Tsukimonogatari – 03

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Oh, right…there’s another reason Koyomi probably shouldn’t let himself become a full vampire. As vampires are kind of the head honchos of apparitions, it will fall to Kagenui to destroy him, a duty she will not hesitate in carrying out. Even Ononoki, who considers Koyomi a friend, would be forced to turn on him.

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Ononoki doesn’t want this, and so asks Koyomi to promise he won’t use his vampire powers anymore. Koyomi promises, but Ononoki detects his uncertainty.

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It’s one thing to promise when nothing is on the line, but if Senjougahara or Hanekawa or his sisters were in mortal danger, he wouldn’t hesitate to break that promise and use all his power to save them, consequences be damned. The thing is, Kagenui is making the consequences to this very likely scenario quite clear: she and Ononoki will kill him.

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Shinobu and Kagenui with their ‘bring it on’ faces

 

Shinobu weighs in on the discussion, saying once Koyomi is dead she’ll be fully released, and will waste no time exacting her revenge upon Koyomi’s killer. The two stare each other down, and suddenly, the conversation looks like it’s about to turn into some kind of duel.

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“In the name of the moon…I will punish you!”

 

The cooler heads—Ononoki and Koyomi—talk their partners down. It’s a great way to underline just how tenuously close Koyomi is to the boundary between human and apparition; between friend and target. But, as Ononoki says, they’re not at that point yet; not all is lost.

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Kagenui seems intent on keeping her phone as far away from her as possible, one of her many character quirks

 

After briefly getting into why Kagenui specializes in immortal apparitions, during which time she mentions that there’s at least one other specialist like her who does so, but is a hermit he needn’t concern himself with, when Gaen calls her on the phone. Kagenui relays to Koyomi that he should rush to Kanbaru’s house without delay.

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There, they find Kanbaru and his sisters gone, and a string of paper cranes left as a message, perhaps symbolizing Tsukihi (who was a phoenix). Already, Koyomi is finding it tough to even withstand the environmental extremes of riding Ononoki as she performs Unlimited Rulebook; unable as he is to tap into his vampowers.

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The group ends up somewhere more…abstract, where Kagenui informs Koyomi that the one who took the girls is Tadatsuru Teori (apparently a very trigonometric name in Japanese), a dollmaster and the very hermit she was talking about before Gaen called. However, she doesn’t think the girls are in any particular danger yet, as she believes Tadatsuru is only using them to get to Koyomi and Shinobu. Unlike Kagenui, Tadatsuru isn’t held back by someone like Gaen. He’s operating under a different rulebook.

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Far less static than some other Monogataris, we get a nice incidental snowball battle between Shinobu and Ononoki as the others yap

 

So, just when Koyomi learns that he can no longer use his powers, that hypothetical but highly likely scenario of him using his vampowers instinctively to save those he loves, which would lead to his demise, is quickly becoming a reality. At this point, Koyomi becomes rather resigned to his fate as a matter of the universe ‘calling in all his tabs at once’; something he can accept without complaint considering how much he used his vampowers in the past. Regardless of intentions, he knew was always going to exact some kind of price for that power.

Kagenui, in almost a supporting tone, warns him not to get ‘drowned’ in the why of what is happening. Forget divine punishment; maybe Tadatsuru just planned the whole thing to get his hands on him and Shinobu, and chose this specific because he knew Koyomi would be neutralized. Thus, Koyomi must rely on Kagenui and Ononoki a bit more than he usually would in order to save the girls.

Perhaps it is possible after all for a powerless, reliant Koyomi to exist. Never mind; knowing the alternative, it has to be possible…or he’s a goner. We’ll find out in the final installment.

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Tsukimonogatari – 01 & 02

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Happy New Year! I trust everyone has arrived at 2015. Welcome to the Winter season, which begins with Tsukimonogatari, a four-part TV movie that gets off to a frankly sluggish start…but then again, this is Monogatari we’re talking about…it will tell its story as leisurely and roundabout as it wishes, and you’re going to sit there and like it. Or you won’t, and will simply stop watching.

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I’m assuming you’re reading this review because you do like the franchise and, like me, will sit there and like it. However, I should mention that I planned to write separate reviews for each of the four parts, but found the first part too much of a head in need of a body to write just about it. It was an introduction; an easing back into Monogatari’s Bath of Quasi-Incest.

