Owarimonogatari S2 – 01

Owarimonogatari is back, and promises to inch ever closer to the endgame of the sprawling story of Araragi Koyomi and the town “where a white snake once reigned.”

At some point after the “hell” he went through over spring break, Araragi Koyomi visits Gaen Izuko at the North Shirahebi Shrine…and she murders him. He wakes up to find none other than Hachikuji Mayoi (her usual age) there to greet him.

After his customary hug (this one being one of the more elaborate and extreme ones) and a lot of inappropriate contact, Mayoi punishes him with her signature pit bull-like chomp. She informs him of what’s going on: he’s dead and currently in real hell (specifically in Avici, the lowest form of hell, due to his vampirism).

Mayoi is in hell because both her parents outlived her, and so spends eternity stacking up stones by the riverbank. Especially for a little kid, she’s remarkably calm and fine with this, with a “that’s the way things go” attitude.

They then commence an epic, trippy ascent up through the layers of hell so that Koyomi can meet someone. He’s shown all of the moments that preceded his making key decisions in his life, from finding Shinobu to catching Senjougahara to everything else; and the recurring reaction is that if given an opportunity to return to those moments, he wouldn’t change a thing.

His only exception is the incident with Nadeko, but Mayoi assures him he’s being overly tough on himself for not being omnipotent, which no one is.

The long, reminicing journey finally brings him to another iteration of the Shirahebi shrine, where Tadatsuru Teori is waiting for him. It turns out Gaen Izuko’s murder was far from random, but part of a larger plan to exorcise Koyomi of his vampirism. Sending him to hell was merely a side effect.

Teori presents Koyomi with a white snake-like rope back to the world of the living where he belongs, and when he returns, he will no longer be a vampire, which if you as me is huge.

Koyomi worries if he’s really the most worthy person to be resurrected, and Mayoi, punches it into him that of course he is: he loves to be alive, and cherishes his girls and has done far too much for them to simply accept death and a life in hell.

Koyomi turns Mayoi’s own positive vibes onto her, grabbing her at the last minute to drag her back into the living world with him, which she doesn’t seem to have expected, but Izuko is nevertheless pleased he did. Izuko, by the way, is on the cusp of being killed by Shinobu until Koyomi returns; clearly the vampire wasn’t pleased about the stunt the specialist pulled on her master.

Teori also informed Koyomi of the person who requested he exterminate him: Oshino Ougi. Izuko leaves Koyomi, Shinobu and the resurrected Mayoi alone, looking forward to the “battles to come” where she hopes to enjoy a slight advantage.

In the meantime, after a mad, psychedelic metaphysical odyssey through the underworld, Koyomi heads off next for something as mundane as his college entrance exams. 

Onimonogatari – 04

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Gaen Izuko agrees to help Koyomi if he and Suruga help her with a task once his “case is closed.” She tells him the darkness has come to punish Mayoi for lying about still being around and being a “ghost of a ghost”, and not performing her duty an oddity to make people lost. Because Koyomi and Ononoki are lost, the darkness doesn’t attack, but they can’t remain lost forever. Content with the time she got to spend with Koyomi, she decides to pass away willingly, after confessing to loving him. Four months later Koyomi recounts his tale to Ougi, who tells him of her job: which is identical to that of the darkness.

Excuse us, there’s something in our eyes! In all seriousness, that was one sudden, poignant, moving close to Koyomi’s sometimes-inappropriate, always complex but ultimately warm relationship with Hachikuji Matoi. We didn’t really expect something like this, even though the events involving the darkness definitely hinted that Matoi was its likely target. We like how Izuko’s explanations tie Shinobu’s story with Mayoi’s present situation, for while they couldn’t be more different as oddities go, both of them were visited by the darkness for the same reason: because they were “lying”—or merely failing to address misunderstandings—about their existence.

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The power of Mayoi’s farewell is based in the rich history between her and Koyomi. After Senjougahara, she was the first oddity he came across, establishing the general formula of the initial Suruga, Nadeko, and Tsubasa arcs that followed. For those who have watched this series in order, we first met Mayoi nearly four years ago (seven for the novel-readers). Koyomi even tried to bring her back to life by saving her in the past, almost destroying the present in the process. Turns out his bittersweet goodbye to that alternate-timeline grown Mayoi presaged the even more bittersweet goodbye here. Also, Mayoi’s seiyu Kato Emiri provides a moving yet understated performance.

