Welcome, all, again. Today’s review focuses upon Katana Maidens ~ Toji No Miko (hereafter called Katana Maidens), a series that took a sudden plunge into intrigue and the intriguing. Just so you know, I begin each new viewing season full of excitement and hope–but with very little knowledge of source material for upcoming anime. (I do greatly enjoy reading, but very seldom read manga or comics.) And so I tend to encounter anime series as independent works of artistry, ignorant of most relevant franchise associations until I research them. (No loss this time, as this turns out to be an original series.) I thus begin each season with a full plate of target shows, uninhibited by personal prejudices related to themes, genres, characters, etc. All that I ask is to be entertained; this show does that and more!
Katana Maidens starts out as another combat tournament show, with girls representing different schools battling in the arena for supremacy. Why? Monsters called aradama are a recognized threat to public safety, so in response the Japanese government established five academies to train shrine maidens (Toji) to combat these creatures. To that end, they train with special katana called okatana, which term actually refers to blade length. Okatana, one variety of Japanese great swords, must exceed 3 shaku (or roughly 91 centimeters); blades between 2-3 shaku are considered regular katana or tachi, with tachi traditionally being slightly longer than katana for use from horseback. It is said that okatana are too long to wear from the obi, and the students in our show wear them in special belted sheaths that extend straight up their backs. The okatana wielded by these girls, however, are furthermore swords possessed of immense spiritual power which their users channel during combat. That power combines with the fighting technique practiced by the individual Toji to transform her into a warrior capable of facing aradama; these Toji comprise a special militarized police organization dedicated to that combat. It is their duty.
Our story begins with the arrival of the annual combat tournament held amongst the five schools, in which each school is represented by a team of its most talented students. As head of the National Police Agency Special Sword Adminstration Bureau, Yukari Origami–scion of the most ancient and powerful of the Toji families–oversees the final match, which pits Kanami Eto of Minoseki Academy against Hiyori Jujo of Heijou Institute in a battle of champions. The problem is that Jujo has no interest in Eto, instead attempting the assassination of Yukari Origami. And suddenly we have a reason to actually care about the story! Initially vaguely reminiscent of The Asterisk War in that both shows feature special schools that train students for combat who then fight each other in tournaments, Katana Maidens from the start offers a salient purpose for the exercise, allowing it to more quickly explore its story’s real internal conflict. And that conflict is at its most basic a vendetta: Yukari Origami led the Toji in battle against the Great Aradama, a battle from which Hiyori Jujo’s mother never recovered her health. And when her mother dies, Jujo goes looking for vengeance. Honor demands it because Jujo believes her mother and other Toji involved were sacrificed in vain. But what girl likes to be ignored? Eto figures that if she can’t fight against Jujo, she can at least fight alongside her, and the tournament ends abruptly with its two top competitors as fugitives. But Eto has her own reason to oppose Origami, and it turns out that Jujo has more than one. Still, what chance do two students have against government forces? Particularly their own organization, privy to all their information?
Katana Maidens is a great bit of action and intrigue for your Friday mornings, and I anticipate even better things as more characters become more deeply involved in the story’s progression. Because while two students might not stand much chance under the described circumstances, a little help can go a long way! This show has a strong story as well as excellent character development–the character exposition is pretty good, too. The pacing has so far been especially good in that this is a combat series that doesn’t overplay the attribute. And I guess I must be mellowing towards CGI animation because, while I can’t see this series winning any awards for artwork, it’s still got enough nice visual cohesion and continuity to give it a pretty decent look. So, my overall opinion? I like this show, and I’m happy and excited to recommend it! Now go see what you think.