Monogatari Series Second Season – 03

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Nekomonogatari White continues in the typical Monogatari Series style, following our narrator Hanekawa Tsubasa as she tries to make sense of her homelessness and oddity problems. This one was marred by some mediocre production values, but conversations with Hitagi and Shinobu were as entertaining as ever, and it managed to end with quite the intriguing plot development.

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This shot had no business looking this bad.

Those more in the know than I have commented on Shaft being constrained in resources and talent for this series, working on the 3rd Madoka movie concurrently, as well as having some key animator devoted to the illusive Kizumonogatari… I thought the show looked just fine through the first 2 episodes, but yikes, this 3rd one really made it clear that they’re phoning it in. Tsubasa’s encounter with Kanbaru Suruga was what stuck out like a sore thumb, a scene that was the perfect opportunity for Shaft to showcase their animation skills in this talk-heavy anime.

Kanbaru’s running and climbing had me thinking of Araragi Karen’s first appearance in Nisemonogatari, a beautifully animated scene that featured Karen standing on her hands and Koyomi doing a flip over her. Here, we got some overly zoomed-in and unnecessarily off-angle shots of over-blurred animation for Suruga, a character who really deserved better. The rest of the episode didn’t look bad per se, but most of the conversations were visually uninventive and lazy with heavy reliance on faraway shots, something Shaft uses almost by default. I’m sure they’ll make up for it in the BDs like they always do, of course, but really, the TV release should be better than this. That the ending animation, which I theorized a rough draft, has remained unchanged for 3 episodes is troubling.

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A shame that our first look at twin-tailed Kanbaru had such derpy faces.

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“You are a failure as an animal.” Tsubasa’s look here was priceless.

The episode had to be carried by its writing, which fortunately was at some of the sharpest it’s ever been. It’s a shame that we won’t be seeing much more Hitagi for a while, but at least she gave a performance to remember her by. Continuing from the conversation last episode about her undiscriminating tastes, she went to town on Tsubasa, breaking down exactly how she fails at life. The theme of fake and genuine has returned from Nisemonogatari, but to Hitagi, Tsubasa being the “real thing” is a bad thing, an expression of naivete that exposes her to abuse from others. It’s funny how Karen and Tsukihi said something very similar to her in the bath later in the episode, except they meant it very positively. Of course, the Fire Sisters are warriors of justice, while Hitagi is more fluid with respect to ethics. Anyone else would have reacted very differently to such brutally honest words, but to Tsubasa they largely fell on deaf ears, due to the very characteristics Hitagi was berating her for. But they seem to have planted a seed in her mind, a clue to solving her current problems with oddities.

Hitagi’s other highlight came in her blatant conning of Karen into taking in Tsubasa, obviously aided by the younger girl’s childlike sense of justice (and intelligence). If Tsukihi weren’t with her most of the time to hold her back, one wonders how much more trouble this girl would get into. The younger (though technically the oldest character in the whole series) sister sure looked annoyed at the older one having decided this unilaterally. Though it worked out well, since Koyomi is off doing his own thing, and the Araragi parents have a strong sense of justice as one would expect. I kind of hoped we’d get to see them this time, but I guess like Hitagi’s father, their faces are not worth showing.

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What a great look she has while egging on the younger, stupider girl.

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Hitagi needs to keep up with those face exercises lest she revert back to her old self.

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Another priceless face from Hanekawa, upon learning whose clothes she was wearing.

I’m enjoying the little glimpses we’re getting into Koyomi’s concurrent adventure, especially the 2nd time around. Why did he invite Suruga out to the cram school? You’ll recall that Shinobu mentioned that girl’s lineage, something that will become more clear later in the season. And how did he get cut off from Shinobu anyway? That’s kind of a big deal. What a surprise it must have been for the hindering cat to see the one responsible for putting her away the first two times right there on the ceiling, away from her master. I’m very glad to see her back, and Maaya Sakamoto just keeps being a delight to hear (excited to hear plenty more of her in upcoming episodes). I still wonder what might have been if Aya Hirano had played this mascot character (she’s doing that for another show right now), but as I said before, Sakamoto is one of the very best, and it shows.

