Koimonogatari – 01

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With 74 days until Graduation Day, when Sengoku will kill her and Koyomi, Senjougahara Hitagi meets with the swindler Kaiki Deishu in Okinawa Airport to request that he make amends for the trouble he’s caused them by convincing Sengoku not to kill them, something within his abilities. Kaiki struggles to find the proper motivation to carry out the request, eventually settling on Kanbaru Suruga, the niece of his former senpai, Gaen Izuko.

Watching the Monogatari Series in the order in which it has aired requires a certain degree of patience. Gratitude is seldom instant or even timely, as resolutions to conflicts may occur in a different arc. This week is the final arc in the second season, in which the story of Otorimonogatari continues. Senjougahara, once deceived by Kaiki, now seeks out his help in deceiving Sengoku, whose curse he also caused. Her only other option is to beg, which probably won’t work. Physical attacks didn’t work either.

This introductory episode unfolds from Kaiki’s perspective, and he reiterates to the audience that we shouldn’t take anything said or done as the truth. As we learned from Nisemonogatari, this is a man who values the fake over the real, and uses his words as weapons. But the snake god is no slouch in the deception and persuasion department. If anyone can talk Sengoku out of killing everyone and everything, it’s Kaiki, but it would be nice to see him struggle a bit in his initial efforts. In any case, we always dig former enemies teaming up to fight a bigger enemy.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

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Nisemonogatari – 11 (Fin)

Shinobu opens by describing what Tsukihi is – a “Dying Bird” – like a phoenix, but more like a cuckoo that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. Thus Tsukihi is fake and immortal, but ultimately harmless. After leaving Karen to guard Tsukihi, Koyomi and Shinobu go to the cram school to confront Yozuru and Yotsugi, respectively. After much discussion, Yozuru brutally beats Koyomi, but he doesn’t die. Shinobu handily defeats Yotsugi, and a heartfelt declaration of commitment from Koyomi makes Yozuru philosophically conflicted, such that she retreats, content to let Tsukihi live with Koyomi as her mentor. Life returns to normal for the Araragi siblings, and Koyomi promises he’ll let his sisters meet his girlfriend.

One thing we’ve learned from watching several of Akiyuki Shinbo’s works: he doesn’t skimp on endings. He didn’t skimp here. This was an impressive finale, blending bold, fast-paced, dramatic animation and music with lots of smart and intriguing philosophy (Yozuru even breaks out Mencius and Xun Zi), and wrapping up the story nicely by getting to the root of things. Shinobu drinks some Koyomi blood and powers up to her adult size, which is a dead giveaway she means business (Her exchange of taunts with Yotsugi prior to their duel is priceless). Finally, Yozuru proves to be far more flexible than she originally seemed. Rather than having to kill or defeat anyone, Koyomi gets off with a severe beating (he quickly heals from) and a goodbye.

We were expecting a nonfatal outcome, though. Koyomi’s dealings with Oshino and Kaiki, combined with the resolve bourne from his unconditional love of his sisters, lend him the strength to stand up to Yozuru’s verbal sparring and come out the victor, making her forfeit. It’s not surprising she was university buds with Oshino and Kaiki, and it’s neat how the three of them have totally different beliefs when it comes to the value of real versus fake – crucial in the climax. Yozuru believes the real is worth far more. Oshino believes they’re equal. Kaiki believes the fake is worth far more. It really sums up their respective M.O.s. Koyomi seems closest to Oshino on this point: his sister may be a fake, but she has always been his sister and he has always loved her, so it makes no difference to him.


Rating: 4

Nisemonogatari – 10

Koyomi takes Shinobu to Mister Donut, where they bump into Kaiki he learns that Yozuru and Yosugi are a onmyouji/shikigami pair specializing in immortal creatures. Initially he suspects they’re after them, but when he arrives at his house, Yozuru and Yosugi are ringing the doorbell. When Tsukihi answers the door, Yosugi slices the top half of her off, killing her instantly. Koyomi lashes out in rage, but when Yozuru tells him to look at Tsukihi again, her body has completely regenerated. Yozuru tells him she’s not his real sister, she’s an evil phoenix taking human form. Shinobu convinces them to leave, but they’ll be back tomorrow to finish the job, and they’ll eliminate anyone who gets in their way.

This arc is called “Tsukihi Phoenix.” A pair of eccentric ladies were looking for Oshino’s lair. This week Tsukihi tells Koyomi her justice is “fake.” When a Koyomi strips her down, he notices no scars (that last bit in the now requisite Sister-Grope-of-the-Week). Our mamas ain’t raised no fools. Tsukihi has an oddity; it’s an immortal phoenix, and the lady pair is here to deal with her. In fact, Yozuru seems amused that Koyomi would think they’re after either him or Shinobu; he’s only part-vampire, and Shinobu has lost most of her powers (though we like how they temporarily withdrew out of respect for her fame, or infamy as it were.)

Karen is AWOL this week; potentially having horrible things done to her by Kanbaru. But Karen was apparently victim to hypnosis administered by a con man that made her believe she was possessed by a bee. Tsukihi’s situation seems different, in that this is a real oddity being hunted by real ghostbusters. Running won’t work, as they’re pros and no one to be trifled with – Yotsugi’s vicious halving assault on Tsukihi is proof of that. Will Koyomi be able to talk them out of killing his sister? Can’t they just bring the real Tsukihi back…if she ever existed??

