Monogatari Final Season: Zoku Owarimonogatari Review: In Which Doctorkev Doesn’t Want to Regret Leaving Unfinished Business Behind
And after three years we finally we reach the end! No — the end, continued! Last time, I covered the final volume of Owarimonogatari, and now we come to what functions as an epilogue. Unlike most of the rest of the Monogatari anime, Zoku Owarimonogatari is unavailable to stream anywhere in English, as far as I can find, leaving only the blu-ray option for conscientious fans who object to piracy. Shame the RRP is $75 for six episodes (discounted on Rightstuf.com at $60), though the UK price is a slightly more sensible £30 (available direct from publisher MVM for a discounted £23).
SPOILERS FOR ALL OF MONOGATARI’S FINAL SEASON FOLLOW
Zoku Owarimonogatari (End Tale Continued) follows on directly from Owarimonogatari (End Tale), beginning with Koyomi Araragi awakening on the morning after his graduation, to be reminded by his sisters that as he’s no longer a high school student, they won’t be bullying him out of bed every morning from now on. Araragi muses that as he doesn’t yet know if he’s been accepted into college, is no longer a school pupil, and doesn’t have a job, he’s essentially got no identity. As he washes his face in the bathroom sink, he’s alarmed to see his reflection freeze in place, and when he investigates, he finds himself sucked into the mirror. Just another normal day in the Araragi household, then.
Araragi exits the mirror in what appears to be a slightly different world, where everything is recognisable but… off somehow. The difference in his youngest sister Tsukihi is that her kimono is tied to the wrong side, though she does that often enough anyway. His other sister Karen, normally taller than he, appears to have lost several inches in height, and is much more typically girlish. Oh, and she’s stark naked. This is Monogatari, after all. The other, newer (but dead) female member of his household, doll/plushie/murder-zombie Yotsugi Ononoki seems very different, her twisted personality on full display unmitigated by her usual blank expression. She’s learned how to smirk. And grin. Oh, and instead of her usual dress, she’s now wearing pants.
Araragi visits the snake shrine to seek counsel from recently-installed god Mayoi Hachikuji, and discovers in this reality she’s a fully grown adult of twenty-one (her true age), as she would be now had she not died aged ten. He immediately finds their roles inverted — Araragi is the younger, more vulnerable one as Hachikuji proceeds to gleefully molest him, announcing her desire to hug, kiss and lick him while he struggles to escape her lewd embrace.
Surmising he’s trapped in some freaky mirror dimension, Araragi heads to Suruga Kanbaru’s home to see if he can use the water reflection in her supposedly magical bath house to return home. Unfortunately a very angry, terrifying “Rainy Devil” version of Kanbaru bursts forth through the door and relentlessly chases him with obvious murderous intent. If we remember Kanbaru’s first story back in the first season, she was jealous of Araragi’s relationship with her crush Hitagi Senjogahara, and attacked him in her “oddity” form. Their eventual reconciliation and friendship clearly didn’t occur in this version of reality…
Saved by Tsubasa Hanekawa’s cat oddity, which is odd, because normally the cat would likely also be quite keen on murderising Araragi, he endures a reprise of the constant “nya” and “meow” puns in her speech. Returning home he discovers yet another surprise — a short-haired Sodachi Oikura who doesn’t only live with his family, she acts incredibly friendly and clingy with him, and they share a bedroom! (Separate bunk-beds, obviously, though we get the impression that if Araragi offered his bed to share, Sodachi would jump right in there.)
It seems this version of Sodachi stayed on with Araragi’s family from childhood, never returned to her own abusive family, and never developed an antagonistic relationship with him. In fact it seems as if she and Araragi are as close as siblings, or best friends. Unfortunately her proximity to this version of Araragi seems to cause her mental anguish, as if two realities clash inside her mind — and in one of those realities, she was abandoned by Araragi and abused by her parents.