The episode also brought into focus another corner of the world of oddities: the cold, logical order punishing any who stray from their appointed roles. The epilogue also suggested to us that the amorphous darkness also has corporeal form in Oshino Ougi, which would explain not only why she looks so weird, but also her penchant for composing life lessons from the observations of others. We’ll miss Mayoi, as Koyomi will, but we understand why she had to go, and she did so the best way she could. Koyomi wanted to be her hero, but this time his foe was utterly beyond him, and couldn’t even properly be called a foe. It was simply an inviolable force of nature, righting wrongs and ending things that must end.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Onimonogatari – 03

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After Shinobu’s monologue, Ononoki reveals she’s been there the whole time, listening. She and Shinobu argue until Mayoi comes to and Koyomi assaults her, earning the ire of all three girls. Ononoki suggests they ask Gaen Izuko for answers. Just then, the “darkness” reappears; Koyomi and Mayoi grab onto Ononoki, who uses Unlimited Rulebook to escape. They end up in the mountains, and Koyomi gradually realizes he and Shinobu are no longer connected. His shadow mixed with the darkness, severing their link and reducing the power of both. With few other options, they search for a working phone, and at the first house find Gaen Izuko.

Since next week will feature the “person who knows everything”, it’s likely we’ll learn more about the “darkness” that’s been chasing Koyomi, Shinobu, and Mayoi, and has now managed to snatch Shinobu away. But at the moment, despite Shinobu’s masterpiece of a monologue last week, we still know very little about it. It’s not an oddity, so neither Shinobu nor Koyomi have any kind of edge over it. We also know it has the ability to snatch the likes of Shinobu from Koyomi’s shadow, suggesting that could’ve been it’s aim all along. But perhaps Shinobu’s story presented another clue: Shinobu was only able to grab the hand and wrist of her companion from the darkness, and then used them to bring him back as her minion, who later offed himself.

But what if the rest of his body remained in that darkness, right up to the point it briefly merged Koyomi’s shadow and tore Shinobu away? Again, it’s probably silly for someone who didn’t read the source to make wild guesses just a week before they may well be revealed, but we thought we’d hazard a guess, since what we’re suggesting makes a little bit of sense. But of course, when talking about something as abstract and nebulous as this “darkness”, which suddenly appears without warning and scares the shit out of everyone, over-conjecturing things may prove a waste of time. At any rate, the idea of Shinobu being separated from Koyomi is an unsettling one regardless of circumstances, now that we know more about who and what she is.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Onimonogatari – 01

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Hachikuji Mayoi accompanies Koyomi to his house to retrieve her backpack, but just when they’re about to go to lunch, they both witness a strange orb of “darkness” approaching them. Koyomi and Mayoi jump on his bike and he speeds away, but the darkness gives chase. Ononoki Yotsugi assists by flying them to the abandoned cram school, asking only a kiss in return. When Shinobu wakes up, she tells Koyomi the orb he saw is something she’d dealt with before, over 400 years ago, and that if not dealt with properly, could bring the town to ruin.

The arcs of this season of Monogatari have not unfolded chronologically, so after taking us right to the precipice of Koyomi and Co.’s rematch of Sengoku Nadeko in the last arc, it rewinds to just after the end of the arc before it, when Koyomi and Shinobu had returned from their time-travelling adventures. While we kinda wanted to see what would happen next – and the ‘to be continued” at least teased that we may – we’re going to have to wait. In the meantime, Monogatari has another story to tell. If measured only by the amount of action that took place within it, this was one of the slighter episodes of the second season, not counting the three recap episodes.

But Monogatari arcs always start out this way; stage-setting; piece arrangement. Koyomi’s usual, seemingly uncontrollable depraved behavior towards Mayoi finds a vehicle – literally – in the bicycle chase, during which Mayoi does whatever he orders her to do in the name of safety. But that’s just window dressing. The meat of the story to come once again involves Shinobu, and why not? She’s by far the oldest character, having lived so long we’ve still barely scratched the surface of that long and eventful life, so we’re intrigued to see her account of what transpired four centuries ago, long before any of Koyomi’s exploits.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • This arc takes place at the same time as Nekomonogatari (Shiro), the first arc of the second season. Makes sense, since Koyomi was absent for pretty much all of that.
  • Ononoki admires good muscles, like Matsuoka Gou from Free.
  • We’re not so sure Senjougahara would take kindly to Koyomi kissing not one but two girls in this episode (though one is technically a shikigami and the other a vampire).

Kabukimonogatari – 04

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Thousands of zombies converge on Koyomi and Shinobu, but a shower of rice disperses them, launched by a grown-up Hachikuji Mayoi, who is still alive in that dimension. She has a letter for him from Oshino, asking him to confront Shinobu of this time, AKA Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, who is only half-dead and still a threat to the survivors. Content with his fleeting encounter with Hachikuji, Araragi goes to the shrine with Shinobu, and both double-wield “Kokoro-Watari” demon swords as Shinobu calls out for her.

