Koyomimonogatari – 01

Koyomi Stone is the first in a 12-episode miniseries of short stories involving Araragi Koyomi and all the other various characters in his orbit. First up is Hanekawa Tsubasa, whose dealings with Koyomi pre-date his girlfriend Senjougahara’s. Tsubasa presents him with a mystery of a stone in a shrine and asks him to report it to Oshino to see if it’s an oddity.

Oshino’s reply is for Koyomi and Tsubasa to study the high school’s curriculum. Tsubasa picks up on the clue and deduces the stone was once on its own until someone was about to toss their failed woodworking project into the nearby garbage, but placed the stone in it instead.

As a result, both objects changed: the stone became something that resembled an object of worship, and the failed house became a successful shrine. With the case closed, Koyomi remembers it was he who built the crappy house and put the stone in it; he later tosses the house and discovers the stone is really just a hunk of concrete.

The usual Monogatari style is all there to be seen and heard, adding weight to an otherwise slight and superfluous mystery, while the shorter runtime makes for easy watching.

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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Onimonogatari – 03

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

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

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

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Onimonogatari – 02

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Shinobu tells Koyomi the tale of her first visit to Japan more than 400 years ago. She literally “jumped” from Antarctica – where she had been residing previously – into a lake in Japan, which destroyed the lake but brought rain to an arid region, whose inhabitants revered her as a god. It was then that she met the “original apparition killer”, who wielded the demon-killing “Kokoro-watari” and the shorter “Yume-watari”, which restored them.

Trouble arose when as a result of her presence, which drew apparitions and negative energy to the region, which humans eventually deserted. Shortly thereafter, the “darkness” arrived, consuming three quarters of Shinobu’s body and nearly all of the apparition killer. She escaped to Antarctica with his hand and wrist, and drank its blood to restore him as her minion. Furious she had made him a vampire, he disavowed her and committed suicide by burning up in the sunlight. She swore never to make another minion.

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In the last episode we remarked that Oshino Shinobu is unlike any other entity inhabiting the Monogatari Series, due to her sheer longevity, scale of experience, and moral complexity. Thus, we knew that when we delved deeper into her past, it would be something to behold; and so it was. A bold, indulgent, tantalizingly unique approach is utilized in visualizing Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade’s epic tale. It unfolds as one continuous right-to-left scroll of stunningly gorgeous illustrations, interrupted only by the occasional cut to Shinobu and Koyomi in the present, and accompanied by a stirring, austere ambient score.

The feats she performs therein – from jumping from Antarctica and becoming a god in Japan to creating her minion out of a desire not to be alone only to be rejected – transcend anything anyone else has done in the series. Not bad for a character who didn’t say a single word in all of Bakemonogatari. Just as Shinobu is an unprecedented entity in the series, this episode was unprecedented in its audacity and elegance. Essentially, this episode was one of the most engrossing, transcendent infodumps we’ve ever seen. We found it to be a work of profound creativity, skill, and workmanship, and an instant classic – hence earning our highest rating. Call us crazy if you must.

Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Otorimonogatari – 04

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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.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Otorimonogatari – 03

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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.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Otorimonogatari – 02

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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 – 04

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Hanekawa wakes up in Koyomi’s room and finds a white hair, a sign she’s becoming the sawari neko again. As she leaves for the day, Koyomi’s mom tells her she’s welcome as a guest, but the Araragis can’t replace her family, and she has to stop averting her eyes. While out, Hanekawa runs into the half-vampire Mr. Episode, who has come at the behest of Oshino Meme‘s senpai, and a woman named Gaen Izuko, neither of whom can help her with her tiger problem, which Gaen says Hanekawa will call “Kako.”

After visitng the burnt-down cram school and researching “kako” in the library, Hanekawa talks with Senjougahara on the phone about it. Senjougahara points out that both of the places where Hanekawa has spent the night burned down in sequence, and if the trend continues the Senjougahara and Araragi houses will be next. She returns to the Araragis and plays cards with the Fire Sisters while they discuss fire, passion, justice, anger, and it dawns on her that envy is the reason for her predicament. She starts to write a letter to Black Hanekawa.

