Monogatari Final Season: Owarimonogatari Part 2 Review: In Which Doctorkev is Glad Never to Have Been Hunted By His Wife’s Undead Ex
THERE WILL BE SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS IN THIS FOR BOTH MONOGATARI SECOND SEASON AND FINAL SEASON UP UNTIL OWARIMONOGATARI EPISODE 13.
Last time, I re-boarded the Monogatari train after a lengthy interregnum, and now we’re well down the tracks to wherever it is that original light novel author NisiOisin is driving us. The Owarimonogatari volume 2 blu-ray set contains episodes eight through thirteen, originally broadcast weekly in autumn 2015, directly following the first seven episodes. These six episodes comprise a single story, Shinobu Mail, nominally focusing on Araragi’s familiar Shinobu Oshino, the formerly all-powerful vampire and oddity-slayer once known as Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade.
Chronologically this takes place prior to the previous volume’s trilogy of tales regarding mathematical prodigy Sodachi Oikura, and in fact occurs directly after the second season’s Onimonogatari/Shinobu Time and concurrent with the events of Nekomonogatari White/Tsubasa Tiger. It finally explains the presence of unsettling know-it-all/master manipulator Izuko Gaen and half-vampire Episode in Tsubasa’s story. To recap, Araragi and Shinobu have recently returned from their disastrous time-travel trip to eleven years in the past, having met an adult version of a Mayoi Hachikuji who didn’t die in a road traffic accident as a child, and witnessed the apocalyptic results of a Kiss-Shot unfettered by ties to Araragi. The child ghost Mayoi back in this reality has been obliged to move on to the afterlife, leaving Araragi devastated at losing his friend and confidant.
The events of this story, Shinobu Mail, are related after the fact by Araragi to creepy Ougi Oshino who has somehow gained access to his bedroom at some point much later in continuity. It seems to be immediately before his university entrance examination, which places the framing sequences after Tsukimonogatari, and emotionless doll Yotsugi Ononoki remains resident in the Araragi household by still pretending to be inanimate, while being treated as a stuffed toy by Araragi’s sisters. Oddly enough, Ougi was the only person to whom Araragi confided in the loss of Mayoi. I don’t know what Ougi did to garner the trust Araragi seems to place in her. Anyway, Ougi has only a cameo, the story is much more focused on Araragi and his odd co-dependent relationship with Shinobu.
Way back in the Kizumonogatari movies we learned how Araragi found a mutilated, powerless Kiss-Shot, took pity on her, and offered his life as a sacrifice to revive her, becoming her vampiric thrall in the process. Ultimately, Kiss-shot wanted Araragi to end her life and therefore return him to being human, but finding a compromise “that would make no-one happy”, Araragi retained a little of his vampire power while reducing Shinobu to a practically powerless husk, dependent upon him for sustenance. Although initially distraught and sulking for months, eventually Shinobu seemed to accept her fate, took up residence in Araragi’s shadow, and they developed a kind of weird friendship.
In Shinobu Time, Shinobu admitted that Araragi wasn’t the first thrall she had created — four hundred years previously, when visiting Japan, she had turned vampire hunter/oddity slayer Seishirou Shishirui into her vampiric servant. Filled with despair and self-hatred, Seishirou committed suicide by exposing himself to sunlight, bursting into flames and becoming dust. No doubt at least in part due to this trauma, Kiss-Shot declined to turn anyone else until Araragi offered himself in her most desperate hour.
In one of NisiOisin’s signature storytelling techniques, he now embellishes the backstory, explaining that what was related previously wasn’t exactly what happened, and he ties Kiss-shot’s history into most of the last three seasons’ worth of plot. Now whether this was planned or made up as he went along doesn’t matter, it adds so much extra texture, depth and emotional complexity to the entire narrative that I’ve come to appreciate the whole story so much more now. Shinobu Mail may be one of my most favourite parts of the entire Monogatari series.
I’ve mentioned before how problematic a protagonist Koyomi Araragi is — self-absorbed yet overly self-critical, perverse and cynical. Even his “positive” attributes like his prominent self-sacrificial nature cause problems for him. He can’t seem to help developing complicated relationships that blur normal boundaries, especially when it comes to characters who appear underage, like Mayoi, Shinobu and Ononoki. His familial relationships with his sisters are absurdly sexualised, he vocally lusts after schoolfriend Tsubasa Hanekawa’s body, plus he frequently engages in sexually provocative discourse with Suruga Kanbaru (although she usually instigates this, to be fair). His only “normal” relationship is with his girlfriend Hitagi Senjogahara, and he’s too terrified of her to ever consider cheating on her with the multitudes of inappropriate women who surround him. He’s kind of like the anti-Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura, with Senjogahara as a slightly less-levitational Lum.
