Owarimonogatari – 05

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Oikura knew Araragi’s parents were cops because they were the ones who got her out of her abusive home and had her live with them. Araragi can’t remember on his own, but that’s not entirely why Oikura despises him. As we learn during one of the more powerful sustained monologues in the Monogatari franchise, and a chance for Inoue Marina to remind us just how good she is when she sinks her teeth into a role.

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As hostile as she is to both Araragi and Hanekawa (throwing tea at the former, which the latter catches with her cat-like reflexes), she still seems to get a lot off her chest and be better for it. She also comes off like never before like a deeply wounded individual; a lost soul who has given up hope.

It’s already the end for her; after all the punishment she’s endured in her still short life—physical and emotional—she believes she’s too frail for happiness, so she despises it along with herself and everything else in the world.

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That punishment includes having to watch Araragi’s perfect family seem to “show off” in front of her. She’d glare at them in resentment, or for not knowing how different they regard “normal family life”; in other words, how much they take love for granted. Oikura was never given love. Her parents divorced, her mother became reclusive and never left her room, and Oikura had to take care of her, until one day she was just…gone.

After all that, Araragi forgetting all about her and giving her nothing in return for what she gave to him throughout their encounters, reveals itself as simply the tip of a very nasty, despairing iceberg. Inoue mixes dread and malice with tones of black humor and feigned happiness in Oikura’s delivery, heightening her aura of imbalance; a spinning top about to fall off a table.

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She made Araragi a villain despite his relatively small contribution to her wholesale suffering because she needed to blame and despise someone other than her parents (which neither she chose nor who chose her) or herself just to keep going on. Whenever she got near the happiness Araragi seems to ooze, it felt either too bright or heavy for her frail, scarred self to survive.

Happiness, she believes, will kill her just as efficiently as the emotions on the other end of the spectrum. So she’s settled for something a little more moderate on that scale, and it’s slowly dissolving her heart. Araragi tell her happiness can’t do that, and there are many kinds that would work for her. But Oikura lacks the ability to access them.

What she needs now, more than anything else, is to continue being heard, and being in the presence of others. When she kicks them out, Hanekawa says both she and Araragi will keep coming back, because “troubling those we care about is how we do things.” It’s pushy, but it’s also something Oikura needs to hear: someone cares about her; is fond of her; and she’s several decades too early to be talking about endings. 

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Owarimonogatari – 04

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Having thoroughly explored his past with Oikura in Sodachi Riddle, Sodachi Lost begins with Araragi describing Oshino Ougi as “Oshino Ougi.” She is she, and cannot be expressed by nothing else. In other words, the detective is the ultimate mystery, at least to Araragi: he’s learning more about himself, and she’s learning beside him…but he continues to know nothing about Ougi, other than she’s Ougi…and has the guts to lock horns with Hanekawa Tsubasa.

Tsubasa plays a much larger role this week, as she, not Ougi, accompanies Araragi to Oikura’s present home. As we learn about the origin of such an arrangement, it becomes clear Tsubasa is concerned about Ougi’s influence on Araragi these last three days. And whenever Tsubasa is concerned, I’m concerned. She’s with Araragi far more out of a desire to isolate him from Ougi and take the measure of him than she is to make Oikura more comfortable with the visit.

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It’s chilling how close she comes to losing Araragi to a day of non-revolving celebratory sushi with Ougi. From the way Tsubasa is acting, I couldn’t help but dread a scenario in which Araragi went with Ougi. This is partly because I know, like and trust Tsubasa a lot more than Ougi, and partly because I knew from the present events at the episode’s beginning that Tsubasa won this fight, which felt like a victory.

There’s also the fact that Tsubasa and I both see now that Ougi is influencing him in some way, and there’s a possessive predatory aura to her presence, like she’s the very “possessing spirit” she herself says she’ll be if she went to Oikura’s with him. When Tsubasa and Ougi face off, it’s like fire vs. water; warm vs. cool. And the close-ups are, as always, stupendous.

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Ougi isn’t letting anything Tsubasa says get to her, and it seems effortless. Tsubasa receives a surgical salvo of barely-veiled insults from Ougi, and you can see her blood start to boil. When Ougi speaks, the traffic behind her (exclusively Datsun 2000s, naturally) is stopped. When Tsubasa returns fire, the cars flow freely. The refinery belches more and more smoke into the reddening sky as their “coversation” heats up.

