Monogatari Final Season: Tsukimonogatari Review: In Which Doctorkev Begins to Feel As Expressionless And Empty As Yotsugi Ononogi
After a break of over 8 months, I’ve finally returned to complete my journey through the seemingly never-ending Monogatari series. With this first arc from the so-called Final Season, December 2014’s Tsukimonogatari, I’m only 6 years or so behind broadcast, so I’m making pretty good time. Last time, I reviewed Koimonogatari (Love Story), which wrapped up the second season’s main arc involving Sengoku Nadeko and her ascension to snake-godhood.
Tsukimonogatari starts on February 13th — the day before Valentine’s Day, some time following the conclusion of Koimonogatari. Araragi learns that Nadeko has left hospital, and wisely resists his sisters’ urging that he should visit her. He’s matured enough to realise that his presence in Nadeko’s life is preventing her from growing up and moving on. Araragi also recognises that his sisters need to grow up too, and leave their childish “fire sisters” act behind.
Most of the first episode is comprised of that old Monogatari staple — personal grooming time with Araragi and his siblings. I realise now that much of this is meant to be somewhat parodic, but boy does that camera like to focus on his middle-school-aged sister’s naked, soapy body. The dialogue comments on how abnormal Araragi’s relationship to his sisters is, but yet does not hesitate to invite the audience to become complicit in his paedophilic/incestuous gaze. I didn’t like it in Nisemonogatari, and I certainly didn’t appreciate it here. The entire point of the episode comes in the closing 30 seconds or so when Araragi realises he no longer possesses a reflection.
This arc will come to epitomise many of the problems I have with Monogatari as a whole — a lot of time is wasted with circular, irritating conversations, uncomfortable fanservice and empty, flashy visuals. What little plot there is progresses glacially, buried beneath the extraneous ephemera. Yes, it always looks great, but when I have to watch it at 1.5x speed to stop from dropping off, surely there is a problem?
Araragi discusses his lack of reflection with little blond semi-ex-vampire Shinobu who lives inside his shadow, and she convinces him to consult with an occult specialist — the vaguely insane Yozuru Kagenui, you know, the one who tried to murder his sister Tsukihi a couple of seasons back. First they have to retrieve her doll-like familiar, the snappily-dressed Ononogi Yotsugi from a fairground crane game. This is a very weird but funny scene. I like how they really lean into Yotsugi’s doll-like nature in this arc (it is subtitled Yotsugi Doll after all).
They meet with Kagenui who, as usual is seen perching upon any object (including other characters’ heads) other than the ground, as this arc finally (sort of) explains that she is somehow cursed and must never set foot upon the ground. Okay, then… it’s a rather contrived character quirk, but I suppose it does lead to some bizarre transitional scenes where she leaps from tree branch-to-tree branch like some kind of supernatural consultant ninja. Her curse never seems to impose upon story progression, but I’m not even sure why it’s a “thing” in the first place. I suppose the author wanted to give her a distinguishing peculiarity. It does add a certain visual flair and eccentricity to her appearances, as befits her somewhat unhinged nature.
In a nice nod to continuity, it seems that Araragi has become too accustomed to becoming a vampire — he overused his powers daily during the situation with Nadeko, and now the possibility of permanently transforming doesn’t seem to perturb him anywhere near as much as he should. He’s told he must stop using his vampire powers, or he’ll lose his humanity forever. Later in the story he comments that he’s unable to rely on his female support as he did previously — Mayoi is gone, Hanekawa is cured of her cat-aberration and he can’t use Kanbaru nor her cursed monkey arm — because the arc’s belated antagonist kidnaps her along with his two sisters whom he sent to her for safekeeping. That leaves only Shinobu, and using her vampire powers is what has led him into this mess.
