Monogatari Series Second Season – 20: Shinobu Time Part 4

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Mayoi, you were too good for this wicked world.

So the arc that began with a pair of surprise loli kisses ends with a third. Turns out, the whole thing was about Mayoi, the ghost who refused to pass on… until now. This was an even bigger ass pull than what we normally get from Nisio, and Shaft didn’t do quite enough with the adaptation to make it overcome the source material.

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If there’s one thing this arc did right, it was the background music. Satoru Kosaki has always been good as the composer of the entire series (and the openings), and he seems to be getting even better as the series goes. Last arc had what I believe will be called Kuchinawa’s Theme, a playful yet unnerving piece to go with Kuchinawa’s manipulations of Nadeko, and this arc had another new theme, a quiet but intense piece to build tension during some of Shinobu’s narrations. This episode also featured Kosaki revisiting both of Mayoi’s openings for a calm and poignant backing to the climax.

And Shaft’s set design continues to be second to none. I already wrote last week about the mountains, and almost the entirety of this episode took us to an even more impressive setting, on some docks above a translucent lake containing what look like trees. I wonder if it was based on a real place?

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I feel like I’ve seen trees growing like this, but only in photographs of floods…

Unfortunately, Shaft’s old money-saving habits left the episode mostly visually uninteresting despite those gorgeous back drops. They’ve gotten creative before in dialogue heavy scenes – of which there are many in this series – but here we just got lots and lots of faraway shots from identical angles and regular close ups to faces talking. That only works if there is a reasonable amount of dialogue, or if the dialogue is particularly good, neither of which was the case here. The reliance on flashing texts got tiresome as well. They were OK in prior seasons when they were used sparingly and for little Easter Eggs here and there, but they have gotten much more frequent this season, and they’ve been used for filling in not insignificant details of the conversations. And this episode was probably the worst offender. It’s a lazy way to adapt the novel and annoying to us viewers who have to pause every minute to catch frames that appear for 1/8 second or less.

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I liked this overhead shot showing the entire lake. Near perfect circle design makes it look man made.

In summary, the arc came down down to, “God did it.” When you’ve got someone with omniscience explaining that you’re fighting an unstoppable force that exists to put right what it deems wrong, you can’t get much more of a deus ex machina than that. I like to look for the central themes these stories play with, but I don’t know what Nisio was going for with this one. Meta isn’t a bad thing – it’s a standard tool for all fictional media these days – but being just meta isn’t fun. It’s boring, and it’s lazy. This arc was gratuitously meta, to the extent that the antagonist was a manifestation of the author’s will to keep the story straight.

My best guess at what happened: Nisio watched some movie with a sad goodbye between a dying person and her lover, decided he wanted that for the Monogatari series, thought for a few nights on how to fit it in, gave up, and decided to explain it away with “plot convenience” objectified. Unfortunately, you can’t just make up drama and dump an emotional scene on the audience and expect it to work. You have to set it up with a story that meaningfully leads in to that scene. It’s inherently sad to have to say goodbye to Mayoi, but the knowledge that the only reason she has to go is “God did it” dampens that emotion. The only truly memorable part of the climax was Mayoi’s line, “Sorry, I bit your tongue.” That was perfection.

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I liked the way Shaft showed Mayoi on top of Ononoki lumbering their way to kiss Koyomi. I wonder how many of you picked up what was happening?

Disappointing arc for the Shinobu fans out there, I’m sure, as her storyline turned out to be a red herring, and her arc turned out somewhat of a mirror of Mayoi’s arc which featured more of Shinobu than Mayoi (not to mention the lack of an opening theme!). And disappointing for those who were hoping for some more answers as this season winds down to a close. As usual, Nisio has to accompany every answer with several new questions, not the least of which is the mystery of how Koyomi became reunited with Shinobu, and what came of Gaen Izuko meeting her niece Kanbaru Suruga (if you recall, during Tsubasa Tiger, the story skipped no fewer than twenty-five chapters between Black Hanekawa arriving at the burned-down cram school with Shinobu and Tsubasa waking up). This isn’t the first time Nisio’s teased like this; events from both Kizumonogatari “Koyomi Vamp” and Nekomonogatari Black “Tsubasa Family” – chronologically the 1st 2 stories of the series – were referenced plenty before the stories proper were published, so we can expect this story involving Gaen Izuko and Kanbaru Suruga and Ononoki Yotsugi and probably Black Hanekawa and Shinobu to be told in some later volume.