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After a brief (for this franchise) monologue about the nature of reality, unreality, and how Yotsugi and all the apparitions we’ve seen thus far fit into the picture (basically, they only exist because of humans), Koyomi is bathing Tsukihi and notices he has no reflection in the mirror, which would mean he is either becoming or has become a full vampire.

He summons Shinobu from his shadow, who suggests he consult with a specialist, namely Ononogi Yotsugi. That means finding her master Kagenui. Fortunately, Gaen Izuko texts him with a time and place he can find both…Monogatari does throw in a shortcut occasionally!

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Not unreasonably concerned that exposure to such characters—and/or indeed his own self in this unstable and still un-diagnosed state—could be detrimental to his sisters’ well-being, Koyomi asks Tsukihi to go with Karen to Kanbaru’s and crash there until further notice.

This 365-degree scene in which he is hugging his topless little sister as the potentially fatal sunlight seeps through the blinds, shows that the franchise is keen to maintain its usual visual flair. Also encouraging: the incidental sidenote and color cards have been totally redesigned, which freshens up the proceedings.

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Tsukimonogatari also has an air of timeliness to it, and not just because there’s snow on the ground in its world and it’s airing in January. Halfway through this latest Monogatari installment, the chill of Winter has come not just to Koyomi’s adolescence (as he nears college), but perhaps his very humanity. The loss of the former is all but inevitable, but the loss of the latter may not quite written in stone.

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Acquiring the counsel of Ononoki Yotsugi means literally acquiring her—as in winning her—in a crane game at a dreamlike fun fair. There’s a playfulness to making Koyomi jump through a hoop or two to get to the person he wants to talk to.

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I also like that it takes about a dozen rounds (and probably a couple thousand yen) to finally nudge her into the chute of victory (rather than lifting her, which the crane is too weak for). Once free, Ononoki presents her master Kagenui, who appears where Shinobu had been.

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In a tangled ruin/forest that feels simultaneously cold and cozy, Kagenui inspects Koyomi’s healed foot and has Ononoki bite it for analysis, which ends up confirming his fear that he is on the road to becoming a vamp for good.

Just to make it clear to him, Kagenui breaks a couple of his fingers, which he heals just by thinking happy (and slightly dirty) thoughts. With the disease thus deduced, Koyomi asks how he can fix this predicament, which is when Ononoki drops the hammer on him: there is no way to reverse his condition. She uses the word impossible for emphasis…not a word often used—or meant—on Monogatari.

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Kagenui counters that while the watermelon cannot be put together as it was, the progression to vampirism can be slowed or even arrested completely, but only if Koyomi stops relying on his vampire powers.

That’s a tall order, considering he’s used them liberally, at times non-stop, in all of his dealings with the other oddities. They’ve not only meant the difference between his life and death, but the difference between saving and not saving all those girls, including his beloved sisters.

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Which brings me back to what Tsukihi said back in the bath, aboth how Koyomi needs to stop worrying about keeping his town in balance and carrying everything on his shoulders, and start seriously worrying about himself and his future.

The thing is, an Araragi Koyomi who refrains from using his powers ceases to be the Araragi Koyomi he, they, and we know. So here, at the beginning of the end, he must choose: to remain the Koyomi he always was, but turn into a vampire, or give up his powers and become a dull, normal, adult Koyomi, incapable of saving anyone; staying above the fray; going to college.

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Hanamonogatari – 04

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Because Suruga insists, Rouka tells her the full story: how she met Kaiki, who told her about apparitions, and how she acquired her first piece of the devil: her left leg. It once belonged to another girl named Rouka; a high-schooler who her older boyfriend had knocked up, and whose family wanted her to abort it. With this devil’s leg, Rouka-2 almost beat her mother to death, mirroring what happened to Suruga with her arm.

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The day after hugging Rouka-2 and saying she’d take the problem from her, the devil leg had replaced her crippled old one. Rouka has since replaced almost a third of her body with devil parts, and plans to “collect them all” so she can take control of the devil altogether, even though doing so will mean losing all of her body, head to toe. With that heartrendingly bleak goal announced, Rouka says farewell to Suruga, asking her to go out and “do all the human things” she can no longer do.

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That night, Suruga gets a call from Karen who informs her that Rouka committed suicide three years ago, presumably from a combination of her broken leg and her “bad” family situation. Now we’ve reached nadir of Suruga’s arc: she’s been talking with a ghost all this time. Shaken and never more uncertain, Suruga simply goes out and runs. She runs and runs across landscapes until collapsing in an intersection; a crossroads (subtle!). Then a car pulls up and honks at her, and holy shit, it’s Araragi!

