No telling what you might find when you peek into a maiden’s heart.
So we find out just what it was that Kaiki found in Nadeko’s bedroom closet, which he invokes at just the right time to save his ass and those of almost every named character in the series including his precious
Shaft putting CG to good work for the thousands and thousands of snakes flooding the shrine. Of course they had to put in that whirlpool effect.
So in the end it comes down to manga. More specifically the hobby of drawing manga. If you saw that one coming, kudos, because Kaiki sure as heck wasn’t giving you any help. He did tell us at the start that he intended to tell a good story, and holding that piece of information back admittedly did make for better storytelling. And as far as twists and deus ex machina go in this series, this one was executed relatively well; the key point of this manga hobby that made it useful was that it was Nadeko’s one true secret.
I liked this message from Kaiki, that Nadeko is much more than her crush on Koyomi, and she is denying herself a life full of possibilities by letting that one thing drive her to godhood. Very simple, to the point, and easy to understand. Obvious even, as Kaiki noted to Koyomi later. That’s the part that’s a bit befuddling about this resolution. It relies on Nadeko understanding and accepting such a simple explanation, when this mess wouldn’t exist in the first place if we could count on her thinking rationally. Was all that was needed to bring her back from the brink of mass murder just some level-headed advice on gaining perspective on life, the kind of advice any child might get from an adult at some point? Apparently so, but you’ll have to excuse me if I’m having a hard time swallowing it.
Such great faces on Nadeko after the big reveal. And with stellar animation, especially when she was getting violent toward the end.
Another thing I like is that there’s no telling just how much of Kaiki’s message he actually believes. He’s quite proud of his dishonesty and penchant for saying whatever is needed to get what he wants, after all. And such pretty words about the inherent embarrassment of the creation process and the responsibility to push forward despite doubts sounded more like Araragi (particularly from Tsubasa Tiger) than a cynical con man. Then again, this arc has been all about tearing down his reputation that preceded him and showing us a taste of who he really is. For instance, Kaiki doesn’t seem to be nearly as good at this profession as we’ve been made to believe.
He did achieve his goal in the end, so he gets the win here, but he was surprisingly incompetent in his misjudging of Nadeko. Heck, the previous episode had Tsubasa flat out telling him his big revelation this episode that Nadeko’s heart is completely closed, but he continued to assume she was a simpleton whose trust he could easily win. It seemed awfully arrogant of him to claim that his con had been perfect; isn’t his job as a con man to read his marks and sneak his way into their hearts despite the barriers they put up?
His other jobs we know about haven’t been all that impressive either. Neither selling charms to middle schoolers nor taking down that cult was supposed to have netted him much money. In this arc, he earned less than 3.1 million yen, the equivalent of about $31,000 USD. Probably less than Japan’s median household income of about $27,000 after hotel, food, transportation, and shrine visiting costs were taken out. And could it be that he was played by both Senjougahara and Gaen as he theorized? Their efforts were pointless because he was dedicated from the start for the sake of Suruga, but it seems he was oblivious to their manipulations until after the fact.
One of the most beautiful smiles I’ve seen in anime. The shadows on the corner of her right eye just makes it.
And in the end despite his success he was got by Ougi, who informed at least one violently vengeful middle schooler of his return to the town. The plot thickens. A funny thing to say after a finale, but that’s the way Nisio likes to play it, presenting two more enigmas for each one he solves, like some sort of mystery obsessed hydra. What’s clear by this point is that Ougi is orchestrating something involving the characters of this story in some way. That’s about all that’s clear, though. Why is she doing this, and how is it that she seems to know as much as she does? Is she at all related to the equally mysterious Gaen, who also seems to know everything? Nisio has left plenty of unresolved threads to let him keep tapping that money dripping faucet in the future. Well, in the case of the anime we still have Hanamonogatari to look forward to, the 3rd of the 6 novels. There are some big puzzle pieces revealed in that story, though again Nisio presents them wrapped in even more enigmas.
