Hanamonogatari – Review

Time for more Monogatari! We’re finally up to the last arc I’ve already watched, and one I actually wrote an old essay about. Hanamonogatari was great back when I watched it the first time, and remains great now. It’s one of the most focused and self-contained arcs, and it’s got a wonderful balance of character interiority, humor (thanks Kaiki), and beautiful visual tricks. Having this come at an even pace relative to my other reviews actually helped me appreciate how this arc really was a visual step up, and the work this arc does for Kanbaru’s character is just spectacular. Just a really well-composed and compassionate short story all around.

Here’s my full review. Lots of notes below!


Episode 1

“I’ve lived my life like an idiot. But how did you live yours?”

“If you can’t be a cure, be a poison. Otherwise you’re just plain old water.”

Her mother browbeating her for her “weakness”

“I couldn’t agree with my father. My mother was like a devil.”

Great seaside sequence here, representing her dream. The water is a constant refrain – her drowning in it, looking out across it, her ultimate basketball duel as the court fills with water, and finally floating peacefully within it. Her mother called her water, and she took that as a curse that she attempted to run away from, but eventually she finds peace with herself

The first day of her new semester. She restrains herself against a wall to avoid attacking people in her sleep

Looking to see if she committed any crimes. A nice character detail

“Part of me thinks I should just cut it all off. But I can’t bring myself to decide. Maybe I’m just indecisive.” The hair bookends the story, hammering in the self-contained nature of this vignette

Some fanservice shots

Reflecting on her senpais being gone

The show includes the OP right at the beginning of the first episode, which is a terrible idea – it kills the suspense the story slowly builds, while it worked incredibly well as an epilogue. It gives away the whole story

Tons of beautiful shots. This arc’s production schedule seems like it allowed them to create even more unique setpieces, rich, multi-layered designs. Monogatari’s usual obsession with ornate but oddly sterile backgrounds and constant symmetry

Yeah, we’re getting a lot of random shots here that wouldn’t have been afforded in the middle of S2

And there’s Ougi, who’s now a boy

This shot on the track is pretty great

“There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake occasionally. If you were never allowed a single mistake, life would be miserable.” Once again, Ougi spells out the themes and realizations to come, playing jester

Great shadows

“Does that mean everything in the past was inevitably a mistake?”

“Are a person’s past and future both negative?”

Kanbaru’s all business talking to Ougi

“Have you heard the rumors about ‘Lord Devil?’” And once again, prompting the plot

Sitting in Senjougahara’s old seat, reminiscing

Talking to an old basketball team friend

“I have to buy some study guides.” Again, the future hangs above

“She came out and said I wasn’t smart. How did she know that? That was supposed to be a secret!” Oh Kanbaru

Lord Devil is a magic spell that’d become popular with the students – consult the devil, he’ll solve your problems

Great alternate style shots of old-fashioned demons

She’s worried she’s the devil. Already worrying about identity, even before her old friend questions who she is

One of the great, classic spotlight shots, with shadows lengthening as they speak

Apparently all the girls love Araragi

Consulting with Karen about the devil

Some beautiful loose cut-paper shots interpreting the various ways you contact the devil. It looks like crumpled paper that’s been flattened out and inked. Great style

And she goes out to meet the devil on a vast empty tundra

“Only the eleventh of the ten comes to see me.”

And we finally meet Kanbaru’s old friend

Rouka Numachi, right. And Kanbaru of course remembers her name

Kanbaru’s old rival – an “arch enemy.” Her counter in defense

“You hurt your arm. Then you’re just like me, right? Top players are really weak to injuries.” Kanbaru just makes a tight smile

Numachi talking about her lack of prospects

More crazy Monogatari stairs

Both of them sit on stairs to nowhere in a vast empty plain. An easy metaphor

More great alt-style shots. These ones in a loose, thick-brushed painting style

And now they’re finally in the tractors to infinite

Kanbaru slaps her, and seems even surprised at herself

“Usually, time alone is enough to solve whatever is worrying you.” As they sit in a fountain of sand, time slipping away

“What’s wrong with running? Many problems in this world can be solved by running.”

