With the Winter Programs come to a close, it’s time to share with the rest of the class what we’ve been watching.
First up: Nisemonogatari.
Sequel series, or sequels in general, are tricky beasts to deal with. At the bare minimum, viewers expect that the same charm and quirks from the original be carried over, to the tune of a new, refreshing plot. The problem with that in terms of Nisemonogatari (or Impostory if you’re looking for a good English equivalent portmanteau) is that its predecessor Bakemonogatari had all its charm in having main lead Araragi be introduced to the heroine of the arc, making decent chit-chat with them until he realizes they’re suffering some kind of ailment (read: demon possession). While the possession isn’t exactly your traditional form of possession, usually leading to the lead girl having a certain quirk than a full-on Exorcism-style possession, the means used to cure the possession isn’t exactly textbook either. In a nutshell, Bakemonogatari was able to mix in elements of the harem genre along with the essence of a paranormal while all under the guise of slice-of-life style dialogue that could have only come from a light novel adaptation.
Nisemonogatari is split up into two arcs: Karen Bee and Tsukihi Phoenix.
With the majority of the cast from Bakemonogatari present, the series is already at a disadvantage in that viewers have lost that element of the unknown. That said, the first arc makes an attempt at recapturing what its predecessor series did without coming off as too redundant. What we’re presented with feels like a series of strung-together vignettes, as Araragi interacts with each and every one of his haremettes, with most interactions being acts of happenstance which may or may not come off as too convenient depending on your tolerance level of fan-service. Yes, what came off as parodies last go-round come off as more intentional this time, with each and every haremette interaction having some level of sexual subtext to the point that I’m not really sure “sub” is a good choice of prefix. And just knowing that the Araragi sisters will be joining the ranks of the other haremettes is disturbing to say the least. Fun to watch in small doses, yes, but still… disturbing.
Perhaps it’s the sharp decrease in artistic cutaways that brings so much attention to the haremettes this time. The random cuts to live-action still-lifes and massive amounts of text, while distracting in Bakemonogatari made the series stand out and gave viewers something to mesmerize themselves when idle chit-chat between characters got a bit too dry. This time around, the artistic license is limited to abnormal scenery, with the Araragi household being filled with endless supplies of spiral staircases and the outside world consisting of barren wasteland with the occasional old-school car whizzing by. In terms of the world, you’re still given the impression that Araragi is as alone as ever with exception to the rest of the cast, but without Studio Shaft’s random cut-aways, things just feel a bit off.
The same can be said about the arcs’ protagonists. While we are presented with the standard paranormal ailments with Araragi’s sisters, the primary antagonistic focus is given to Kaiki and Yozuru in the first and second arc of the series, respectively. The two give off a vibe similar to Oshino in that they’re adults with an excessive knowledge of the paranormal. But unlike the more likable Oshino, these two are more focused on the extermination of paranormal beings without any care for the person being possessed. It sounds like it could form an interesting plot and eventual setup between the adults and teens. But the way both antagonists are treated in the end is such a painfully low payoff, especially given the standards of anime showdowns, that I can’t help but feel cheated in some way.
That’s not to say that I found the series overall to suck this time. On the contrary, there were bits and pieces from the series that I did find enjoyable. Araragi’s continued interactions with the rest of the cast, while leaning towards a more blatant harem anime, are still intriguing in that they’re all (thinly) veiled by some kind of mundane talk, from board games to standing on your head, to the absolute best way to win at rock-paper-scissors. In terms of the antagonists in Kaiki and Yozuru, while they were bland for the most part, they still provided some level of backstory that fleshed out the rest of the –monogatari world outside of Araragi’s little bubble. It may not have been the best material out there, but it was still something to keep me someone entertained throughout.
What really made the series for me, though, was the sheer amount of screen time given by the vampire girl that’s older than she looks: Shinobu.
While Bakemonogatari teased us by having the vampire loli sitting in the corner of the occasional episode, fans were given a treat by the final episode of Bake when she’s not only made use of, she resolves the conflict of the final harem in the most badass way possible. Seeing what she was capable of without any spoken lines set my expectations through the roof by the time Nise was announced.
What resulted did not disappoint. Were we given any kind of explanation as to why Shinobu didn’t talk last season as opposed to this one? She just didn’t feel like it. Did it seem completely out of character for her to pop out of Araragi’s shadow and talk up a storm in what I can only assume is the Japanese equivalent of ye old English? Maybe, but I didn’t care. Throughout the entirety of Nisemonogatari, Shinobu was a complete scene stealer. I’ll even go as far as saying that she was this season’s Senjougahara in that her screen time could have worked alone, but was especially memorable in that she dominates any and all conversations she’s involved in, which is something considering just how much dialogue is in this series. Fanboying aside, she also provides a level of character depth that I think was attempted with the series protagonists as well, but wasn’t nearly done as well. Maybe it’s because Kizumonogatari was possibly supposed to have been released before Nise, but either way, the number of references to something that’s yet to have been animated draws more interest than it does bog down the story. Characters have been making offhanded reference to Araragi being a vampire since Bake, so to have additional offhanded comments coming from the vampire herself in Nise only to realize that she’s now in the form of a little girl that lives in the shadows of Araragi in a sort of master/slave relationship (which is which, is up in the air, really) is intriguing to say the least.
In a nutshell: Nisemonogatari offers some of what its predecessor did in the harem department, but ends much too abruptly due to weak (read: uninspired and bored) antagonists. Regardless, seeds planting the prequel series of Kizumonogatari is enough to keep me interested in the series as a whole.