Finally, once Tsubasa has offered to go with Araragi, she and Ougi turn to Araragi himself to choose. He’s bombarded with reasonable arguments on both sides, but finally chooses Tsubasa when she offers to let him touch her boobs. Mind you, there’s a few beats when that punchline that ends the battle so decisively simply hangs out there, as if Araragi is really that shallow.

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Then Araragi dutifully clarifies in voiceover that he didn’t choose Tsubasa so he could touch her boobs, but because something was “highly unusual” about a situation in which Tsubasa would make such an offer. That he got that feeling, to me, means he hasn’t been totally “lost” to Ougi, whatever that entails. Though it’s funny that Tsubasa might’ve taken his choice of her as a literal sign he just wants to grope her.

Whatever Araragi’s motive(s) for picking her, I think he made the right choice, and this round goes to Tsubasa, while Ougi stands around alone (which would be sad if I was certain she wasn’t some kind of succubus). Also, Araragi has finally come to the door of the Oikura of today, who hasn’t come to school since their last encounter.

The door is open, only a crack, and within awaits darkness, and a girl who despises him so much she’d rather come to the door in pajamas—or naked—than bother dressing for him. Oh, and she knew about his parents’ job because as it turns out, they’ve known each other since grade school. I suspect this latest encounter is going to be very interesting.

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Owarimonogatari – 03

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This week, in service of determining the true origin of Oikura Sodachi’s intense hatred of him, Araragi dutifully tells Ougi the story of summer break five years ago, when he was in the seventh grade and struggling at math. The envelopes in his shoe locker led him to the mansion where a mysterious girl would teach him not just math, but to like and even love math.

The girl eventually came up with three conditions Araragi had to agree with: the lessons would only take place in that specific room (where Araragi and Ougi presently stand); the lessons must be kept a secret between the two of them, and he must make no effort to find out more about her, or discuss anything not about mathmatics, or even ask her her name.

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Following her conditions, Araragi had a great time, and the girl seemed to as well. In fact, as Araragi states, he was “created” that summer; that is, the Araragi his is today is thanks in large part to that girl getting him back on the right track with math, allowing him to continue living the happy, righteous life he now lives rather than having to deal with the repercussions of increasingly dropping grades. In other words, whatever the reason she disappeared, Araragi owes her.

After his story, Ougi figures out quite quickly (she is a great sleuth) two things that never occured to Araragi, and blow this hatred investigation wide open. First: the mysterious “math fairy” that “created” him was most likely Oikura Sodachi, meaning Araragi met her, and she performed a life-changing service for him, years before he thought he first met her.

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The reason she never told Araragi this is Ougi’s second conclusion: Araragi wasn’t a guy she could count on. Young Araragi was so happy to be absorbing all of Sodachi’s mathematical knowledge, he neither thought much of her strange, specific conditions, nor the conditions of the home, which he wrongly remembers being in ruins. In reality, five years ago the mansion was Sodachi’s house, but it was a house falling apart, probably due to domestic abuse.

Sodachi invited Araragi to her house again and again in hopes he’d see the state of affairs there and relay the situation to his parents, police officers/champions of justice both. But he didn’t. And when Summer ended, Sodachi and her family disappeared, all Araragi found was an empty envelope, which he didn’t understand until now, when Ougi is drawing it all out for him: the envelope is him: “empty and disappointing.”

That’s why Sodachi despises Araragi. Becoming aware of the true nature of his past and what he did or rather didn’t do, Araragi also comes to depsise himself a little bit, for which Ougi has an intriguing response: that she’ll love him that exact same “little bit”…perhaps out of a desire to maintain balance?

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Yet despite Sodachi despising him and despising himself a little, he still loves mathematics. Even if he misinterpreted the purpose of his study sessions with Sodachi, they still imbued him with a formidable love of math, almost like a “curse.” And now that he knows what he most likely did to Sodachi, he’s more nervous about confronting her and a simple apology may not be sufficient.

Enter Tsubasa, who throws another wrinkle into Araragi and Ougi’s supposedly solved proof: Araragi kept the occupation of his parents a closely-guarded secret. So how did Sodachi find out? The answer to that question, and how Araragi’s next encounter with Sodachi will go (assuming he has one), comprises ample material for next week’s outing.

