Zoku Owarimonogatari – 03 – A Blurry Reflection

Having met nearly everyone in this “mirror world”, Koyomi takes stock of the different ways the people he knows have changed, and acknowledges that this is far from simply a matter of left becoming right, or even right becoming wrong.

Black Hanekawa is his Tsubasa’s alter ego. Rainy Devil’s hatred lurks within his Kanbaru. The happiness of her alternate dwells deep within his Sodachi. Kuchinawa is an inseparable part of Nadeko.

These seemingly different or opposite people are really much the people he knows as the people he knows, only in his world these are the sides hidden, suppressed, lurking beneath the everyday surface, for good and/or ill. As Mayoi has him consider where his alternate might be, he contemplates Oshino Ougi being in his world while he’s here.

But Mayoi also tells him to sleep on it, and take what opportunities might come. To Koyomi’s surprise, Sodachi is his bunkmate, and after lights-out offers some sleepy insight into mirrors—which typically only reflect about 80% of the light that hits them. The rest is absorbed, meaning the only way to truly see ourselves is to see a “blurry reflection”, something less than 100% the reverse of what you put into it.

That opportunity Mayoi mentioned might come comes in the form of Ononoki, but there’s something different about her, which is to say there’s something the same about the way she’s supposed to be. Her expressions and emotion and tone are all back to normal.

She reports that when she saw Koyomi’s reaction to her as she was (including not removing her “bottoms” as is supposedly his alternate’s dirty habit), she essentially rebooted and updated her personality—something among all the others she’s uniquely equipped to do.

Ononoki tells Koyomi she’s arranged to have the former Kiss-shot meet with him, and takes him on a journey to see her. I say journey when it’s more of a dazzling odyssey. As she lets the withering insults of her twisted personality fly freely, the surroundings of their trip to Shinobu fluctuate between dreamy hyper-realism to intricate 8-bit nostalgia.

Very few shows excel better at distracting you from long conversations with diverse dynamic visuals and eclectic music. This culminates in the most lavish setting yet: a classic Disney-style castle at the site where Koyomi expects the cram school to be; which he assumed might not have been destroyed by the Tiger like it was last Summer in his world.

As he and Ononoki let themselves into the magnificent edifice and walk through its vast moonlight-bathed halls, he contemplates what kind of person Shinobu might be. Did the other Koyomi never meet her bleeding to death in the subway, and never made a pact to save her life and made him a vampire? Is she Full-Power, Non-Former Kiss-shot and all the rest?

Well, once he enters her ethereal bedchamber, spots her silhouette, and hears her old-fashioned, polite salutations, it dawns on him: she’s not a vampire at all; she’s human. Judging from her castle, perhaps she still goes by the name Princess Rola?

Zoku Owarimonogatari – 02 – Relax and Enjoy

Koyomi knows the story of Kanbaru Suruga’s bath sometimes reflecting the image of the person you’ll end up with someday. He’s not sure that means he’ll be able to use it to return to his world or contact Shinobu, but he thought he’d give it a try—and meet a Suruga who might not be lewd, masochistic, or immodest.

Turns out she’s none of those things. Instead, she’s the Rainy Devil: pure rage, hatred, and pain. He can’t get anywhere near the bath, and is only rescued from the devil’s wrath by Mirror Tsubasa, who is simply Black Hanekawa. She warns him not to go back to the bath without a specialist, but that makes two consecutive friends of his who are the oddity versions of themselves in this world.

If Suruga’s Mirror self is a nightmare, Mirror Oikura Sodachi is a good dream, or rather a “good ending” version of the character, who moved in with the Araragi family when she was in grade school and is now something of a third sister to Koyomi, and thus extremely affectionate towards him. Still, as happy and blessed as she feels, a part of her can’t help but wonder…is it all a lie?

If you were to ask Mirror Nadeko, AKA Kuchinawa-san, the answer is no—and Koyomi gets to ask her, thanks to Big Sis Mayoi inviting her predecessor to the shrine to help him work through his predicament. Mayoi also tells Koyomi to loosen up and enjoy himself, and she starts imbibing bottle after bottle of sake.

Kuchinawa knows about mirrors; the root of the Japanese word for mirror is “serpent’s eye”, and mirrors were first used as a holy instrument, not to reflect an image, but to reflect its truth. Put simply, each and every person Koyomi has met so far is no less the real person as the ones he knows in his own world.

