Why are the cute ones always crazy? And murderous?
|So Nadeko Medusa is over. Yes, that really was the ending to the arc. What’d you think? Anticlimactic? Ass-pull? Deus ex machina (or dea ex machina, as it were)? That ending wasn’t the main – or even a major – reason why Otorimonogatari was my least favorite of the volumes (either that or the next one, Onimonogatari – yeah, sucks for us Shinobu fans), but it certainly was one reason.|
What a wonderful look of abject terror.
Let’s rewind a bit. We got the main reveal early in the episode: Kuchinawa was just a figment of Nadeko’s imagination the whole time. I had actually seen this twist coming when reading the book, and I can point to a few things that had tipped me off. First of all, this is the exact same twist as in Nekomonogatari Black “Tsubasa Family” in which Black Hanekawa had been just Tsubasa acting out, so I was already primed to consider it as a possibility. 2nd was that first appearance of the white snake in Nadeko’s shoe locker, which preceded Kuchinawa’s by a few hours – if that snake had just been Nadeko’s delusion (this arc’s opening theme? Delusion Express), what was to say Kuchinawa wasn’t as well? 3rd was Kuchinawa’s false positive at the sand pit during the first night of the search – his explanation that his soul had gotten spread out didn’t seem plausible to me, especially since there hadn’t been anything special about the sand pit to set off the false positive. And 4th was Nadeko’s style of speech during her outburst, particularly the verbal tic “Hah?” that she shared with Kuchinawa; since he hadn’t taken over her body, why was she talking like him? That is, unless he was her all along.
Maybe it was more obvious in the book, or maybe I just got lucky, though at least one anime viewer managed to figure it out. In any case, since the series had used the exact same twist before, I wasn’t a huge fan. The more interesting part was Ougi’s part in all this, implanting Nadeko’s brain with information that helped to lead to her downfall. She continues to be the mysterious meta character, but no answers are offered of her motivations – at least we got a hint that Shinobu might know of her. And what of Gaen Izuko, who was responsible for giving Koyomi that charm?
Excellent hair animation, constantly moving. And an appropriately abrupt and violent knock down of Shinobu.
To continue with what’s been the running theme my posts of this arc, I give a lot of credit to Shaft for making the climax something memorable. Unlike their Tsukihi Phoenix climax, this was proper brutal stuff, not holding back much at all following Nadeko’s transformation. Shaft’s action scenes don’t have the most exciting or dynamic choreography, but they have excellent timing and a real weight to the characters’ movements and the impacts. And a believable sense of desperation and excess, which I find irresistible in combat scenes. Nadeko’s little multi-stab combo on Koyomi was beautiful, and Shaft came a lot closer than I had expected to the impossible feat of depicting literally every last strand of Nadeko’s hair as having turned into a snake, with the constant motion of the snakes helping the effect. And Shaft showed us why lighting has always been considered one of their strong points. Like in the Kabukimonogatari finale, stark shifts in tone were used to good effect, such as the sudden palette of blue and pink of Koyomi’s room following Nadeko’s transformation, which was the same palette used in much of the scene in the rain at the shrine.
Rounding out the excellent production was Satoru Kosaki‘s soundtrack – I really like what I’m guessing is Kuchinawa’s Theme, which played during his first appearance in part 1, and a slow version of which played over the real Kuchinawa’s explanations to Nadeko. The trailer at the end also contained a slow instrumental version of the opening theme, Delusion Express (which was also the best of the 3 opening themes so far), something that he’s done before in all the other arcs of this franchise. As usual, these guys turned something not that impressive by Nisio into an exceptional audiovisual feast. This was a damn fun arc to watch.
I have to respect Shinobu being defiant to the end. Still as condescending as ever.
As for the resolution, well, that wasn’t much of one, was it? A phone call from Hitagi at the very last moment convinced Nadeko to hold off at least until graduation. Hitagi has certainly shone in every appearance this season – who didn’t laugh hearing her utterly bored voice upon discovering she had just barely saved Koyomi and while negotiating for their lives? And as gutsy as ever, flatly shutting down Nadeko’s suggestion they might have gotten along. An unapologetically abrasive personality, and sharp as a tack, successfully engineering a way to delay their deaths. In short, she’s a fucking badass. That said, I still thought Nadeko was far too accommodating, even considering her newfound confidence, leaving a dissatisfyingly convenient ending. Hubris: it’s been known to take down even gods. Don’t worry, this is by far not the last of this story thread you will see this season.
The trailer was in the book, but since it was all just Nadeko’s narration, it wasn’t quite as impressive as seeing her summoning thousands of snakes or stuffing Koyomi into a cage.
Kudos for calling it way, way before he had any business knowing anything about the arc. And he summarized it so concisely and succinctly too! But let’s expand on that a bit. Nisio likes to play one some theme with each of his entries into this series – such as the rather blatant theme of family in Nisemonogatari or envy and denial in Tsubasa Tiger. Both of those last two are definitely major themes in this arc, but I don’t think I’m shocking anyone when I say that I think victimhood and victimization was probably the main thing in Nadeko Medusa.
Yeah, the story hammered that pretty hard into our heads, starting with Nadeko’s initial encounter with Ougi, continuing with her meeting Kuchinawa, then Shinobu, then Tsukihi, then her rant, then Shinobu again – almost every conversational scene, really. They all said the same thing in different ways, that Nadeko was a girl who unwittingly victimizes others due to the privileges she enjoys due to her looks. For a while there, it looked like this arc would be about her coming to terms with all that, recognizing those she hurt and trying to atone for her actions of victimization in the past, even if it was for… snakes.
Oh, Ougi. Just who the hell are you?
But it was all just a decoy (hey, that’s the name of the arc!), and it all came tumbling down. From her relationship with Kuchinawa, she was actually starting to look like a victim of blatant emotional manipulation, but it turned out that she had created him just to fulfill her insane 6-year-long crush on Koyomi, all the while conveniently offloading the blame to someone else. To be fair, the story does question that blame by giving Ougi (and Tsukihi!) an important role in Nadeko’s downfall. But considering Nadeko had started going insane long before she met Ougi, I think it’s fair to say that Nadeko deserves the full brunt here.
And it’s not like she wasn’t handed plenty of opportunities to escape; each time, she consciously chose not to take them. She lied to Koyomi on the phone, she lied to him again in his room, and she refused to listen to him when caught by him. It was all far, far too late; she had long since embraced her inner yandere. And in the end, she happily took responsibility for all the suffering she caused. After all, her narration in part 1 admitted that she probably would have done everything the same even if she had known everything from the start, a sentiment she repeated here. Well, she also seemed to hold Kaiki responsible, but that piece of narration will take on more meaning before all is said and done.
Up next is Onimonogatari “Shinobu Time.” Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, I disliked it about as much as I disliked this volume. However, there should be even more opportunities for Shaft to flex their animation muscle in that one than in this one – and they did a damned fine job with this one. That won’t fix the story, but it could easily turn this arc into something great. Plus, we have an opening theme sung by Maaya Sakamoto to look forward to! What style will Kosaki pull out of his hat this time? Any bets?
Without spoiling anything, we’re entering the final acts of these 6 novels, when story threads have to start getting closed out. Remember how Mayoi Jiangshi wasn’t really about Mayoi as much as it was about Shinobu? Look forward to seeing her make her jump from that arc look like she was playing hopscotch!