It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally reached the end of Monogatari’s second season with this 6th and final 6-part story arc which acts as a direct sequel to Otorimonogatari, the season’s 4th arc. Yes, this has been an oddly-structured, anachronic journey held together by overarching themes rather than narrative consistency or logic. Arc 1 (Nekomonogatari: White) detailed busty but studious Tsubasa Hanekawa’s road towards self-acceptance and growth away from her attachment to main character Koyomi Araragi. Arc 2 (Kabukimonogatari), set contemporaneously with the first, was a time travel yarn focusing mostly on diminutive vampire gremlin Shinobu Oshino and how she could have destroyed the world without the presence of Araragi in her life (aided by little ghost girl Mayoi Hachikuji). Arc 3 (Hanamonogatari) jumped forwards many months and followed Suruga Kanbaru losing her “monkey devil” curse and returning to sports following Araragi’s graduation and subsequent move to another city. Arc 4 (Otorimonogatari) detailed middle schooler Nadeko Sengoku’s descent/ascent into mad godhood due to jealousy of Araragi’s girlfriend Hitagi Senjougahara. Arc 5 (Onimonogatari) jumped back a few months to directly after Arc 2 where Araragi and Mayoi are forced to separate forever, her lie to him about her becoming merely a wandering ghost rather than a “lost cow” escalating into an existence-destroying cataclysm.
Monogatari’s second season’s stories follow a common thread - as opposed to to the first season, Araragi himself is rarely the narrator, and except for in Kabukimonogatari, barely cameos. However, his influence is keenly perceived by each of the main “heroines” who must in varying ways either grow past their dependence on him or change their relationship into something else. Hanekawa gives up her romantic feelings and becomes a whole person who does not need to be perfect all the time. Hachikuji admits that she’s not ascended to the afterlife because of her love for Araragi and must give this up for both their sakes. Kanbaru grows up and away from Araragi, her curse resolved without his input, and returns to the activities she loves. Nadeko’s obsession over Araragi twists and corrupts her to the point she ceases to be human, and as the source of the problem, Araragi can do nothing to fix it. Otorimonogatari ends with Senjogahara begging Nadeko to wait until after graduation to take Araragi’s life. It is after this bargain has been struck that Koimonogatari begins.
In what may be a stroke of insane genius, this final arc’s main viewpoint character and narrator is the supernatural specialist/con-man Deishuu Kaiki who we first met way back in Nisemonogatari, when due to Kaiki’s actions, Araragi’s sister Karen fell victim to a bee apparition. Kaiki was the cause of Nadeko’s original snake curse plus the reason that Senjogahara’s parents divorced, leading to her family’s financial destitution. I wrote in my review that I was unimpressed by Kaiki as a villain and wished that Araragi had at least “hurt him just a little bit...” Apart from a minor presence in Hanamonogatari, he’s not played much of role in the series since his original appearance. To the surprise of both the viewer and Kaiki himself, it is to this dour con artist that Hitagi Senjogahara runs when her beloved Araragi is in mortal danger from an unhinged covetous teenage girl/snake-god.
Senjougahara has been mostly absent from the second season. If I recall, her last physical appearance was during Hanekawa’s storyline Nekomonogatari: White. With her sharp tongue and biting wit, Senjougahara is a fun character and I’ve missed her. Despite being nominal lead Koyomi Araragi’s girlfriend, I don’t think they’ve interacted even once on screen this season. However, the very existence of their relationship underpins the overarching plot, due to Nadeko’s insane jealousy of “big brother Koyomi’s” lover. The first episode follow’s Senjogahara’s and Kaiki’s bizarre meeting in Okinawa and is an entertaining back and forth where she both threatens and entreats him for help. I particularly enjoyed Senjogahara repeatedly throwing her drink over him, only for him to calmly order her a replacement. He agrees with her request only because of his desire to protect his dead friend’s daughter Suruga Kanbaru (who has absolutely nothing to do with this particular plot, but Kaiki is a man of... odd motivations). Kaiki says he doesn’t particularly care what happens to Senjogahara and Araragi, but as we come to see, he puts in a great deal of effort for a job he accepts seemingly out of only vague obligation.
From this point on, Koimonogatari becomes more of a detective story - in many ways quite different to the average Monogatari tale - certainly more plot-driven, though as usual full of mostly conversations. Kaiki’s extended monologues are hilariously reminiscent of a hard-boiled crime novel, like something James Ellroy would write if ever he felt the urge to script anime. (Don’t do it, Mr Ellroy. It’ll be all downhill for you then.) Similarly, the plot twists and turns with various characters turning up to offer relevant information or red herrings. Kaiki receives a letter posted under his hotel room door warning him away, and background manipulator Izuku Gaen sends Yotsugi Ononogi (cute little dead girl in an orange dress and probably my favourite character) with 3 million yen as a bribe to make him leave.
