New arc! Man has this season been some good Monogatari. I think Neko Shiro is probably my single favorite arc of the show to date, and Araragi-Shinobu: Time-Traveling Zombie-Fighting Buddy Cops isn’t far behind. I’ve written more about this goddamn series than any other by a fairly significant margin, but it’s generally been a show I found more interesting than fully coherent – the style of storytelling was very unique, and the tricks of direction were extremely compelling, but it didn’t necessarily gel into a cohesive production. This season has blown that complaint away, telling vivid and compelling stories that don’t lean on either Isin’s wordplay or Shinbo’s cinematography, but instead make best use of each of their strengths in tandem. And now we have the Nadeko arc.
This is gonna be interesting. In Bake, I felt her arc was basically a biting, caustic comment by Shinbo, but Nadeko herself didn’t really have any presence. These first two arcs have been well-written and well-directed, but they’ve also had the benefit of leaning on two of the Monogatari universe’s strongest variables, Hanekawa herself and the Araragi-Shinobu relationship. Since Nadeko is so loosely define, this arc could go basically anywhere. So let’s go on an adventure.
0:52 – Ominous. Also, they really did pick the worst possible show to do this goddamn simulcast for. Pausing and rewinding for the stills is just ridiculous
2:14 – Hey, look, identity stuff. Good to see you again, Isin
2:38 – Another version of the shrine. Getting great mileage out of that one threatening light
3:45 – This scene is one hell of a teaser. Of course the rest of the episode will be Nadeko deciding which shoes to wear to school three days ago or something
5:51 – She’s taking back the steps she took forward in Renai Circulation. In Monogatari, even the OPs are meta-comments
6:22 – Another direct callback
7:20 – Another story from the girl’s perspective. Hanekawa was easily an interesting-enough character to handle the lead role (in fact, that was one of my favorite things about that arc), but we’ll have to see if Nadeko can do the same
8:15 – Hello again. Still not sure where they’re going with her
8:54 – Well that’s interesting. And she was intentionally emphasizing Nadeko’s name, when it seems like Nadeko feels totally isolated. Positioning herself as a catalyst. Veeery interesting
9:08 – Oshino, huh? Well then
9:29 – Yes, very trustworthy.
9:46 – I was gonna say she seems to be treating this all as a narrative she exists outside of, but Isin of course points and giggles at his own ideas
9:56 – The uniform not fitting at all is a nice touch. She’s a spy, but she’s not very good at it
10:08 – Another meta comment. Apparitions are very rarely pure antagonists, they’re generally just reflections of their target’s own psychology
10:17 – Is this more important regarding identity or agency? Clearly this a girl whose every line is worth paying attention to
10:35 – Substantial shift in the lighting. Reappearance of that blinding single light source from the opening. Also “sometimes people are the victim and sometimes they are the wrongdoer” definitely orients this on the identity line the opening was proposing
11:55 – Well, there was that prolonged hypnotism shot. What is that girl’s game?
12:07 – Lovely shot. Shinbo’s got a whole new school to design, so of course he designs it to create a moment like this
12:32 – Interesting choice. All the characters are basically alone in this world, but this is the first time we’ve seen actual strangers, which might be because Nadeko is the only one who feels alone
12:55 – Nice effect. Shinbo definitely knows how to manage these monologues
13:40 – That speech got to her, I guess. Funny that an Araragi arc can start with a monologue by her and Araragi will just think “Jeez, did that mean something, or was she just making a weird joke? Eh, forget it,” whereas Nadeko’s whole arc might very well hinge on how she was affected by that criticism
15:07 – It really is a great effect
16:07 – Another very nicely framed shot. I like the color symmetries, and how Nadeko’s phone is deliberately separated from the rest
17:16 – Looove these shots. The quick jumps, the lack of focus. Her anxiety comes through loud and clear
We also might be assembling some clues here. It seems that with both the charms and this current snake, Nadeko is portraying her personal desires as some antagonist forcing her in specific directions. Avoiding responsibility for her own needs. It won’t necessarily go there, but it certainly fits with the “victim” stuff
17:39 – I was worried about Nadeko carrying an arc, but I guess I shouldn’t have been. This “did I say something awkward? I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” rings pretty goddamn true.
19:03 – And pretty much confirmed
19:27 – Never get tired of these
20:32 – Oh dear
Again with that “once you see the apparition, you’re doomed” from Tiger. But the apparitions are obviously manifestations of subconscious problems, so…
21:36 – Striking images ahoy
22:06 – She’s now in the Circulation color scheme. Please don’t ask me what that could possibly signify
22:16 – That light again
Strong first episode! Fast-paced, some really nicely portrayed characters moments, many arresting shots, and plenty to dig into both visually and narratively. I like this theme of victimhood and responsibility we’re apparently focusing on, and I really like how they’re portraying Nadeko’s anxiety. Extremely on board for this one.