Katanagatari centers on Yasuri Shichika, a warrior leading a sheltered life on a island alongside his sister. As things usually go, Yasuri's exile is related to his special skill; he's a master of Kyoto Ryu, a lost weapons style where the warrior becomes the sword. Life on the island is disrupted when a woman, Togame, asks Yasuri is set out on a quest to recover a set of legendary weapons.
Centuries earlier, a blacksmith forged a set of 1,000 weapons. Fearing a rebellion, the Shogun ordered the blades' destruction. Of the 1,000, only 988 were found during the Shogun's Katana Hunt. The remaining weapons were, in fact, the most powerful of the set. In order to reclaim the blades, Yasuri must travel the country in search of weapon's owners and destroy them. It is not a particularly new plot, though Katanagatari manages to keep the idea interesting.
The big standout is the art style. Yeah, it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual storytelling, but there's something immediately arresting about how things look. There's a decidedly anime look, though the quality is a bit different. The eyes are the obvious focal point, though there's something really special about everything. Characters aren't incredibly detailed, but are still loaded with personality, and the animation is perfect. Its crisp, clean and has just the right amount of dynamic edge.
As a bonus, Katanagatari includes both the DVD and Blu-ray format. If you have a choice, go with the Blu-ray. The above-mentioned details are noticeable in the DVD set, but the added color and higher level of visual fidelity makes them look even better.
Although Katanagatari sticks to well-trodden territory, there are attempts to try new things with the story. I won't blow the changes since they're part of the fun (and, really, the series needs all the firepower it can muster), but there are a few interesting storytelling methods running through the series. Still, even with the switch-ups, the series can't shake the "Been Here, Fought That" plot. We've already seen these characters and plotlines in other media, so there isn't much here to get overly excited about. Still, the series is a fun watch if you want another battle-focused show. To its credit, Katanagatari is great at getting to the point and doesn't waste a lot of time with overly-long pronouncements of power and explanations.
Similar to other NIS releases, Katanagatari comes with a 32-page, full-color book. Entitled "Togame's Travelogue," it offers breakdowns of each episode, as well as short backgrounds on each of the episode's main characters. There's also lyric translations scattered throughout the book, as well as character artwork and a glossary of terms from each episode.
Katanagatari Volume 1 Premium Edition is as traditional as stories get, though that isn't a bad thing. Although the battles are fun and the story well told, it is still predictable. Katanagatari Volume 1 Premium Edition is a solid offering and better than most, just not as good as others.