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Like Kaiki, Araragi’s appearance couldn’t have been timed better, or be any more awesome. He now has long hair, a resplendent yellow VW New Beetle Suruga can’t help but hilariously gripe about (“What’s with this round car?”), a Shinobu keychain, and a little more life experience behind his belt. But Suruga gradually realizes once they talk that it’s the same old Araragi she’s leaned on, looked up to and missed so dearly. If anyone can help give her the guidance she needs at this point in her story, it’s him. A gorgeous, art-filmy all-night “road-trip” segment ensues.

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Also like Kaiki, Araragi isn’t interested in steering Suruga in a particular direction or in doing her own legwork for her, but he’s much nicer and more caring about it. He helps her realize she’s fee to obey the opinions of Rouka, Kaiki, of her mother if she wants, but she’s just as able to fight those opinions if she’s not convinced. Rather than go along with what those voices have said or done, she decides to strike out on her own path. Araragi asks if she needs any more help, and she says no, which pleases him. Suruga’s back, and she’s going on offense.

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Hanamonogatari – 03

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So, Rouka isn’t just gathering the misfortune of others, but also gathered Suruga’s devilish left arm, and shows it to her in Suruga’s classroom. Then she invites Suruga to join her for some one-on-one basketball, and whatever the extent of her career-ending leg injury, it certainly doesn’t seem to affect her anymore, as she puts up more than a fight against Suruga (who is herself understandably rusty).

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Suruga is still troubled by Rouka’s present existence, and wants to know what she’s been up to these last three years. After she agrees to tell her own story of how she came upon the monkey paw (which is skipped over, since that’s mostly covered in Bakemonogatari), Suruga fights back Rouka’s amorous advances and insists she tell her the story of how she became the Devil Lord. Rouka was always someone who learned to hide the full extent of her talents to avoid being hated by her less talented peers, which is how she became a defensive specialist.

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But once she was injured, people only ever looked down on her, even though she was doing the same to them. She remarks that when she was hospitalized for her leg, she wanted to talk to those as unfortunate and pitiable (if not more) than she was, so she could tell them she understood exactly how they felt (the truth) and that she’d solve it all (a lie), sending them on their way. When her first “client” returned, her problems were indeed gone (though ostensibly more as a result of time), and Rouka’s Collection of Misfortune began from there.

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The basketball match is brief but adds a welcome touch of action to what is essentially another long monologue with occasional commentary by Suruga, but that doesn’t mean the setting of that conversation is any less visually interesting. I especially dig the very upscale gymnasium with way more markings than it needs, and the court of is made up of the kind of wood you’d find in the Kia K900. Rouka’s appeal to Suruga’s bisexuality is also good continuity. But the fact remains, Rouka has only told half of her story. The other half centers on how she started gathering parts of the devil – a story she warns doesn’t have a happy ending.

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Hanamonogatari – 02

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This act begins with unbridled elation, as Suruga almost revels in the fact her regular human arm is back. She goes for a giddy run on a beautiful day, and the very air she breathes seems to smell better. But the new arm totally throws off the balance she had achieved with the hairy one, which tempers the elation somewhat. She’s initially happy by the fact the arm is gone, but now she’s troubled by how it might’ve happened.

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Suruga may not be the most classically bright of the Monogatari cast, but even she’s able to connect the dots between her arm and her encounter with Rouka. But her sources say the Devil Lord has ceased operations and disappeared, so Suruga heads to the train station to search for her out of town. There, she comes afoul of a wan but impeccably dressed and magnificently bearded Kaiki Deishuu. And as I for one am aware, adding Kaiki to the mix always makes things better.

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There’s a dark, predatory air to Kaiki early on as he chases Suruga throughout the station and outside into the streets. This reinforces all of the bad things her senpais have said about the man. They told her to run if she ever encountered him, and she does, not having any other information to work with. That changes when Kaiki, grabbing her by the scruff of her shirt like a helpless kitten, cordially offers to treat her to a cup of tea.

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That tea turns into an all-out sumptuous korean bbq feast. Who among those who include meat in their diet wouldn’t be elated at being in her shoes here? As Kaiki grills the succulent cuts of meat and organs and serves her, Kanbaru’s opinion on him becomes muddled. Moreso, when he states his business with her, it reveals a humanity she’d heretofore thought impossible for her senpais’ nemesis: Kaiki loved and admired Suruga’s biological mother, and promised to look after her daughter.