The mirror he finds himself in doesn’t just flip them left-to-right, but shows the other side of those people. That explains why Tsukihi is the same; she has no other sides. If this world is, as he previously considered, the product of an oddity that exists for a reason, perhaps the key to dealing with that oddity (if that’s what it is) is to be exposed to and accept these other sides as equally valid…

Otorimonogatari – 04

otori4

Koyomi orders Nadeko to put the talisman down, but she swallows it instead, reviving the serpant god with her body as its vessel. Fast-forward to the shrine, where Nadeko quickly dispatches Koyomi and Shinobu. She converses with the serpent – i.e. herself – about how she came to be in this situation. When she’s about to kill Koyomi, Senjougahara calls his phone. Nadeko answers and agrees to a half-year truce before killing her, Shinobu, and Koyomi, in that order. The episodes ends with a “trailer” for the battle that takes place in half a year, with Nadeko taking on Koyomi, Senjougahara, Shinobu, Kanbaru, and Hanekawa.

Monogatari likes to mess with our expectations. After an arc about time travel, Nadeko’s story starts at the climax, when she’s about to kill pretty much everyone we know and then, who knows, chill at that shrine for a few millenia. Things come full circle this week, but instead of a conventional resolution, the arc lobs another curveball. Most of this episode is simply Nadeko, in the moments just prior to her final victory, reflecting on how she got here. Koyomi and Shinobu just lie there bleeding as she talks to herself, and in the end, none of the contemplation really matters. She was just lost in thought.

Except that it does, because that amount of time she was ruminating ended up delaying Koyomi’s death just long enough to allow Senjougahara to call and postpone Nadeko’s plans. Had she not called, Nadeko would have killed Koyomi before killing Shinobu, which wouldn’t have been good for anyone (see last arc). And then the series switches gears again with that bizarre post-credits trailer, presented by Nadeko, who, at least from her own perspective, has that final boss battle in the bag. But that confidence might be premature. After all, she gave the enemy a half-year to prepare for her.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Otorimonogatari – 03

otori3

Expecting to find Koyomi in his bed, Tsukihi is surprised to find Nadeko there. They have a heart-to-heart, in which Tsukihi suspects Nadeko takes comfort in persistently loving someone who will always be unattainable. Bored with that stance, Tsukihi snips Nadeko’s bangs. The next day at school, Nadeko is as different a person, confidently, angrily chewing out her teacher and classmates. She leaves school early, and asks Kuchinawa to tell her where his object of worship is so they can part ways quickly. The object is at Koyomi’s house – a talisman hidden in porn. When Kuchinawa asks her what she wants (other than her bangs back) in return for helping him, she asks if he can make Koyomi fall in love with her. Koyomi enters the room and says no.

Well, Nadeko’s “honeymoon” with Kuchinawa is over; and by episode’s end she wants a separation. After an immersive, somewhat wall-crumbling talk with (and haircut by) Tsukihi, Nadeko becomes a new person at school. To that end, Hanazawa Kana dispenses with her cutesy affectation and goes into full Bimbougami-ga mode, firing with both barrels. Nadeko shocks her teacher and classmates, but she, Kuchinawa, and we all know that this wasn’t a case of Kuchinawa taking over her mind and body. This was a look at the Nadeko within – prodded by the oddity and enabled by Tsukihi’s frustration with her. Disheartened by the realization all she’s been has been cute, in one day she upturns that persona – without even thinking.

We think she scares the crap out of herself, leading to her suggestion to split with Kuchinawa at the earliest possible convenience. Her desire for alacrity suits Kuchinawa just fine, since he’s after his object of worship…which just so happens to be in the house of Nadeko’s long-time object of desire. Once Kuchinawa offers to do more than simply restore her bangs, Nadeko contemplates doing what those bangs allowed her to do: take the easy way. Instead of looking straight at people and speaking her mind, she’d always look down and apologize. Instead of going after Koyomi’s heart the hard way (like Tsukihi wished she would), the shortcut tempts her. And then Koyomi catches her in his room. We’ll see if the jig is finally up.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Otorimonogatari – 02

otori2

After letting herself be possessed by Kuchinawa, Nadeko lies to Koyomi on the phone about nothing being the matter. Taking the form of a white scrunchie on her wrist, Kuchinawa badgers her during the day, until she reminds him that her days were hers to do what she pleased without interference, and in exchange she’ll use the nights to search for his corpse. That night she goes out, but her parents call Tsukihi wondering where she is and Koyomi finds her and brings her to his room. Koyomi suggests she sleep in his bed, but Shinobu knocks him out and takes issue with her passivity, but admits she’s “enchanting.”

