A story of a little ghost and vampires and zombies and going back to the past.
|As I’ve written before, Kabukimonogatari “Mayoi Jiangshi” was my 2nd favorite of the books in the series, in a large part because of how unlike every other volume it was. As you’ve seen, the story dives right into things, without dawdling around like in Nekomonogatari White, and though this episode started off with a couple of priming conversations with Ougi and then Ononoki, by the end we already had Koyomi and Shinobu having botched going through a time warp and ending up 11 years in the past.|
That black undershirt works with her black hair and black pupil-less eyes to createa really unsettling look.
Right off the bat, we were unceremoniously introduced to the newest member of the cast, Oshino Ougi. I didn’t quite picture her like that, but then again, I didn’t picture her like anything, since the book had nothing to say about how she looked other than that Kanbaru said she was cute. Shaft’s version sure makes her look smug, looking down her nose at Koyomi the whole time with those pupil-less eyes as she dispensed little bites of condescension. She certain shares the arrogance of her namesake(s). There isn’t much to make sense out of her character at this point – heck, I still don’t have a good grasp on Ougi after having read all the way through the novels of this season (one shame about Hanamonogatari being delayed is that we’ll have to wait longer for some major revelations about Ougi) – but her role here at the start of Kabukimonogatari was to prime us for Mayoi’s coming arc. Of course, Mayoi has history with the traffic light, and I think the salient point in that conversation was Ougi’s comment about the irony that the intersection is most safe when all the lights are red and most dangerous when they are all green. A good thing to keep in mind as the events of this arc play out.
I wonder how many fans expected to see Ononoki again so soon, not even a week after her introduction in Tsukihi Phoenix, in which she attempted to murder Koyomi’s sister and got spanked by Shinobu. It was hard to see her as anything more than a demon familiar before, but her conversation with Koyomi this episode did a good job giving us a more complete picture of this oddity who used to be human. And what a great explanation of her “posed look” verbal tic: she just thought it sounded cool, and now that she’s outgrown it, she’s embarrassed, not unlike how Yuta reacts to his Dark Flame Master days (in contrast, her nemesis Shinobu happily dives into superfluous retro-style magical chanting to summon a spell). Ononoki played a similar role as Ougi here, providing comments relevant to Mayoi with her observation about what herself, Koyomi, and Mayoi had in common. They’ve all died and come back in some way, but Mayoi is still the only one who wasn’t truly reborn. She has remained a ghost all this time, which raises the obvious question, why is she still here after having found her mother’s house? Ononoki can’t stop wondering for what purpose she was (re)born. For what purpose did Mayoi become and remain a ghost?
Yeah, I don’t know what Shaft is going for here, but I sure as heck would love to live in a town with a view like this.
The backdrop in that scene with Ononoki really struck me with its sparse field filled with very tall trees that would feel more fitting in an African prairie than a Japanese town. I’ve enjoyed seeing Shaft take the town into unexpected locales to complement its bizarre and surreal architecture. We saw Koyomi walk with Mayoi through a European town in Nisemonogatari, and we saw a Mr. Donut in the middle of a desert in Bakemonogatari. There’s a feeling that the only things that matter in this universe are the characters and the things they say, leaving everything else as mere eye candy that is there to be beautiful, but also nonsensical. I suppose one could make a connection between the yearly growth cycle of trees with Ononoki’s words about being dead humans that were reborn, but really, the only reason the background looks like that is because it’s unique and pretty. In this series, that’s the only reason required to show anything.
Only thing funnier than Shinobu’s wholly unnecessary magical chanting was Koyomi’s absolute reverence for it.
What a delight it is to have Shinobu in the spotlight, her first major talking appearance since her bath time conversation in Nisemonogatari. She bounces off Koyomi so well with her haughty attitude and surprisingly deep knowledge of classic anime. Other characters are constrained by things like logic and reality, but Shinobu isn’t. She’s a retiree who’s lived far longer than she wanted to (she reveals her true age, 598 years and 11 months, when they are talking about Koyomi’s summer homework), so she acts as a wise but snarky observer with nothing to lose.
Yet she also displays immaturity befitting her current appearance, refusing to believe her reign to be over. She is accustomed to taking for granted that she can change reality as she pleases using her considerable power, and from the way she handwaves away something like time travel, you would never guess that she’s just a shadow of her former self. Heck, she doesn’t even plan a way back before taking the leap. Despite that, it’s also clear that she wants to help Koyomi and seeks out his approval by volunteering to help him with the time warp (this was emphasized more in the novel, in which Shinobu got upset at Koyomi’s constant questioning of her ability to actually pull off a time warp). She’s immature, proud, knowledgeable of both old anime and oddities, and cares deeply about how Koyomi sees her, which is what makes her so great for him to play the straight man against. The two really have a special – unique, really – relationship, and it will be fun seeing their chemistry develop throughout this arc.
“As I tilted my head, Shinobu said ‘What are you doing?,’ extended that hand a little further, and took my hand. It was a lovers’ grip with entwined fingers.“
– from chapter 5 of Kabukimonogatari “Mayoi Jiangshi”, translated and posted on Baka-Tsuki. Emphasis mine.
These two simply belong together.
The previous arc was about denial, and the big thing this time is time travel. Perhaps you’re not too surprised if you’re familiar with Nisio’s works. I suppose it’s as Shinobu said, if there are oddities and vampires in this world, time travel isn’t far fetched. And with Nisio, anything is possible as long as it’s convenient for the narrative, which had Koyomi turning 1 day back into 11 years back due to his thinking about Mayoi during their leap. There isn’t much mystery here like in the last arc: put Mayoi, the ghost of the girl who died 11 years ago at a crosswalk, together with time travel to 11 years ago, and I’m sure you can see what story naturally develops. But time travel is a powerful tool that allows for many wild possibilities, and this arc will certainly explore some of them.
Besides the obvious plot point about Mayoi, what will Koyomi and Shinobu do now that they’re in the past? What would happen if they ran into a grade schooler Koyomi or, god forbid, any one of his harem members? If I were Koyomi, I’d be worried about getting back to the present; Shinobu didn’t exactly inspire confidence in her ability to go forward 1 day (what with that 5 full minutes of silence), much less 11 years! It’s funny how this all started from the desire of an extra day to finish summer homework (deconstruction of the Endless Eight genre?). But actions have consequences, many of them unintended, and this has kicked off a chain of events that will send this pair in a number of strange directions. This arc isn’t so much about thinking or reflecting, it’s about enjoying a sequence of escalating events as they come one by one in some sort of logical progression. It seems Shaft has found its groove with the visuals in the last few episodes, so I think I’m going to enjoy this ride.
I don’t think I can properly convey just how hyped seeing these shots made me. Just don’t think too hard about them or the new ending animation.