Monogatari Series Second Season – 12: Nadeko Medusa Part 1

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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).

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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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25 Responses to “Monogatari Series Second Season – 12: Nadeko Medusa Part 1”

  1. skylion says:

    I took the time to read the seven available chapters that are available over at BakaT. And I had the same thoughts you had; something things are just better adapted. It’s a rare beasty, isn’t it? They could have included her line about her disdain of personal contact (except thru clothes?), as that was probably not an easy thing to adapt, given the amount of time she basically spends alone.

    I’m thinking that the hebi gami has been with her for quite some time; this hallucination is just her acting it all out. I knew that this particular chapter wasn’t going to be pretty, but I had no idea it would chill me so.

    What, no mention of the mighty Shinobu and her fine new clothes?

    Since the translated material pretty much closed this episode; I await with no spoilers. Somehow I don’t think Shinobu will make a tasty snack of the snake….

    • skylion says:

      I also wish the anime included at least some reference to tea drinking, cake eating after school musicians…C-ON!

    • lvlln says:

      One part I thought would have been nice to see adapted in chapter 2 was Kuchinawa’s lines about being able to reverse everything, to go back in time if Nadeko truly wished it. Though Nadeko refuses it, since she’s told that the exact same things would happen, it would raise the question of whether this was the first time. The idea of her being stuck in such a loop, destined to fall no matter how many times she tried is a pretty compelling one.

      • skylion says:

        Yes, I had forgotten to bring that up. Interesting how that ties into the last arc? Did Neko White have anything resembling that theme of going back in time?

        • lvlln says:

          Not that I can recall. I think it’s just that once you introduce fantasy-based time travel as a possibility, it becomes something you can reference, a tool to use for drama going forward, even without actually performing it.

  2. Foshizzel says:

    I love the new OP and whoa the animation was fantastic O_o

    • BlackBriar says:

      It was certainly a lot better than the one for Mayoi Jiangshi.

      • Foshizzel says:

        S1 Mayoi arc had a great OP! It sure isn’t a Renai Circulation or Platinum Disco thats for sure…

        • Highway says:

          Hmm, I think that Kaerimichi (the Mayoi Snail OP) is pretty far and away the worst Monogatari OP song there’s been. But manic techno doesn’t really do it for me.

          • lvlln says:

            I agree with this. I couldn’t stand listening to that one. It was far, far behind Sugar Sweet Nightmare as my least favorite of the original 5 OPs.

  3. PrimeHector says:

    Hana Kana getting to voice a evil character.

    • Foshizzel says:

      I love when she voices evil-ish characters <3

      • BlackBriar says:

        Other than playing Deadman Wonderland’s Shiro/Wretched Egg and Kamisama Dolls’ Miharu, I can’t recall her playing any characters that are considered evil.

        • skylion says:

          The CPU version of Plutia? She was Major S.

          • Highway says:

            Yeah, but Plutia wasn’t evil, just really really S… or really boring, depending on form.

          • BlackBriar says:

            Yeah, Iris Heart was sadistic but not considered evil. Despite her tendencies, she wasn’t a villain.

  4. Highway says:

    This OP song is the best one song-wise, clever, playful, and captivating. I’ve liked it the most since Futakotome. As for the story, this is the kind of stuff that loses me a bunch on Monogatari: single character narration, talking over visuals. This is where I feel I’m missing out on all sorts of symbolism, inside jokes, metaphors, what have you. Even if I’m not, it feels that way. Conversations tend to be better, but Ougi feels like a really cheap plot device. And that whole time she was talking with that zoom in pendulum thing, I wasn’t paying attention to anything she said. I was just watching the timing of the pendulum (they just happen to be something I find almost irresistible – the Rozen Maiden ED drives me batty because of the accelerating pendulum aaaaarrrrrgh).

    • lvlln says:

      Right now it’s a toss up between Mayoi’s and Nadeko’s OPs, but I do think Futakotome still reigns supreme as the best of the lot. I will have to hear the full versions, though. Nadeko’s is just so darn different from typical anisongs. I’m not too knowledgeable about music, so I can’t place the genre, but I liked how it sounded as a sequel to the moe hip-hop of Renai Circulation.

      • Highway says:

        Mayoi’s is another example of the Japanese near perfection of the 70′s-80′s US TV theme song. This is something I really like about many anime songs, especially OP’s. It’s a Light Rock feel with excitement and interest that typically pulls in other influences in a minor way.

        Nadeko’s song here breaks away from that, with a very Bossa Nova feel with the classical guitar and piano, then incorporating strings for the crescendo. I think the hip-hop feel comes from the very Amen-like breakbeat, without giving up that ‘exotic’ bossa nova feel. The beat here is actually a lot more ‘hip-hop’ than Ren’ai Circulation, which is a lot more straight (and gets its hip hop feel from the vocal style, I think), but it does help to tie the two together.

  5. CarVac says:

    The close-ups of white snake with red eyes were wayyyy too evocative of Kyubey.

  6. BlackBriar says:

    It’s Kana Hanazawa’s turn. One thing is certain: Sengoku’s OP is better than Mayoi’s. I have a fair amount of interest in this arc seeing that Sengoku is the one character shown the least in the Monogatari series compared to the others and she brings some curiosity. That one time appearance in the first episode of Nisemonogatari comes to mind.

    So basically, Sengoku got an apparition upgrade with snakes the same way Tsubasa did with her tiger Kako after dealing with Black Hanekawa. The first time, her possession had something to do with her classmates, if I recall correctly. Does that mean once you’re exposed to an apparition, no matter what the type is, you become fair game in a perpetual cycle for the rest of your life without any means of prevention?

    From what I understand, Sengoku puts the blame others to feel justified for not being self aware so as to keep that victimized persona like she said that if there was a vote on who was at fault, that it would unanimously be Kaiki.

    • lvlln says:

      One thing that gets repeatedly hammered in the novels is that once you have one experience with the supernatural, you are much more likely to experience another one. I don’t recall if that made it into the anime. So yeah, one exposure can mean more for the rest of your life (that said, keep in mind that every event we’ve seen so far has taken place within a tight 6 month period). This is one of the reasons Koyomi works so hard to make sure his sisters aren’t exposed to oddities.

      • skylion says:

        I think that tid bit was brought up in the first episode of Mayoi Snail? Seems like the right place for it too be mentioned…

      • BlackBriar says:

        This is one of the reasons Koyomi works so hard to make sure his sisters aren’t exposed to oddities.

        What a job. He should be getting paid for such a tiresome yet dangerous duty. Then again, I’d say that purpose has already been defeated in Nisemonogatari because Karen was exposed to bee thanks to Kaiki and Tsukihi is actually a phoenix.

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