Rating: 3.5


Car Cameo:
A motorcade of white 1960s-era Nissan Fairlady roadsters (we’re guessing ’63 1500s) – ubiquitous in Bakemonogatari –
drive by while Koyomi bikes home with Shinobu

Nisemonogatari – 07

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

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

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

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


Rating: 4

Nisemonogatari – 06

Araragi managed to sap away half of Karen’s illness into his own part-vampire body, and her condition improves, but only slightly. While walking to Senjougahara’s house, he meets Hachikuji, who notes his paleness and seriousness stemming from his current problems and discourages him from straying from what makes him Araragi. Senjougahara is sharpening pencils, preparing to meet with Kaiki and punish him to settle her past. Now already involved because of his sisters, Araragi insists they go together, if only to prevent Gahara from committing a crime that will get her imprisoned. Gahara agrees, if Araragi will grant a yet-to-be-disclosed request of hers. They part ways to rest up, and Shinobu appears and offers her assistance in a roundabout way. When he gets home, Karen is gone.

And so we edge ever closer to a confrontation with Kaiki, the gloomy man who has managed to inflict harm on Karen, Senjougahara, and her family, as it turns out, as she also blames him for her parents getting divorced. She rightly doubts Araragi’s strong anti-hypocrisy style involving healthy dollops of “right” will have much effect on Kaiki’s straight-up Evil, but his declaration of love and desire to protect her is too cool and manly for her to ignore, and so she won’t protest his participation. The last-minute addition of Shinobu – who cannot disobey him – should give Team Araragi a fighting chance – surely more of one than Karen, who faced Kaiki with naught but principles and moralizing – and lost.

This episode had some more clever incidental setting quirks, like Araragi chasing Hachikuji across the globe when she tells him he’s gotten boring and lost the only part of what made him interesting (the sexual harassment). Senjougahara’s sharp pencils are appropriately scary, and all the sculptures the pencils make and unmake throughout their disscussion serve as visual aids as well as Senjougahara’s power. That the episode ended with Karen going missing from her bed raises the urgency for some kind of standoff, and we’re really looking forward to finding out how exactly Araragi, his tsundere girlfriend, and a vampire will be dealing with Kaiki and saving Karen.


Rating: 3.5

Nisemonogatari – 05

Hanekawa tells Araragi how Karen caught the bee oddity. She met with Kaiki, whom Hanekawa tracked down, to confront him about selling charms to middle schoolers, and to punch and kick him. However, after demoralizing her with his motives and worldview, he touches her on the forehead, delivering the bee. Back in the present, Hanekawa urges him to solve the dilemma that night, as he must return to his studies tomorrow. Wiping down Karen’s sweat, Araragi realizes (and it’s confirmed by Shinobu) he can cure Karen by transferring the bee poison to himself – via a kiss.

In the series’ usual stage play-like format, this episode presents the opposing positions of Karen Araragi and the con man Kaiki in no uncertain terms. Karen is a girl of strong principles and, to hear her tell it, the “blood of justice” courses through her veins, urging her to oppose, confront, and punish evil like Kaiki, who takes a Gordon Gekko-like “Greed is Good” stance. To him, filling his bank account with the bounty of evil deeds is no different from Karen filling her heart with good deeds. They are two sides of the same coin…and his worldview isn’t too far removed from that of wild nature – which exploits weakness without compassion and puts the self above all else.

Karen tells him there’s something inhuman about him, and she’s right; humans have evolved to balance their selfish primal urges with the good of humanity as a whole, which benefits both parties. Society and civilization could not survive if everyone was like Kaiki. You need some Karens. You also need Hanekawas and Koyomis; who see both sides and can mediate, since nothing Karen or Kaiki say to one another will ever get through – their philosophies are too opposed. Kaiki sees her morality as primitive, but it’s he who is acting like the heartless animal. But the same blood in Karen is also in Koyomi, which is why he’ll put his life on the line to save his little sister.


Rating: 3.5

Nisemonogatari – 03

Araragi leaves Kanbaru’s house after helping her clean her room, and meets an “ill-omened” man in a funeral suit named Kaiki who somewhat reminds him of Oshino. He then bumps into Senjougahara on the street, who is angry to see him slacking off, and also warns him she’ll kill him if his playing around with the other girls goes a step too far. When he mentions Kaiki to her, he kidnaps him and chains and cuffs him to a chair in the cram school. When Tsukihi texts him needing help, he breaks his chains, and redies to leave. Then Senjougahara recieves a strange call from Hanekawa.

This week a new character comes into play, and we return to the scene in the cram school with Araragi tied up “for his own protection.” It’s very interesting and telling that she does this when she hears about Kaiki, who just happens to be the first of five con men Senjougahara herself went to see about her weight crab oddity before meeting Araragi and Oshino. Kaiki certainly sounds like Oshino, so we’re not taking it as a mere coincidence. We’re also not familiar with any of the light novel source material, nor the upcoming prequel called Kizumonogatari which features this “Guillotine Cutter” guy Araragi mentions in his thoughts. We do find it entertaining that this series can leap from various girls flirting with Araragi to his girlfriend unleashing wave after wave of crushing verbal abuse to Serious Plot Shit.

Senjougahara clearly has some kind of problem she’s hiding from Araragi (again, for his protection) and it involves Hanekawa, Kaiki, and/or both. As for what Tsukihi’s problem could be, there are two possibilities: either the younger Fire Sister sent out a false alarm and is merely toying with him, or she is in legitimate danger. Araragi’s vampire status makes him a potential force to be reckoned with, particularly if you threaten those he holds most dear. We haven’t the foggiest idea what’s going to happen next, but striking close-ups of the beautiful Senjougahara continue to impress as always.


Rating: 3.5