SPOILER: She doesn’t really know everything. She’s just really good at looking up stuff on her phone.
|What an eventful episode was! In typical Monogatari fashion, Tsubasa has been bouncing from person to person, with conversations lightly touching upon the oddity problem at hand, and it was only in this one that the situation was made somewhat clear to her. She had the harsh words of a couple of adults to thank for that, including the hip new character, Gaen Izuko.|
Episode somewhat feels like a mirror image of Shinobu, in a way. Male, also blonde, only half vampire, and looks legal when in fact very (VERY) underage instead of the other way around.
When was the last time the series showed the faces of 3 new characters in one episode? As best as I can remember, that was the very first one with 5. Kagenui and Yotsuki were also introduced in one episode of Nisemonogatari, but pretty much everyone else has come one at a time. Until this episode, in which Koyomi’s mother, Episode, and Gaen Izuko all came on screen for the first time. Of course, Episode wouldn’t have been a new character if Kizumonogatari had been released by now as originally planned, and Shaft missed an opportunity to give us a sneak peak at what they have done in the form of faux flashbacks. But who am I kidding? Shaft can’t be counted on to provide animation for actual events of the show; I certainly shouldn’t be expecting anything extra from them.
It would have been sweet, though. Without Kizumonogatari, we are missing a large part of Tsubasa’s story, including her introduction to series protagonist Koyomi. As mentioned in this episode, Episode almost killed Tsubasa during that story, which through the course of events ended up creating a bond between her and Araragi, something stronger and more meaningful than anything we’ve seen in the anime, I daresay. Making use of his previous appearance, Episode’s role here was to remind Tsubasa of what she was like during Spring break before her cat problem, before she had cut away all of her blackness that left her so pure white like Hitagi had called her.
Oh Shaft. Trolling us with all those near-misses only to give it up in full at the end.
Shaft had some fun in showing Koyomi’s mother, teasing for most of the conversation with shots obscuring her face, only to end with a quick flash of a face shot of her at the end. She reminded us of her son and daughters with her insistence to getting into Tsubasa’s problems and dispensing unprompted advice. She is right, Tsubasa is a victim of child abuse (even without factoring in that one incident of domestic violence in Nekomonogatari Black), and she is unable or unwilling to see it. By forcing her to hear that she is missing something that she can’t see, repeating Hitagi’s message to some extent, she drove Tsubasa closer to the truth that she arrived at by the end of the episode.
I find interesting how this series depicts adults. They don’t appear too often, but when they do, they are almost always intelligent, reasonable, and understanding, often dispensing much needed advice. The only adults in Bakemonogatari were Oshino Meme and Hitagi’s father, both of whom provided ample help to other characters in the series. Nisemonogatari introduced villains Kaiki and Kagenui, but even for all their ill will, they were both people who could be reasoned with and ended up being convinced to leave town through words. This series keeps hitting the point that the world is a much darker place than it appears, but there is still hope and help that exists from those with more experience and wisdom than oneself.
If we assume that the calendar in this world is the same as ours, 2017 is the earliest that the Monogatari series can take place. Thus explaining the amazing zoom feature in Gaen’s phone.
I found it hard to resist her. She’s fabulous and she knows it (obviously!). Yes, we will see more of her this season.
Which brings us to Gaen Izuko, senpai to the trio of Oshino Meme, Kaiki Deishuu, and Kagenui Yozuru, the woman who knows everything (voiced by Satsuki Yukino, whom you might remember starred with Tsubasa’s voice actress Yui Horie in Love Hina, a show that proved to be Horie’s breakout hit over a decade ago). What a great look she has, a woman at least in her 30s who looks like a teenager in her clothing several sizes too big for her petite body. VOFAN didn’t illustrate her at all in the 6 volumes this season is covering, but he did draw her in a later one, and Akio Watanabe‘s design seems to be based off of that. Shaft handled the visuals very well during her appearance, introducing her spying on Tsubasa with her cell phone from afar, then composing the conversation so that she looked down from a bright, colorful platform to the mundane intersection where Tsubasa stood, like a god looking down from the heavens. The production values haven’t been the best, but these guys are still masters at lighting and composition.
