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Katanagatari DVD/Blu-ray Box Set 1 (S) Premium Edition

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Reviews of this title:

Doug Kendrick - Jul 7 2011
Rating: Wonderful!
Incredibly compelling art, music and story that are a feast for the senses!
With its truly unique style and fascinating story, I think Katanagatari – 刀語 is destined to become one of my favorites.

I only vaguely remember having heard anything about the series (I’m not really all that big on following the new shows until they’re licensed here) but couldn’t help but want it after seeing the gorgeous artwork blown up to heroic size on a wall at the NIS America booth at Anime Expo 2011. After one brief look at a sample of the superb art book that comes with the Premium Edition Volume 1 set, I had no problem shelling out the $60.00 they were asking even without knowing about the show itself.

One additional bonus that I hadn’t even recognized until I was reading the box on the train home, is that it’s a Blu-ray/DVD combo set! And let me tell you, it is truly beautiful on Blu-ray. The anime style is really quite unique—the characters are done in very saturated, super-rich colors and an almost stylized, block color way, but the backgrounds are in a much softer and more detailed style—almost like watercolors in some places. The effect is truly striking, and a spectacle not to be missed (on Blu-ray especially).

But it’s the story and format that are so compelling. This original 2010 series is composed of twelve hour-long episodes that were originally aired once a month in Japan. Set in a somewhat stylized Sengoku Jidai period, the main protagonists are on a search for twelve legendary swords scattered about the country—the so-called “Mastercraft Klesha Bringers”. Togame is our heroine: an emissary of the Bakufu, a so-called “Strategmist”. Her first encounter is to enlist the help of the master of the Kyoto Ryu sword style—unique because although it is a “sword style”, its practitioners don’t actually use a physical sword. Instead, they themselves “become” the sword. It turns out that our main protagonist and last master of this school, Yasuri Shichika, has lived in exile on an island with his sister, only becoming the school’s master after the death of his father.

I don’t really want to go into a lot of detail with a review (trying all the while to avoid spoilers), so I will just say that Shichika agrees to become Togame’s sword and accompany her on her quest. Each hourlong episode then, is the quest and battle for one of the missing swords. An hour also gives a lot of time to explore the rich story, steeped in Japanese history and legend—I absolutely love this stuff. With the stunning visuals and a constant musical background (another thing that is quite unique), it is an absolute feast for the senses. Not to mention that the story, plot and character actions engage you on a lot of different levels, including ones that you don’t actually see on-screen but merely exist, perhaps only in the back of your mind. Some of the episodes are pretty straightforward, others leave a lot to ponder afterwards—and some are quite shocking and even surprisingly brutal (#4, Hakuto Hari, springs instantly to mind).

Premium Edition Volume 1 contains the first six episodes in two thin pack cases each holding a DVD and Blu-ray disc (4 discs total) and the aforementioned hardcover art book, all in a sturdy and attractive slipcase that is a hallmark of NIS America’s premium releases. I would highly recommend this series—and cannot wait until part two comes out!

Michael E. Pimentel - Sep 15 2011
Rating: This sucked!
Great show, very poor localization
Ok, first off, let me say this: I actually really Like Katanagatari. I thought the ending was kinda a let down, but overall its a very good series. I would love to give this a recomendation, but NISA really screwed this release up. Visually it looks pretty good. NISA has a history of messing up something or another with the video on their releases, so it was nice to see it done right here. The problem is in the translation. Its VERY bad. I mean, boarderline chinese bootleg bad. I dont know what happened here. I had to constantly stop and rewind the show to try to figure out what they were trying to say. Togames lines were especially bad.

There's great clunky lines like using "ice burn" instead of "frost burn." which make reading the subs painful, but the biggest problem are the myriad of lines in the show where there seemed to be no Quality Control or editing whatsoever. I swear this is a real line: "I don't recall granting you to do such a thing!" Look it up. Its on episode 05 at the 42.22 mark. Sadly lines like that are not a rare occurrence. They pop up constantly and really ruin the show. I dont know what happened but the translation and editing is an utter mess in this release

Some other prime examples of the poor translation: -Do not translate any of the sword names -Princess Hitei is called Lady Denial -The swords/Deviant blades are called Klesha bringers (what?) -Too many horrible horrible translation/editing errors. Stuff like: "I have played the role of reprimand more than sufficiently" (ep 6 30.31). These are everywhere, its really inexcusable.

Theres more but I dont want this to get too long. I checked the Translator and editor credits with this show against the one for NISA's Working! dvd's, which were done pretty well. The translator for both is Ryuta Sato. However for Katanagatari the editor is Nick Doerr, whereas for Working it was Steven Carlton. Im going to assume the screw up was on Mr. Carltons end, but im really not sure. Whatever the reason this release feels completely amateurish.

Its also worth mentioning 2 other big problems with the show: First, the subtitles are VERY tiny. The smallest I've ever seen. They are very hard to read. Second, they can not be turned off! Thats right, this show is pretty much hard-subbed. There is no option at all to remove the subtitles. This is the kind of show you actually would want to take them off to watch the fight scenes, but you cant do that, they must always be on. Im assuming this was some kinda licensing agreement to prevent reverse importing but I wish I had been aware of this at purchase.

BOTTOM LINE: Great show, but this is an almost unwatchable localization job. I can not recommend people purchase this.

summary of positives and negatives:

+Video and audio is pretty good with no major problems to be seen. LPCM 2.0 though, 5.1 or something would have been nicer. +packaging is great! art cards and book are neat +Characters and story are endearing, If you can understand what they're trying to say

-Locked subtitles. You can not turn them off -Subtitles are absurdly tiny and hard to read -Seemingly no quality control with the translation. This is Chinese bootleg level bad. See the two examples above, there are MANY more. Typos, poor editing choices, and lines that just make no sense are the norm here. -Inconsistent translation. I.E. translating some things but not others (Princess Hitei = Lady Denial, but they dont translate any of the Sword names?) Klesha bringers for the swords?

Final Verdict: Pass/Do not buy

I really cant emphasize how bad this translation is. I honestly felt like I had purchased some Chinese bootleg instead of an official US release directly through the distributor. Other than flat out typos and mistakes, the wording is so clunky and piss poor that the show makes little to no sense. Coupled with the locked and tiny subtitles, I would not recommend this as a purchase at all. Do not buy this release. I hate to say that, because its a pretty great show, but NISA just screwed this release up far too bad