In a way, it’s his relationship with Shinobu that’s the closest, and in fact he states that “there’s only one person I want to die together with”, and that’s his little blonde vampire who lives in his shadow. I don’t think that’s meant to be a declaration of romantic love on his part, but a deep recognition of what they mean to one another. I can’t help but wonder what Senjogahara has to say about this? I can’t remember any instance of Senjogahara and Shinobu actually interacting. On the most part, Araragi seems to keep Senjogahara at arms’ length when dealing with his various supernatural crises.
At the beginning of this story, Araragi is hiding in the abandoned cram school, temporarily separated from Shinobu following the events of Shinobu Time. This means he’s essentially a powerless human without his usual regenerative capabilities. He calls Kanbaru to meet him, and there follows a lengthy (but kind of funny) conversation where Kanbaru repeatedly insinuates he has perverse designs on her, and provocatively offers her body to him. I’m never quite sure how much to take Kanbaru at face value, because we know that she’s primariy attracted to women (though she has an enormous collection of Boys’ Love novels, so perhaps her tastes are more omnivorous?). I expect that should Araragi ever respond in kind to her propositions she’d be horrified and report him to to his terrifying girlfriend, if only so she could comfort Senjogahara and steal her heart from him.
The defenceless Araragi is attacked by a mobile suit of ancient Japanese armour, he’s completely incapable of fighting, and so Kanbaru valiantly attempts to protect him, but the armour has the vampiric skill of “energy drain” that saps Kanbaru’s strength. They survive only because of Yotsugi Ononoki’s appearance, and coincidentally, Tsubasa Hanekawa’s pink tiger apparition destroying the cram school with its flames, syncing up the timeline with the events of Tsubasa Tiger. If it weren’t for this very deliberate plot contrivance, it’s almost certain both Araragi and Kanbaru would have been killed.
Ononoki’s motivation is to ensure that Araragi keeps his promise to her master and creator Izuko Gaen, shadowy (rainbow) mastermind, most formidable of every supernatural specialist we’ve met on the show so far. His promise? To introduce Gaen to her niece Kanbaru. Gaen is Kanbaru’s deceased mother’s sister. I suppose there must be some kind of familial strife that prevents her from introducing herself? If this has already been explained, then I’ve forgotten it. Ononoki randomly strips off her stockings and plants her small kiddy foot onto Araragi’s cheek, leaving an imprint. This is weird. On the way to meet up with Shinobu, Araragi and Kanbaru get lost and Araragi calls Gaen for help, who tells him to either help himself or use what he has to hand. She and Meme Oshino seem to share an outlook on problem-solving.
They finally catch up with a sleeping Shinobu (under a child’s swing!) in the same playpark that Araragi first met Mayoi Hachikuji. After fighting off a weird apparition that appears to be a combination of Araragi’s previous oddity encounters, the merry band travel across the city to the snake shrine that Meme Oshino had tasked Araragi with sealing back in the first season, the place where Nadeko Sengoku will eventually ascend to (temporary) snake godhood. There they meet Izuko Gaen, who for some reason chooses to conceal her true identity from Kanbaru. I don’t fully understand why she did this, but everything Gaen does seems to be carefully planned.
Gaen proceeds to explain the entire plot of Monogatari. We already knew that Kiss-shot drew oddities/aberrations/apparitions to herself, as occurred 400 years previously when she made her first thrall. Her return to Japan, and to Araragi’s city in particular, was blamed for the recent proliferation of supernatural occurences . However, it appears that this wasn’t the whole story. Suicidal Seishirou didn’t succeed in dying — he spent four centuries floating around the world as dust, unconsciously attempting to reconstitute hi body and failing, until fifteen years ago, the guardian deity of the snake shrine died, leaving a supernatural void. Seishirou began to regain his strength at the shrine and subconsciously attracted Kiss-shot to the city. Fifteen years previously also coincided with significant events in the lives of Tsubasa Hanekawa, Tsukihi Araragi, and Yotsugi Ononoki. Gaen blames Araragi for the string of oddity-related disasters that followed his first encounter with Kiss-shot, and now he must take responsibility and fight the root cause of the plague of aberrations — the entity in the armour, Shinobu’s abandoned minion.
Shinobu wants nothing to do with Seishirou, and expects Araragi to deal with him. It’s only while Kanbaru sends Araragi away on a shopping trip that Shinobu is forced to reckon with her buried feelings, and she objects to being schooled in emotional intelligence by a high school student. I found this scene particularly enlightening. Shinobu fears what meeting with her former partner would mean for her and Araragi. She views Araragi as her family now, and wants nothing to threaten that, even if it means leaving old wounds festering and unhealed.
Meanwhile, Araragi meets the reconstituted Seishirou who now takes the form of a young boy, and who attempts to poison him with holy water! He’s desperate to get back into Shinobu’s good graces and even tries to sell it to Araragi as a way to regain his full humanity and dispel his obligations towards Shinobu. It honestly reads like Shinobu’s ex-husband trying to convince her new husband to dump her so she can take her ex back. Seishirou reasons that he’s too far gone to ever become human, but it’s not too late for Araragi, but he also says that nothing good will come of Araragi and Shinobu staying together. At the beginning, Araragi had accepted the situation wouldn’t make anyone happy, but has that remained true? Shinobu’s ex is clearly still hung up on her, using romantic-sounding language to describe their relationship. That doesn’t seem to be what Shinobu really wants, though. She wants family, not a love slave.