Having come out of her period of silence, Shinobu proves to be one of the funnest and funniest of the show’s cast as the haughty 500+ year old know-it-all with the unfitting references. Like in Nisemonogatari, she’s helping to fill the hole left behind by the original Oshino with the knowledge she picked up when she was stuck with him. Unfortunate that she couldn’t provide any insights about this tiger, but if what she says is true, that this tiger can only be seen by Hanekawa, then clearly its source and purpose must be intricately related to her personal problems. And what about the hindering cat? This episode stated outright that its return wasn’t due to the stress caused by losing her home, so what is it instead? Is it related to the tiger, and how? Maybe the clues in this episode were a bit too obscure, but maybe you’ve picked up on them? The next episode should provide some big ones.

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Hanekawa may be my favorite heroine, but no one makes me smile as much to see on screen as Shinobu.

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There was some unease as I felt I was being praised, though it was true what Tsukihi-chan had said about ‘first-rate’ people having surprising degrees of normality, and she was correct in that regard, but in my case, that was not how it was.

I was not normal.

And — I was not smart.

I doubt anyone could be more pretentious, more embellished than me — I realized this during Golden Week, and before the Cultural Festival.

So much so that I wanted to refuse it.

So much so that I felt hatred for it.
– from chapter 26 of Nekomonogatari White “Tsubasa Tiger”, translated by Canonrap, posted on Baka-Tsuki.

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Hanekawa makes some nice faces while pondering the things the Fire Sisters have to say about her.

We were treated to another gratuitous bathroom scene in this episode, featuring the Fire Sisters this time. Compared to last week’s scene or the first time we saw the Araragi bathroom in Nisemonogatari, it was rather tame. Some of that low budget reared its ugly head, as the whole scene was composed of just a handful of shots, and they didn’t even bother using steam effects to censor, instead just not drawing certain parts. Given how spacious their bathroom is, one wonders why their tub is so small, requiring the three of them to be packed in so close.

Monogatari Series Second Season - 03 Tsukihi shower cap

For reference, it has been only a week since Tsukihi Phoenix.

So at the end of this episode was a major reveal, that the Eiko cram school, a pivotal location for this series, has burned to the ground and is no more. Much like Tsubasa’s home (I think I sense a pattern here!). I liked that cliffhanger, ending an episode that didn’t make a lot of progress on the mystery with something that thickens the plot further. What the tiger has to do with all this and whether Koyomi and Suruga are okay, we’ll have to wait until next episode to find out. I just hope Shaft puts a bit more effort into that one.

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You know you’re in trouble when even the King of Oddities is left agape.

More Fun With Hitagi!

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A math/science geek and a self-dubbed cynical optimist. I don't care if it's deep, if it can make me feel something or laugh, it's fine in my book. @lvlln
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21 Responses to “Monogatari Series Second Season – 03”

  1. BlackBriar says:

    Shinobu is one of the biggest reasons I love the Monogatari series so much. We need more of her. That wicked smile of hers gave me chills. For her to be seperated from Araragi from such a distance. Maybe their bond has grown strong enough they don’t need to constantly be at each other’s side.

    With Shinobu explaining what she thinks after Black Hanekawa told her about the tiger, I guess there are also specific oddities only Shinobu, Kanbaru, Senjougahara and Sengoku can see based on what they are or what they’ve been afflicted with.

    I like what Senjougahara was telling Tsubasa about what she fails at and like I said before, the way she goes about things leaves an opportunity for countless numbers of people to take advantage of her and a normal human being has no chance of survival like that. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to be selfish.

    • lvlln says:

      Shinobu really is the best. Gotta love her references. Cut from the adaptation was her during the Napoleon anecdote going on about the ED of some old anime and how it was too lewd to show on TV today. It’s great having her back.

    • skylion says:

      Ah, this shall lay the fuel for future rivalry.

      Shinobu is, indeed, the high water mark of the show. It’s all going to end with her, and she knows it.

  2. skylion says:

    I didn’t notice the production decline as sharply as you did, but when I think back on it, you’ve made a strong case. But, this show has plenty more in the tank, in the chassis, and in the course. It can be forgiven. If the 3rd Madoka film is awesome (I try not to mention the other movie….lest I jinx it). As a matter of fact, I paused to watch the OP for the 1st Madoka film, as I write this.

    This is one episode where you might need the source material more, to fully appreciate the depths of what is happening. We get more conflict by reading it, than by seeing Hanakawa floating around like a cork on the sea.

    But, I love seeing how “out of place” Shinobu was. It was fortune that put her in Araragi’s shadow. Is it a reversal that takes her out of it?

