Tsukimonogatari – 04 (Fin)

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Before they sneak into the temple where Tadatsuru is keeping the girls, Koyomi and Ononoki are met by Oshino Ouji, who reminds him what her ‘uncle’ said: “All you can do is save yourself on your own”…even though Koyomi following through on that would mean he’d be open for extermination.

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Ononoki surmises out of earshot that Ouji is the mastermind and ‘final boss’ that requested Tadatsuru’s extermination services. I’m not sure what to make of that since I’m still a bit fuzzy on who or what Ouji is, but in response, in the finale, Ononoki makes clear who and what she is, in spite of herself.

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Taking what Ouji said about ‘keeping things proper’, Ononoki lists all of the things she is that make her unproper: apparition, shikigami, corpse, tsukumo-gami. She also, seemingly intentionally, deepens the significance of what could have been a simple matter of saving three girls from a hermit without being detecting, because while the girls will be safe, the basic problem of Tadatsuru being after him would remain.

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That’s…just…gorgeous Winter environs.

 

She also tells the story of how she came to be: Kagenui, Kaiki, Oshino and Tadatsuru all collaborated on her production, which was “something like a Summer research project by bored college students”.

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The trouble came afterward when Tadatsuru and Kagenui fought over who would have ownership over her. Kagenui won, because Ononoki chose her. Ononoki can therefore say, and be technically correct, that she was the one who causes a rift between the two, even if she was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back.

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So many easter eggs…

 

Ononoki mentions this heretofore untold story because she wants Koyomi to know that he can offer her to Tadatsuru in exchange for the girls. In other words, she’d give up her life to save him from spending his.

Koyomi reacts to what he deems a stupid offer by doing something stupid: flipping Ononoki’s skirt…then holding it in a flipped-up state.

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The message he means to convey with his sexual harassment is that Koyomi doesn’t value his own life above hers, even if she’d be fine with him doing so. Ononoki concedes, then offers to kill Tadatsuru herself. He balks at that too, worried she’d lose whatever humanity she had gained in the time he’s known her. She even suggests he could get away with the girls by giving Tadatsuru Shinobu, knowing Koyomi wouldn’t go for that either.

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Ultimately, she makes Koyomi let go of her skirt, and she agrees to go by his original plan where he acts as a decoy and stalls Tadatsuru while she swings around back and rescues the girls, leaving him on his own. It’s a plan we see Ononoki will unilaterally tweak once in motion; again asserting her humanity.

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Tadatsuru himself…well, he’s a bit underwhelming, aside from being an origami folder par excellence. He seems impatient with Koyomi’s banter, but he’s also in no hurry to kill him.

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In fact, Tadatsuru simply sits there above an offertory box as he and Koyomi chat, giving Ononoki the time she needs to sneak up behind him and cast Unlimited Rulebook at point-blank range, killing him. It’s something he almost expected, even requesting she do it with “human compassion” and deliver her catchphrase, “I said, with a posed look.”

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So Ononoki ends up a killer, albeit one who acted on her own, against his wishes. She also quite likely saved his life and that of the girls, and Koyomi and Shinobu didn’t have to use any power. But it occurs to Koyomi that, all along, this was meant to drive a wedge between him and Ononoki.

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After the girls are safe and sound, Koyomi pays a visit to Senjougahara, who reminds him with a chocolate to the mouth that it’s Valentine’s Day. He informs her of his present state, and she essentially shrugs it off: as long as she can see him with her eyes (and he does see himself reflected in them), why should he care about being seen in mirrors? If anything comes of it, he won’t have to deal with it alone.

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Back home, Tsukimonogatari exploits one last sequence of Koyomi walking in on his half-naked sisters, who ‘coincidentally’ won Ononoki on the crane game earlier that day. To counter the objective of creating a fissure in Ononoki and Koyomi’s relationship, Gaen and Kagenui decided the best thing to do would be for Ononoki to move in with Koyomi and become even closer and ‘more intimate’ until the town stabilizes.

This, of course, creates an entirely different kind of tension, which may not be as serious as losing one’s humanity or being targeted for extermination by specialists, but a tension all the same: that of yet another girl in Koyomi’s life, competing for his time and affections, when he already has plenty.

But to put it another way, Ononoki is one more girl to protect him so he won’t have to vamp up…and the only one with UNLIMITED RULEBOOK!

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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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Sakura Trick – 08

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The two stories this week share a theme of assumptions based insufficient information. The first, in which Yuu gets the idea she and Haruka are getting married right away, turns out to be wrong. While it’s not her fault the phone connection was bad, she let her imagination get ahead of itself, bypassing simple logical hurdles like the fact Haruka didn’t even propose. But while it turns out to be someone else’s wedding, both Yuu and Haruka revel vicariously in the ceremonies.