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To that end he gives her his card and tells her to contact him if she’s ever in a pinch, even though he admits its probably if she doesn’t. He also tells her to expect a “collector” to come and take her mummified monkey paw. That merges this present encounter with Rouka’s, leading Suruga to ask the simple question that wason all our minds form the start: how Kaiki knew Suruga would be at the station. He says the collector told him…a girl named Numachi Rouka.

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That’s not an unexpected twist, considering we certainly weren’t done with Rouka in this series, but still nicely staged. The atmosphere of the elaborate yet intimate korean bbq (contrasting with the huge open space where Suruga met Rouka), and the vaguely paternal way in which Kaiki seems to be upholding his promise to Suruga’s mom again shows us his softer side. But he isn’t about to tell Suruga everything. It’s up to her to investigate further.

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Koimonogatari – 06 (Fin)

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Sengoku traps Kaiki in a enormous mass of snakes. Kaiki starts to talk himself out of dying, telling her he knows about her dream to become a mangaka. He tells her that nothing is irreplaceable for humans, not even her love for Koyomi, and if she remains a god she will never be happy. She eventually cools down and the snakes disappear.

Kaiki implants a slug oddity to extract the snake talisman. Koyomi arrives; Kaiki tells him to take the exorcised Sengoku home and disappear from her life. While departing from town, he is ambushed and beaten to death by someone he believes to be a junior-high victim of his past con, who mentions the same name Sengoku blamed for her predicament: Ougi.

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“Then do you want to become a manga artist?”

Sengoku has seen through all of Kaiki’s intricate lies and preparations. He’s beaten, and he knows it. But those seemingly innocuous, small-talky words above, he changes course. Armed with fresh insights on Sengoku’s situation, he abandons his previous strategy for a new one. In this regard, he practices what he preaches to her: nothing should be so important that it can’t be replaced. Humans can re-do anything at anytime, be it god-deception plans, romances, or dreams.

Half-forget what we said last week: Kaiki doesn’t quite regard Senjougahara a daughter, but  as a past love. One who was as useless with him as Sengoku would be with Koyomi; some people fit others better. In their last phone call before Kaiki’s demise, Senjougahara expresses satisfaction that she was able to deceive him into believing she loved him. We read that as her saying in her very Senjougahara way that she’s glad her (genuine) feelings reached him, even if only for a time, and it didn’t work out.

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Even if we never learn the truth—be it about Senjougahara and Kaiki or the conspiracies that Kaiki contemplates before he dies—in future series, we can say with certainty and with no intent to deceive whatsoever that this was our favorite arc of the series, which transformed Kaiki into the anti-heroic, romantic, ultimately tragic human being the arc’s retro opening portrayed.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating (26 episodes): 7.957
MyAnimeList Score
(as of 12/30/13): 8.79

Stray Observations:

  • Now we see the reason for the retro OP: the retro-styled half is the romantic ideal of Sengoku’s secret manga, while the contemporary-styled half is the harsh but human reality. Very neat.
  • We’ll admit that for someone ruthless enough to casually add to her kill-list, Sengoku sure keeps Kaiki alive for a long time, doesn’t she? Perhaps she didn’t gag him with snakes because part of her was giving him the chance to talk her out of godhood?
  • Sengoku blamed Ougi for her becoming a god. The kid who killed Kaiki got his/her info from Ougi. We suggested that Ougi was related to the darkness that dispatched Mayoi; was all this Ougi’s way of dispatching Kaiki?

15 Great Characters from 2013

We showed you whose voices we liked this past year, now let’s take a look at some of our favorite characters. Mind you, this isn’t a ranking, just an alphabetical list.

Bell Hydra (Blood Lad)

Bell was our favorite character from this relatively so-so show, because you never quite knew whose side she was on, or rather she was always on her own side, and always tried to stay on top. Her magical trickery was more than a match for Staz’s brute force, regularly frustrating him to no end. And then she fell for the guy. We also liked her sense of style, as she’d randomly change outfits throughout the run.

Chamber (Suisei no Gargantia)

Ledo’s trusty, badass Machine Caliber wasn’t just a tool, or the brunt of numerous sight gags as he performed manual labor, but a character in his own right, with his own arc that paralleled Ledo’s. The strict Galactic Alliance subroutines that drove his behavior gradually softened the more time he spent on Earth, to the point he rebelled against authority and sacrificed himself to save his pilot.