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Owarimonogatari – 02

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As Ougi pointedly remarks toward the end of this normal-length episode, This Is Different. Not only the fact that Owarimonogatari shifts the focus from her in the first episode (essentially an hour-long prologue) to Oikura Sodachi, who is suddenly back at school and asking Tsubasa all kinds of questions. Araragi is confident he can clear the air with Sodachi before Tsubasa gets back from the teacher’s lounge, but that doesn’t happen, because Sodachi, like Ougi before her, is different from every other woman he’s dealt with.

Different, because Sodachi hates Araragi. She despises him, and people like him with the heat of a thousand suns, as if he’d killed her parents (assuming she loved them, of course). So the smooth, easy reunion Araragi expected crashes and burns with equal force, as he can feel the hate suffusing every surface of the classroom, pushing all the desks and chairs back. No water under the bridge here. More like Sodachi wants to throw Araragi off a bridge, into that water, then burn his wretched corpse to ashes.

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So why does she despise Araragi so much? We can hazard a guess from last week, but according to her, it’s because he’s ungrateful for the life of smooth sailing he’s enjoyed, because he’s happy without knowing why he’s happy; because he “doesn’t know what he’s made up of” in ranting that evokes chemistry more than mathematics, though the former requires quite a bit of the latter (which is why I got a “D-” in chemistry :P):

“I despise water that thinks it boiled itself on its own.”

Araragi’s usual charms and ability to take control of an encounter are utterly overthrown in Sodachi’s seething atmosphere of hate. When he tries to calm her by putting his hands on her shoulders, she quickly reaches for a mechanical pencil and stabs him in the hand. She won’t be calm. Within her is a storm that has been brewing for years. But how many, exactly—two, five, or more—is one of the mysteries this episode posits.

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Sodachi’s stabbing of Araragi brings a new element to the equation: a highly displeased Senjougahara, comically dragging a diplomatic Tsubasa behind her, who arrives with a line that’s both eloquent, hilarious, and wink-ily meta-referential:

“I’ll kill you. I’m the only one who can stab Araragi with stationery. Even though I’ve gotten rid of that character trait, I can’t stand having it reused.”

Sodachi greets Senjougahara by lamenting “how far she’s fallen” since the time she was a sickly girl she often took care of, since she’s now dating Araragi, a man who will never credit anyone other than himself for his happiness. But both of Sodachi’s barbs imply a desire in Senjougahara for some kind of repayment for her affections or efforts, where no such desire exists.

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Senjougahara concedes that Sodachi may be right about Araragi’s ungratefulness, but she doesn’t care. She likes Araragi and wants to go to college with him. She’s not looking for anything in return, nor is she keeping score; two more traits on which she and Sodachi differ. Sodachi applies math to all, and in the equations that express Araragi’s wonderful life, sees herself and others as crucial variables. For that, she demands recognition and renumeration, yet Araragi, she believes, pretends those variables don’t exist; that only the sum—his happiness—matters.

Sodachi’s comeback to Senjougahara’s admittedly condescending response to her protests is to slap her in the face (doing a scant 15 Damage), which only incurs a brutal counter-punch from Senjougahara (1479 Damage + KO). Proving she is The Best, Senjougahara then passes out herself and tells Araragi to handle the rest. If this cameo is her only appearance in Owari, she sure made the most of it!

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From there, Ougi’s role returns to the foreground, as she accompanies Araragi to his middle school and finds three envelopes marked “A”, “B”, and “C” in his shoe locker (why they end up in that particular place is explained by the Loki-like Ougi using gorgeous Escher-style imagery with SD versions of her and Araragi).

Araragi recognizes these envelopes as a “Monty Hall problem“-type quiz: Three doors, behind one of which is a car; you choose Door 1; you’re shown what’s behind Door 3 (a goat), and you’re asked if you want to switch your choice to Door 2. Switching to Door 2 gives you a 2/3 chance of getting the car, compared to 1/3 sticking with Door 1.

I liken Ougi to Loki because she’s very much a trickster, neither good nor evil, who has revealed next to nothing about herself while having an intense power to draw out quite a bit from Araragi. She’s also a lot like Monty Hall, a game show host (note the flashing checkered lockers), not only nudging Araragi to choose which way to go next, but also hosting a kind of This Is Your Life for him.