Of course Kaiki pockets the money and stays anyway, as that’s the kind of guy he is. It’s hinted that Gaen realises this too and is using threats and coercion as forms of reverse psychology to make him deal with the Nadeko situation that’s probably partly her fault anyway. It seems the talisman that Nadeko swallowed that granted her godlike status was apparently meant to be for Araragi’s pet vampire Shinobu. Gaen wanted to install a resident deity at the shrine to oversee the city and presumably reduce the frequency of supernatural shenanigans. Anyway, none of this is really explained in detail and I wonder if it will be brought up again in the next season?
Kaiki investigates Nadeko’s house and finds her parents to be oddly incurious about her whereabouts or reasons for disappearing. They’ve not even opened her wardrobe “because she asked us not to”. Kaiki is flabbergasted by how much they must have spoiled her. He later breaks into her house and opens the forbidden wardrobe to find her secrets. Using the money gained from both Senjogahara and Gaen, he frequently visits the increasingly bonkers Nadeko at her shrine, offering 100,000 yen donations each time. (He also brings sake and get her completely wasted - but hey - she’s a god now, not a minor, so I guess this is ok?) Despite completely renovating and rebuilding the formerly derelict shrine, Nadeko is disappointed that no-one has come to visit the newly anointed Snake God. (Except Araragi, who it turns out has still been visiting to plead with her to see sense. Each time he leaves badly beaten and close to death.) Kaiki posits that she is even more stupid as a god than as a human being and will be unable to see through his deceptions. He plans to convince her that Araragi and Senjogahara are already dead, thereby releasing them from Nadeko’s vengeance.
Of course Kaiki’s efforts are completely pointless as even though it looks like everything is going his way, as soon as he tells the lie, Nadeko sees completely through him. Her very existence as a god was built upon a lie told to her by the creepy Ougi Oshino, who has been a near constant borderline malevolent presence this season. (Hanekawa even turns up at one point to ask Kaiki if his specialist colleague Meme Oshino (who she has been fruitlessly searching the world for) had a niece, like Ougi claims to be, and Kaiki declares otherwise.) Nadeko goes full Divine Vengeance on Kaiki, beating the crap out of him until he confronts her with the secrets in her wardrobe - she’s an amateur manga artist and she’s very shy about her work. This is enough to return her to her senses and Kaiki negotiates with her to return to being human and to seek a career in manga - she does seem to be good at it, after all. A god, defeated by manga. Hmmm. Cute.
Kaiki knocks Nadeko out by using one of his speciality fake apparitions - this time a slug(!) and tells the newly arrived Araragi if she doesn’t wake up in a few days to “just sprinkle her with salt or something”. He lies to Araragi about being sent by Gaen to deal with the Nadeko situation and orders Araragi to stay the hell away from Nadeko for the rest of her life. Araragi of course can’t take a hint and insists he must make amends as her actions were somehow his fault. Kaiki argues convincingly that Nadeko will be “a useless person” if she can’t get over Araragi and he should stick to his own girlfriend and not embroil himself in the problems of other girls. Araragi loses another suitor.
A final sting in the tale - Kaiki leaves the shrine, intending never to return to the city, as originally promised. In what could either be seen as just desserts or malicious interference, the kid he initially inflicted with the snake curse that rebounded on Nadeko back in Bakemonogatari takes him by surprise with a vicious attack. This was apparently Ougi’s idea... We fade to black not knowing whether Kaiki survives or not. I assume he must do, due to his later chronological appearance in Hanamonogatari, though perhaps that was as a ghost...
Overall this was a very strong story that tied together at least some of the plot and themes of the second season. Kaiki’s character was explored and deconstructed much as Araragi’s female friends had been over the course of the season, and Kaiki’s almost heroic actions led to the online meme of him as “best girl”. I mean, he even gets to sing during the opening sequence, a hilarious duet with Senjogahara with eye-catching 80's throwback anime references. The story recontextualises many of his previous actions, in that although he broke apart Senjogahara’s family, he did it in her best interests because the alternative of doing nothing would have been far worse for her. It doesn’t excuse his petty con artistry and exploitation of schoolkids for minor financial gain, but he is a far more sympathetic character now.
This was a good season, though very patchy. I reviewed it in order of light novel publication, so this was the order intended by author NisiOisin. I don’t get why he structured it this way. To me it seems like his attention wandered across his timeline from one character to another and that there was no grand plan regarding it. Although I mentioned overarching themes at the start of this article, they hold together the disparate components of the season only tenuously. I shouldn’t need to consult a wiki to keep abreast of the timeline. It looks like things don’t get much better for the upcoming “final season” because its chronology also seems to veer around like a drunk snake god with too much sake in its belly. The season is less than the sum of its parts, but some of these individual parts are great. Bonus points to Koimonogatari for perhaps having the least amount of creepy fanservice/paedophilia of any arc so far.
See you next time when I tackle the Orange Mint goodness of Monogatari Final Season: Tsukimonogatari.
Format: PAL Region 2 DVD/Region B Blu-ray
Directors: Tomoyuki Itamura, Akiyuki Shinbou
Writer: Akiyuki Shinbou
Based on the Light Novel by: NisiOisin
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Classification: BBFC 15
Distributor: MVM Entertainment
Original Japanese TV Broadcast: November 23 2013 - December 28 2013
UK DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: 13 April 2015
Runtime: 144 minutes
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