Ebisugawa Kaisei (Uchouten Kazoku)

By the time we actually see Kaisei in human form, it’s nine episodes into the show. But before that she’s seemingly always around in disguise (something she excels at), including at crucial point in one of the show’s many flashbacks. As Yasaburou’s would-be fiancee, she represents the peace that was meant to be struck between the families, and her playful banter with Yasaburou always tinged with a kind of quasi-spousal loyalty. She even plays the heroine by freeing Yashirou when things get hairy.

Gokou Ruri (Oreimo 2)

When she showed up at the Akiba real-world meetup in the second episode of the first Oreimo, we would have never guessed how far Kuroneko would come, leapfrogging over all others to become the best character on the show. As Kyousuke struggles with his relationship with Kirino, he also independently forms a bond with ‘Neko, who gets better the more sides of her we see: be it at home, at school, and in girlfriend and post-girlfriend modes.

Goto Hidenori (Samurai Flamenco)

While he may look good in uniform to some, Goto is neither a model, idol, or gaudy superhero. He’s just an ordinary guy with a quiet police gig with a loving long-distance girlfriend and a modest abode. As things go absolutely apeshit around him, he stays grounded, even when driving pink Hummers into rockets. All these superheroes and villains around him have made life a lot more interesting, but it hasn’t changed the decent, unassuming man that he is. He’s the show’s steady anchor.

Hayashida “Linda” Nana (Golden Time)

While she delayed her response to her longtime childhood friend’s confession by mere hours, Linda ends up losing everything once he gets amnesia, has his feelings for her resurface year later when they reunite in college, and he then decides to distance himself from her so he can focus on his girlfriend, after much will-they-won’t-they teasing. It’s a shame she has to go through so much, considering she’s such a kind, caring, beautiful person. But the cookie just didn’t crumble her way.

Kaga Koko (Golden Time)

Koko is one of the most interesting characters of the year because of how quickly she transitions from irritating crazed shrew to sympathetic love interest. After chasing the wrong guy for years, she finds Banri. She’s not as perfect as she looks, but she’s very tough on herself, constantly trying to be a better person and girlfriend. Considering what her status as Banri’s girl means to Linda, you’d think she’d be a character to be loathed, but the show excels at making everyone’s situation understandable and sympathetic.

Kaiki Deishu (Monogatari Series: Second Season)

We first met him in Nisemonogatari, where he was unveiled as the con-man who gave Senjougahara crabs (well, it’s not quite that simple…) but in any case, he was something of an easygoing villain: powerful, but not particularly motivated. In Koimonogatari, he’s given a mission by that same Senjougahara in her time of dire need, hits the town, and gets to work. It’s been extremely enjoyable watching him playing the role of hardboiled private eye, father figure, even unspoken love interest.

Katsuragi Keima (Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen)

The second season of The World God Only Knows wasn’t as good as the first, but this third one was excellent, as all the chickens come home to roost and things get infinitely more complicated for our cynical, bespectacled gamer. Keima is most effective (and entertaining) when his back’s against the wall, but this season he also actually ended up feeling something for his conquests. There’s no easy reset button for him, which showed growth.

Kotoura Haruka (Kotoura-san)

Kotoura-san may be an almost disgustingly adorable character, but the show wastes no time establishing precisely the kind of person she is and why, based on a traumatic past in which her parents basically abandoned her. Watching her transition from looking at herself as a curse upon all who associate her to someone with worth who deserves a happy life with caring friends (and a boyfriend) was immensely fulfilling.

Mankanshokou Mako (Kill la Kill)

We touched on this in Suzaki Aya’s profile; Mako has made the full transition from goofy comic relief sidekick to full-fledged crucial participant in the overarching drama of Kill la Kill. She’s the one who first reached out to Ryuuko, opened up her home to her, gave her the family life she never had, and then snapping her out of a near-fatal frenzy. She’s also not afraid to speak her mind to everyone, be it Ryuuko, Elite Four, Satsuki, or Nui.

Nakamura Sawa (Aku no Hana)

An example of a character we liked precisely because she scared the hell out of us. A part of that fear comes from the intense realism of the series. Subtle human movements that more stylized animation wouldn’t pick up are on full display, and Sawa slinks and slithers across the screen, and sometimes breaks into sudden startling movements while messing with Takao. Yet for all of the mayhem she causes in his life, she’s far from evil incarnate: she’s an intensely frustrated young woman, a victim of the benign dullness of the town that doubles as her prison.

