Zoku Owarimonogatari – 06 (Fin) – Twenty Percent Interest

As is usually the case when involving Oshino Ougi, there’s a sinister aura to the “ghost classroom” where Koyomi finds her; like the last level of a game that may well end up kicking your ass because you’re under-leveled. That Ougi is wearing Koyomi’s boy’s uniform actually adds both to the sense of unique occasion and ominousness.

But if Monogatari has taught us anything, especially from the likes of Shinobu and Ononoki, it’s not to tell a book by its cover. This isn’t going to be a battleground, because Ougi isn’t Koyomi’s enemy. Ougi is Koyomi, and vice-versa. Case in point: the only reason their uniforms are swapped is because she thought it would be a funny prank.

Rather than a battle of fists or magic, this will be place where these two sides of Koyomi take the various pieces he’s collected in this mirror world and start to fit them together. Ougi starts with the easiest, most obvious, and yes, most cliched hypothesis: It was all a dream. Not just the mirror world, but all of Koyomi’s dealings with everyone thus far.

When Koyomi says if it was all a dream, he’ll consider it a happy one, wake up, stretch, and live out the day in a good mood. She withdraws this rather uninteresting theory relatively quickly, but answers him directly about being his double, not the Koyomi of the mirror world. She came to the world with him and helped him along the way, such as asking Black Hanekawa to save him.

She did this in part because Koyomi’s best interests are her best interests, but also because despite all her glaring and teasing, but because she is truly grateful to him for saving her from the darkness. That’s a tidy segue into the reflection rate of mirrors, with which Koyomi is already familiar thanks to Sodachi, who said that most mirrors only reflect 80 percent of the light.

The 20 percent that isn’t can be said to be absorbed, or erased, or executed. In any case, it goes into the darkness; into nothingness. Until that morning when Koyomi noticed his reflection had suddenly stopped moving. Koyomi didn’t pass through the mirror into a new world; he pulled a mirror world out of the mirror, saving the 20 percent of light that would have been lost—utilizing his innate mastery of all oddity qualities.

As has been established earlier, this world doesn’t really make sense as a reflection of Koyomi’s original world because the people in it aren’t mirror images, but other sides of who they fundamentally were, are, or could be. Here Koyomi learns why those other sides are what they are.

Gaen Izuko’s bitter memories created Gaen Tooe. Hanekawa’s regret about leaving town created her mini-me. Shinobu and Ononoki regained the humanity they lost. Koyomi’s regrets, and those of everyone else, that they either forgot or wanted to forget or pretend never existed, came back in this world. They gained their lost twenty percent back.

Ougi mentions that this isn’t something to be undone with the snap of fingers; Koyomi and everyone else actually experienced what it was like to regain that percentage, for good and ill, and will carry it with them from now on, even if they all revert back to the people they were before the mirror world was pulled out.

Perhaps most poignantly, the mirror world proved to Ougi—and any potential specialist who might place a target on her back—that there was value in Koyomi saving her from the darkness. That the darkness itself was wrong to think she had no reason to exist. In this mirror world, Ougi was Koyomi’s fail-safe. Without her, this story might’ve ended under the fist of the Rainy Devil.

In part as thanks for that, Ougi presents Koyomi with a zero-reflection, 100-percent absorption rate mirror, or a “slice of darkness” he’s to offer to Mayoi at the Shrine of the Polar Snake. There, at that focal point of the town, it will absorb the twenty percent of light he pulled out of the mirror, restoring the world to its previous state. But again, the “reminder” everyone got of that light—of their almost-forgotten regrets—will remain. With that, Ougi leaps out the window, her work there done.

Back home, Koyomi gets a knock at the door. It’s his girlfriend, Senjougahara Hitagi, trying out a new, adorable look that isn’t based on Hanekawa’s style. Her late arrival provides the perfect capper for a wonderful epilogue that explores how far Koyomi has come, and how he fears not knowing where to go from there.

He explains his last two days to Hitagi, about how after losing his title as high school student he looked in the mirror and summoned his regrets. Mind you, those myriad regrets weren’t all resolved to his or anyone’s satisfaction; they were simply remembered, faced, and acknowledged, which enables him to step towards the future a little more informed, so that he might hopefully avoid actions that will create more regrets.

In this regard, Hitagi’s total absence from the mirror world makes sense: Where she’s concerned, Koyomi has no regrets, and it’s reasonable to assume neither does she where he’s concerned. Koyomi creates a microcosm of his occasional hesitation when the two come to a crosswalk, where he used to stress about whether to lead with his right or left foot when the crossing light signals “go.”

Hitagi has a wonderfully Hitagi response to that: just plant both feet and take a leap, which is exactly what she does after taking Koyomi’s hand. Then Araragi Koyomi delivers a  stirring final monologue: “The long-continued story having come to its end, I remember my memories, leave my business unfinished, and leaving ample aftertaste and black space, towards the next story, we take a leap.”

Whew. It’s been quite a ride, leaping from one story, one oddity to the other over ten years and one hundred and three episodes containing many more individual chapters. I don’t think it’s a gross exaggeration to declare Monogatari, when taken as a whole, to be the most rich and satisfying collections of anime I’ve ever experienced.