(I’ll also note, Ougi takes a good long look at Nadeko’s shoe locker, both a callback to Nadeko’s arc, and another reason why Ougi is so hard to figure out).

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I say Ougi nudges him, but really, she’s pretty actively leading him deeper into his past, opening rusty gates and kicking in doors. That past is somewhere they both agree is the only place they have a chance of learning for sure why exactly Sodachi despises him so deeply. Ougi rules out the class assembly, as the exact timing of Sodachi’s return to school suggests she knew Komichi-sensei was the true culprit, not Araragi.

Ougi surmises it may be more the fact that Araragi has “forgotten his roots”, though she admits a lot of people do that and aren’t automatically despised for it. Her comments about who she was in grade school and middle school being “far beyond the boundaries of oblivion” and the feeling she was “born very recently”, which Araragi likens to the five-minute hypothesis, are both enticing nuggets about her, but don’t come close to painting a full picture.

But it is the further exploration of that cloudy past, when Araragi’s childhood thought process and actions were strange, mysterious, suspicious, and scary all at once, where he and Ougi hope to excavate some answers and avoid future stabbings.

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Owarimonogatari – 01 (First Impressions)

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Owari means “end”, so it looks like this latest story marks the beginning of the end of the Monogatari series, which is celebrated as an epic masterpiece by some (ahem) but derided as a tedious, talky, overwrought glorified harem piece by others (…jerks!), with any number of less extreme opinions in between.

The cold open and tremendous OP indicate the primary subject of this series will be the enigmatic, doll-like, too-long-sleeved niece of Oshino Meme, Oshino Ougi, with a theme of mathematics, or numbers. But in a change from other recent series, Ougi isn’t the one with the problem, i.e. the oddity/apparition.

Rather, the person with the problem is Araragi Koyomi himself. The setting of the episode is deceptively sparse—a locked classroom they can’t exit—but that classroom becomes the perfect stage for a dialogue that expands the setting across space and time, where Ougi establishes from Araragi’s testimony that the classroom itself is an apparition, likely one of Araragi’s own making.

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Combined with a less-rushed (for a weekly show) 48-minute runtime and a couple new takes sparkling visuals This latest narrative twist in the Monogatari formula keeps things fresh and exciting. The series has aired largely out of order, but there’s something both orderly and poetic about saving the end for last, only to go back two years to an experience that changed his outlook on life significantly and causing him to “put a lid on his heart”; at least until he meets Hanekawa Tsubasa.

There’s a new face in this past story, too: the silver-twin-tailed Oikura Sodachi (very appropriately voiced by Kitsu Chiri herself, Inoue Marina). Two years ago, when she and Araragi were first-years, she assembled the class to ascertain the culprit in wrongdoing that led to an unnatural deviation in the math test scores of the class.

Oikura can also be distinguished by her intense dislike, even hatred of Araragi Koyomi, because he always scored higher than her favorite subject, math. To add insult to injury, Araragi didn’t even participate in the suspect study group. But the assembly goes nowhere for two hours, with the students fiercely debating but not coming any closer to discovering the culprit.

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Oikura made Araragi preside over the assembly, but when he loses control, he goes back her her pleading for an end to this unfruitful madness. She relents, calling for a vote…and SHE is the one the class chooses as the culprit. Stunned, and essentially ruined as a student, she never returns to school after the incident, which makes sense as we’ve never seen her before in later series.

Araragi’s regret from the day of that accursed assembly was that he stood by and allowed the majority to make a determination in total absence of empirical evidence. Oikura was only chosen because most of the class chose her. It’s an artificial justice and righteousness that never sat well with justice-obsessed Araragi, who adpoted the motto “If I make friends, my strength as a human decreases,” which he obviously would later drop once started helping out various oddity-afflicted girls.

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Oikura wouldn’t let anyone leave the classroom until the culprit was found, and they “found” her. Likewise, Araragi can’t leave the phantom classroom his regret created until the true culprit is revealed. Ougi wastes no time deciding it was the math teacher, Komichi Tetsujo, who was responsible for the odd test scores, by changing the exam to match the questions the study group used.

In the end, Oikura organized the venue of her own demise, the assembly, as she was sacrificed by a teacher looking to improve her own stature, and the flawed justice of majority rule. And perhaps she miscalculated because she had so much emotional investment in the investigation, due to her resentment of fellow math whiz Araragi.