And then Kanbaru sinks underwater for a moment

Kanbaru seems to just hate her tone

Kanbaru dislikes her and her style, but she’s going to leave her alone

“I wanted to see you again on the court. But that’s a wish of ours that will never happen.”

“Reality can be a problem.” Worse than the old translation, “Reality can be so cruel.”

Gorgeous sunset here, brilliant reds, yellows, and purples

“People who live their lives without thinking about a thing usually get much further.” Once again, her mother is associated with water. The lake of the ending

“If you have time to think, act.”

And suddenly she realizes, her hand is back

This ED is the classic style. Is this Inu Curry?

Episode 2

No Fire Sisters interludes this time

“Didn’t Mr. Ougi say that it’s a problem that time would solve?” Even the problem resolving reflects the weird changes of growing up

The same old serious faces and comedy faces

Man, some really gorgeous shots in the cherry blossoms here. Lovely pinks and greens

Kanbaru’s expression of her freedom is deeply felt. It’s a wonderful moment. The music is also great, chimes and keys evoking hope, happiness

Ougi comments on Kanbaru not running, but right now she doesn’t have anything to run from

“You aren’t rude so much as you’re a dick.” Haha Kanbaru

And Ougi once again mocking Kanbaru’s journey

“People can’t save other people.” Wise words, Kanbaru

“Poison Swamp Numachi”

Kanbaru blushing at her own nickname, “High-Speed Angel”

When Numachi was hurt, she lost her scholarship

No one knows where she is now

Oh my god it’s Kaiki time


And that ridiculous moustache-beard combo

Great angular lighting, as always. Putting Kanbaru in a bizarre angular spotlight as Kaiki lurks on the fringe

“Wait, Gaen’s child”

Kaiki just handily outrunning Kanbaru with his absurd running style

“Don’t just start running. It’s dangerous.” KAIKIIII

“You’re going to trip. Be careful.” This scene is amazing

A new variation on Kaiki’s theme song. More energetic

“I’ve lost to a con man at the one thing I’m good at.” “Oh, don’t be like that.”


And he literally picks her up and plops her down

Kaiki as the indulgent uncle is the best idea Monogatari has had

Araragi and Senjougahara of course advised her to run away if she ever saw him

“The lesson for you here is that there are some problems that can’t be solved by running.” Kaiki starting in early

“There are some problems time won’t solve.” She says to herself

Great reflected shots here

“Normally I’d never ever do this, but for today only and for you only… I will buy you coffee.”

“Come on, eat some meat.” And now this scene, of course

“Leave it to me, I’ll cook it for you.” With the most ominous shot framing. Great stuff

Yet another variation on Kaiki’s main theme refrain

“Don’t say things that make me not hate you.”

Good pacing of their awkward conversation here

It’s really great seeing Kanbaru in a variety of situations, and not just in the Araragi comfort zone

“He was sort of like a surly but kind relative.”

So Kanbaru did meet Gaen at some point

“We met by chance when I was even younger than you. She was kind of like a tutor?” Shot framing demonstrates how interested Kanbaru is in her mother, and how surprised she is that she asked Kaiki to take care of Kanbaru

“Were you in love with my mother?” “That’s the problem with kids. They want to bring romance into everything.”

“You call her ‘Gaen’. Isn’t that because you didn’t want to accept she was married?”

Kanbaru is incredibly expressive, and it’s an expressiveness Monogatari doesn’t always engage in. Its characters often have exaggerated expressions, but there’s a great nuance to her range

“It’s only a memory, nothing more. A memory not worth a cent.”

Kaiki gives her his card

“You respect your senpais, don’t you? If you don’t stay on guard and try to hate me, if you don’t continue to despise me, you’ll feel like you’re betraying the senpais you love.”

“Just as you can never guarantee the person you like will like you back, you can never guarantee that the person you hate will hate you.” This isn’t even really relevant to this arc’s main themes, but it’s a brilliant line all the same

“There’s no human who is all bad. There’s no human who is all evil. No one has the same personality from all angles, and no one has the same personality at all times.”

