Monogatari S2 – Episode 5

Alright Monogatari, time to tell us what the fuck is going on. Araragi and Kanbaru are out there… somewhere. Doing something – possible tiger related, possibly not. Shinobu is on her own (or maybe not, who the fuck knows what happened during that massive chapter skip last episode), the tiger is threatening Senjougahara and Araragi’s homes, and Hanekawa has decided the moment has arrived. No more playing house with Senjougahara or the fire sisters, no more relying on Neko to sweep the bad feelings away. It’s time to wake up.

Episode 5

0:00 – Actually very excited for this. If there’s one thing Monogatari arcs know how to do, it’s nailing the dismount.

0:41 – “I buried you for my own ego.”  It’s all coming together!

1:17 – “So I’m saying this for the first time: please help me.” And… character arc concluded? I mean, that was kind of it, right? Honestly admitting a need to rely on others, no longer accepting fate as it presents itself and defending herself with an overtly flawless and unfazed exterior? Yep, looks like we’re done here. Pack it up, guys!

1:45 – “A new segment my heart has cut off from itself.” Artfully put, Hanekawa

2:20 – Loving this constantly-reassembling montage. Shinbo’s going all-out

2:37 – Show off all you want Shinbo, I love it 

3:22 – “Stress and envy. Anxiety and agony.” That’s sweet characterization, but it’s also what’s made Hanekawa so unrelatable for so long. It’s hard to relate to someone whose negative emotions are immediately swept up and removed – not only does she intentionally create her own facade, her apparitions constantly perform mental surgery to support it. It puts everything in a pretty satisfying context

3:42 – I’ll take feats you can only perform in animation for 500. This sequeeeence

5:39 – “Just by having a home to go back to, why do I feel like I can do anything?” Interesting. So Hanekawa’s acceptance of the situation has at least given her stress a home, even if she still considers herself homeless?


7:26 – But seriously, all anime looks the same, amirite?

8:01 – “I don’t know everything, but everything burns.” Isin is having too much fun with that catchphrase

9:01 – “Doesn’t she know better than anyone that the concept of ‘natural parents’ is nonsense?” Ooh, sick burn, tiger!

9:44 – “I am a machine. I will not be moe. ” The tiger is firm on this

12:18 – Massive pallete shift when Hanekawa takes over. Interestingly, the exterior world has shifted from artificial bright white to natural near-blacks

12:47 – “I don’t want to be ‘real.’ I want to be human.” Man, in the context of this series, a line like that…

13:03 – “Let’s eat a meal together.” The catalyst that started both the conflict and the actual arc, and the simple act they spent an entire episode demonstrating her ability to do with Senjougahara

13:34 – When narrative catharsis fails, try electricity 

14:40 – “She called me part of her family!” Does Isin have problems at home or something? Family troubles on the brain. Also, dear lord these shots 

15:35 – These GODDAMN TEXT SCREENS. This is actually the first episode I haven’t paused to read all of them. Frickin’ Daisuki player…

16:35 – Bet you think you’re pretty cool, huh, Araragi? 

19:00 – “I’ve always wanted him to pat me like this.” …yeah. Well, Araragi did have to come back to actually resolve the envy/“I never told him” thread. His hero act kinda makes me gag though

Oh wait, holy shit, this arc is from Hanekawa’s perspective. This is *Hanekawa’s* Araragi

20:09 – Fantastic. I love the shift from “Oh jeez, I got rejected” to actually embracing her emotions as she draws back the apparitions

And Done

Whew! What an episode! Maybe it’s just cause it was narrated by the actually-coherent Hanekawa, but that was a really satisfying arc. Everything resolved in extremely cathartic fashion, the threads tied together in a very neat narrative bow, there were a number of standout scenes (that “drawing her sadness back into herself” has to be one of my favorite moments of the series so far, and the Shinobu/Neko conversation was also great), and dear god was it beautiful. This show is always beautiful, but this episode was gorgeous. Firing on all cylinders indeed – this will be a damn hard act to top. Nice work Isin, nice work Shinbo. That was fantastic.

Monogatari S2 – Episode 3

Welp, we’re two episodes in and so far the show has basically established “Senjougahara feels weird, conflicted, and somewhat defensive about her relationship with Hanekawa,” “Hanekawa has a justifiably warped perspective on self-worth” and “the tiger has somehow imprinted on Hanekawa, which seems to be a bad thing and might be related to her house burning down.” For a Monogatari series, that’s a pretty solid list! I really liked how the end of last week’s episode brought Black Hanekawa and Senjougahara into direct contact, and I’m hoping we see more intermingling of the spirit conflict and personal conflict going forward. And we’re off!