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Now that Araragi knows the culprit for sure, the classroom returns to normal coloring, and Ougi opens the door and lets him out. The next day, when he checks the part of the school where the classroom was, there was nothing there; the apparition dissipated. Then he stops by his current homeroom, but in a clever inversion of the episode thus far, rather than being unable to exit, he can’t enter.

That’s because Tsubasa is blocking the door, with news that someone has returned to school after two years: Oukura Sodachi, who arrives just as the teacher who destroyed her departs for maternity leave, as if the two were switching places. This should be interesting.

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Koimonogatari – 05

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Hanekawa explains the town’s events to Kaiki, as well as her impression of Sengoku as someone who doesn’t actually love anyone. Kaiki continues to visit Sengoku to curry favor. The day to deceive her arrives, and he and Senjougahara share a bittersweet phone call. Ononoki meets with him to warn him, out her and Gaen’s concern for his well-being, that he will fail, as he failed to resolve the situation with Senjougahara’s mother. At the shrine, Kaiki tells Sengoku wishes spoken out loud can never come true, and she won’t be able to kill Araragi, Senjougahara, or Oshino, because they died in a traffic accident. Sengoku immediately detects deception.

The past four episodes we’ve seen a Kaiki thoroughly throw himself into the role of investigator, carefully collecting information while carefully manipulating Sengoku into liking and trusting him for the big day when he deceives her. He’s been a picture of efficiency and competence. But as he himself admits to Ononoki, he has no more idea of what he’s doing than anyone else in the world. That proves true in the very last scene, when he’s unable to take candy from a baby. For all her childlike dalliance, Sengoku sniffed out his lie immediately. So it sure looks like he’s failed. More to the point, Gaen, who knows everything, said he would fail, so failure was inevitable.

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The question is, why? The never knowing exactly what your doing is part of it, but there’s something else too. Regardless of whether he’s merely putting on a tremendous performance deceiving Senjougahara and us, the audience, Kaiki must be defined by his actions and not his words. Again, as he said, the moment thoughts and wishes are given form in words, they become dramatized and lose their power. The words he exchanges with Senjougahara during their long conversations may have been all over the place, but his actions speak for themselves: affection for her plays a role. there’s a sutble paternal concern and disapproval lurking beneath his digs at Senjougahara’s relationship with Araragi.

When answering what she sees in the boy, she says first and foremost: “He’s not you,” something a daughter might say. There’s been a strong familial cordiality to their dealings, and as the mission is about to wrap up, both admit a part of them will miss each other’s company. Kaiki has always marveled at how Senjougahara has survived and endured her life despite seeming so fragile. She is a miracle to him, one he feels compelled to preserve at all costs. This arc hasn’t documented a strictly dispassionate business transaction. It really has been a love story…just not the one we expected.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Interesting name drops this week: the vampire Episode, whom we have only a cursory familiarity with, and Numachi Rouka, who we don’t know at all.
  • Kaiki is still keeping secret to everyone what was in the forbidden closet, dismissing its contents as unimportant. Wonder if that will change now that he’s failed to deceive Sengoku…
  • Gaen/Ononoki’s attitude towards Kaiki shifts this week their concern he’s meddling in a town where Gaen has plans, to something like genuine concern Kaiki is repeating history, to the detriment of his physical and emotional well-being.
  • What’s Kaiki’s next move? Will he be shocked Sengoku didn’t believe his story? Will she add him to her kill list? Or was his lie about the accident merely his first move, with many to come?

 

 

Koimonogatari – 04

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Kaiki finds a note reading “Stay out of it” on the floor of his hotel room. He flushes it and calls Senjougahara, reporting on his encounter with Ononoki and Gaen’s warning. The conversation evolves to a discussion of whether anyone is aware of Senjougahara’s contact with him, then Senjougahara warns him about visiting Nadeko too much, lest he become “charmed” by her; he considers scaling back his visits. The next day he gives Nadeko an offering of ¥20,000, more string, and a bottle of Sake, which she accepts. When he leaves the shrine he encounters Hanekawa, who is back from overseas to exchange. They share a cab back to the city and meet in her hotel room to exchange information.