“I’ll be able to con most people for you.” “I don’t want to contact you for that. But I’ll accept the offer.”

This arc has even faster text cuts than usual

He advises her never to use the monkey’s paw. “Someone will arrive to take it soon. Let them.”

“Someone’s trying to collect all the parts of the devil.”

“Meat. Eat meat! Meat. Bye.”

Numachi told him she’d be at the station

Oh wow, this shot of Kanbaru’s hair in the bath is gorgeous

The water reflections and lighting in general are beautiful

This is actually a really classy bath scene

And now the cherry blossoms against a blue night sky

Episode 3

“No matter who he talks to, he only gives up half his information.”

Lovely golden lighting for their second confrontation

So they play some 1 on 1

The direction can’t really convey the basketball exchanges that well. Probably this arc’s biggest visual weakness. Too floaty, awkward cuts, and there’s no real sense of distance. And of course, the CG basketball is a little awkward

“Why hide anything now?” There’s a great tension between the two of them

“Anyway, as I expected, you like girls more than boys.”

The framing of the sequence where Numachi is seducing Kanbaru is great. Deep purple lighting, the bright spotlight, black bleachers in the foreground

And Numachi just kisses her cheek, and Kanbaru looks disappointed

“Let’s keep this wholesome. We’re bright kids with futures ahead, we shouldn’t jeapordize that.”

“That arm is the sign of the sins I’ve committed. That arm is mine!” Kanbaru clings to her failures

“Promises are neither for keeping nor breaking. They’re for getting out of.” Like her philosophy of running away from problems

“This isn’t the only devil I have on my body.”

“I’ve always been interested in others’ misery.”

“Why do I have this amazing talent and others don’t have it?”

Talking about her talent isolating her

She focused on defense to avoid standing out

She chose basketball to avoid a sport that played to her talent (her legs)

A whole lot of interpretive backgrounds in this arc, even for Monogatari. Tons of winding stairs to nowhere, the construction theme is highlighted through the bulldozers, etc

And when Numachi talks about losing purpose after her injury, we jump to the pool. Water again

She felt like a shell after her injury

A schoolmate came to her for advice, wanting to talk to someone even worse off than her – someone whose “life was practically over.” The central fear of this arc

“The misery of others tastes of honey”

The whole premise of Lord Devil fixing people’s problems fits into how Kanbaru can’t make an active choice, and almost wants a rescue from life itself. And the fact that the problems solve themselves point to the fact that things change. You have to make some active choices, but you also have to know things will change

“I felt that I’d found my place to die as an athlete.” So this would be my gravestone

“Why does Numachi make me so angry?”

And Numachi offers her a chance to run away, yet again, before hearing the rest, about why she’s collecting the devil parts

Episode 4

Okay, now we cut to the episode’s best visual tricks – these loosely sketched, cut-paper looking characters that look like they’re playing on flickering, old-fashioned film, with shadows like birds in a mobile spinning by in the background

Several layers of image, like a girl stuck in a fog world

Meanwhile, modern-day Numachi sits in the spotlight on an empty stage

“There isn’t anything that’s evil to everyone.” Again emphasizing that everything has multiple sides, everything changes based on perspective

This was when she discovered spells and apparitions, and also ran into Kaiki

And now we get the most beautiful shots, a shadow cutout of Numachi surrounded by shadow cutouts of falling leaves on colored, flickering paper

The paper for these spotlight scenes looks like it’s coffee-stained or something. And then the show creates “rain” by transposing what look like red chalk scratches over the surface. Beautiful stuff

Now using the paper stain technique to signify lost love, staining a shot, turning it red, and ripping it down the middle

Numachi wanted to help the first girl cursed by the devil

Now tears are represented as bright drops transposed against the main layer of the girls hugging

She called Kaiki for help

“I realized that this devil is my enemy. A business rival.”

So she gathers devil parts to swallow them all, so he can’t “grant wishes”

“If you collect them all, won’t your body turn into the devil?”

“I don’t think we’ll ever meet again. Live a good life – take entrance exams, have a boyfriend, get married, have a kid. Because that’s what I couldn’t do.”