The half-burned Heart-under-blade arrives, but does not attack. She is so relieved and heartened by seeing her alternate self by Koyomi’s side, she offers her own energy (i.e. blood) to enable them to return to their own timeline, killing her in the process and saving the alternate Hachikuji’s world. Koyomi returns to the present, late for the school ceremony, and the regular Hachikuji barrels into him, having left her backpack at his place.

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We thought this was the strongest episode yet of Monogatari’s second season, completing a second arc that  seemed far less dilatory than the first. The series could have introduced the older Hachikuji Mayoi in last week’s cliffhanger, but chose to defer to this episode so that we have the briefest possible time with her, like Araragi. Hanging out and catching up with her is pointless; this Hachikuji doesn’t know him and vice versa.

Their momentary encounter was enough to make him content, as well as convince him that he wouldn’t let the world where she survived be destroyed. He confronts Heart-under-blade fully expecting a vicious battle that could end with him and Shinobu getting swatted like flies. But as with him with Hachikuji, Heart only wants the briefest glimpse of her alternate self and her “minion” – just long enough to be reassured that there’s a better world out there, in which she didn’t go down the spiral that’s left her a half-dead wretch that still threatened the world.

While Koyomi is glad the alternate Hachikuji and her world will live on with Heart’s demise, he’s also glad to be back in a timeline where he met Hachikuji, even if he couldn’t save her life, they know each other here, and always will. At the same time, the young Hachikuji doesn’t regret dying, because that’s what led to her meeting Koyomi. Finally, Shinobu is glad to be back, and glad even the alternate her that “failed” so fantastically still eventually made amends. To Koyomi, the world he wants is one where Hachikuji knows him. To Shinobu, the world she wants is one where she’s with him. It’s fortunate then that those are the same world.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Had to mention: Alternate Grown-up Hachikuji is an awesome-looking character.
  • Oshino’s verbose letter was exposition medicine that went down easy thanks to the slick “time-travel-as-rock-climbing” visuals that accompanied it.
  • The Koyomi of the alternate timeline also dated Senjougahara. We guess that makes them multi-dimensional soul-mates, huh?
  • Shinobu’s – or we should say, Sakamoto Maaya’s – summoning scream was pretty frikkin’ bad-ass.
  • We thought we’d part with one of the many gorgeous vistas we were treated to throughout the episode:

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Kabukimonogatari – 03

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Koyomi and Shinobu return to the present to find it in ruins, and the last newspaper reads June 15th. They’re unable to use the shrine to travel through time, and are surrounded by zombies. They retreat into the sky and wait for the dawn, then return to Koyomi’s home. Shinobu deduces that saving Mayoi meant Koyomi never met her.

As a result, Black Hanekawa killed him, and he never retrieved Shinobu after she ran away. Released from his servitude, Shinobu’s full power was unleashed and she turned the entire world into vampires before committing suicide, turning them into zombies. After lighting fireworks in hopes of luring survivors, they are again surrounded by zombies.

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Upon first laying eyes on the bleak, lifeless, eerily beautiful new world Koyomi and Shinobu created by saving Mayoi, our first thought was that we’d want to leave as quickly as possible. Besides being straight up creepy and full of friggin’ vampire zombies, we’d also feel a crushing depression from the knowledge that this just wasn’t right and it was our fault, which would negate any possible appeal of having the world – and Costco! – all to ourselves.

Then Koyomi and Shinobu do try to leave almost immediately, back to the past where they can possibly fix this, and…they can’t. Another crushing sensation; they’re stuck there, indefinitely. But we won’t be too pessimistic. The night’s always darkest before the dawn; a gorgeous dawn we see when Shinobu launches into the sky with Koyomi, which along with the fireworks show brings some life back into this ruined world they simply must restore.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kabukimonogatari – 02

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When Koyomi realizes they were sent into the past the day before Mother’s Day eleven years ago, he decides to take the opportunity to save Mayoi’s life. Shinobu is dubious, but goes along with the plan. While they’re there, they also spot a younger Koyomi and a younger Hanekawa. Once they locate her father’s house they stake it out in the morning, but she’d already left earlier. They find her, Koyomi startles her, and while chasing her she is almost hit by a passing truck in the crosswalk, but Koyomi pushes her to safety just in time, and then escorts her to her mother’s. Shinobu opens a portal back to the present, but when they return, they learn that the world has been destroyed.