Episode 3

0:35 – “You both help people, but it feels like you’re almost opposites. It feels like Araragi is a fake, and you’re the real thing.” Oh god, are they going to bring up every theme of this series in the first minute? I don’t have all day, Monogatari

1:24 – “I’m sure the difference is the ‘grumbling the whole time’ part.” So… Araragi does what he’s supposed to because he feels obligated to, whereas that kind of distance doesn’t exist for Hanekawa, and she just accepts all responsibilities and burdens as the only way her life could be?

1:48 – “If you’re a good person, people will exploit you. That’s why Araragi pretends to be a bad person.” Shades of Karen Bee here as well. Every single theme indeed

2:19 – “You don’t feel anything about the ill will people have. You accept them as they are. You’re too pure white.” I always got the feeling that Hanekawa just expects people to continuously disappoint her, and that her light and dark sides were much more closely linked than Senjougahara is proposing here

3:00 – “You will fail in the wild.” Or pour all your negative feelings into some unhealthy release valve. Senjougahara is right here – she needs to embrace both sides of herself simultaneously

3:12 – That feeling when it’s super hard to rewind and pause to catch all the single-frame text in this stupid simulcast but the text ends up being irrelevant anyway

3:57 – Their skirt lengths are indicative of their personalities. I’ve noticed other shows do this too. I don’t know if this is actually something you get to choose, or just used as easy visual shorthand in anime

4:21 – And Araragi once again relies on Kanbaru when he actually needs an assistant for one of his adventures. Is this because she has the most in common with him? Because he knows she’ll look after herself? Because their relationship is the least fraught with weird tension? Actually, yeah, that’s probably it – aside from maybe Hachikuji, she’s probably the person he shares the most normal friendship with in the series.

5:00 – They’re very strongly casting this conversation from Kanbaru’s perspective. Look at this shot progression. It makes me feel like she’s “sizing Hanekawa up,” and basically pushing on her conversational comfort level in the same way Senjougahara was in the last couple episodes

5:56 – “It’s unreasonable for me to be mulling over him asking Kanbaru for help” (instead of me). And once again she pushes down her justifiable negative emotions

6:27 – “To think Araragi would seek that wench’s help over mine.” And of course Senjougahara has zero issues admitting this pisses her off

7:21 – “You won’t go? Then I won’t either.” Damned if she’s gonna let Hanekawa be more mature about this than she is. Not that competing with Hanekawa for maturity points is particularly mature

9:11 – “What a coincidence, running into you at your house like this. Did you know Hanekawa’s house burned down? Of course you did.” Senjougahara sure is a subtle one. I’m actually liking her character a lot more in this series – her strengths and weaknesses are more accurately portrayed when Araragi isn’t around

9:30 – “She has no place to sleep tonight.” Oh god, there’s gonna be another bad one, isn’t there? Keep it in your goddamn pants, Isin

10:09 – “NOT LIKE YOU CAN HELP OR ANYTHING.” This is the best face 

10:55 – “So I’m now at the Araragi residence.” I am extraordinarily apprehensive at the moment. I mean, this is a fine plot development in the abstract, but… just…

12:09 – “Oh, don’t worry about talking to our parents. They too have a passion for justice.” Goddamnit the fire sisters are ridiculous.

12:44 – That’s a lot of clothes in that hamper. Oh god

14:33 – Whew. That actually worked. It wasn’t hammered as a sex joke like the shower scene was – it was a generally neutral and honest conversation (in fact, more honest than most of the conversations in this series), played much in the same way as the Shinobu/Araragi bath scene from Nisemonogatari. Thank you, Shinbou

16:08 – And now these two get a real conversation? Man, for all that “Araragi best MC” nonsense, this show sure does get interesting when he isn’t around. I love the composition of that shot, by the way

17:55 – “I guess the difference between the you before and the current you is like the difference between Terminator and Terminator 2.” That’s… surprisingly accurate

17:59 – The cat absentmindedly bats at the piece of string as it talks. These guys must think they’re pretty clever

19:50 – “We’re the same? That puts me at ease, but also puts a heavy burden on my heart.” So is she just relearning the forgotten lessons of Neko Kuro? I figured that movie pretty definitely stated “Black Hanekawa” was just a convenient way for Hanekawa to set aside the elements of herself she found painful or inconvenient

22:44 – Now that’s an iconic image 

And Done

And Monogatari meanders forward in its own way. A few things I liked in this episode – seeing the relationship between Hanekawa and Kanbaru, the way this arc continues to very frankly humanize Senjougahara, and particularly the meeting between Vampire and Cat. There were a bunch of beautiful shots in that last act, and we learned that Hanekawa’s tiger is basically an unknown apparition, meaning it might be something self-generated or fake (for whatever that’s worth in this series). I have to admit I’d gotten pretty attached to that old run-down building, and I’m guessing things will be coming to a head shortly. I’m eager to see how the potential revelation of whatever Araragi’s been up to will reflect off Hanekawa’s tiger – there’s obviously the possibility that Hanekawa’s link with the tiger is responsible for the destruction of both her own home and the old building, which would make the next target Senjougahara’s house. Tense stuff!

