s thinking is and, to me at least, the inherent contradiction of praising a Creator who failed and gave up while demeaning and demonizing Creators who succeeded and continue to work – all while claiming to hate Creators and their world.  Blitz thinks his only option is to kill his Creator and help Altair end it all  He doesn’t even consider that his Creator could bring his daughter back – and use that to win him over to heroes’ side.  This is of course the great sin of Re:Creator’s villains they don’t think, they see a final destructive solution as the only way out of their problems – much like Setsuna – and this close mindedness is a gigantic weakness which can be exploited.

Re:Creators has shown over the course of it’s current run time that thinking and planning are ultimately more important than raw power and fighting.  This episode especially proves the effectiveness of a good plan as the gap in power between Blitz and his Creator is gigantic – however as his Creator proves Blitz’s inability to think freely is an equally gigantic weakness and one which he is punished for, as he Creator can smugly claim “I’m your god” once the tables are turned.  I also want to give a big shout out to Sota in this point as well.  I gave him credit for standing up to Aliceteria in a prior post but his contribution far exceeds that, because it’s from engaging with him and his ideas that Aliceteria can begin to grow and switch sides.  At this point it would be no exaggeration to say Sota has made the single largest contribution to the heroes’ fighting power since all the Creations were assembled.  I for one deeply appreciate and enjoy how freedom of thought is treated by Re:Creators and I hope you found my analysis of it interesting.  See you in the next one.