We’ve got 6 episodes and one arc left, Koimonogatari “Hitagi End” (Koimonogatari meaning Lovestory). Next episode will likely be another recap, so that’s 5 episodes for the arc, which is frankly more than enough. This is a fun arc, one that came as a breath of fresh air to me after trudging through Nadeko Medusa and Shinobu Time. I still rank the first two stories, Tsubasa Tiger and Mayoi Jianshi as my favorites, but Hitagi End comes in safely as the third. No spoilers as always, but let’s just say that we’re in for the closing of some major plot threads.

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I liked Shaft taking us back to where Koyomi first met Hitagi, right before the start of the final arc.

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A pan of Mayoi one last time before we say goodbye ;_;

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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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30 Responses to “Monogatari Series Second Season – 20: Shinobu Time Part 4”

  1. skylion says:

    ::sigh::

    Yeah, as you say, this ass pull was a bit much. The idea of Mayoi’s passing isn’t wrong, nor is the execution as I can accept it happening out of nowhere, an echo of how she died. But this ghost of a ghost business coupled with the Oddity Ruumba was just to much stacking of the deck.

    I found it really quite foolish to apply reasonable rules to Oddities, which are beings that defy reason. They are born of fears, doubts, anxiety, depression, delusions, and all the negative qualities we as humans care to project. The qualities that can be sign posts to us making very unreasonable decisions. Why apply a magical hoover to the oddities that grow wrong?

    As for the LOLi double down…and you asking, “I wonder how many of you picked up what was happening?” Did you mean how the scene was executed? Or if there as a symbolic thingy they were trying to accomplish. I picked up on the odd gait right away. But I thought that Ononoki was acting a bit of a Pyschopomp, leading the dead on the final journey, cutting the last tie. And I’m going to stop there because it makes me sad to think of it.

    • lvlln says:

      “Oddity Roomba,” “Magic Hoover,” those are good terms. Reminds me of the Counter Guardian (aka Archer) of the Nasuverse, whose job is to pop in throughout history and put right what is wrong. At least that one had a face & motivation to the concept, unlike here where it was basically the universe’s will.

      And yeah, I meant the one standing on the other. I wasn’t sure Shaft would show anything, since Koyomi only saw it after being surprised by the kiss, and I found those cut off shots of Mayoi’s top & Ononoki’s bottom to be cute.

      • skylion says:

        I was going to go with Supernatural SuckMonster, but I thought some name recognition would be best. ;-p

        Poor Ono was a prop this episode.

  2. BlackBriar says:

    There was too much Mayoi for an arc that is supposed to be about Shinobu. I wonder why Gaen wanted those three things on the condition he doesn’t tell Kanbaru they’re related. Maybe it foreshadows something in Suruga’s arc.

    • skylion says:

      …and to much Shinobu for an arc that was supposed to be about Mayoi. Classic, if slightly, misused misdirection.

      Kanbaru let on that she knew a bit about her family back in both Bake and Nise. So Gaen is trying to use Araragi as a bit of an “in”. Misdirection again.

      • skylion says:

        Wait, “to much Shinobu”. The universe simply does not allow for such a thing.

        Time for Shinobumonogatari.

        • BlackBriar says:

          I’m glad you corrected yourself on that. Shinobu is a must.

        • Di Gi Kazune says:

          How can there be too much lolishinobu?

          • BlackBriar says:

            Such a thought is heresy!!

            • skylion says:

              LOLi!Shinobu Best Shinobu. All others fail by choice.

