Nekomonogatari (Black) – 03

 

One night, Koyomi sneaks into Hanekawa’s house, but is horrified to learn that not one of its six rooms belongs to her, and flees in terror. He convinces his sisters not to act on the rumors of a monster cat roaming town and stay home, and pays another visit to Oshino, who has lost twenty times to the curse cat, which is far stronger than it usually would be because it chose to assimilate Hanekawa. Koyomi goes to school and encounters the cat there, who tells him she’s helping her master relieve stress, and to leave her be until it’s all gone. Koyomi, realizing that will never happen, realizes he likes Hanekawa to the point he would die for her.

Things get really intense in this segment, as we learn more about the cursed cat who has possessed Hanekawa, tore Koyomi’s arm off, and is terrorizing citizens. A traditional legend of the cursed cat is told by Oshino (through use of a very nicely-illustrated picture scroll): the moral of the story is there is no human who is 100% virtuous. Every human life is a balance of light and dark, and one cannot exist without the other. The curse cat was merely the catalyst for Hanekawa Tsubasa to finally unleash her long-repressed dark side, after accumulating monumental amounts of stress from her horrid parents.

Not only has Hanekawa given the curse cat levels of power and strategy it could previously only dream of (normally being a weak, low-level oddity), but the manner in which Hanekawa buried it makes it feel like it owes her a debt, and so has a vested interest in letting Hanekawa attack people as a “stress-buster”. Of course, the source of that stress will only replenish it after a time, causing a vicious cycle. Koyomi points this out, and the cat doesn’t really care. So letting the cat be and doing nothing isn’t really an option, especially considering Koyomi truly cares for Hanekawa, more now than he ever thought possible. He can’t let the cat have her forever, nor can he let Oshino kill her.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Nekomonogatari (Black) – 01

It’s Golden Week, and Koyomi (Kamiya Hiroshi) seeks advice from Tsukihi (Iguchi Yuka) about whether he’s in love. After much discussion, they conclude he’s sexually frustrated and should buy porn. On his way out the door he encounters Karen (Kitamura Eri), back from a marathon-length run, who gives him a much more direct definition of love. While out shopping Koyomi spots Hanekawa Tsubasa (Horie Yui), and after flipping her skirt, they go for a walk. She tells him how she has no family and how her non-biological parents couldn’t care less about her. He heals the bruise on her face where her stepdad slapped her and goes home, more depressed than ever.

Here is part one in a four-part series that will focus on Hanekawa Tsubasa and her family, which takes place after Koyomi is turned into a vampire, but before he meets his eventual first girlfriend, Senjougahara. The story is pretty simple: Koyomi believes he may have fallen for Hanekawa, seeks his sisters’ advice, and ends up pitying Hanekawa’s sad living situation. Like the other Monogatari series, it is heavy on style, Nisio Isin’s long conversations thick with wordplay and metahumor, gorgeously-designed settings, buildings, and rooms, color cards, intense closeups and facial expression, and weird fanservice.

Shinbo Akiyuki‘s unique, playful style is not for everyone, but we for one enjoy the offbeat, avant-garde presentation. The most mundance actions (like Karen drinking water or Koyomi flipping Hanekawa’s skirt) are given almost comically epic visual prominence. I liken Shinbo to Wes Anderson or even Kubrick, as a director with a very consistent aesthetic who is obsessively detail-oriented. What little action ever occurs in the talky episodes is made more engaging due to its rarity. So much anime – even very good anime – is by-the-numbers, visually. Shinbo always seeks to not only to ignore the numbers, but replace them with other symbols.


Rating: 8 (Great)