Thus the new religion of Shinobuism (Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Bladeism was deemed too unwieldy) was born.
|There you have it. Shinobu’s first trip to Japan is out in the open for all to see. Or perhaps for all to listen to and to inspect, as it was told in oral and tapestry form. It was nice to see Shaft try bringing something new to the table for this episode, but the unanimated depiction they went for wore out its welcome a bit too early in this episode that was more about the telling than the showing.|
Classiest picture of a woman only in heels that Shaft will ever publish.
A little too much clothing for the 1:1 match, but not bad. I’ll take it.
I can’t say the flashbacks are the most beautiful things Shaft has ever done, but I liked the gimmick enough, and I admire the temerity to see the gimmick through to the end, for better or for worse. Even if it made the rest of the episode look like everything was moving to the left as my brain took time to readjust. The visual style fit right in with the medieval Japan aesthetic, giving life to Shinobu’s words without giving outright depictions to the actual events. The main weakness in the gimmick was the lack of movement sapping the energy from the episode as it went on. There was some minor animation and zooms here and there, but overall, half the episode felt a lot like slowly scrolling through a very long tapestry. Again, neat gimmick, and some of that was pretty spectacular, such as the long connected strand of hair leading Shinobu from that void all the way back to Antarctica. But it wasn’t clever or compelling enough to carry the whole episode. Perhaps if it had been limited to a single 5 minute sequence like Tsubasa’s and Meme’s letters, it might have fared better.
After all, didn’t you want to see Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade’s first trip to Japan during the height of her power in full animated detail? I know I did. Nisio’s writing is rather sparse on physical descriptions (Shinobu’s narration was basically the full content of those chapters – Nisio set the rule that oddities like her and Mayoi can’t be narrators, but apparently they can just talk through entire chapters), so there were a lot of holes that Shaft could have filled, not unlike the trailer they produced for the the end of the prior arc. How spectacular was Heart-Under-Blade’s splashy entrance into Japan? How did she fare in her initial encounter with the locals, and what forms did their worship of her take? What really was the relationship between Heart-Under-Blade and the First Oddity Slayer before it broke down upon his revival? We’ll never learn the answers to these questions because of the way Shaft chose to put these scenes on screen.
I guess that’s what Shaft was going for, limiting our knowledge not just to what Shinobu could know, but even further to only what Koyomi could glean from hearing from Shinobu. Still, more details would have added more flavor to a somewhat dry oral account. It wouldn’t have fit the style of Monogatari to present a straight depiction, but something more animated would have been nice.
The ye olde oddities was one of the very good uses of this visual gimmick.
Shinobu’s tale draws from the story of Hernan Cortes, of course, a Spanish conquistador who was, as legend has it, treated as the god Quetzalcoatl by Aztecs in the 16th century, though there is controversy over whether or not this actually happened. It was an interesting, if small, window into Shinobu’s long life that lead her to this point. She was very recently supposed to be one of those 90% of vampires who die by suicide (though I question how she knows this number; what organization collects this data, and what are their methods?), and though it took place 400 years ago, such a painful experience probably contributed to her desire to die. It was funny learning that her experience in Mayoi Jiangshi fruitlessly searching every last house in an area for survivors was not her first. It certainly gave context to her behavior during that scene.
Shinobu has one of the best somber smiles I’ve seen in anime.
As an aside, I want to point out a couple of inaccuracies in Shinobu’s story. First of all, she says she almost destroyed Antarctica with her little leap to Japan. I did some crude back-of-the-envelope calculations, and the amount of energy required for Shinobu’s trip was around 5 gigajoules. Even assuming air resistance and other factors I didn’t account for made me very inaccurate, it would take 4 orders of magnitude to get to the energy output of one of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan (67 terajoules for Hiroshima, 88 terajoules for Nagasaki), which is still several orders of magnitude too weak to significantly damage the entire continent of Antarctica. So a slight exaggeration there by the proud vampire.
Second, she needed to stop her explanation of the suspension bridge effect (or misattribution of arousal). It has nothing to do with the idea that animals want to reproduce because their lives are in danger; as the title suggests, it is merely the conflation of the physical arousal of being in danger with that of being sexually excited (the effect was only seen in male subjects interacting with female interviewers). I can only hope that anime is not at all a reflection of the state of science education in Japan. Let’s chalk that up to Shinobu never actually having studied science.
Certainly would have been sweet to see this little leap, considering what we got in Mayoi Jiangshi
Unfortunately, Shinobu’s tale this episode did awfully little to illuminate the mystery of what was chasing Koyomi and Mayoi. The short of it was, 400 years ago this void thing swallowed up everyone who knew of Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade. It even tried to swallow her up, but she didn’t stick around long enough to be overtaken or to find out more about it. Does that tell us much about why is it going after Koyomi and Mayoi now? Is it because Shinobu is back in Japan? Are other people who know Shinobu, which would be a majority of the cast (basically everyone except the sisters), also in danger? Not to mention, what the heck is that thing anyway, and what/who is behind it? There’s so much still up in the air, only someone who knows everything could help them at this point! My only hint would be to think of just how much Nisio likes playing with meta, and how much it’s seeped into the work recently, what with Ougi’s appearance in Nadeko Medusa, Shinobu’s narration of her story to Koyomi, and even the contents of the story which featured a vampire becoming a god only because people believed her to be a god.
I wish I could be excited for the rest of the arc, but this episode was the the piece de resistance of the arc, and Shaft kind of gave a flaccid effort. This was the second straight very oddly structured episode with no opening theme (damn it Shaft, you are giving us Maaya Sakamoto x Satoru Kosaki x meg rock, right?) an entirely too long post-credits sequence. I really have no idea what they’re going for with this. So not much to look forward to other than Nisio’s all too convenient wrap-up of the mystery. Well, that and lolis.
Click to see VOFAN’s original illustration from the novel.