Monogatari S2 – Episode 2

Please keep it classy, Monogatari. I know you gotta do your thing, and I know that in the long run one classless, objectifying episode wouldn’t exactly ruin the purposeful direction you exhibit elsewhere. Sure, it would introduce the strong presence of camera as voyeur and audience proxy, clashing horrifically with the generally character-centered direction and overtly objectifying the characters, devaluing them as people meant to be empathized with. But we could get past that – it’s not like Neko’s panties served much continuous purpose beyond the initial “Hanekawa exposed” metaphor. But seriously. Just… just don’t, Monogatari. Okay?

…let’s get it over with.

Episode 2

1:23 – “Araragi is Araragi.” He is a weird one. It’s nice to get a bit more reflection on his personality from an outsider perspective, considering he himself is honestly a bit more of a cypher than I’d like. Of course, that’s a complaint I’d level against many of the characters in this show, who’re often stylized to a degree that makes them utterly unrelatable or used as mouthpieces for Isin’s own self-indulgent banter. But Araragi… hm. He’s got that strong savior streak, which the show always punishes him for (which is I think a necessary quality in any semi-harem that wants to make actual points). He’s a huge, unabashed lech. He’s a pretty unreliable narrator, since the way he and thus often the camera itself views other characters is dependent on his current mood and relationship with them (one great example of this comes from Neko Black, where early on, when Araragi has just decided his feelings for Hanekawa are sexual-frustration-based lust, the camera is all over Karen, but when he comes back later after realizing Hanekawa’s in trouble and the situation is actually serious, Karen is utterly ignored). But then he’ll also whip out Isin’s crazy plot-resolving monologues, which honestly always come across as unbelievably aware of the subtext and themes in a way he very rarely demonstrates. Honestly, I’d really like for this series to humanize him a bit more – he’s too good at what he does

1:45 – “I’ll talk about that story a little later.” I still very much like how Hanekawa is so much more careful and precise in her narration than Araragi. I haven’t read the books, but I get the feeling this trick works even better here, where the camera is also so actively contributing to the storytelling

5:06 – Alright, that was fine. They just made a derpy joke of it, contrasting Hanekawa’s deadpan monologue with the fanservice. Not much else to it

6:19 – “We’ll have to sleep together. Rest assured. I won’t do anything.” Senjougahara’s having a whole lot of fun with their power balance being upended like this

6:25 – Is that her Araragi impression?  Either way, I like that we’re getting all these weird, ungainly Senjougahara faces now that the camera’s eye isn’t so tied to Araragi, who always sees her as terrifying and beautiful

8:33 – “Ever since I learned that, they’ve been irresistibly tasty.” It’s also funny seeing Senjougahara play against a straight man who isn’t at all intimidated by her – she comes off as much less imposing and mysterious, and more just kind of a weirdo

9:44 – “In that case, why don’t we tell each other the parts of Araragi that we like?” She’s calling your bluff, Senjou…

12:10 – Man, we even get Neko’s perspective, complete with sweet theme music? This season’s spoiling me

15:00 – “An apparition that sides with humans. That’s not that uncommon.” And becoming even less so! I kind of like that overall progression of the series – in Bake, basically all the apparitions are antagonists, aside from Shinobu’s hero turn at the end. In Nise, a human is the antagonist for each of the arcs, and the most prominent apparition is Araragi’s own sister. In Neko, the apparition only acts out Hanekawa’s own desires, and is actually forced by Hanekawa to continue causing mayhem and playing scapegoat. The ambiguity of the apparitions plays nicely with the other ambiguities scattered through the series (truth, family)

15:10 – This sequence is beautiful, by the way. And Shinbou is once again using quick, purposeful jump cuts to relate moments of panic or high tension

15:58 – “That girl saw me. That alone is important.” Hm. Obviously he’s stating his argument, but they emphasized that line a bit more than most, and this whole conversation has fixated on her seeing him being the catalyst, with his own presence being a given. Might be thematically relevant

Oh, forgot you guys were here. This is the first time I’ve done as-airing writeups for a Monogatari instead of just compiling things into an essay afterwards, so as with all Isin crap, I won’t always be offering immediate guesses on everything – normally this stuff builds over time towards a point that isn’t necessarily obvious at first

17:21 – “You won’t drain it all in an instant, right?” Speaking of that truth/appearances thing, Senjougahara’s kind of a nice representative for the series overall that way – her constant need to put up the appearance of strength is a kind of actual strength, since the result is the same. Kind of like the opposite of Hanekawa, who’s filled with improprietous anger but keeps up a completely civil front

It’s also just great seeing these two meet. I wonder if they’d get along better than Senjou and normal Hanekawa?