In case there was any doubt, this episode makes it abundantly, cymbol-crashingly clear: we’re dealing with noir here. He may not wear a hat or smoke a cig, but Kaiki is every bit the cynical, trench-coated, hardboiled private dick, while Senjougahara is the Damsel in Distress. The overarching mystery to be solved? How to keep her and Araragi alive. In this regard, Nadeko is the mob boss Senjougahara owes, big time, while Gaen represents the commissioner warning him to stop snooping around her town, while Ononoki being her beat cop liason. Finally we have Hanekawa: while she may not carry herself like a femme fatale, we know from her striped hair and troubled past that that’s kinda what she is.

What made this episode and the arc in general so enjoyable is that it pays homage to those historic, timeless archetypes while putting a decidedly Monogatari twist on them. Indeed, it’s twisting them into a cat’s cradle; something of a very precise pattern and structure; every movement fussed over. Kaiki’s call to Senjougahara is sumptuously decorated by the constantly changing colors on Kaiki’s phone, the undulating patterns on the floor and walls, and the dazzling city outside. Dotted with natural gas flares and sporting a giant LCD panel showing Senjougahara performing very familiar movements, things get very Los Angeles 2019…”Kaiki Deishu” even sounds kinda like an anagram of “Rick Deckard”. Will we get the abruptly happy ending the financiers pushed for here as well?

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Kaiki’s shower requires comfort with one’s own body, as it displays it for all to see, as rich people’s showers tend to do.
  • Not sure we’ve mentioned this before, but we love Kaiki’s notebook is full of chibi diagrams. The art style is identical to the Bakemonogatari next episode previews, the Fire Sisters’ first appearance.
  • Kaiki pulls a Catherine Tramell in Hanekawa’s room.
  • We never did find out what was in Nadeko’s closet, while this week we don’t figure out exactly what Hanekawa has to say.
  • A couple more references: Kaiki’s red sports car in the OP is very Magnum P.I., while Tokyo is lit much like Neo-Tokyo in Akira.
  • Another nod to black-and-white of film noir: Tsubasa’s B&W hair.

Koimonogatari – 02

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Kaiki agrees to do the job for ¥100,000 and travels to Naoetsu to begin his investigation, starting at Nadeko’s home. Her parents answer his questions and let him examine Nadeko’s room, but won’t let him into a closet she told them not to open. He then visits the Shrine and deposits a ¥10,000 offering, and a grateful Nadeko to burst out to greet and thank him. She cheerfully confirms her eventually intention to kill Koyomi, Shinobu, and Senjougahara, and calls Kaiki her “first adherent.” Kaiki plays along and hands her a cat’s cradle, offering to come back periodically to teach her different patterns.

In retrospect, we really liked how this arc started out so simply, taking its time with the conversation between Kaiki and Senjougahara at Okinawa airport that gets things going. From Kaiki refusing Senjougahara’s offer to sell her body to make up the difference in his fee, Senjougahara coyly asking if she can borrow plane fare home from the cash she just paid Kaiki, the funny drawings in his notebook, and his plane’s emphatic touchdown on the snowy tarmac; many details lend the start of his mission a sense of solemn occasion, and with good reason: this is for all the marbles. If he fails, most of the show’s cast is toast. Therefore every stage of his involvement in this arc is treated with deft care and contemplation. He’s Kaiki Deishu—He solves problems.

That being said Kaiki plays more the role of a detective than a cleaner, utilizing his effortless powers of deception to gather intel on the target. We’re privy to what he thinks in response to what he sees and hears around him, as is typical of the spotlight character in a Monogatari arc. Perhaps feeling the weight of his responsibility in spite of himself, he visits Nadeko almost right away, against his better judgement, to find someone who is every bit the cute airhead everyone believed her to be as a human. Only now she has creepy snakes for hair and talks about all the good times she had with Koyomi and promises to kill the shit out of him in the same breath. Kaiki gives her a cat’s cradle as he intends to build one of deception around her. But deceiving a god—even a young, spoiled, deluded one—will be no mean feat.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

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)

Monogatari Series: Second Season – 06

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Unfortunately, this episode is naught but a recap of the 4-part OVA Nekomonogatari (Black), our reviews for which can be found here.