            • lvlln says:

              I like the teenage Shinobu from Tsukihi Phoenix, personally. Her 8 year old form just isn’t as fun as one about 10 years older.

            • BlackBriar says:

              I agree. As much as Shinobu is cute in her loli form, her teenage form is more in my preference. That and she almost looked like a blonde version of Karen.

            • skylion says:

              #fail

            • Di Gi Kazune says:

              I see this is degenerating into anti-loli. She is legal FYI. More than 500 years old.

            • skylion says:

              Actually both comments are Prefer Older rather than anti-loli.

  3. Highway says:

    I actually liked the way this ended up. I can go along with a self-cleaning world, so I didn’t really think the finish was beyond the pale.

    Interestingly, while I rarely note the background music, I noticed this episode, in addition to the two figures you mention, it also felt like there was a callback to 私へ (Watashie), the ‘revisit’ song to Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari.

    • skylion says:

      I can kinda see your point in the self cleaning world. After all, the brute force where most of the problems the Oddities end up creating are resolved is a hallmark of the series. But I felt a ham-fisted approach here.
      Drop in the Deus Ex Gaen, and it gets even more hammy. It felt like this episode was serving further stories more than trying to be it’s own beast.
      Throw in Mayoi’s sudden departure (for I think rather spurious reasons) and you’ve got a mixed bag of stuff rather than good storytelling.

      • Highway says:

        I personally don’t think the Deus Ex Gaen is as bad a device as the Deus Ex Ougi. Maybe we’ll get some more reasoning for her presence, but I just find the character problematic.

        • skylion says:

          Well, at this point, both characters are cyphers. They just exist to switch the code of the show around a certain point. Both are not doing as good a job as Meme or Kaiki; or at least how they are implemented…

    • skylion says:

      Oh, thank you for that link. I’m going to have to bump that song up on my mp3 list. I wish SHAFT would give that song an anime presence like Madhouse gave Perfect Day.
      Translation by lyger of Evetaku. I’m quite happy to give a shout out to the TL he is giving Kyousogiga this season.

    • lvlln says:

      I don’t recall hearing any Watashi e in this episode (which really would just be Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari, since it’s just the same theme slowed down & quieter). Where did you hear it? I don’t recall Kosaki using themes from the ending themes in the BGM before.

      • Highway says:

        It was just the piano part at the beginning, which I might have misheard, I admit. But it certainly seemed to be similar.

        • skylion says:

          Are you thinking of Mayoi’s theme and OP Kaerimichi? It has a more emotional, slower, orchestral style score that runs with these scenes toward the end of this episode. It also ran in episode five of the original series, when she initially was help out by Araragi.

          • skylion says:

            …not to mention that alternate tracks of all the OPs are played during key moments for that characters development. Kanbaru had one in episode eight of the original series, for instance, a vibby keyboard bit of Ambivalent World.

          • Highway says:

            No, that was at a different time from what I’m thinking.

      • skylion says:

        I’ve prepared a soundcloud for this. All of these pieces are credited to Kosaki.

  4. Highway says:

    Something else that occurred to me as this episode ended: It’s rare where we have a harem property where we see the harem get reduced. Especially being knocked off one-by-one. So from having 5 or 6 girls after him (Hitagi, Tsubasa, Suruga (kinda sorta, although she seemed more interested in Hitagi), Mayoi, Nadeko, maybe Shinobu), he’s peeled off Tsubasa with a straight up confession and rejection, Nadeko with her turning evil, and now Mayoi by sending her off into the nether. Also his relationship with Shinobu now feels like something completely different, with no chance of other attachment.

    You just usually don’t see a harem disperse within the scope of the story.

    • skylion says:

      I don’t think Monogatari has ever been a genre harem series from the start. Yeah, it fiddles with the knobs a bit, but I don’t know if that counts.

      • Di Gi Kazune says:

        *monogatari uses the harem factor to troll the audience. It’s literally to-be-read anime, rather than watched. The style it presents is more akin to reading.

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