It’s been a lot of fun this season seeing what translated to the screen well and what didn’t. Tsubasa Tiger was by far my favorite of the novels, but its monologue-heavy nature meant much of its brilliance couldn’t make it to animated form. It didn’t help that Shaft dragged through the adaptation over 5 episodes while also skimping on the animation, resulting in something that wasn’t nearly as enthralling as the source, at least until the final episode. On the flipside, Nadeko Medusa was one I had to force myself to read through, but was absolutely brilliant in animated form. It was a tightly paced adaptation, and Shaft showed off enough of their tricks without overdoing it, its bossa nova opening theme was by far the best of the season, and Kana Hanazawa turned a somewhat fun scene from the book into one of the unforgettable, top moments in anime this year. Unfortunately the other really boring book Shinobu Time didn’t turn out quite as well, though not for lack of trying. Shaft’s scroll gimmick was a bold idea that I can respect, but it way overstayed its welcome in the one episode filled with them. Mayoi Jiangshi was the opposite of that, a fun and crazy story adapted into fun and crazy anime.
When it comes to iconic or series defining moments, this one from Nekomonogatari White Part 5 still takes the cake.
Then there was Hitagi End, perhaps the best combination of Nisio’s writings with Shaft’s visuals yet. I still think Shaft should have fit it into 5 episodes, but it turned out fine at 6. They didn’t let loose too much visually, but they still had plenty of great touches like the 3 stage costumed conversation in Part 1. And this finale was beautiful, Shaft going all out in the snake filled climax, and not to mention the series of landscapes Kaiki walked through before he met his unfortunate fate (was more than a bit reminiscent of Shinobu and Koyomi walking through various scenes in the town before heading to their deaths at the end of Mayoi Jiangshi). All backed by perhaps the sharpest dialogue that Nisio has written for this series yet.
The Monogatari series is a funny beast. I still remember the storm surrounding it back when it was released in 2009. It wasn’t love at first sight, and I in fact dropped it after a couple of episodes, but I found myself oddly drawn back to it. In time for that episode, the one that cemented its spot among the most memorable, if not powerful, shows I’ve watched. Nisemonogatari was even better in many ways, though it faced criticism for being little more than a fanservice fest. Which it was. A glorious and beautiful fanservice fest. I like Bakemonogatari better, but I still believe Nisemonogatari was a better put together, better directed piece of work made from worse source material.
Though a close second, of course, is Nadeko’s character defining scene.
I’d place this season’s production quality somewhere between Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari, but the source material as being much stronger than either. It’s beyond cliche now that harem light novels tend to scare away from plot developments, usually so that fans of specific characters will have reason to keep buying them. That’s not what these 6 new entries in this series did, instead following each character’s story thread to its conclusion, while also layering on new characters and mysteries. Nisio is a little too shameless about his trolling and his meta jokes (many of which Shaft thankfully cut from their adaptations), but this is still a far better way to tell a story than to force a status quo. Nisio playing so close to the chest with stuff involving Gaen Izuko and Oshino Ougi can be annoying, but the main story in each arc worked fine without the little details. Well, except for Shinobu Time, but it wouldn’t have been fine either way.
Looking back at these now 53 episodes of the series, one thing I especially love is how little time has passed. Not counting time travel, the animated stories range from May (Nekomonogatari Black) to February of the following year (Koimonogatari), a span of only 9 months. Including Kizumonogatari which takes place during Spring break in March/April and Hanamonogatari which takes place in [REDACTED] doesn’t extend it by more than a handful of months. We won’t be reading about Araragi giving Senjougahara 2 years’ worth of anything anytime soon.
Of course, who can forget the one and only Hachikuji Mayoi, 22 (?) year old version from the finale to her arc?
Looking ahead, Hanamonogatari “Suruga Devil” is supposed to come out later this year. I’ve mentioned before that I really enjoyed reading this novel, though the story wasn’t quite as affecting as Tsubasa Tiger or Hitagi End. Without spoiling anything, I hope you’re looking forward to seeing some basketball, some running, hipster Ougi, a certain Numachi Rouka, and a Volkswagen Beetle.