19:20 – “Were you aware butter and jam are things that exist?” Man, all this just so she can build up to actually advising Hanekawa on where to stay? You are the tsun-est of tsuns, Senjou

21:25 – Is Hanekawa’s lack of flavor preference supposed to reflect her general tendency to just go through the motions of what human beings do, or is Senjou actually just being tsun as all hell?

21:56 – “You accept everything that comes your way.” Hm. Seems to link with the Tiger’s “she saw me, and that’s all that matters” bit. Not enough there yet, though…

And Done

Ah, that’s interesting – reflecting her lack of preference for most elements of life against her alleged love of Araragi. That would make Senjou’s over-aggressiveness here make sense.

Anyway, great episode overall. The dreaded shower scene was basically just a throwaway gag, and most of this was dedicated to Senjougahara’s incredibly mixed feelings towards Hanekawa. Then, to mix up the thrilling back and forth of each of them making breakfast for the other, there was that beautiful and fast-paced exchange with the tiger. I like the way Hanekawa and Neko kind of contrast against Araragi and Shinobu, and I also like Neko actually becoming a full character in her own right (even if a lot of her instincts are reflective of Hanekawa’s true intentions). As always, the fact that very little is actually happening does nothing to prevent the plot from barrelling forward

Monagatari S2 – Episode 1

Ah, Monogatari.

After two seasons, three additional episodes, and a film, I’m still kinda not sure how I feel about this series. I mean, it’s got a lot going for it, to be sure. The direction is always distinctive and occasionally pretty brilliant. The writing is uniquely Isin-ish and occasionally focused. It arguably has a lot to say, even if it sometimes feels like Shinbou’s weird brand of feminism is directly competing with Isin’s strange form of sexism (or vice versa). It’s basically the opposite of a show like Madoka, where everything works together towards a single focused goal – in Monogatari there is rarely narrative focus or anything resembling pacing, ideas bounce all over the place, and it will twist and turn in whatever directions it wishes, focusing one episode on a single joke extended way too far and another on the fundamental nature of family and human connection. It also indulges both these very driven creators in some of their worst instincts – Isin in his tendency towards losing character in favor of his own self-indulgent voice, and Shinbou in his tendency to make the direction itself the point (which, admittedly, sometimes works to actually counteract the Isin problems – I’d probably like Nise a whole lot less if Shinbou were playing it straight). It’s strange. It’s unique. It’s sometimes problematic, sometimes pretty subversively progressive. It’s Monogatari.

Episode 1

0:35 – HANEKAWA’S THE NARRATOR THIS ARC? Wow. Fantastic. Couldn’t have asked for a better choice

1:20 – “This is a story of betrayal for you to all be disappointed in me.” Hanekawa has often come across as a superhuman cypher, which, while extremely true to Araragi’s perception of her, isn’t really helpful as characterization. I’m very happy to see an arc from her perspective. (Incidentally, this is also why Senjougahara isn’t normally that interesting to me – Araragi’s skewed, idealized perspective of her makes for awesome unreliable narration, but much less coherent humanization)

3:32 – I love how people unfamiliar with anime claim it all somehow looks similar. There is no goddamn way you could confuse a Monogatari series with any other series – its visual style is so freaking distinctive. That clean, shining, almost clinical look, the incredibly flat color contrasts, the overbearing brightness of day and overbearing gloom of night. It’s (intentionally) staged like an elaborate but un-lived-in theatrical stage, a decision that perfectly accompanies the hyper-stylized dialogue and extended, monologue-focused scenes that drive the story forward. I have a number of complaints with this series, but goddamn do we ever need more productions this committed to their unique aesthetic

4:01 – “I finished breakfast, changed clothes, and left the house immediately.” I like how instead of Araragi’s elaborate over-explanations of everything physically occurring, Hanekawa’s text frames are extremely matter-of-fact bullet points of her day

7:00 – Goddamn Shinbou you are so good. I can’t really stop and point out every great thing he does, but this tiger scene definitely draws attention to itself that way. The quick jump cuts between her nervous ticks and panicked thoughts underlined by her breathing really trap the viewer in the claustrophobia of the moment

9:00 – Senjougahara advices Hanekawa to overcome her hesitance and call Araragi, but her eyes jump constantly from Hanekawa’s lips, to legs, to skirt, etc. She is terrified of their relationship, but her words would never betray that

9:10 – Hah! Then Hanekawa tries to make eye contact, and sees it all. I thought Neko Kuro was kind of a step down for this series, but this episode is putting its best foot forward

10:27 – “I can die together with you, at least.” A private joke? How much did Araragi actually tell her about Golden Week?