It’s a series that has demanded time, patience, and at times, a certain twisted sense of humor, or tolerance for same. It’s downright bittersweet to think the book of Araragi & Co. has finally closed for good. But I’m glad I took the leap. Or should I say, a huge, joystick-pushing, lake-obliterating jump.

3-gatsu no Lion – 26

As Hina cries in her big sister’s lap, Rei catches us up on the reason for her tears, as well as her missing shoe. It’s a harrowing, all-too familiar and common story: some girls in her class with nothing better to do started bullying her longtime friend Chiho. While everyone ignored it or pretended nothing was happening (even the teacher), Hina, like a Fire Sister, kept talking and eating with Chiho.

Eventually, the bullying got so bad Chiho stopped coming to school, and her mother decided they’d move to where her father works, pulling her out of school. When the girls who started all this make light of that in gym class, Hina pounces on their queen bee in vicious rage, to no avail.

Now Hina is the target of their bullying, and she’s terrified of going back to school and being alone, just as she’s distressed that she couldn’t do anything for Chiho. After scaring Momo with her crying, Hina runs out into the night, and Rei very slowly chases her (what can you say; kid’s not an athlete).

Rei makes no bones about it: Hina is the reason he’s above water; she is his lifesaver; and after gently taking her hand, he promises he’ll always stay with her, no matter what. After all, for all the distress and pain it’s caused her, Hina is quite correct that she did absolutely nothing wrong in trying to defend Chiho. That it was beyond her ability to stop the bullying, or that she’s the new target, does not change that simple fact that she’s a good person.

Fully appreciative of her fragile state and need to not be alone, Rei spends the day with her at the libarary where they look at books, something he’s been doing a long time and the reason he’s so good at shogi at his age.

While she’s looking at Japanese sweets books, Rei is looking for the name of the “ladybug bush” of his dark earlier years: “Silverthorn.” He also finds the scientific name of the Asian Ladybug that populated those bushes, and Hina notices the kanji for that name also means “heavenly path.”

Rei takes her to the bush and places a ladybug on her hand, and it climbs as high as it can before flying off toward the sun, demonstrating why, long ago, people gave the bug that name.

As the beetle flies heavenward, Rei would wish nothing more than to unleash hell upon those who have done this to Hina; but just as she walks the heavenly (i.e. just and rightous) path, he knows so must he. Tearing those bullies limb from limb won’t solve anything, and probably onlu make things worse for Hina.

Evening arrives, and Rei escorts Hina home, where Akari and Momo are waiting for them and invite Rei to join them for a sumptuous dinner consisting of all of Hina’s favorite foods. Their Gramps is there too, and gravely asks Hina to sit down and listen.

Akari told him everything that happened…and he praises her heartily for what she did. He knows from the papers how serious bullying can be, so he has nothing but joy and pride in knowing Hina would go to bat for her friend despite the dangers involved; something most adults wouldn’t do. He echos her own earlier words that she did nothing wrong, and should be proud of herself.

Now, I watched his monologue in a very dusty room, so you can imagine I needed a lot of Kleenex nearby, just as the Kawamoto sisters did. Both Gramps’ words of encouragement and Akari’s meal were things they knew they could do for Hina. Rei wracks his brain over what he can do, but simply being there for her, by her side, and assuring her he’ll never leave it, is already enough.

Nekomonogatari: Shiro – 03

monogatari3

Senjougahara tells Hanekawa she can’t “survive in the wild” because she’s too “white,” or being “dull in the shadows.” Kanbaru Suruga receives a text from Araragi asking her to meet him at the cram school. Senjougahara’s father returns, so she convinces the Fire Sisters Karen and Tsukihi to allow Hanekawa to stay with them for the time being. She sleeps in Araragi’s room, but she wakes up in the form of Black Hanekawa. Oshino Shinobu chats with her there, and Hanekawa tells her about Araragi’s whereabouts, asks about the Tiger oddity, and offers her a ride. When they arrive at the cram school, it is burned to the ground.

Something that we’ve been noticing about this new -Monogatari series is just how leisurely it is with the progression of events, and how indulgent it is with the characters pouring out all of their feelings and observations in between those events. In the first episode, Hanekawa meets the tiger oddity. In the second, she moves in with Senjougahara, who meets her alter-ego. In this episode she moves in with the Fire Sisters and her alter-ego meets Shinobu. That’s a pretty sparse amount of activity compared with other Summer series that stuff their episodes to the gills with events. Monogatari definitely operates under its own set of rules at its own pace, and makes no apologies for its meandering ways. It lives in the in between; for the journey, not the destination.

