Welp, time for the grand finale of the… undoubtedly worst arc of this season. That’s a shame, but I guess it was kind of bound to happen – as long as Araragi’s the ostensible main character, there’s going to be an arc with a lot of aimless Mayoi banter and pedophile jokes. Personally, I’d be all for dumping Araragi – as the first and third arc revealed, this series is actually a lot more interesting when he’s just there on the fringes of the story. His arc is done (or is at least shifting at such a glacial pace that it appears to be standing still), he’s not particularly complex, and he’s far more prone to Isin’s wandering digressions than most of the cast. Death to the half-vampire!
But hey, at least the second episode was great, and the third episode was certainly pretty. Plus, even the worst Monogatari arcs have a tendency to finish strong – when the plot actually kicks into gear, Isin knows how to pull together a satisfying finale (or at least satisfying to me, regardless of whether you’re a fan of his death-by-monologue theatrics). And this is supposed to be about the Shinobu-Araragi relationship, which is legitimately interesting.
Okay. Sufficiently amped. Let’s do this.
0:18 – Adults are scary
0:35 – Shinbo can make pretty much any line sound intimidating through his damn angles. Also, it was rightfully pointed out that I didn’t mention the return of what is apparently Gaen’s signature rainbow cloud formation. ShadowZael postulated it might be indicative of her all-knowing status, which seems reasonable – last time she appeared, she laid down the blind spots of Hanekawa’s perspective, and in this arc Araragi seems similarly blind to aspects of Shinobu’s perspective. In fact, the first mention of Shinobu last episode briefly knocked the entire show into grayscale.
0:47 – That hat, so silly. I like how all four members of the old guard each harbor a very different attitude towards their various adopted ghostbusters and familiars. I’m not sure if it would kinda break the magic/mystique, but I’d still love to see some brief glimpses of the professionals getting to work.
1:17 – Even Araragi notices it. They’re all just kids to her
1:27 – Another beautiful mirrored composition. The natural blue of the water contrasted against the stylized blue of the pillars as they rise, the natural darker tones of the roof contrasted against the stylized black of the foregrounded platform. Our protagonists perfectly framed in the center of a jumbled maze, with that lone, surreally placed tree breaking the pattern. Goddamn this show is pretty
2:04 – Adults are scary
3:03 – A quest! This is also kinda interesting – everything she does conveys a lack of real respect for the kids, but now she’s demanding he take responsibility for her help. Which actually might be what Araragi needs to grow here – the fundamental problem is he’s always taken Shinobu’s help for granted, right? So she actually might be giving him both the practical and emotional answer he needs… and of course, in Monogatari the emotional answer often ends up sufficing for the practical one as well
3:35 – It suddenly occurs to me that this entire discussion is taking place in what looks like a crater filled in by a lake. Not like that’s relevant to this arc or anything
3:48 – Yeah, she’s trying to push him in the right direction in her own lilting, mocking fashion
4:19 – The spotlight appears for this one line. The only earnest thing she’s said?
4:58 – Oh goddamnit. So we’re still not going to see whatever nearly killed Araragi during Neko Shiro. Screw you, Isin
7:25 – Aw
8:05 – Gaen apparently paid off Shinbo. She’s getting all the best shots
8:15 – Like this one!
8:21 – Or this one holy crap
8:25 – Love this lighting. The number of shows that squander this medium’s visual potential in order to just look like animated sitcoms is depressing. You can do anything! Why not create your own goddamn visual vocabulary, like this or Tatami Galaxy or Utena or Serial Experiments Lain? Why not try?!?
8:49 – Ah, because she changed from what she is? That’s great – in the same way that the emotional oddities appear because characters deny their own nature, this non-entity appears when the oddities have shifted their nature
And hey look, another great shot that uses color to effortlessly indicate a character’s significance relative to their physical presence. It’s almost like this is a visual medium!
10:17 – Goddamnit, is this season seriously going to redeem their relationship too? I figured making Nadeko a compelling lead would be enough, but nooo…
11:04 – Never change, Isin. Having the edges of your story be frayed and self-aware is fine by me (hell, I kinda consider that a bonus) as long as the pillars of emotional and thematic logic are sound
Looks like I was also wrong about Araragi’s arc. This isn’t just dealing with his relationship with Shinobu – it’s getting at his core failing, the savior complex
13:01 – Ononoki does not want
14:49 – This one’s gonna hurt. But that’s the job, Araragi
15:41 – Jesus. This one’s a killer. No wonder this ended up being a Mayoi arc
16:53 – Aaagh stop it this sceeeene
19:12 – What about her perspective? Damn blubbery hypocritic, Araragi
24:17 – Uhhhhhhhhhhhh
25:06 – And it worked. He was sad, but he’s more of a professional now, and he’ll use the tools he’s been given
26:07 – So it ends
Well, that was certainly a Mayoi arc. And yeah, that ending redeemed it. Goddamn this show. Goddamn it to hell.
Well, I don’t even know what to say. Up to this point, I felt this arc was dragging this stellar second season down, but that was one of the best things the show’s ever done – one of the moments that will stick out in a greatest hits collection very few shows could hope to match. That ending was beautiful – just understated enough to work, with Araragi and Mayoi both acting completely in character while also moving forward on their journeys. Araragi actually shined, which he hasn’t done in a while, and the post-credits sequence answered a few questions while raising some compelling new ones, as well as implying an exciting new chapter in Araragi’s assumption of his duties.
That was great. Sad character tears and happy art tears. I’m glad we have this show.