Returning to the shrine, adult-Hachikuji introduces Araragi to mirror-Nadeko Sengoku. The usual Nadeko is shy and reserved, but this version is loud and brash and still has her glowing white hair from when she became a snake god. Araragi catches up with Ononoki again who appears to have reverted back to her previous expressionless self, essentially because she sensed Araragi’s feeling that something about her was “wrong” and so performed a lobotomy on herself to become expressionless again. That’s… kind of screwed up. Also, Ononoki accuses this reality’s version of Araragi of regularly removing every young female character’s “bottoms”, suggesting he’s an even worse sex pest than non-mirror-Araragi. It’s hard to know if she’s just messing with him, though.
Ononoki takes Araragi to visit this version of reality’s Shinobu, who is not a vampire — as they are un-reflected in mirrors, then of course they can’t exist within a mirror world. This leads to all kinds of logic problems with this world’s continuity, but Araragi learns that the mirror world is but a reflection of a single snapshot of his reality, it’s imperfect, and things like chronology and logic don’t matter. Mirror-Shinobu lives in a Disney-like castle where the ruins of the cram school should be, and is such a shiningly perfect specimen of royal beauty that any normal mortal in her presence quickly desires to commit suicide for her, so Araragi can’t talk to her for long. Shinobu suggests he return to the Kanbaru household, and Ononoki can distract the rabid Suruga Kanbaru while he takes a bath(!)
While stark naked in the bath (as one would be, naturally), Araragi is perturbed to meet the long-elusive (mostly because she is dead) and similarly naked Tooe Gaen, mother of Suruga Kanbaru, and older sister to terrifying know-it-all supernatural specialist Izuko Gaen. They share a deeply uncomfortable (for Araragi) extended bathing scene, where Tooe insists on scrubbing Araragi’s back, while scratching him repeatedly with her nails. It’s very weird, and very Monogatari.
It turns out that Tooe has yet another variation on Monogatari’s recurrent knowledge motif. Whereas Tsubasa Hanekawa “doesn’t know everything, she only knows what she knows”, and Izuko Gaen “knows everything”, while Ougi Oshino “knows nothing but Araragi knows everything”, Tooe suggests she’s even more powerful than Izuko. While Izuko does indeed know “everything”, she has no way of knowing for sure if what she knows is really true or not. However, Tooe has the ability to divine the truth of any situation without prior knowledge, because she really is just that overpowered. She guesses exactly what Araragi’s problem is without him explaining anything, expresses some regrets about the way she brought up her daughter, and then she disappears, because she was dead all along or something? At least she leaves the address of Araragi’s next target scratched into his back with her fingernails. Oh mommy.
Tooe’s clue was Naoetsu High. Araragi decides he can only snoop around his former school if he wears his school uniform, but finds there’s only a female uniform in his room. He accepts this because he assumes that his mirror version is the gender-ambiguous Ougi Oshino, who mostly wears female attire. We’re treated to the sight of Araragi in a dress cycling to school, extremely embarrassed.
Araragi finally finds Ougi in the oddity classroom he first met her in, waiting for him. Ougi, seemingly without malice, but not without her usual mischievousness (she took the male uniform from his room deliberately and is wearing it, much like she does in the confusingly-later-in-continuity Hanamonogatari), explains what’s going on. This isn’t a mirror world. It’s the real world, born from Araragi’s regrets about leaving his high school life behind. He wasn’t pulled into a mirror world, he pulled aspects of the mirror into the real world and is now seeing different facets of everyone he knows, bringing their regrets to the fore. Karen wishes she wasn’t as tall. Ononoki wishes she was more expressive. Hachikuji wishes she’d been able to grow up. Sodachi wishes she was never abandoned and abused.
Ougi produces a round black mirror, reminiscent of “The Darkness” that almost devoured her. It will reabsorb all of the reflected light from the mirror that Araragi inadvertently created an oddity with — an oddity that affected the reality of an entire town. Ougi advises he should be more careful in future — because of abilities shared through his bond with Shinobu, queen of oddities, this sort of thing could easily happen again — and Izuko Gaen will go to war with him. Upon installing the black mirror at Hachikuji’s shrine, the world reverts to normal.