Much of that journey is philosophical, and you’ll either tire quickly of the verbose conversations flying around, or you’ll get immersed in them and in the small worlds that are built around them. Through the sparse sequence of events, Hanekawa has been drawing closer and closer to Araragi and the secret mission he’s involved in. And now we have a second burnt-down building, which just happened to be Hanekawa’s first place of refuge after her house burned, and a key locale in the Monogatari saga. It’s sudden loss is a huge deal, as is Shinobu’s suggestion that Araragi will surely get himself killed without her aid. But despite how close Hanekawa is getting, until they actually show him, we’re not going to assume he’ll ever appear in this arc at all.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We love how low-key Senjougahara’s dad is. He puts on an apron, puts the kettle on, then vanishes.
  • Senjougahara and Hanekawa may sport short hair, but Tsukihi is rocking hair as long as she is tall; Kanbaru has also grown her hair out.
  • We see a lot of the Araragi family’s impeccable, ultramodern home, complete with cathedral-like bathroom.
  • The Araragis’ parents are police officers!
  • Don’t know if this is the first episode with it, but we noticed a “Chinaberry” (ouchi) frame for the first time. Nice color!
  • Vampires must not have a problem with blood rushing to their heads, ’cause Shinobu’s hanging from the ceiling a long time.
  • Love the quick-cutting scenes to simply show Black Hanekawa is leaping great bounds across town.

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)

 

Nisemonogatari – 07

Taking half of Karen’s illness made her strong enough to run off to deal with Kaiki alone. Araragi confronts her beneath a freeway interchange, and a brutal battle ensues. Araragi is suprised by her sister’s ability, but she’s just as surprised he won’t go down. He eventually convinces her to stand down, and he and Senjougahara confront Kaiki in front of a hero show pavilion. He verbally spars with both of them, but tells Araragi Karen will make a full recovery in less than three days, and voluntarily leaves town. Karen is better the next morning, and she and Tsukihi continue their Fire Sister duty.

Nisemonogatari and its prequel could sometimes be accused of being overly leisurely with their pace and light on the action. If there’s any action in an episode at all, it’s almost teasingly brief, if highly caffeinated. Well, this week bucked both those trends, and served up a highly-charged and quick resoution to the Araragi/Karen standoff. She’s an awesome fighter, using Mugen-like breakdancing moves against her brother, who is handicapped by his desire not to kill his precious big little sister, which would happen if he went all out. It then ends with her relenting and a big hug.

With the conventional fight out of the way, the real battle begins: a battle of words and wits against Kaiki, and it’s a good one; one of the best of either -monogari. While he begins with a speech of concession, he’s most liberal with the barbs against Senjougahara, calling her ordinary, boring, even fat. He’s essentially telling them he never cared about winning or losing money, that the supernatural doesn’t exist (calling the bee oddity hypnosis), history is a bunch of lies (Edo, not Muromachi!) the past is irrelevant, and oft repeating that life isn’t theatre. That last bit is ironic, considering how theatrical the scene is (there are even spotlights!). Sifting out the truth from his blizzard of lies is easy: IT’S ALL LIES. A nice touch: when he finally stops talking and says farewell, the huge murder of crows that had assembled flies off with him, as if Kaiki were just their human instrument.

We even imagined that the whole confrontation was taking place in an alternate plane – on the other side of which a rapt audience was watching the Power Rangers on the projection screen, with a bright blue sky above them rather than a forboding sunset. Interestingly, that video still plays in the alternate plane, at times even mirroring or complementing the words being said. Senjougahara shows superoir restraint in taking all the abuse and telling him basically “Well, Araragi loves me, so screw off.” After that, Araragi get’s his second tender hug of the day – only this hug has no creepy incestuous overtones – something the series continues to unapologetically overplay. But that didn’t ruin a sensational end to the Karen Bee arc, that had it all: thick-as-soup atmosphere, uncharacteristic combat, and phenomenal dialogue.


Rating: 4

Nisemonogatari – 02

Araragi Koyomi formally introduces his sisters Karen and Tsukihi. Karen is an aggressive athletic tomboy who, while Tsukihi is even more aggressive, but with a more feminine and innocent outward appearence. Koyomi then pays a visit to Sengoku, who seems to be in an unusually playful mood. When her mother gets home, Koyomi migrates to Kanbaru’s, where he busts in on her naked, then teases her by making the case she’s a more normal girl than she lets on.

Things you’re assured to get lots of in spades (besides kuro color cards) in Nisemonogatari: intense, intimate close-ups, particularly of girls; innovative and often downright raunchy poses by said girls; visually stunning ‘sets’  – I mean, a waterfall of books complete with rainbow? Applause. You’ll also get lines like this: “There’s harder BL on a lower stratum!”, made all the better when spoken with utter conviction by Miyuki Sawashiro. In other words, you get lots of weird, offbeat stuff. This season seems to be kicking up the sexual tension.

This episode further reinforced our perception of this series as an ‘anime play’ – it was mostly one-on-one conversations in fixed settings, after all – first, Sengoku’s house, then on the street with Karen (nimble lil’ minx, her), and finally in the liturature-replete home of Kanbaru. We also like how these familiar characters from Bakemonogatari underwent subtle but effective visual makeovers. The busy, kinetic opening focused on Karen as a bee spirit of sorts. There’s a foreboding to Koyomi’s description of his ‘fire sisters’ – as if there are many out there who believe they’re some kind of heroic duo. He contends his kid sisters merely have vivid imaginations and aren’t above exaggeration.


Rating: 3.5