Last week showed us what probably awaits us at the climax of this arc: Koyomi and Shinobu fighting Nadeko, who had at some point become twisted by Kuchinawa to the extent that they had to try to take her out – and fail. But this week Kuchinawa and Nadeko are still on their “honeymoon”, with Nadeko striking a deal that she do his bidding in a way that won’t draw undue attention to her. Even so, sneaking out late at night is not normal behavior for Nadeko the quiet “good girl”, and she’s soon scooped up by Koyomi, who may well have some not-so-wholesome ideas for her. Enter Shinobu, who implies she’s saving Nadeko from “early motherhood.”

Once a totally silent, morose-looking little vamp who sat in the darkness, these days ‘Bu speaks her mind, and minces no words in sizing-up Nadeko. She calls her privileged, and when Nadeko protests, she fires off all of the ways she is indeed privileged. Her silence has netted her many boons, among them freedom from suspicion, the consensus that she’s smart and a good girl. Her genuine air-headedness and cuteness “enchants” other humans, to the point Shinobu compares her to an oddity. There’s a good chance while she’s saying all this she’s well aware Nadeko is possessed; she had dealings with Kuchinawa in the past, after all. So her sarcastic call for Nadeko to keep letting Koyomi worry about her is as much a warning as a barb.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This series has always been known for intimate close-ups of its characters, but camera made particularly sweet love to Nadeko this whole episode, fixating on her from every possible angle as she spoke to her wrist, or later with Koyomi and Shinobu. 
  • We enjoyed the architecture of Nadeko’s school and apartment, as well as Tsukihi’s rarely-seen, ridiculous bedroom. 
  • Nadeko’s nighttime adventure starts with a montage of gorgeous still shots that wouldn’t look half bad framed on our walls.

Otorimonogatari – 01

otori1

Koyomi and Shinobu fight Sengoku Nadeko at the shrine, but her hair of snakes destroys Koyomi’s heart, causing a rain of blood. Flashing back to October 31st, Nadeko first meets Oshino Ougi, who delivers a warning about hiding behind victimhood. While at school, Nadeko starts to have hallucinations of white snakes. After a call to Koyomi asking for help, she starts to hear the voice of a snake named Kuchinawa, who insists she visit the shrine. There, she finds a dozen dead snakes, and a giant Kuchinawa asks her to “atone for her sins” by doing him “favors.” She tentatively agrees, and he possesses her.

We’ve now arrived at the third arc in Monogatari Series’ second season, one that involves the snake girl, Nadeko. We’ve always liked Nadeko because we really liked her seiyuu, Hanazawa Kana, but that turns out not to be the only reason to watch this arc. We’re treated to an enticing cold open in which we catch a glimpse of the dark future Nadeko is inching towards: one in which she and her snake apparition become one and she kills Koyomi, the one she loves. Starting at the end only to rewind to the beginning is a common storytelling device, but employed well here, as we see just how far Nadeko will fall.

Once we’re back at the beginning, the ominous Ougi makes an appearance, saying things that affect Nadeko’s thought process at a crucial juncture later on. We’re introduced to Nadeko’s “depressing” school life, and her sudden snake hallucinations are particularly unsettling. Her awkward call to Koyomi ensures he’ll eventually be on the case, but once the snake starts talking to her, Nadeko is in big trouble. He corners her and shames her into a contract, one that sets her on the track to that dark, bloody future. In doing so, she tacitally subscribes to Kuchinawa’s claim that the entire world is nothing but wrongdoers, making victims of one another but never being only victims.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This is the twelfth episode in the series; the eleventh was a recap of Bakemonogatari, and therefore wasn’t rated.
  • With a new arc comes several new ambient musical tracks, all of which we really liked.
  • We also enjoyed the new Nadeko-centric OP, which may be our favorite of the three arcs this season.