The next day, Hitagi Senjogahara makes her only appearance in the story, the reason apparently that in the mirror-inflicted world, Araragi didn’t want to see her — because he had no regrets involving her. Awww. They run off together into their bright future, and mostly beyond the scope — so far — of the Monogatari anime.
So was this final chunk of Monogatari episodes a worthwhile experience? Yes and no. Owarimonogatari tied up almost every loose end, and one could argue that the series already has its epilogue in the form of Hanamonogatari, as it features a college-attending Araragi, and a resolution to Suruga Kanbaru’s story. I found Owarimonogatari’s ending to be very satisfying both emotionally and thematically. Zoku Owarimonogatari is a weird appendage to the story, hardly essential yet full of interesting character beats.
Just as in real life, transitions from one period to the next are rarely immediate. Change can take time, and with it can bring anxiety about the future, and regrets about the past. All of us, no matter how careful or conscientious we are, make mistakes and generate regrets. Araragi and his extended cast of female friends are no different, and Zoku Owarimonogatari explores these regrets in a strangely downbeat, though ultimately uplifting way.
Wallow too long in regrets, and they can hold you back in life. This story gives Araragi one last chance to rationalise and comprehend his previous choices, and those of his friends, before letting them go and transitioning to young adulthood. After all, the whole of the Monogatari story so far can be read as an allegory for growing up, maturing as a person, and if not necessarily putting away childish things, at least learning to integrate them as part of a more mature personality.
At eighteen years of age as he leaves high school, Koyomi Araragi is hardly yet a fully-formed, well-adjusted adult. He’s almost irredeemably perverted and oddly self-deprecating to the point of self-harm. However compared to Araragi of the previous year, he (and his friends) have grown a great deal. He’s learned to value himself, especially the concept that self-care and care for others are not mutually exclusive things. He’s learned the value of friendship, of when to ask for help, when to offer it, and when to be independent and to help himself. From the misanthropic and maladjusted guy who bemoaned that to make friends would “reduce his intensity as a human”, he now has a wide group of varied friends and acquaintances, and a completely normal relationship with the girl he loves, who loves him just as fiercely back.
Yes, he still has the ongoing obligations to Shinobu, as he retains his partially vampiric nature, so he’s not completely normal, but that’s a burden he’s chosen to bear for the sake of the world, and his own conscience. It’s part of growing up that one must take responsibility for one’s own decisions, and to move forwards while shouldering the consequences.
NisiOisin clearly loves the characters he created, so I think we can forgive him this somewhat indulgent six-episode coda. It’s a last hurrah for almost every character he’s introduced us to over the past hundred episodes and three movies. In fact he loves them so much, he’s written a further ten novels in the continuity that I wonder may eventually be adapted at some point in the unspecified future by chief director Akiyuki Shinbou and Studio Shaft. It seems suspicious that none of these novels have yet been translated into English — perhaps they’re waiting on a greenlight for their anime adaptations?
Shaft’s presentation of this final arc is peerless as usual. I’m not really a fan of the opening track this time, but the visuals that accompany it remain thematically relevant, and most importantly — very cool. One of the reasons I take so many screenshots when I write articles about Monogatari is that the show looks so damn good, all of the time. I love the shot composition, the use of colour and the bonkers direction evident in every single scene. This anime is clearly a labour of love for everyone involved with it, and despite my best efforts, I’ve come to love it too.
This won’t be the last you hear from me on the topic of Monogatari. I’ve a lot more I want to say about the franchise as a whole, so once I’ve collected my thoughts, let’s dive back into the surprisingly deep pool that underlies its apparently superficial pretty and ephemeral surface.
Format: Region B Blu-ray
Director: Akiyuki Shinbou
Writers: Yukito Kizawa
Based on the Light Novel by: NisiOisin
Language: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Classification: BBFC 15
Distributor: MVM Entertainment
Original Japanese release: May 18th — June 22nd 2019
UK Blu-ray Release Date: August 9th 2021
Runtime: 160 minutes
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