Hanamonogatari was released all at once and as such can be enjoyed as a single movie-length feature, but we decided to split our review into its five distinct acts. -Ed.
Of all the interesting characters in Monogatari, one of my favorites has always been Kanbaru Suruga. For one thing, in such a talky series her seiyu Sawashiro Miyuki gets plenty to say. But her character has been underutilized as late, only appearing in cameos in the last few shows since the Bakemonogatari arc. Hanamonogatari corrects that with one fell swoop. This is her show.
Interestingly, she herself seems a bit nervous about this fact. Chronologically, the events of this arc are the latest we’ve seen yet. All those who have been high schoolers knows the sense of loneliness that can come when your upperclassmen—your senpai—graduate and move on to other things. Kanbaru is particularly lonely and drifting, since she’ll later admit she largely defined her character through Araragi and Senjougahara, to senpai she loved dearly.
Having done awful things in a trance before as a result of her “devil arm” affliction, when Suruga hears rumors at school about a mysterious person who “solves problems”, she almost immediately suspects she could be this Devil Lord, especially since she’s been having strange dreams in which her mother lectures her on numerous philosophical points.
Suruga finds this Devil Lord (thanks to Karen), and is surprised to find it’s her old basketball rival, Numachi Rouka (voiced by Asumi Kana in her Monogatari debut). The site of their meetingis pretty damn dreamlike too; a vast, salt flat-like space populated by stairs that go nowhere, various construction vehicles that change position and pattern, and not much else. Rouka had to retire from basketball after a leg injury in junior high, and now she’s…hangin’ around, answering requests for help.
Rouka makes her case to her old nemesis (Rouka played “swamping” defense while Suruga was an offensive ace): she doesn’t actually meddle in the lives of those who request her help. She merely listens, then agrees to take away all their worries and misfortunes. This practice leads to a high “success rate” that increases with time, since in the end, Rouka believes it’s time that solves most of her clients’ problems. Still, she makes it a point to collect the letters and recordings of misfortune, and that collection has become vast.
Suruga can’t really endorse what Rouka is doing, but she can’t really condemn it, either. Rouka gropes her breast for an uncomfortable amount of time, but Suruga ultimately decides to do nothing and goes home, doubtless relieved someone else is the Devil Lord. Then, the next morning, Suruga wakes up as she always does (in the nude in her vast room furnished by a bed and mountains of books), and finally finds her nail clipper, only to realize her devil arm is gone.
It would seem Rouka was being a lot more literal when she said she would “take away other’s misfortune.” Suruga’s arm has definitely been that, as she nearly beat someone to death with it once (not just someone; Araragi) and it keeps her from playing basketball. A suddenly normal-armed Suruga is definitely an intriguing hook to lure us back into the Monogatari universe. It’s as talky and philosophical as ever, but also just as pretty with its whimsical environments an detailed close-ups.