Upon finishing The Princess and the Frog, my sister proclaimed, “Yeah. It was great and all but she still needed a prince in the end.” This critique had me jaw on the floor, but I got it. Tiana could have walked away with her restaurant and on into the sunset, I SUPPOSE. But I didn’t buy it.
The observation that apparently every princess needs a prince is sad, but at the same time, it can completely paper over well-written female characters who deserve to be celebrated. And, since this is an anime blog, I am CLEARLY talking about Togame from Katanagatari (HA! Had you! There are like a billion negative counter-examples, but I love Togame, so we’re talking about her).
For all that Yasuri Shichika gets to do all the killing in Kanatagatari, the story is Togame’s story. She’s got all the agency. It’s her planning, her mission, and her hubris that drives the whole effort and she sells it hard in every episode. While she ultimately needs Shichika to accomplish her goal, he acts more like hands or a sword than a hero to her (he even perceives himself as such). In this tale, the “princess” gives meaning to the “prince” and not the other way around.
While it’s easy to point to the male lead’s development and growth as the subject of the show, every episode hinges on her plans and revolves around her quest. The laconic martial artist could hardly carry the series by himself no matter how awesome he is in combat and in reality his humility and simple-mindedness mainly works as foil to the grandiose Togame.
Confused, flawed, complicated, ambitious. Togame is a gem of a character in the best show of 2010. Claiming that Shichika cheapens her is just silly.
"Wait." You say. "But What about…"
*There will be spoilers below this point*
…the fact that she dies at the end of the show? Doesn’t that mean it was all for Shichika anyway?
True, you could argue that her death was a plot token that catalyzed Shichika’s transformation, but if that’s the case, then you’re missing two crucial points:
First, SHE. DID. NOT. CHANGE. No matter how much she had grown to love Shichika and how apparently moderated her personality had become, only Emonzaemon’s bullet rids her of the hate she holds in her heart. In the end, this woman was saved by no one and only on death’s door does she reevaluate her choices and outlook. Hitei Hime seemed to order her servant to kill her partially for this reason, granting her the only peace she’d had in over a decade.
Second: Her end was a function of the choices she made. Revenge is usually a hollow endeavor in most fiction, so I would argue that the end she got follows from the plot of the show. Her death completes her story in a believable fashion and it transforms Shichika. He needs her to move forward, NOT the other way around.