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Up until this episode, Hanekawa has been lost and aimless; drifting from friend’s house to friend’s house, her life on hold as she contemplates exactly what’s going on. Well, half of her is, anyway. She’s also torn in two, and the second half, “Black Hanekawa” is once again acting as her stress valve. But all of her interactions this week convince her that it’s time to stop the drifting and depending on others and her other half to help her. This tiger problem needs to be nipped in the bud, lest the house fires continue.

The Araragi matriarch (her face obscured) is the first of the people in the episode who tell Hanekawa it’s time to face her problem, which by the end she believes to be jealousy. But jealousy of what? That Senjougahara has Koyomi, to be sure.That he has a stable, loving home and family. That Black Hanekawa remembers her, but not vice versa. Even that the Fire Sisters live with such certainty (and have boyfriends). We’ll soon see how she plans to deal with all this jealousy, which could involve possibly never seeing Koyomi again.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • From Hanekawa’s perspective the story skips from chapter 26 to chapter 52, doubtless a most worrisome gap in time during which any number of things could’ve gone down.
  • The Araragis eat dinner together every morning, something, like the parents, we’ve oddly never seen. More proof that we only see glimpses of these characters’ lives, not the whole picture. Another example is the Fire Sisters’ BFs. 
  • Between the sugar cubes and the paper cranes, Senjougahara possesses  some rather obsessive (and, where Koyomi is concerne, possessive) qualities, no?
  • The cameos of Mr. Episode and Gaen Izuko didn’t mean anything for us, having not reach the source material. They also seem quite useless, though the story requires that they be so, in Hanekawa’s case.

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 – 01

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

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

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

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

 

Nekomonogatari (Black) – 04 (Fin)

Shinbou lends Koyomi the oddity-killing sword Heartspan with which to challenge Hanekawa. Koyomi tricks her into coming to him by sending her an SOS text, using her better nature to draw her to him. He proceeds to tell her how he knows her personality has been intact the whole time and she’s been conscious of her actions. He tells her he’ll carry her stress for her, and even die for her. She slices him in half, but the oddity is injured as he his Heartspan inside him. Shinobu appears, heals him, swallows the sword and feeds on Hanekawa, drawing out the curse cat. Hanekawa loses all memory of the last nine days, and Koyomi decides he’s not in love with her, and will await someone else to fall for.

Whew, talk about an epic showdown, even by Monogatari standards. Sure, this final fourth of the Curse Cat arc is mostly talk, but pertinent, substantive talk. And the action that does take place is more visceral than ever, with Koyomi getting literally halved. We were hoping Koyomi would have some kind of plan going into his battle with Hanekawa Curse Cat, and he did, from the way he effortlessly summoned her (using her kindness against her) to the way he hid his trump card (swallowing a big-ass sword). Shinobu’s appearance  in which he scolds him then schools him on how to properly use it, was also deliciously awesome. (We also learn how she gets that helmet). Prior to the battle, Oshino tries to get Koyomi to understand: Hanekawa isn’t faultness in all this; in fact, he believes her entire situation is all her fault.

She lives every minute of every day in a flawless state of kindness and benevolence, he isn’t surprised her very-flawed parents couldn’t stand to live with her. (Koyomi even wonders if “family” is like an oddity to her.) But Koyomi doesn’t blame Hanekawa for being true to herself, even if it ends up hurting herself or others. After all, like the dead cat in the road, he was also an object of potential pity and sympathy as a recently-turned vampire whom Hanekawa saved, cared for, and taught him how to feel for others, without the slightest hint of pity or sympathy for him. She treated them as equals. And he’ll always be grateful for that, even if he and she will never be lovers. One other note: we like how the end of this miniseries butts right up against the very beginning of Bakemonogatari when Koyomi catches Senjougahara. Things seem primed to get right back down to business. We love endings that are also beginnings.


Rating: 9 (Superior)