Otorimonogatari (Cert 15)
1 Disc (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 99 minutes approx.
It was too good to be true.
With the last release under the Monogatari banner Kabukimonogatari offering a more focused and enjoyable departure from the usual obnoxious haphazard presentation, this writer was cautiously optimistic that this show had turned a corner and might continue down this more favourable path of accessibility. Just mere moments into the first episode of this latest outing and it seems the dream was short lived.
Otorimonogatari covers the Nadeko Medusa arc featured in episode 12 to 16 (including the recap episode which is included in the extras) of the twenty-six episode Monogatari Series Second Season, continuing the piecemeal release of this series for anime fans in the West. Taking centre stage this time is Nadeko Sengoku, the young girl who is possessed by a snake spirit.
Reverting back to the traditional Monogatari narrative style of obfuscation and garrulous padding, the story begins with a transformed Nadeko confronting Koyomi Araragi and the vampire Shinobu Oshino, brutally slaying the former out of jealousy because of their apparent close relationship. We then jump back in time a few days to Halloween and Nadeko meets Ougi Oshino on her way to school. Ougi leaves Nadeko with the cryptic advice to stop playing the victim then promptly disappears.
Confused, Nadeko gets in touch with Koyomi to help work out what Ougi meant, but before they can meet Nadeko is compelled to follow the orders of a voice in her head to the go to the shrine where she use to slay snakes way back in her first appearance in Bakemonogatari. There Nadeko is confronted by the apparition of a giant white snake named Kuchinawa who demands she atone for the deaths of his fellow snakes by finding the remains of his body.
Somewhere buried under the barrage of lengthy dialogue and on-screen explanations and random adjuncts is a cautionary tale about standing up for oneself and not be so easily manipulated into situation because it’s easier to gain sympathy then to be respected for your resolve. It’s certainly a worthy message to impart and while it is refreshing to not be handled in a twee and predictable manner, the surreal, avant garde style of show creator Nisio Isin and animation studio Shaft threatens to undermine the effectiveness of this parable.
For those who found the respite from having to pause the action every few seconds to read the additional text on the screen during a lengthy conversation or via the split-second flashes of information in the last volume will be overjoyed to learn that this irritating and overused gimmick is back with a vengeance this time around. Quite often the supplementary information which accompanies a particular statement or recollection has little in common with what is being said, which to a cynical mind may simply be Shaft trolling the viewers into thinking they are missing out on something vital to the plot which invariably they are not.
And it wouldn’t be a Monogatari show without exploring the less obvious harem ingredient which is supplied by the pre-requisite sexual allure of main man Koyomi, because the one linking thread that runs through every arc is that each one of the females in this series is in love with Koyomi – even his sisters! Naedko is no different and yearns to be the girl of Koyomi’s dreams, but she confesses to his sister Tsukihi that it is purely a matter of convenience as pretending they are a couple makes it easier to reject other boys who approach her.
Taking inspiration from famous mythological fables, Isin borrows from the saga of Samson for the pivotal moment that sends Nadeko hurtling towards her fate as a possessed serpent conduit when Tsukihi cuts Nadeko’s fringe, which she believe helped hide her true expression from everyone. With this protection now removed Nadeko begins to show a more malevolent and forceful side, just what Kuchinawa needs to facilitate his eventual resurrection.
Where this particular arc gets divisively cheeky is by not delivering a proper conclusion – something which is acknowledge in the show itself! After a swift flurry of violence followed by another verbose confrontation between Nadeko and Koyomi, Nadeko receives as phone call concerning her situation at the end of which we cut to the end credits. A coda then begins declaring that there isn’t a proper ending but they can’t leave us like and paints the scenario for a possible future return to the story but well, you never know with this series.
At this stage of the game with so many stories having been told and, it seems, many more are on the horizon, one notices that the reliance on the esoteric and quirky gimmicks, such as the frequent cutaways, intruding text and ever changing art styles has increased. What is hard to divine, at least for this writer who has become frankly tired of this one unique presentation, is whether this due to a lack of confidence in Isin’s writing, a need to by Shaft to maintain this style for fear of alienating its fans, or this is a simple of act of delivering something so obtuse that they know some people will lap it up no questions asked.
This is a rather cynical view to take for sure, but for something which has been praised for its intelligence, deeply allegorical stories and emotional resonance, it is in danger of becoming a parody of itself purely because of the eccentric way in which it is presented. I fully appreciate that people do enjoy this show because it is different but different isn’t always better.
Otorimonogatari is admittedly a stronger entry into the canon than some of its predecessors but the novelty of its abstract visuals and bloated dialogue is wearing very thin this far down the line. I can appreciate it but I’m just not enjoying it. Loyal fans however will have nothing to complain and more power to you if this includes you, dear reader.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ** ½
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