Gaen so far has fully supported her claim of knowing everything, knowing not only of Tsubasa’s tiger problem, but also the nature of the problem and what to tell her so that she could make progress in solving it. Of course, we could look at it skeptically and figure that she might have overheard Tsubasa mention the tiger to Episode, and she heard the events of spring break from Oshino and thus knew that Tsubasa had a crush on Koyomi. But this being a fantasy story, it probably makes sense to take her word for it. She did have that feeling of being above all the petty affairs of humans that often accompanies such godlike capabilities. Not that she was humble about it, mind you; she revelled in her superiority over others, in how she talked down to both Episode and Tsubasa.
If you squint, you can see how Gaen is positioned way above Hanekawa. Notice also how that she always has a multicolored backdrop behind her.
Despite her harsh words, Gaen was perhaps the most significant figure in getting Tsubasa headed the right direction, telling her the name of this tiger oddity. Or rather, naming it. “Kako,” the inflaming tiger, which informed Tsubasa of what would happen to the Senjougahara and Araragi homes if the tiger was allowed to continue. And Gaen’s berating words that she wasn’t special, that she really didn’t know anything, that this was her problem to solve with the help of no one else, pushed her to taking action that night, to finally turn her eyes to her problems and do everything she can to fix them.
But Tsubasa still needed help from friends. Without Hitagi, she wouldn’t have seen the obvious pattern of places burning down after she had slept there (speaking of which, what happened to Kanbaru and Araragi at the cram school that night? Here’s chapter 55 from the novel that was skipped entirely in this episode that mentions Kanbaru – translated by Canon_Rap). And the Fire Sisters provided the final piece of the puzzle, relating the flame to justice and love, which lead her to envy. This is what she has been averting her eyes from. But who is she envious of, and for what? Maybe it’s obvious to you or me based on her conversations, but has she figured it out?
Shaft’s the one that gave Hitagi the habit of stacking things, but the Fire Sisters’ interest in stacking cards was all Nisio, having actually been in the novel. I’m sure he was considering appropriate metaphors about Hanekawa’s current state, i.e. standing but ready to collapse at the slightest application of stress.
I think it’s in this final act that Nekomonogatari White really shines. All of the conversations and off-hand comments from early in the story are coming together now, forming a picture of the oddity that Tsubasa is facing as well as its root causes. I’m pleased with the adaptation job Shaft has done with the script from this extremely internal monologue-heavy novel. Much of it was cut, but much also made it in through extra use of flashes of text and Tsubasa talking to herself or to the audience more than Koyomi would. The brief interlude while she was trying and failing to complete her house of cards was also a good way to fit in some important narration.
We can see the characters hitting Tsubasa with the same messages over and over again: she is too pure, blind to the dark, averting her eyes but not running away; she appears to have the saint-like ability to accept anything, but actually she doesn’t, because she’s just another normal girl; she survives by cutting off her darkness, by forcing it to take form apart from herself, giving rise to the oddities. The very nature of the problem is that she can’t see the problem, and a breakthrough in this episode was her seeking out help for the first time, giving Hitagi a call after school, and asking the Fire Sisters for their thoughts during their card game. She is ready to acknowledge that she is a normal girl. She delights in rolling around the bed of her crush and taking pictures of herself in his clothes. She feels a burning jealousy for those who have what she can’t. And she is ready and willing to tackle the problem by herself.
So we just have the big finish left to go, with Tsubasa having turned a corner in her journey. The episode ended with her starting her letter to Black Hanekawa, which fit in nicely with the ending theme “Ai wo Utae” – “Sing (Your) Love” in English. The series has on occasion played the ending theme over the final scene, though only at arc endings and only on TV, but I liked how it set the stage for the arc finale. What do you think she will put in the letter? Has she managed to identify that which she refuses to see? We’ll have to find out next time.
It might not be her panties or bra or a chance to touch her breasts or to lick her eyeballs, but I think this is the best gift Hanekawa has given Araragi.