Some decent character and fabric animation, but nothing too crazy

“Rouka Numachi killed herself three years ago.”

She slit her wrists after transferring

“It seems she had a lot going on.”

“Then the Numachi I saw was a ghost.”

“I’ll go for a run!”

And she just keeps running, and running, and running. Great slow piano ballad with mournful singing and strings in the background. Very low-key, but building well for her endless run

“My legs hurt… I should have been more careful about my form, at least. But if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to finish.” Ugh. “I’d never have gotten this far” was the original sub line, which is much better for this moment

And it’s Araragi!

He’s got a car now

She’s disappointed he abandoned his bike allegiance

Bantering about his stupid car

“Even if he switched to a car, even if he grew his hair out, he’s still Araragi, right?” Kanbaru’s fears of becoming not-herself are assuaged by seeing the senpai she idolizes is still himself even when he’s not himself. We all have many sides

Confessing her anxieties

“‘Like me?’ I’ve totally lost sight of what that might be”

“Maybe everyone plays roles to make those they want to like them like them. But maybe that’s not enough”

Kanbaru wants to act to save Numachi, but has convinced herself she shouldn’t.

“It’s not true that no one’s bothered by it. You’re bothered by it. And that’s enough of a reason for you to act.”

“Those feelings of mine will vanish someday. Time will solve the problems I have bottled up inside.” “Those aren’t your words at all. Did someone tell you that?”

“When did you get smart enough to start worrying about what other people want?”

“Anything I could help with.” “Nope!” “Glad to hear it.”

This conversation here might be Araragi’s best scene in the series

Episode 5

And she gets a package from Kaiki – the head. One more shove forward

And now we’ve got that classic Monogatari spotlight, as Kanbaru finally confronts Numachi and her own feelings

Kanbaru is worried she’ll turn into a real devil, and won’t give her the head

“You’re strong. You’d never make a wish from the devil. If you had a wish, you’d make it come true yourself.”

“It’s actually because I can’t bear to look at you.” Kanbaru isn’t running away from what scares her any longer

A match for the head. If Numachi loses, she stops collecting misery and the devil

“If you’re even a basketball player, you can’t refuse, right?” Meaning “you’re still a basketball player. You’re still who you are”

“What’s in this for you, Kanbaru?”

She says she just dislikes her

“I’m a bit of an exhibitionist.” Kanbaru feeling comfortable with herself again. So many nice small details of storytelling

“Hey Numachi. Don’t you want to go to heaven?”

Numachi’s forgotten that she killed herself. And the water begins to fill the auditorium

“I want to make sure she’s not me.”

They never had an official match back in the day. “I feel like I spent my whole time in middle school fighting you.”

“You’re right, I forgot you. But I remembered.”

“What do you think of the phrase, ‘better to do something and regret it than to not do something and regret it?’” “A loser’s whining. Better to not do something and regret it, of course.” “That’s right. Only an irresponsible third party who doesn’t know the taste of regret after doing something would say such a thing. But the best thing is to do it and not regret it.

“Breaking through will be hard. But only if I try to do it myself.”

And she dunks, and the water disappears

And they both laugh

“Even my teammates never really passed me the ball. So I can’t believe my opponent did. It’s a nice thing.”

After all these arcs of “you have to save yourself,” we finally get one that acknowledges “you are not alone”

“In life, I never really understood what I lost to”

Numachi scolding her to get back on the court, stop sitting on the sidelines

“You always took things so slowly, but you were so quick to leave.” A line that speaks of an entire unspoken history

“This story was about an old acquaintance I got to play with, and how I had a lot of fun.”

“Okay, Mom. See you later.”

And Araragi’s here, being Araragi

“There’s a value to making the wish itself. Whether it comes true or not, it’s probably better to know what kind of thing you’d wish for.” Knowing yourself

“Maybe that’s why she left me the monkey’s paw.”

She’s cutting her hair because it isn’t good for sports

And the cherry blossoms start to fall as her hair falls. “This was all part of being young.”

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