Monogatari Series Second Season – 15: Nadeko Medusa Part 4

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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So what was Nadeko Medusa really about? I want to point to a tweet made in July by Usny, a writer at Desu Ex Machina (seems I’ve been linking them a lot lately):

I'm assuming Nadeko Medusa is about her going crazy because she realizes how big of a slut she is.

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.

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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.


Shiniobu Time

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!


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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19 Responses to “Monogatari Series Second Season – 15: Nadeko Medusa Part 4”

  1. Highway says:

    So this is pretty much the first time in this series we’ve seen an arc end with the fall of someone, isn’t it? I don’t know if I particularly care for that type of ending, but if it had to happen to a character, I guess Nadeko is the one to have it happen to.

    • lvlln says:

      Yeah, Nisio went for the bad end this time. Which was alright, especially told from the girl’s perspective, but just the way he ended it… not very satisfying.

      • Highway says:

        Well, it occurs to me that with a bad end, there’s only two ways to end it: Like he did with the ‘incomplete’, or with the deaths of major characters, either Nadeko or the three main protagonists of the series. So having painted himself into that corner, he took the way out that kept the series intact moving forward. Maybe he has more plans for the future, or maybe all the books are done, I don’t really know (I’m too busy reading DxD LN’s… “Switch Princess” indeed…;) ) but it’s kind of a temporary bad taste compared to the permanence of a character’s death.

        • lvlln says:

          I don’t mind it ending on a hanger like that, but the way it got there, with Nadeko saying yes to Hitagi’s request was a bit too easy. It certainly fits the style of the series, which regularly has someone swooping in out of nowhere to save the day, but I still don’t like it.

  2. q says:

    Not just a cage, isn’t that box thing Nadeko put Koyomi’s corpse where people toss coins before praying?

  3. edo says:

    guys please, we all know hitagi is the only slut here(You know the kaiki thing in koi and nise lol)

    • lvlln says:

      Haha, oh boy, I’m looking forward to Koimonogatari. I put it a step below Kabuki, but it’s still a damn fun arc, with excellent narration. A very funny one too, especially for Hitagi fans.

  4. Fenrir says:

    This was another great review! Really, I love to read your opinions about these arcs; Neko (Shiro) for me STILL is the best one, but I must admit… what was that? Otorimonogatari is something I really… I don’t know how to describe this feeling. This emotion. Delusions, a broken Nadeko… SOOO MUUUUUUUCH FEELS.

    PS: Nadeko sux. Nadeko worst girl. Hanekawa is mah waifu.

    • lvlln says:

      Neko White was by far my favorite of the novels. Nisio actually challenged himself to write very differently compared to the rest of the series, and he did a good job with it. Beyond just changing the narrator around, since Otori was narrated by Nadeko and wasn’t very good. I thought the adaptation of Neko White was lacking, though, particularly in the pacing. The whole story is a slow burn, a mystery that unfolds little by little, which didn’t work quite as well in animated and episodic form.

  5. skylion says:

    At this point, I think a Big Game is being played. But, our favorite actors aren’t the players, but the pieces.

    If anything some of the shots fired by Ougi and Gean appear that way.

    I agree with you, man, most of this narrative was sheer asspull. But then, when Hana-chan asks you to make her the baddie, you make her the baddie like no one’s business.

    Also, could all of this still be a delusion?

    • lvlln says:

      Middle schoolers really can get lost in their own delusions, can’t they? Sort of the basis for the term chunibyou which we see so much of in anime. Nadeko has it a little worse than most. Good thing to think about for the conclusion of her story thread.

  6. amado says:

    bah I still love nadeko.
    looks like we(and hanekawa) were right all along that she was the final boss.

    unlike the others, I just end up liking how weird and different they ended the arc. its just so refreshing, and this anime is probably the only one capable of doing it while making it not too out of sync with the story.

    • lvlln says:

      This was definitely a great high level concept story, showing the path of the yandere to the bad end. Getting to be in the crazy girl’s head as she rationalized her way into villainy was quite a treat. The details left something to be desired, though. Hitagi swooping in and saving the day, using her threat of murder as leverage wasn’t very satisfying. When she did almost the same thing in the end of Suruga Monkey, it made a little more sense. Here, I’m not sure why Nadeko just gave in, other than plot convenience.

      • amado says:

        plenty of reasons:
        pride – she’s a god, it doesnt matter for her that it would take a long time and if they get more help. she can also wait indefinitely.
        love – she may still want araragi to be around a bit more. she may not completely want him dead.
        fear – senjougahara is really that scary.

        • lvlln says:

          Pride certainly seems to be the major factor here, given how Nadeko giggled at Hitagi’s request. And given that she’s kind of a stupid middle schooler, such hubris makes sense. But fact remains that she had nothing to gain by agreeing to the delay. Stupid characters exist, but when a major plot point hinges on the villain being stupidly magnanimous, I have problems.

          • amado says:

            tbh I might actually do that if I was ever a villain/god/OP. not only cause I would be confident myself, it would be interesting as well what people would try to do and if they might be able to do something. plus id be bored with just ending it like that.

            besides its not like she really hates araragi himself, or hates him that much. she just came to conclusion that its the ultimate solution to her problem, not that she has to do it.

  7. BlackBriar says:

    Well, I must say this wasn’t the kind of ending I expected but it is a good change of pace from the obligatory “happy endings” that plague most stories. It’s alright with me.

    So Nadeko fell from grace and essentally became a villain. I personally think this arc has made Nadeko more significant rather than being another pretty face. Bad influence seems to be more appealing than the good kind and I like that she became more honest with herself even if the reveals turned out to be negative intentions.

    For her delusions to be that strong before the real oddity showed up, something in her must have snapped a long time ago but she made herself believe it wasn’t in her continuing attempt to escape reality. The question I have to ask is: Was she ever good to begin with?

    That said, I still thought Nadeko was far too accommodating, even considering her newfound confidence, leaving a dissatisfyingly convenient ending.

    Power corrupts and with it comes an immeasurable amount of arrogance. Especially when they realize no one can go against them so they’ll be inclined to play along and give a little repreive for what is already considered an inevitable outcome.

    This is Kana Hanazawa’s best role as a fallen character since Shiro from Deadman Wonderland.

    • lvlln says:

      Gotta say, Kana Hanazawa was a large part of the reason this arc was so much better in anime form than in book form. Her performance in part 3 far exceeded my greatest expectations, much better than what I had pictured while reading it. And even her regular narration was pleasant to hear, quite different from Nadeko’s normally annoyingly soft voice.

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