Araragi is forced then to rely on Yotsugi who, although she looks like a little girl is in fact a reanimated corpse doll made through the combined actions of all of the occult specialists we have met throughout the series — Oshino, Gaen, Kaiki and Kagenui — along with one more, never previously mentioned — the mysterious Teori Tadatsuru. Teori holds a grudge against Kagenui for taking custody of Yotsugi, though Yotsugi claims to have “chosen” Kagenui. Teori’s area of specialism is in immortal dead aberrations such as vampires, and kidnaps Kanbaru, Karen and Tsukihi to draw Araragi out to North Shirahebi Shrine — until recently Snake God Nadeko’s residence, now sitting empty and acting as a focal point for supernatural activity. (Araragi worries that he won’t be able to fix the problem of the shrine attracting dangerous aberrations before he leaves for college after Spring.)
Obviously Ougi Oshino pops up to make some sharp observations, score obscure points and generally confuse everyone with knowledge she probably shouldn’t have. We’re still given very little information about who or what she is, but she describes a desire to “return things to balance” and chides Araragi for his reliance on yet another young female. Somewhat sinisterly, she claims to have been waiting by the shrine for Araragi “all day”, while he had learned to go there only moments before. She also claims to have nowhere to live. They argue in vague concepts , so it’s somewhat difficult to get a handle on what she intends from her intervention. Nothing about Ougi seems right, and her prime motivation seems to be to mess with Araragi.
Teori himself is odd. He sits on the shrine offertory box folding origami shapes. He glows like an apparition and expresses his irritation that he seems to have been set up as a “perfect antagonist” to Araragi. Before he can fight, Yotsugi blows him up with her “Unlimited Rulebook” magic attack, horrifying Araragi that she could end a human life that way. Throughout the story, he and Shinobu discussed whether she acted human merely to fit in with others, or whether she had a shred of humanity remaining. The answer would seem to be the first option.
His unconscious sisters and Kanbaru rescued, Araragi resigns himself to having lost yet another ally — he can’t look at Yotsugi in the same way again now that he knows she is capable of taking a human life — but instead discovers that his sisters subsequently won her in the same crane game he did, and now she’s play-acting as the usual expressionless, inanimate doll within his own home.
This felt very much like a transitional story, concerned mainly with manoeuvering various pieces into the correct places rather than telling a coherent satisfying tale in itself. One of the reasons it’s taken me so long to get around to writing this article is how tired I have become of Monogatari’s languid pace and endless circular discussions. Sometimes those conversations are so dense, vague and obtuse I need to watch the show a second time around (also to derive screenshots) and I just did not have the appetite to do that when there are so many more immediately enjoyable seasonal anime shows to watch. Perhaps I’m all about the instant gratification, but if only Monogatari was more like a chewy, satisfying steak, I wouldn’t mind it taking so long to digest. Unfortunately it’s more like a particularly difficult to masticate toffee that sticks in my teeth — insubstantial and empty calories.
I continue to appreciate the little background distractions from the endless yakkity-yakking — the snowball fight between Shinobu and Yotsugi, and the building of Yotsugi’s mass snowman armies both stick out as cute and funny, but I feel that the content of these four episodes could charitably be cut down to two, and it would still feel padded. I don’t have that much time for entertainment these days, and I’m starting to feel that Monogatari has wasted altogether too much of it.
Format: Region B Blu-ray
Directors: Tomoyuki Itamura, Akiyuki Shinbou
Writer: Akiyuki Shinbou
Based on the Light Novel by: NisiOisin
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Classification: BBFC 15
Distributor: MVM Entertainment
Original Japanese TV Broadcast: December 31st 2014
UK Blu-ray Release Date: May 30th 2016
Runtime: 96 minutes
Monogatari Second Season: Koimonogatari Review: In which Doctorkev is confused to discover that…
It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally reached the end of Monogatari ‘s second season with this 6th and final 6-part…
Monogatari Second Season: Onimonogatari Review: In which Doctorkev merely got grit in his eye…
Goodbyes are always difficult. As a kid I loved when my aunt and uncle visited for the weekend and would cry when they…