While discussing their unique temporal situation and their singular opportunity at hand with Shinobu, Koyomi concedes that he may not be able to prevent the oddities of all the girls from coming into being; not even Senjougahara’s weight crab. Those oddities were formed from very specific circumstances and sequences of events involving more than just those girls. But Mayoi, he opines, is different. She simply died in a random accident on the way to seeing her divorced mother. And he feels that their ending up eleven years in the past wasn’t random: even if it’s only a stopgap measure, he’s determined to save her and help her find her way.

So after crossing paths with the tiny, flat-chested, but otherwise identical-to-present Hanekawa Tsubasa and almost letting Mayoi slip through his fingers, Koyomi does indeed save her and deliver her to her mom’s, and all’s well that ends well…until they return. In the end, we don’t see the present; Koyomi only describes it in the bleakest terms before the episode cuts to black. But it’s clear that saving Mayoi meant dooming the present he and Shinobu knew. Even if he thought it was a random accident, the only reason the present he knew existed was because Mayoi died in the past. What he saw as righting a wrong only made an infinitely bigger wrong.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kabukimonogatari – 01

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At school, Araragi Koyomi‘s classmate Oshino Ougi waxes whimsical about the contradiction between red signs warning of danger being safer than green signs indicating safety; it makes him think of how Hachikuji Mayoi was killed by a truck ten years ago. Koyomi then runs into Ononoki Yotsugi, who has been dispatched to the town for unknown reasons. Back home, Oshino Shinobu points out that Koyomi hasn’t done any of his summer homework. With just two hours until class starts, he asks her to build him a time machine. Instead, she takes them to a shrine where she opens a portal to an alternate dimension. They jump in, and rather than emerging the previous day as planned, they end up eleven years, three months and seven days in the past, with no reliable way back.

Kabuki is typically used as the term for classical Japanese theater (or improperly used to describe intricate political maneuvering) but is also derived from the verb kabuku meaning “to lean”, or “to be out of the ordinary”,”avant-garde”, or “bizarre”. while kabukimono is a term for “someone bizarrely dressed and swaggering on the street”. Furthermore, kabuki’s individual kanji mean “sing”, “dance”, and “skill”. True to its highly versatile (and open to interpretation) title, this episode caters to all the possible definitions. Like every Monogatari episode, the style is very avant-garde and bizarre, with intricate, often poetic or singsong dialogue and characters striking poses in an vaguely kabuki-esque manner. Oshino Ougi has a white, stylized face reminiscent of a kabuki mask.

Officially, Kabukimonogatari means “Slope Story”, continuing the theme of being off-kilter or less-than-straight, and also calls to mind the proverbial “slippery slope.” Case in point: Koyomi wants to go back one day so he has time to do his homework, and puts his trust in Shinobu, who doesn’t reveal it was her first attempt until after the fact, and Koyomi gets a lot more time than he needed. If his present is 2013, they’ve gone all the way back to 2002. Ougi tells Koyomi “If you don’t want to face danger, don’t cross any crosswalks”. But he’s never been one to avoid danger. Now he finds himself in the past, with the chance to stop Mayoi from losing her life while crossing one. It’s a solid start to an intriguing new adventure.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nekomonogatari: Shiro – 01

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As Hanekawa Tsubasa heads to school, she bumps into Hachikuji Mayoi, and then encounters a huge white tiger. She discusses it with Senjougahara Hitagi at school, as Araragi Koyomi is absent. Before the day is out, Tsubasa’s house is obliterated by fire, and she seeks shelter at the abandoned cram school. She wakes up to a beside-herself Senjougahara, who was out all night looking for her. She invites her to her place to shower with her and get some rest.

Welcome to the first in a fresh sequence of “-Monogatari” arcs, starting with one focusing on Hanekawa. The last arc we saw took place before Araragi met and fell for Senjougahara; we’re not exactly sure when this one starts, but it’s after the two have become a couple. Araragi is notably absent in this first episode; the only sign of him existing being a text telling Senjougahara and Hanekawa not to worry, as he’ll be busy for the forseeable future; with what, who can say. As for this Hanekawa-heavy episode, it does a good job underlining how rough it must be for someone who lacks a true family or home, even before the house she lives in with two people who are her parents in name only burns down.

She blames the shock of the fire for shacking up in an abandoned building, worrying Senjougahara, but perhaps that was the tiger oddity that haunts her, preferring to sleep in a less domesticated place than a friend’s house. Senjougahara fills in for Araragi which is an interesting dynamic when you consider she was the one who won the heart of the boy Hanekawa admits without hesitation that she still loves. Whatever this tiger thing is, they may have to solve it without him. Other than that, it’s your pretty standard “-Monogatari” episode: slow pace, mostly conversation sexy close-ups and cards displaying colors and inner thoughts.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)