    Yeah, I am liking Shiro, but cannot wait for Jianghsi…

  3. belatkuro says:

    So Shinobu’s hair is affected by gravity while her dress is not? Is there some trick she’s using or just some fun/derp thing that SHAFT did?

    And QUALITY or not, I can hardly tell by now. SHAFT has always been like this, understaffed and barely managing to make the episodes with consistent quality, promising to fix everything in the BDs. I’ve learned to live with it.
    And I’m much more focused on reading the subs to listen to the dialogue, which is indeed one of the great things in this show.
    Things have taken a turn with the cram school burning, plus Shinobu appearing here. I’m still wondering what Araragi is up to all this time but I heard that the next stories tell it parallel to this so I’ll just have to wait.
    Hope this isn’t the last we see of Hitagi.

    • skylion says:

      Since none of us are 1)really five hundred years old 2) stuck in the shape of an eight year old 3)all that, we will never know the moves behind that skirt trick.

      • Highway says:

        She’s borrowing clothes from Kurousagi.

        • skylion says:

          Hand selected by Shiroyasha…

        • BlackBriar says:

          It’s better to have a gravity defying dress than a fanservice proof skirt.

          • skylion says:

            Ah, Shinobu’s skirt is not totally fanservice proof. Bake15….

            • skylion says:

              It was blink and you miss it. Watch her just after she emerges, and vaults into that kick.

            • BlackBriar says:

              I remember that. It was when she stopped Black Hanekawa from strangling Araragi to death.

    • lvlln says:

      Actually, gravity affects both her hair and her skirt, but Shinobu is just really skilled at holding her skirt up. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 27 of Nekomonogatari White on Baka-Tsuki:

      The vampire said this, and stood up nyaa.

      Her feet are stuck to the ceiling, so I guess ‘stood up’ is a weird expression to use nyaa.

      And I guess you can say it was lady-like, or something, the way she skilfully clamped down on her skirt with her thighs to stop it from falling.

      All her blonde hair got turned upside-down though nyaa.

    • lvlln says:

      Yeah, this episode felt very much like the Shaft of the mid/late 2000s, the Shaft I fell in love with thanks to works like Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Pani Poni Dash!, and Hidamari Sketch (which is still going!). But Shaft today isn’t the Shaft from back then, and while they still have the skills to make low budgets look good (damned good at times, as in the 1st 2 eps of this season), this is a step down from their clearly higher budget offerings. Especially in stark contrast to Nisemonogatari, which this one follows chronologically.

      Without spoiling anything, we will know what Araragi has been up to before the season is over. However, all of it might not come as soon as you expect. Hitagi, well, she will be hard to come by until her arc at the very end, Koimonogatari “Hitagi End.” But she will do a fine job of making up for lost time.

  4. MikADo says:

    i love how kanbaru grows her hair and gets more sexier by the day 😀

    • BlackBriar says:

      She and Tsukihi are the only ones not following the trend of cutting hair short among the girls. But I think she looks better with her hair free instead of being in pigtails.

  5. Ansatsushi says:

    Anybody else noticed the full metal alchemist drawings in the episode?
    (what was that about?)

    • Ansatsushi says:

      nvm… i see that its already been talked about

    • BlackBriar says:

      Really? I didn’t notice anything like that watching the episode.

    • lvlln says:

      Nisio likes to fill the Monogatari novels with anime references, many (prob most) of which are cut from the adaptation. Doraemon is probably the most common one, with Evangelion and FMA are also mentioned on occasion. Hitagi is apparently a big FMA fan – actually, in the episode 1 character commentary for Bakemonogatari, she mentions that she’s a big fan of Greed, while Tsubasa says she likes Kimblee.

      Here’s an excerpt from chapter 22 of Nekomonogatari White that mentions Hitagi’s doodles:

      …It was just that, as I sat in the lessons, it was undeniable that all her words had become an exercise in futility, as my attention was instead drawn to the sketches Senjougahara-san had done in the blank spaces in her textbooks.

      Every page had an illustration of Hagaren on it.

      They were ridiculously good, too.

      And she’s a high-schooler about to go into university?

      (Hagaren being the Japanese shortening of Fullmetal Alchemist)

  6. […] help for you if you get stuck. But if you were paying attention, you know where Shinobu is at this moment, give or take a couple of chapters, depending on what mood the Contrary Cat is in…So we know […]

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