Regardless of Seishirou’s arguments, a fight is prevented because of Ononoki’s foot mark upon Araragi’s face — it’s a protective ward apparently, not just uncomfortable horny weirdness. Gaen and Episode appear to bargain for a duel between Araragi and Seishirou, so a plan is agreed. Gaen, whose motives often seem a mystery, seems to try and talk Araragi out of this, suggesting he should either go help Senjogahara or Hanekawa with their pink tiger problem. But he chooses to prioritise “little girls over lovers and friends”, and I’m not sure how to take that…
Though the duel ends up a completely deflating affair because Araragi knew he’d have no chance in a fight, so instead incapacitates his rival using Meme Oshino’s talisman, removed from the shrine earlier. Not even Gaen had seen that coming, apparently. Melting into goo, the doomed vampire finally meets Shinobu again, who appears to take responsibility for her minion, by devouring his remains, ensuring he can never regenerate again, crying as she does so. “I’m glad I met you again,” she says, “but now we will never meet again, for there’s someone who’s more important to me now. For a little while longer, I’d like to be someone who’s there for him.” I’m not going to lie, I teared up at this bit. For all that she acts like a spoiled, donut-obsessed brat, Shinobu really really loves Araragi, and most definitely not in a romantic way.
A final sting in the tale — Ougi asks Araragi if Shinobu ate the armour. Araragi can’t remember, so Ougi insinuates that the reason Gaen summoned Episode was so that he could retrieve the armour so it could be reforged into the “true” oddity-slayer sword. Remember that the sword Shinobu keeps within herself is but a copy. What would Gaen want with an oddity slayer sword, and was that her whole motivation all along? As Ougi says, “the final puzzle piece is in place.”
These six episodes of Owarimonogatari were extremely well-paced (for Monogatari anyway), and although the usual extended conversations were present, they mostly functioned to further the plot and/or themes of the story. I like that this season’s theme seems to be Araragi learning to grow up and take responsibility for his actions, but also that not all the consequences have been bad. Although he made the decision not to kill Kiss-shot back in Kizimonogatari with the knowledge that “no-one would be happy”, I don’t think he can truly say that is what happened. Yes, he’s experienced significant trauma, but he’s made some incredible friends, most significantly his intimate sibling-like relationship with Shinobu, and of course with his girlfriend Senjogahara. Without meeting Kiss-shot, it’s unlikely his life would have improved in this way.
What sometimes seems like a shallow, repetitive and slow series full of daft humour and intrusive fanservice can often be thought-provoking and life-affirming at times. I can definitely see why the franchise has a strong following, and also why author NisiOisin has been so reluctant to stop writing it. He’s created such a varied, complex set of characters with which to construct unexpectedly profound stories.
There’s probably little more I can say about Monogatari’s visuals than what I’ve already said elsewhere, it continues to look beautifully designed and directed, even when the animation itself can be limited, the characters often static. Because Shinobu’s voice actress declines to sing in character, unlike the other arcs’ main female protagonists’ actresses, instead of an upbeat pop song opener we once again get a rich, dark and gothic German chant. “Mein Schatz”, means “my treasure”, with very simple lyrics that become more resonant and heartbreaking as the episodes progress:
Du bist alles — You are everything
Rufe meinen namen — Call my name
Und wieder, und wieder — And again, and again
Für immer — For ever
und ewig — and ever
Mein schatz — My treasure
It makes Seishirou’s fate ever more tragic, if this is a reflection of his feeings, though I wonder if this was also how Kiss-shot felt when she was first abandoned? Or if this is now how Shinobu feels about Araragi? I find myself looking forwards to finding out how all of this eventually resolves. I’ll be back again soon to look at Koyomimonogatari (Calendar Tale).
Owarimonogatari Part 2
Format: Region B Blu-ray
Directors: Tomoyuki Itamura, Akiyuki Shinbou
Writers: Yukito Kizawa and Muneo Nakamoto
Based on the Light Novel by: NisiOisin
Language: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Classification: BBFC 12
Distributor: MVM Entertainment
Original Japanese TV Broadcast: November 14th 2015 — December 19th 2015
UK Blu-ray Release Date: May 22nd, 2017
Runtime: 144 minutes
Monogatari Final Season: Tsukimonogatari Review: In Which Doctorkev Begins to Feel As…
After a break of over 8 months, I’ve finally returned to complete my journey through the seemingly never-ending…
Monogatari Final Season: Owarimonogatari Part 1 Review: In Which Doctorkev Learns That Even…
It’s funny how good intentions can be easily waylaid. Around three years ago, I began a journey through the…