Nana (Golden Time)

Nana is one of the best supporting characters we’ve come across this year, someone with a fierce sense of individuality who forces people to either accept her or fuck off, and gives off the air of not caring about anyone, when the polar opposite is true: Nana turns out to be both a caring reliable friend to Linda (and unwitting would-be matchmaker) and a decent neighbor to Banri. Hopefully his disassociation from Linda won’t mean much less Nana.

Shimogamo Yajirou (Uchouten Kazoku)

Like Kaisei, part of what we love about Yaijioru is how much impact he makes despite how little we see of him. For the vast majority of the show he’s a frog in the bottom of a well, where he tries to forget his life as a human, which he deemed as an abject failure. As another victim of the Ebisugawas, he was forced to believe he was responsible for getting his father cooked. Even when the truth came out, it took getting him drunk to spring into action to save his family, but his contribution was vital.

Wakamiya Shinobu (Chihayafuru 2)

Another supporting character introduced as a “big bad” in the first season, the brilliant, quirky, melancholy Queen Shinobu plays a much larger role in the second, showing us her past and how heavy is the head that wears the crown, as she simply isn’t interested in team matches or fulfilling any of the royal responsibilities expected of her. She and Arata also spend a lot of time together, making her a rival to Chihaya in love as well as karuta.

Images Courtesy MyAnimeList

Weekly OP: Koimonogatari

Every Monday, starting today, we’ll be sharing a Weekly OP or ED that we like. It could be from a show we’re currently watching, watched long ago, or never watched. Note that the videos may not hang around forever, since we have no control over them. 

This week is the final arc in Monogatari Series: Second Season: Koimonogatari or “Lovestory”, a shining example of blending old and new animation styles and a retro song evoking a superb feeling of nostalgia. 80’s Senjougahara and Kaiki rock!

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?

8_great
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 – 03

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Kaiki meets with Senjougahara at a Mister Donut to deliver his report. He informs her that Nadeko will be very easy to deceive, and he belives that by gradually gaining her trust, he’ll be able to save both Senjougahara and Koyomi by eventually telling Nadeko they died in a car accident. The next day Kaiki gets a visit from Ononoki, bearing message from Gaen to pull out of the town, enticing him with 3 million yen. He takes the money, but continues his job anyway, notifying Nadeko he’ll do the hundred times worship at her shrine. That night, Kaiki gets Nadeko’s parents out of their house and breaks in to inspect her forbidden closet.

Kaiki seems to be making good so far in solving Senjougahara’s problem. He’s taken a reliable measure of the godly Nadeko and determined that she is not only someone he could all too easily deceive, but someone quite insane to boot (Cat’s cradle with an ouroboros! We ask you!). Indeed, Nadeko is being presented as being even more naive, childlike, and airheaded as her past human self. But while Senjougahara only sees a threat to be neutralized so she and her lover can breathe easy (and Kaiki achieves this, relieving her to a rare bout of Senjougahara tears), Kaiki does not necessarily believe Nadeko cannot be a decent god someday, once she “calms down”.

But by hiring Kaiki, Senjougahara acted out of desperation, without regard to other considerations that, while peripheral to her, may well exceed the importance of just two lovers’ lives. Gaen uses Ononoki (whose character’s personality changed slightly) to tell him he’s sticking his false nose in places he shouldn’t; he’s actions may upset the balance of a “pretty stable” town; that for all her cute airheadedness, Nadeko is capable of destroying that town, and more, if he fails. Kaiki gives these concerns an audience, but presses on, keen to discover what it really was that made her what she is today. Is he merely being professional, or did Senjougahara’s tear-stained face perchance move him? (Probably not.)

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • That OP…was one of the best OPs we’ve seen in a long time, capturing the old school anime OP look, sound and feel while remixing it with the contemporary aesthetic. It was also hilarious.
  • If his huge hotel room is any indication, Kaiki isn’t sparing his expenses. Of course, the windfall he gets from Gaen ensures he’ll have the cash to complete his mission.
  • This episode takes place in the winter after a snowfall, and it just happens to be snowing where we are as well.
  • Between “Mister Donuts” and “Relax Coffee”, we could go for some breakfast about now…
  • Considering the physical feats characters perform regularly in this series, Kaiki’s dramatic “action shot”—a running jump up to a window sash—was also quite comical.
  • There must be something very interesting behind that door. Some kind of charm or spell? A shrine to Koyomi? A snake skeleton?…Nothing?

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)