Potentially even more unfortunately, this episode referred to itself as “Summary 1”, saying “Summary 2” was to follow. Another recap? Ugh…

(No Rating)

Nekomonogatari: Shiro – 05

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Black Hanekawa reads her mistress’s letter, which boils down to a plea for help, so no one is hurt because of her. Black Hanekawa accepts the plea and confronts the tiger Kako just as she is about to burn down Senjougahara’s house. Kako will hear nothing of returning with Black Hanekawa to their “older sister’s” heart, and Black Hanekawa is only able to delay her for a few minutes. However, that delay enables Araragi to arrive in time to subdue Kako with the Kokoro Watari sword. Hanekawa re-absorbs both Black Hanekawa and Kako, giving her striped hair. She confesses to Araragi, is rejected, and asks her parents for a room of her own in their new house.

As we expected, the last four episodes were all carefully building up to a confrontation between Hanekawa and her wayward “younger sisters.” They were monsters created by her eighteen years of attempting to be as pure, white, perfect, and inoffensive to others as possible. They were pieces of her heart that were shorn off and took on lives of their own. Once those pieces threatened her life and those of her friends, she had to take a stand and decide to go back on those eighteen years of purging imperfection and embrace her humanity; the black and the white. Her heartfelt letter is beautifully rendered with a clever graphic narrative of traveling the world aimlessly, and that letter moves Black Hanekawa to act on her mistress’s behalf. Her other “little sister”, Kako, fueled by envy (not stress), is far more powerful and wild and far less sympathetic.

Kako doesn’t consider Hanekawa family and believes she’s reaping what she’s sown. Whatever she wants but cannot have will be burnt. Black Hanekawa is no match for the tiger, but she doesn’t have to be. Part of the imperfection Hanekawa needed to embrace was the willingness to rely on others besides herself (and Black Hanekawa was just herself). Her attempt to stop Kako was enough to delay Kako just long enough for her love, Araragi, to arrive with a helping hand, aiding her transition to true humanity. The new, bi-color Hanekawa may dye her hair all black to avoid strange looks at school, but she’s no longer averting her eyes. From now on, she’ll confess her love and let herself be hurt and cry, and let herself demand a place in her rightful home. She will accept all the parts of herself, and love all of it.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nekomonogatari: Shiro – 03

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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.

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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: Shiro – 02

Hanekawa Tsubasa, Senjougahara Hitagi

Hanekawa showers with Senjougahara, who shares her futon with her for the night. In the middle of the night she transforms into the sawari neko “Black Hanekawa”, the incarnation of her mistress’s stress and fatigue. She warns the tiger not to harm her mistress, but as Hanekawa has already seen him, he’s already “started to act.” When Black Hanekawa sneaks home, Senjougahara is awake and they formally meet. The next morning the normal Hanekawa is back and prepares a breakfast that is very telling of her personality. Senjougahara asks her if she truly still loves Araragi.

Recent woes like the burning down of her house and the arrival of the tiger oddity have triggered the reawakening of Black Hanekawa, an oddity that is not so much a possession as an alter-ego. When others, including Senjougahara and Araragi, endure hardship, they maintain their fundamental selves. Hanekawa utterly changes hers, and yet her Black side is no less “her” than the side we normally see (as the first Nekomonogatari showed). Theirs would be a symbiotic relationship, if they were actually separate beings, but there’s technically just one: Hanekawa. Confused? C’mon, it’s not that complicated!

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Critiquing the breakfast Hanekawa makes for her, Senjougahara remarks that Hanekawa is the “polar opposite of a picky eater”, whose preferences can’t be called “tastes” because taste is irrelevant as long as the food is edible and nutritious. Going into therapist mode, she uses the breakfast as an example of Hanekawa’s tendency to accept anything and everything that comes her way, loving everything and detesting nothing with her massive heart. But Senjougahara is far pickier in all things, loving some and detesting others, generating a complex and distinct archive of tastes.

She feels those specific tastes drew her to Araragi, but she harbors doubt about Hanekawa feeling the same way. After all, how can Hanekawa still love or have ever loved Araragi, when she loves anything and everything? For all of her hospitality, fooling around in the shower (what was that all about?) and sharing her bed and being cool with her catty alter-ego, Senjougahara remains threatened by Hanekawa’s inscrutable form of love, and bringing her in was an opportunity to size her up fully, both to try to better understand her and, in so many words, dissuade her from the notion of loving Araragi.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)