Enough dillydallying! Time to discover the secret of Nadeko’s closet!
0:04 – Good lord I love Kaiki’s city shots. This one’s particularly distinctive – it’s great how much definition of the landscape we can draw from the city lights alone
0:21 – Another nice little quick-cut sequence. Once again, Kaiki’s efficiency and narrowness of focus in moments like this emphasize how professional and in control he is with regards to very specific aspects of his life. Given a standard problem of his discipline, his movements are practiced and efficient, and the camera reflects this
…and of course they’re dragging out the closet reveal. Can’t ever trust these guys
0:47 – Well that’s… ominous
1:06 – We’ve got the spotlight on for this scene. Considering how much of this arc has been a Kaiki monologue, are they telling us it’s actually necessary to indicate a scene where Kaiki’s being honest with himself? Or with us, likely – Kaiki established this story as a performance from the very start
1:15 – So are we meant to take this seriously? Is Ougi getting involved?
3:04 – It’s like Kaiki’s the only one who understands how the camera really works here, and so he’s the only one who’s actively posing for it all the time. He knows perspective is a lie, and so he’s having fun with it
3:30 – The banter between these two is great. Kaiki is Senjougahara’s grumpy but ultimately indulgent favorite uncle
4:19 – Jeez, getting really overt with the spotlight. It’s not even pretending to be a natural flourish anymore – it’s like Utena’s rose-color frames, screaming pay attention! pay attention!
5:05 – Hold up. This is news to us, right? So Gaen planted the weapon Ougi led Nadeko to use? But Gaen said she wanted Shinobu to become the god… so was this after Araragi’s trip to the past, which I assume was sorta indirectly responsible for invalidating Shinobu as a choice for godhood? Man, this is getting all kinds of muddled
6:03 – Nice cityscape
6:16 – Interesting shot
8:05 – He’s getting annoyed. His reasoning isn’t great, but he knows this is a weakness for her. Pretty dangerous of Senjougahara to intentionally poke at his sentimentality, but I guess to her, all his actions are pretty incomprehensible, so she can’t conceive of him doing this out of the very well-hidden goodness of his heart
9:04 – And now we get Kaiki being adorably paranoid. This arc is too much
9:22 – Another nice city shot. They do keep it interesting
10:20 – And another. Kaiki’s perspective rules
11:46 – Kaiki so tolerant
13:03 – Will you quit it with that
14:16 – His charts are so good. I love the false modesty of his self-portrait scribbles here – yeah, this guy looks silly, but we were all there for those indulgent shower shots, Kaiki. We know you know you sexy
14:55 – “It almost sounds like I’m paying that young girl for her company. I know! I’ll buy her liquor!” Brilliant
15:10 – Wouldn’t dream of it
16:24 – Monogatari approves of underage drinking. Also, apparently she drank her dad’s beer? Good to know
16:57 – AH SHIT THIS ARC EVEN HAS HANEKAWA NO BRAKES ON THIS TRAIN. Her embraced-personality hair is fantastic, too – the Isin character-growth haircut’s Final Form
17:44 – Regain control, Kaiki! This one may be more powerful than the others, but she’s still just a kid! She came to you because she needs assistance! You hold the cards!
18:58 – Hanekawa sees the real final boss. This season really is coming full circle – after three distant arcs, we get to loop back around and see Hanekawa actually in command of her own personality
19:27 – Obviously this is all Kaiki’s interpretation of events, and so involves a level of deception beyond the “actually telling you stuff they don’t really want to be revealing” usual lies of the Monogatari camera, but it’s great how uncomfortable they’re making Kaiki seem here. Not even attempting deception at the start, immediately trying to orient their conversation in the kid-adult dynamic his Senjougahara talks naturally fall into, little visual cues like his constantly focusing on the comforting regularity of the taxi fee – Kaiki is not necessarily in control here, and he does not like that feeling
19:49 – In Monogatari, earnestly looking at yourself is the hardest thing in the world. After that, everything else is easy. And Kaiki depends on the deceptions we tell ourselves – someone like current Hanekawa must be pretty frightening
20:16 – A whole conversation’s worth of defensive banter from Senjougahara, two sentences of “yeah, just stop by my hotel” from Hanekawa. Hanekawa don’t give a fuck
20:53 – To put it briefly. Look, Kaiki’s assuming his negotation battle stance again
21:28 – Ahahaha yes. Well, Cat was the person she swore she’d be honest with herself to, so it makes sense
22:26 – A far from accidental shot. As the first Monogatari protagonist to truly embrace her own weaknesses and insecurities, Hanekawa is the first to possess anything resembling real vision. Whereas from other perspectives, we pretty much only see reality as a reflection of those characters’ own desires and insecurities, Hanekawa can now see other people, like the Kaiki here reflected in her eye. Unlike Senjougahara, she doesn’t see her own fears of betrayal or lack of self-worth when staring at him – she sees him for the man he is. The ability to look beyond the self is the ultimate expression of power and freedom in this world
Oh man. That is a good, good feeling. Pretty much everything that has always impressed me about Monogatari was made powerfully explicit in those last few scenes – Hanekawa has actually escaped the mirror that is Monogatari’s view of reality. She’s always been one of my favorite characters in the show – in fact, yeah, she just is my favorite character in the show. I really love how distinctive and strong her particular shield was – her ability to appear normal or even in control was always much more well-articulated than Araragi’s or Senjougahara’s, and I just find her overall personality very nuanced and compelling. And so seeing her now, far more well-adjusted and actively demonstrating the usual veils this show places between its representation of reality and reality itself, is just an absolute joy. It’s also yet another place for Kaiki to shine, as we see for the first time that he can’t dominate a conversation simply by being a reasonable adult – when he has to deal with someone who isn’t continuously inventing their own reality, he can get rattled or even legitimately uncomfortable. So it’s great on a character-interaction level, great on a character-growth level, great on a meta-storytelling level, and great for me personally.
Yeah, personally. Because this show has become kind of personal to me, and that process has been almost… accidental. The first piece of actual anime criticism I wrote was my defense of Nisemonogatari as an exploration of representation and the camera’s eye, back close to a year ago. It’s not like it was my favorite show – I just found it really interesting, and found it strange that that conversation wasn’t a common one when discussing the show. And that piece has remained one of my most visible, and I’ve continued to document my thoughts on Monogatari as I worked through it, and so here we are in December and it’s pretty easily the show I’ve spilled the most ink on to date. And I’m actually very satisfied with that – I think Monogatari stands as a pillar of the things only anime can do, and I think its mixed reputation and tendency to be underestimated or written off as pandering nonsense make it an outstanding example of the challenges anime faces, the way it can embrace both high and low art instincts simultaneously, and the actual necessity of criticism. That shot of Hanekawa’s eye was a powerful moment here – the culmination of dozens of episodes of twisted representation and indulgent-seeming cinematography. That moment deserves to read as the emotional triumph it is, and if writing this stuff means one more person can enjoy that moment the way I did, then I’m pretty happy to have done it.
See you next week, everybody… and thanks for reading. It’s been a wonderful ride.