The title is kind of self explanatory.
|I’ve gotta hand it to Shaft. Ever since the beginning with Bakemonogatari, they’ve managed to create gold out of Nisio’s… not so golden ramblings. It’s not often that the adaptation exceeds the original work, but they have done it time and again with this series (Nekomonogatari White notwithstanding). Would you believe me if I said the in media res opening with Medusa-fied Nadeko fighting Koyomi and Shinobu lacked impact in the novel? The whole meek-girl-turns-out-to-be-psycho trope is so played out, I couldn’t get excited from such a predictable turn of events. But when it was animated, with voices and background music, with the over-the-top visual effects and impeccable timing, the scene became something else entirely. I can see now how one would care how the story lead up to such a situation.|
Nadeko’s narration was one of the weakest points of the book, so visual embellishments like these were much appreciated (click images for gifs).
The rest of the episode had its ups and downs, but it managed to nail it when it counted. Nadeko’s walk down the hall to her class room was Shinbo at his best, using his brand of surreal imagery to accentuate the narration in a simple but effective way. I was also happy to see some nice clean animation during Ougi’s near miss with Nadeko – that’s more what Suruga’s run-in with Tsubasa in Tsubasa Tiger Part 3 should have looked like. That said, there were some janky parts to the episode as well, such as the zoom-into-Ougi-with-clocks-overlaid shot that seemed like Shinbo might have gotten a bit too unhinged. And lots of money saving with close-up shots of Kuchinawa, who already doesn’t move his mouth when he talks.
Unfortunately, the visuals can’t completely hide the weaknesses of the story, such as its complete lack of subtlety. With the way Ougi and Kuchinawa were hammering on the same points this episode – Ougi’s “You can’t be the victim forever” mirrored by Kuchinawa’s “There are no victims, only those who victimize” – you’ve probably already figured out exactly the major theme of the story. Nadeko isn’t the victim she thinks she is, and she obliviously victimizes others. I guess there’s still the how and the why of it all, which, well, I’ll let you judge for yourself once the story gets there.
Satoru Kosaki once again branching out to a new genre for a Monogatari opening. Just how many cards does he have up his sleeve?
Like what Tsubasa Tiger did with its heroine, this one is all about tearing down the too-pure image we got of Nadeko. The new opening exemplified this very well. I thought reusing animations from the now classic Renai Circulation was lazy at first, but then I realized what Shaft was getting at. Whereas the original opening was about Nadeko the hard-working, meek, ideal girl with a precocious crush, this one pulled back that illusion, showing us her true self, the lazy and selfish girl so enamored with her crush as to sacrifice everything else. It’s telling that the opening narration describing herself ends with not one but two mentions of her crush. The switched outfits and confident facial expressions, the reversed animations, her sleeping at her desk instead of working, aggressively latching onto Koyomi’s arm, the lyrics by meg rock all play into that.
Put together for your comparing pleasure.
As for the story proper, we can hear from Nadeko’s own narration her victim complex. She is quick to blame Kaiki for everything bad that happens in this arc (you will find this unbelievably hilarious many many episodes from now), but does he deserve blame for anything more than the cons he pulled? When it comes to actions Nadeko consciously chooses, where does Kaiki’s responsibility end and hers begin? Considering just how far things will escalate, to the point that even Koyomi would rather kill than save her, it’s safe to say that, as Kuchinawa said, Nadeko doesn’t have the most self awareness when it comes this sort of stuff. As demonstrated in her phone call with Koyomi, she has a default set of actions she goes to, a comforting tradition of apologizing and hiding behind her bangs (pay careful attention to those bangs in the opening scene – no, I don’t mean just the snakes). She does it again during her meeting with Kuchinawa at the shrine, but the fact is, she can’t escape the consequences of her actions forever that way.
Kuchinawa is probably my favorite villain in the series so far. He’s a harsh character, one who is verbally abusive to Nadeko, but that’s what makes him fun to listen to. Just listening to Nadeko for the whole arc would be maddening (I love you, Kana Hanazawa, but I can’t stand your too-shy girl voice!), so it’s nice that there’s someone around to call her out on her bullshit, even if he is clearly malicious. Youji Ueda, who has worked for Shaft before as narrators in both And Yet the Town Moves and Maria Holic (though you might remember him best as a certain Robert E. O. Speedwagon from the recent JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure adaptation), did a fine job capturing his haughtiness. The sound of the condescending “Hah?” that follows almost everything he says to Nadeko is the exact tone I imagined. It’s going to be fun watching him play her like a fiddle.
“What’s up?” “Not much, just hanging out.”
Oshino Ougi is quite the unsettling girl again in her 2nd appearance, which was much more revealing than her first. One wonders just how she knows so much about these characters, why she tells Nadeko that there is actual story structure to her life, and why she refers to hers as just a “side story” (another line that will become funny much later on). We all know how much Nisio likes the meta, and Ougi is pretty much an audience surrogate with how she jumps into the story. One unfortunate thing about skipping over Hanamonogatari is that we’ll have to wait to see the rather significant mystery about Ougi raised in that one.
The best part of that scene was Ougi getting flung off her bike due to Nadeko walking to school. What better way to demonstrate exactly what she would say to her, that she hurts others simply by living her daily life? She seemed oddly reminiscent of Gaen Izuko from Tsubasa Tiger in how she briefly entered her life, made some extremely biting and relevant criticisms, then left. Like her, her motivations and origins are still quite a mystery; I know I don’t believe a word she says about her relationships with Koyomi or Meme. I wonder how significant it is that both of her appearances involved something screwy with time – her scene in Mayoi Jiangshi was an oddly placed flash forward, and in this episode, Nadeko commented how she felt as if time had been stolen from her.
Not to mention the aforementioned janky zoom-in sequence with clock.
This was a great start, the best first episode of the season so far. I’ve said before that this was my least favorite of the 6 books of this season, but with Shaft’s influence in the adaptation, I think I could actually care about what happens to Nadeko. There will be plenty of opportunity during Nadeko’s journey to that opening scene for Shaft to showcase their talents, and I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Let me just close by including a few lines from the previous arc that had been cut from the adaptation.
“No, Sengoku is horrible. I can’t believe it, really.”
During summer vacation, I had a number of occasions to play with her, and this came up one time. At that time, I was under the impression I had done them myself (I was wrong), so I haughtily asked, “Sengoku. Are you doing your homework properly?”
“Ooh. And her answer?”
“‘Eh? Koyomi onii-chan, why do I have to work on a boring activity such as homework during this long-awaited and fun summer vacation?’”
“Yes. She looked like she had no intention of doing it from the beginning.”
“…… What a celebrity.”
“She said, ‘Everything will be over with just Nadeko getting yelled at when summer vacation ends.’”
“Of course she’ll get yelled at. Why is she saying it as if she were covering for someone?”
“‘You can just study when you want to.’”
“So why is she saying such depraved things as if they were virtuous……”
And your impersonation was surprisingly spot on, it’s pretty disconcerting, said Shinobu.
It was an unexpected chain reaction.
“I’ve only recently understood that Sengoku is just quiet and calm, but by no means is she diligent or smart, nor is she a good girl.”
- from Kabukimonogatari “Mayoi Jiangshi” chapter 4, as translated on Baka-Tsuki (emphasis mine).