Music: Onimonogatari – “An Old Story”

Last week’s Space Dandy got me thinking about other phenomenal episodes of anime I’ve watched in the past few years, and I actually ended up re-watching the second episode of Onimonogatari, informally known as “The Demon’s Sililoquy” from the “Shinobu Time” arc of Monogatari Series Second Season (my original review, which didn’t really do it justice, is here). It’s as rule-breaking and polarizing as the Monogatari series itself; in a way, it’s a distillation of its essence: deep, rambling dialogue, occasional linguistic puns, gorgeous imagery…and little to no conventional action.

Visceral reactions aside, one of the practical reasons why I loved the episode so much was the music that accompanied that gorgeous imagery, so I finally did some very shallow digging and found out that the composer for the entire Monogatari Series thus far, as well as other favorites like Suzumiya Haruhi and Oreimo, is a fellow named Kosaki Sotaru. His MAL picture makes him look closer to fourteen than forty, but don’t let the babyface fool you: the dude knows what he’s doing.

Shinobu’s sprawling, epic, gorgeous, ultimately heartbreaking tale of how she came to Japan from Antarctica four centuries ago, became a god, met, made, and ultimately lost her first minion in the worst way, demanded a soundtrack to match its scope and gravitas. The kind of music you’d put to a vampire jumping from Antarctica to Japan in one leap, inadvertently forming Lake Biwa.

The piece that opens the episode is appropriately called “An Old Story,” is just what the vampire storyteller ordered. Apropos of nothing, I wonder if Kosaki-san ever listened to The Verve…

Onimonogatari – 04

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Gaen Izuko agrees to help Koyomi if he and Suruga help her with a task once his “case is closed.” She tells him the darkness has come to punish Mayoi for lying about still being around and being a “ghost of a ghost”, and not performing her duty an oddity to make people lost. Because Koyomi and Ononoki are lost, the darkness doesn’t attack, but they can’t remain lost forever. Content with the time she got to spend with Koyomi, she decides to pass away willingly, after confessing to loving him. Four months later Koyomi recounts his tale to Ougi, who tells him of her job: which is identical to that of the darkness.

Excuse us, there’s something in our eyes! In all seriousness, that was one sudden, poignant, moving close to Koyomi’s sometimes-inappropriate, always complex but ultimately warm relationship with Hachikuji Matoi. We didn’t really expect something like this, even though the events involving the darkness definitely hinted that Matoi was its likely target. We like how Izuko’s explanations tie Shinobu’s story with Mayoi’s present situation, for while they couldn’t be more different as oddities go, both of them were visited by the darkness for the same reason: because they were “lying”—or merely failing to address misunderstandings—about their existence.

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The power of Mayoi’s farewell is based in the rich history between her and Koyomi. After Senjougahara, she was the first oddity he came across, establishing the general formula of the initial Suruga, Nadeko, and Tsubasa arcs that followed. For those who have watched this series in order, we first met Mayoi nearly four years ago (seven for the novel-readers). Koyomi even tried to bring her back to life by saving her in the past, almost destroying the present in the process. Turns out his bittersweet goodbye to that alternate-timeline grown Mayoi presaged the even more bittersweet goodbye here. Also, Mayoi’s seiyu Kato Emiri provides a moving yet understated performance.

The episode also brought into focus another corner of the world of oddities: the cold, logical order punishing any who stray from their appointed roles. The epilogue also suggested to us that the amorphous darkness also has corporeal form in Oshino Ougi, which would explain not only why she looks so weird, but also her penchant for composing life lessons from the observations of others. We’ll miss Mayoi, as Koyomi will, but we understand why she had to go, and she did so the best way she could. Koyomi wanted to be her hero, but this time his foe was utterly beyond him, and couldn’t even properly be called a foe. It was simply an inviolable force of nature, righting wrongs and ending things that must end.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Onimonogatari – 01

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Hachikuji Mayoi accompanies Koyomi to his house to retrieve her backpack, but just when they’re about to go to lunch, they both witness a strange orb of “darkness” approaching them. Koyomi and Mayoi jump on his bike and he speeds away, but the darkness gives chase. Ononoki Yotsugi assists by flying them to the abandoned cram school, asking only a kiss in return. When Shinobu wakes up, she tells Koyomi the orb he saw is something she’d dealt with before, over 400 years ago, and that if not dealt with properly, could bring the town to ruin.

The arcs of this season of Monogatari have not unfolded chronologically, so after taking us right to the precipice of Koyomi and Co.’s rematch of Sengoku Nadeko in the last arc, it rewinds to just after the end of the arc before it, when Koyomi and Shinobu had returned from their time-travelling adventures. While we kinda wanted to see what would happen next – and the ‘to be continued” at least teased that we may – we’re going to have to wait. In the meantime, Monogatari has another story to tell. If measured only by the amount of action that took place within it, this was one of the slighter episodes of the second season, not counting the three recap episodes.

But Monogatari arcs always start out this way; stage-setting; piece arrangement. Koyomi’s usual, seemingly uncontrollable depraved behavior towards Mayoi finds a vehicle – literally – in the bicycle chase, during which Mayoi does whatever he orders her to do in the name of safety. But that’s just window dressing. The meat of the story to come once again involves Shinobu, and why not? She’s by far the oldest character, having lived so long we’ve still barely scratched the surface of that long and eventful life, so we’re intrigued to see her account of what transpired four centuries ago, long before any of Koyomi’s exploits.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • This arc takes place at the same time as Nekomonogatari (Shiro), the first arc of the second season. Makes sense, since Koyomi was absent for pretty much all of that.
  • Ononoki admires good muscles, like Matsuoka Gou from Free.
  • We’re not so sure Senjougahara would take kindly to Koyomi kissing not one but two girls in this episode (though one is technically a shikigami and the other a vampire).