Like Yuu assuming they were geting married just like that, Haruka assumes that because her dad doesn’t want “some guy off the street” marrying his daughter, it means he’ll be fine with her marrying a girl, when that very well might not be the case. But as is made clear when they can’t resist kissing and are nearly caught by Haruka’s mom, while their assumptions may be unrealistic (or at least premature), their passion for one another is very real indeed, and powerful. So powerful, in fact, that the couple hits the first legitimate bump in their relationship, which is explored in the second half. Here, Mitsuki assumes that Yuu and Haruka are acting far more distant towards each other than usual.

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This assumption turns out to be right; even if Mitsuki isn’t yet aware of the depth of Yuu and Haruka’s love, she knows the two aren’t squared away, so she decides to help them make up at the Christmas illuminations. But even when Mitsuki gets the two alone together (getting herself separated from everyone else in the process), Haruka and Yuu are still reticent and tentative, like we’ve never seen before. Each is afraid of letting their passion take over and go too far too fast with the other, harming what they have.

But while they were worrying about that, they were harming what they have anyway. Yuu remembers and repurposes her sister’s words of advice (which regarded a platonic relationship), and the two figure it out. They learn they’d been harboring the same concerns, as hearts that are destined to come together are wont to do. Hearts that are new to this kind of love can lead them to ache—as running around and doing physical stuff without stretching taxes the muscles and lungs—but Haruka and Yuu are resolved to soldier through it.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

 

Sakura Trick – 07

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Leave it to an earnest, uncynical show like Sakura Trick to be upfront about the fact that half of this episode would be heavy on the fanservice. That being said, it wasn’t merely a showcase of the casts’ T&A, and the venue of the swimsuit-donning was carefully chosen so as to create some uncharacteristic tension and drama, however slight and fleeting.

Kotone’s little sister Shinobu has always resented Shizuku for stealing Kotone’s attention away from her, something that started when Shizuku first showed up. She decides to put her foot down and insist Kotone return home. When she makes this demand, both Kotone and Shizuku seem to wait for the other to do something, but it’s Haruka and Mitsuki who end up acting; the latter calling for a race to settle matters, which Shizuku ends up winning, returning us to the status quo. Like we said: fleeting.

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The second half involves Yuu wanting a new scarf, and even when Shizuku shows up wearing the scarf she wants, which was the last one at the store, Yuu still wants the scarf she wants. It’s the kind of puerile selfishness Yuu knows she can get away with with Shizuka, because for the most part Shizuka loves doting on her. When we first heard “shopping” we immediately thought: “Well, they’re obviously going to end up making out in the dressing room.” That doesn’t happen per se, but Yuu does end up kissing Shizuka as an accompanying reflex to her happiness over finding an even cuter scarf.

In fact, Haruka and Yuu have gotten so used to making out, they even do so while Kotone and Shizuku are in the room; fortunately they’re very unobservant and/or don’t care. They also steal a long underwater kiss in Kotone’s pool. The show may have blown temporary clouds over Kotone and Shizuku, but it was nothing but clear blue skies for Haruka and Yuu. And as we’ve oft repeated, that’s not such a bad thing.


Rating: 6 (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)

Nekomonogatari (Black) – 02

Koyomi comes to Oshino’s place so Shinobu can feed off him, but she wants donuts first. Koyomi tells Oshino about his encounter with Hanekawa, including when they bury a silver cat with no tail. Oshino takes this as very bad news; he goes to exhume the corpse and tells Koyomi to check on Hanekawa. On his way to her house, Koyomi spots Hanekawa in her underwear, sporting cat ears and carrying the unconscious bodies of her stepparents. The “Curse Cat” has taken over her body, and rips his arm off. He wakes up next to Shinobu, mostly healed. Oshino tells Koyomi to sit back and let a pro take care of the situation from here.

The moments in these Monogatari animes when the oddity is finally revealed are always visceral and chilling, and the Curse Cat’s is no different, suddenly appearing in the background while Koyomi is riding his bike. She moves like a cat, talks like a cat (if cats could talk, that is) and abjures clothing like a cat, and when Koyomi dares speak out of turn, she literally bites his arm clean off, causing a fountain of blood. Koyomi may part-vampire, but he’s still human enough to be killed by this cat.

Since this is a prequel to Bakemonogatari, we’re aware of incidents in which Koyomi has seen the horrors that oddities have wrought: he was turned by an adult Shinobu prior to this, after all. But this case is made more disturbing by the fact Hanekawa is a friend. Just after his better judgement warned him not to meddle in Hanekawa’s family affairs, Oshino tells him there’s nothing he can do to help Hanekawa. After all, Koyomi is still a tourist in the supernatural world, lacking the skill or ability to influence it. Which must be quite frustrating!


