Monogatari: Second Season

It’s been a while since I watched anything from the Monogatari series. It’s a fantastic series that’s witty, funny, and has a style that confuses yet intrigues. I’ve been wanting to watch Nekomonogatari: Shiro (or Monogatari: Second Season) for a while now, but my conscience told me that studies were more important. Now, with a bit more free time on my hands, I decided to follow up on the latest of the series.

The first thing that came to mind was that the animation had improved. It was pretty good in the previous animes, but it got even better in this season. Also, I didn’t like Senjōgahara’s new short hair-do. Her long, purple hair was something that defined her for me, and with it gone, it seemed wrong in a way.

Monogatari follows quite distinct arcs, and even if the content can be hard to follow at times, it’s manageable with their disparate storylines that somehow still connect to each other. I love the non-formulaic way they do the animation, and how strange everything is portrayed, mirroring the strangeness of the supernatural and the world they are in.

The first arc was Tsubasa Tiger, where Hanekawa was confronted with a white tiger. Araragi was mostly absent from the arc, which gave Senjōgahara more screentime. She seems far warmer and less yandere than before, but still possesses her special way of speaking. It’s funny to see her accost Hanekawa in a way that Araragi always accosts Mayoi, just in a more mature and feminine way.

Truth be told, I didn’t expect the fan service, but hey, I’m a hot-blooded male and that stuff is welcome. The story is pretty draggy though, and a veil is draped almost permanently on the arc. That’s how the Monogatari series works though, and at least it’s unique. For a person who critiques all the stuff he reads and watches, I’m pretty impatient with things like foreshadowing, preferring to take the story at face value and get surprised when the creators intend for me to be.

I admire how everything said or done in Monogatari seems unimportant at first, but comes back around to be a key part in understanding the story. It’s part of the series’ charm, and this arc reminded me of just how well written each story is.

As for the rest of the arc…well, it eventually culminated in Hanekawa becoming more human and less perfect. It was pretty clear from the beginning that the problems all stemmed from her private life, but I couldn’t remember too much about her background, so it wasn’t so obvious what it was that caused this particular oddity. I’m glad she managed to have a decent ending for the story; I have a ton of pity for her.

The 2nd arc is Mayoi Vampire, about Hachikuji and how saving her in the past, changed the present. It’s basically a take on alternate history, and the powers of the butterfly effect. In the end, the story’s key is not really Hachikuji, but Shinobu and her development in an alternate universe. It gave me an insight into Shinobu that previous stories didn’t really give, but her relationship with Araragi still boggles me a little.

Whatever. She’s practically the mascot. No need for explanations.

The 3rd arc is Nadeko Medusa, about Nadeko and her encounter with the white snake once more. I have to admit that I forgot about Nadeko; she just wasn’t that prominent a character compared to Senjōgahara or Hanekawa. Nonetheless, the first episode of the arc triggered my memories.

It’s a pretty dark and twisted arc, especially since it’s about the emotional development of kids. I don’t have pity for Nadeko unlike Hanekawa, who has a pretty messed up life. Nadeko is just…just another child. A child who uses the same sort of techniques that even adults use, to avoid responsibility and trouble. To play the victim. To protect themselves.

And I see nothing out of place with that; it’s human nature. I understand it, but I strongly dislike it. That’s why I have no pity for Nadeko, because it’s normal behaviour, and it’s something I detest. But to make a child the centre of this exposition of human nature…it’s pretty twisted all right. That’s a real scary story

The 4th arc is Shinobu Time, where it initially delves into Shinobu’s first visit to Japan, 400 years ago. Then it became something I couldn’t make head or tails of, until the final episode in the arc. I suppose the story is about consequences, about being honest with oneself, and about having to learn to let go and saying goodbye. It’s less sad and more poignant; it’s not a bad ending, just not a very happy one.

But seriously, there’s too much lolicon behaviour from Araragi in this arc. I mean, messing with Hachikuji is a standard from him, but kissing Ononoki and Shinobu? Geez.

The last arc is Hitagi End, effectively a continuation of the Nadeko arc. Kaiki gets recruited to help, and unexpectedly, he does. It’s something I didn’t expect from Kaiki, but it’s funny how things go. To think that that one scene back from Bakemonogatari was planned to be used only now…mad respect. But the arc doesn’t explain anything more about Kaiki’s relationship with the Gaen family, so that remains a mystery.

Throughout the arc, it seems like Kaiki does care more than he appears to. Of course, the truth is obscured under his sarcasm and persona, so it’s not clear just how much he gives a crap about other human beings. Beyond that, we see that Nadeko is still very much normal, and should never have landed in such a situation.

Manipulated into becoming a god…that just makes me want to watch the arc that succeeds this, to find out how our gang of intrepid protagonists deal with this.

But in the end, what I love most about Monogatari is that they are stories about the human condition, written in the form of the supernatural. There’s always fantastic character development, because the arcs ARE about the characters; their troubles, their fears, their growth, their maturation. The roundabout way the stories are written, makes it hard to grasp the point that they foreshadow right from the very first scene. But I see that as a feat of storytelling, to be able to talk about the obvious in such a non-obvious way.

And to be able to connect everything together in such a seamless manner, to create intriguing characters with varied backgrounds that make them so unique…I have much admiration for the author of Monogatari, and I can only wait impatiently for the next instalment.

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