This is one of those titles which I heard about when it was coming out, thought "cool", saw it was licensed, thought "even cooler" and then waited for a legal stream to show up which never happened. So, since this technically is the spring noitaminA show (it's a rerun and, considering how odd the original airing was, one hour long episode each month for a year, I'm mostly okay with that, sad that it took up the entire timeslot though) I had to at the very least give it a shot and I was really hoping that I'd like it when I went into it.
Katanagatari (literally, Sword Story)
Summary: Several hundred years ago a legendary sword smith made a 1000 swords, most of which were preparation for his crowning works, the 12 shikizaki blades and it's said whoever possesses those 12 could rule Japan. Togame, a strategist for the emperor, is off on a quest to find and retrieve all 12 and after two failed attempts she's come up with an unusual plan to get the rest back, to team up with the son of the man who foiled the last rebellion, Shichika, and make him fall in love with her so that he won't be tempted by anything to steal the swords. Of course, since he's a practitioner of a martial art that uses no swords and can't seem to use one himself perhaps she didn't need to bother with that part....
The Good: I was rather surprised to notice at the end that the story took a completely blank, flat character and made them into more or less a rounded character by the end, which I'm sure was entirely the story's intention but it actually worked out better than I expected! Actually the whole story worked better than I expected, it is a bit predictable at parts (especially since I had heard one or two rumors about the ending) but it was fun, the character banter was a heck of a lot easier to follow than Bakemonogatari (probably because it didn't involve all those stills filled with words), and I really liked how the show looked. Fun isn't precisely the word I'd use to describe this show but it was more than enjoyable, I'd watch it again, and I'd recommend it to friends because of how well it all fits together in the end, even if no particular element especially stands out/is especially stunning.
The Bad: The series is formulaic, in each episode they end up fighting someone for a sword and winning one way or another which does take away a little bit of the tension (apparently the original novels that the story is based on were being turned out by Nisio Isin at a rate of one per month so I can see why the story went this way). The formula starts to get a bit varied in the second half but it never deviates that much. Also, you need to be able to have a rather large suspension of disbelief for this show, especially when things are "explained" in the last episode and things don't make quite as much sense as they could.
Production Values: I'll admit it, one reason I wanted to try this show and like it was because of just how stylish it looked. It's hard to show exactly what I mean from just screenshots but they at least get across how distinctive the character designs are. There was one episode towards the middle where everything looked a bit off (the lines were all drawn differently and the animation didn't seem quite as smooth, it was especially obvious in a flashback which had scenes from every episode) but other than that, admittedly large, hiccup I liked how this looked. As for the music, I was watching fansubs from the original broadcast and I didn't care for either of the openings nor really any of the endings (there was a different one for every episode). Funny enough, I looked up the new opening and ending themes and liked those much better and I liked a lot of the background music as well (to the point where I got cross that about halfway through either the show or my fansubs stopped having the preview in them and since they always played my favorite track with the preview and dammit I wanted to hear more of it!).
So, giving this a 4 out of 5 for enjoying it quite a bit and I guess I need to plan on picking up NISA's very nice sets sometime in the future. It looks like it never sold well enough to get regular sets made, just the premium ones, and hopefully they'll stay in stock long enough for me pick some up, I think I even saw someone say that it seemed like they had stocked a few more at TRSI lately (if the company didn't look at this re-airing and expect to gain a few more fans like myself then they would be a bit silly).