Rating: 8 (Great)

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 – 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

Chihayafuru – 17

Despite winning a club relay in an upset, the Karuta Club fails to recruit any new members, so they focus on individual goals – advancing in class, in the case of Taichi, Porky, Desktomu and Kanade. Taichi sneaks off to Kanazawa to try to achieve class A in time to face Arata, but he meets Porky there, and they both get beaten. Meanwhile, Harada tells Chihaya something she’d never imagined: she has to stop using her speed to win. The challenge flummoxes her, until Desktomu and Kanade lend her their unique perspectives on the game.

Speed speed speed. It’s all Chihaya has known. All her eggs are in that basket, and the resulting omelette is an unsatisfying and not particularly nutritious mess of faults, openings, and ignorance. She’s been so concerned about perfecting her speed, she’s totally neglected her weaknesses, which are still many. Shinobu didn’t beat her because she was faster; she beat her because she was a far more complete player. Chihaya may be able to toast lesser players, but if she wants to be crowned the queen, she needs to make some fundamental changes to her game. We like how two of the keys to her evolution are right there in the kurata club, and here is where the two class Ds really prove their worth.

Desktomu looks at the game like no one else in the club, taking detailed notes of every game he plays and finding the patterns. Kanade believes the whole point of the game is appreciating the history and beauty of the poetry itself – her outrage when Chihaya tells her two cards that were written two centuries apart are “almost the same” reveals her intense passion. If Chihaya can learn a fraction of what Kanade knows, she may be able to recognize more cards by the color she connects them to in her head due to the imagery of the poem. Kurata isn’t just a sport, it’s an art and a science too. Like breaking up with your girlfriend on the phone in less than ten words…


Rating: 3.5

Nisemonogatari – 04

Araragi comes home to find Hanekawa and Tsukihi caring for Karen, who has fallen victim to some kind of malady. When he takes a bath, Shinobu appears andstarts talking. She was the one who freed him from his cuffs. According to Oshino, Karen has anoddity called the Wreathe Fire Bee, which causes intense fever and eventually death. Shinobu muses about how long Araragi might live; his vampire side may make him outlive everyone he loves. But he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it. Curing Karen is the priority.

First of all, mad props to the production design (or the anime equivalent of such): Araragi’s house could put many an Architectural Digest cover home to shame with its avant garde, eclectic design. The bathroom in particular is simply nuts – a massive vault with church-like stained glass windows, whirlygigs, and a floor covered in a thin layer of water. Araragi’s room would make Alex DeLarge weep, with its trippy carpet and huge zeppelin model the camera actually flies through during a conversation for no reason. Seriously, who does that? Who cares; it’s awesome. Architecture aside, there’s some major game afoot: Araragi’s dear bigger little sister Karen is very ill thanks to the sting of a supernatural bee, and Kaiki may be responsible.

If that weren’t enough excitement, a very chatty Shinobu of all people appears out of the blue to counsel Araragi, in a lengthy, somewhat risqué scene. One must remember that despite her looks Shinobu is four centuries old (c0mplete with ‘haughty’, old-style manner of speaking), and not a girl at all, but a vampire, and Araragi’s shadow. While they play it as yet another girl teasing Araragi, this relationship is a lot different and deeper than all the others, even Senjougahara’s. Veteran seiyu Maaya Sakamoto adds a haunting, aloof venerability to the vampirette. We’re curious to see if and how they’ll work together, and how Karen will be saved.


Rating: 3.5

Chihayafuru – 15

After a hard-fault battle, Chihaya manages to take five of Shinobu’s cards, losing by twenty, which vexes her to the point of forgoing her postgame nap to obsess over how to improve. Meanwhile, Desktomu, Kana and Porky are all out of the running, but Taichi is locked in a battle for the Class B crown. His mind is fine but his body can’t keep up after six matches, so he loses too, by only three cards. Having all tasted defeat, the club trains all summer to improve their stamina.

So Chihaya got into a mini-groove, but it was too late to catch up to Shinobu. Despite the fact the queen mopped the floor with her in anyone’s book, she is really pissed that Chihaya took any cards from her at all, and means to crush her next time. She practices alone in the dark, while Chihaya practices with her teammates and friends. We’re glad the series stayed realistic and didn’t let Chihaya beat the queen on her first go, especially after trailing so much.

A nice surprise was Taichi’s showing, going even further in his class than Chihaya. Everyone hopes that if they can keep their spirits up, they can will him to win it all, but it’s not to be, as he’s too physically winded. His thought process is a lot more complex than Chihaya’s. as he checks off every possible verse he can take. When Porky watches him lose, it brings back memories of him doing the same; second is no consolation for losing. But the biggest news this week is Arata, going to Kuriyama to join the Fukui Nagumo Society, which means a match between him and Chihaya is all but inevitable.


Rating: 3.5