Koimonogatari (Cert 15)
1 Disc (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 148 minutes approx.
The tortuous piecemeal journey – at least for this reviewer – through the second season of Monogatari Series comes to an end with this release, covering episodes 21 to 26 under the subtitle of the Hitagi End arc.
Central to this story is, as you may have guessed, Hitagi Senjōgahara the very first recipient of nominal hero Koyomi Araragi’s extraordinary gift for spiritual healing – although the bulk of these six episode revolve more around another rarely seen face in the form of Deishuu Kaiki, the shady con man last seen way back in the second series entitled Nisemonogatari.
Kaiki, under the pseudonym Suzuki, receives a phone call from Hitagi, who despises him, because she needs him to deceive someone. Her target is Nadeko Sengoku, the girl turned into a snake god who plans to kill Hitagi and Koyomi once they graduate from school. Hitagi would rather this didn’t happen hence her request to Kaiki. He is hesitant to take the job, his suspicions running high from being well aware of how Hitagi feels about him but Hitagi’s desperation for his help and the lengths she is willing to go to in order to meet his payments, convinces Kaiki to accept.
Again we have what reads like a fertile plot for an engaging and eventful story but is executed as a non-stop verbal onslaught and impenetrable pseudo-intellectual musings accompanied by the usual visually delightful but largely obtuse and pretentiously applied Shaft animation style. I realise this is blasphemy to the hardcore Monogatari fans out there but regular readers of my reviews for this series will know I’ve always been on the outside of this particularly niche universe.
It’s not all bad however. The first episode does concern itself solely with the discussion between Hitagi and Kaiki about the job which spills over into the second episode but following that, Kaiki doesn’t waste any time and gets to work investigating his subject. He pays a trip to the local shrine when he meets Nadeko for the first time, surprised to find a cheerful young girl who welcomes him warmly as he is her first visitor. Naturally though their meeting is conversation heavy but this serves a purpose in providing Kaiki with some vital information about Nadeko which helps him formulate a strategy to fulfil his task.
Kaiki is then visited by Yotsugi Ononoki who, on behalf of Izuko Gaen (the mystery woman who appeared at the end of Onimonogatari), tries to bribe Kaiki to drop the Nadeko job but his curiosity simply spurs him on regardless. You’ve probably guessed that these segments are literally swamped with excessive dialogue around which the show has built its reputation and identity. In other words the story may be progressing but with everybody suffering from extreme verbal diarrhoea it is easy to miss the point of many of the conversations which take place.
This is a recurring problem with trying to concentrate with what is happening story wise, and it is not just the garrulous dialogue – it is the split-second interruptions of onscreen text which either supplement what has just been said or is a transitional aside. With so much going on, and with everything spoken at a brisk pace, it is not difficult to miss when something important or relevant has been said. Even this late into the run it is still a bother.
Essentially what we have is an arc which runs for six episodes but could have easily been concluded in three, maybe four at the most with a much tighter script and focus on the story and less on trying t be edgy and esoteric with the presentation. Again I know there are many who will say this is a work of genius and welcome the unique approach and again I salute their ability to immerse themselves in this world Monogatari creator Nisio Isin and Shaft have developed.
Despite previously being a villain of sorts, Deishuu Kaiki makes for an interesting protagonist in this arc. His dour, sleepy eyed appearance (similar to mine when watching this series) and his soft-spoken demeanour is in complete contrast to the hyper-excitable females he encounters during his task. He is almost a passive observer in that he has no real personal stake in accomplishing Hitagi’s request outside of his own curiosity concerning Gaen’s involvement.
Kaiki’s laconic, cynical persona and lack of supernatural ability makes him something of an outsider within the milieu of distinctly eccentric personalities, yet he remains a perfect fit for this esoteric world. Kaiki is the most amoral of the lot, living solely for money and his ability to lie and deceive people makes him untrustworthy, but in keeping with the show’s abstract approach Kaiki is ironically its most honest character. If anything it is this refreshing “normalcy” about Kaiki which makes this story more tolerable than most that have preceded it.
This may be the end of this particular run for the Monogatari but fear not loyal fans of this whacky franchise as there is more – in fact, there has to be as this arc ends with a cliffhanger of sorts which demand answers. When and how we get them of course is up to how Ishin has structured his next set of stories, and history has told us that chronology is not one of his strengths so, if there indeed there is a continuation and resolve to this development, it won’t be appearing anytime soon.
There is certainly a lot more going on in this story than in previous ones, for this writer’s tastes at least, and it would work better without the mountain of prolix passages for a brisker pace. Koimonogatari is one of the more enjoyable arcs, but overall the show remains a frustrating one for those of us unable to appreciate Shaft’s densely unorthodox presentation.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Rating – **½
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