11:24 – “I’m probably completely unable to ask for help from another person.” Oh really, Hanekawa? I wouldn’t have guessed

12:10 – “It was like I was trying to strike out all the contradictions. This was very like me.” Reordering perspective to make her life liveable seems like a pretty persistent theme of Hanekawa’s stories. Fits nicely with the opening shot of a vacuum automatically cleaning up the stray loose ends of her home life, until it bumps right into her and forces her awake

12:39 – “Did I just skip a chapter? Oh well.” Speaking of erasing unwanted loose ends… yeah, that’s probably not gonna come up again

14:36 – “You don’t have to call people like that Mother and Father, do you?” Senjougahara is pretty goddamn over paying lip service to traditional family definitions. Hanekawa could learn something from her

15:45 – I like how they contrast “I now see that what I did was crazy, I wasn’t thinking it through” against a pan across all the clothes and materials she had prepared precisely because she’d thought it through, and given the fact that asking anyone for help was utterly impossible, this course of action seemed perfectly reasonable

16:26 – Staying at Senjougahara’s house. Oh god, I’ve heard about this. Hopefully Shinbou’s steady hand will steer Isin’s overtly fetishistic nonsense into something purposeful

17:00 – “Almost feels like my home.” In that it’s barely one at all?

17:49 – Aaaand clothes off. You could say this scene is Senjougahara asserting that she’s not intimidated by Hanekawa’s sexuality, but I dunno if I’d buy it

19:20 – “Let’s take a shower together.” See, it’s so far beyond normal it feels like it has to mean something, but Isin is such a goddamn perv it could just be his boner talking. But he’s also such a gifted writer that it could also be Senjougahara trying to counteract both the vulnerability she felt in her first scene here and the necessary admission of their relationship (or at least Hanekawa’s importance to Araragi) that this whole letting-her-stay thing implies, by way of making a big aggressive front of not being intimidated by Hanekawa physically. Which would certainly fit in with Senjougahara’s big, defensive, often ill-thought-through gestures in the past. Which makes me think the camera here is Senjougahara’s intent being shown, as she metaphorically growls and gnashes her teeth at the threat Hanekawa represents

19:30 – “No, wait a minute! I sense a threatening atmosphere.” Oh good. I was right. I really prefer shows impressing me to shows disappointing me

20:30 – “I didn’t expect you to say yes.” “It won’t look good if I distance myself from the girl who slapped me while she was crying.” A BATTLE FOR THE AGES. It’s funny that this is essentially no different from characters fighting over a man in a normal harem, but, you know, not written by idiots

21:47 – “But that means we have to handle the tiger here by ourselves.” PLEASE YES. SENJOUGAHARA AND HANEKAWA, SPIRIT-FIGHTING DETECTIVES

One sign of a good show: it’s just as compelling when the main character isn’t even there

And Done

Bam! Strong showing right out the gates by Monogatari. This episode was certainly very, well, very Monogatari, and featured a clear return to the focused direction I was so enamored of in Nise. Making Hanekawa the protagonist was also an awesome choice – Araragi’s dominant position in this world can be almost overbearing, and it’s nice to see how the character dynamics work in his absence. The pair of Senjou and Hanekawa in particular is fantastic – the way their rivalry expresses itself, through Senjougahara’s brittle and barely-hidden insecurity and Hanekawa’s offhand, absolute confidence, makes for funny and utterly true-to-character drama and conversation. The minutes kind of flew by with this one – it seemed to combine the sharper narrative focus of Neko with the ostentatiously intelligent direction of Nise. If it keeps up like this, it could easily be my favorite Monogatari yet.

Blood Ties and Nekomonogatari

Well, this one was definitely simpler than Nise. Simple enough that I figured this writeup would be redundant – but I looked around online and, surprisingly, I couldn’t find a piece that really dove into the central theme. I’d planned on working on my backlog, but…

Alright. Fine. Hey guys. It’s Bobduh. Let’s talk Nekomonogatari.

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