Check-in Station: Monogatari S2 eps 17 – 20 (more mature, more lonely; less naive and less divine)
This arc has left me thinking, while the previous ones have left me in awe. It’s a thought that makes you wonder what you’re doing here on Earth, and are you using that time wisely? Are you being true to yourself? Are you contributing to the world? And if not, is their punishment for squandering gifts from god? A divine retribution for the liars, the cons, the sloths, the fugitives, the cheats; imagine if your natural talents were out on loan, and to not turn a profit is to forfeit everything, including your life. And this has nothing to do with good or evil. If you’re a murderer, you had best continue to kill people. If you’re a whore, you had best continue to sell your body. If you’re a thief, houses must continue to be robbed. If you’re a truck driver, then you can’t go around driving buses, or taxis because its easier. You are what you are until the day you expire, and those tasks associated with your lot in life are to be done for as long as you walk the living worth. That seems to be the world of oddities and demons. You are to be who you are; nothing more and nothing less. For if you are not, there is divine retribution.
This is information and perspective I did not have before this arc, that I am now knowledgeable of now. I’m also a bit sadder, as well.
So we’re jumping knee deep into an arc about Shinobu, but for the first episode of it she’s no where to be seen. Well, not until the very end does she actually make an appearance. What takes the stage here are Mayoi, some strange “darkness” phenomenon that haunts them, and surprisingly Yotsugi Ononoki.
The episode starts innocently enough, with Koyomi merely trying to return a large backpack (or THE large backpack) to Mayoi. Unfortunately, just outside his house a strange and creepy “darkness” appears. The two correctly have the instinct to flee, and attempt to escape on Koyomi’s bike. This fails though as they can’t seem to outpace the phenomenon. Koyomi actually crashes the bike trying to outmaneuver it, knocking Mayoi uncouncious. It ends up being the wandering Yotsugi who saves them, by well – jumping real high up in the air to get away from it. As is almost tradition now, Yotsugi takes them to the abandoned cram school, where Mayoi still lays unconscious. After some banter and talk about Koyomi’s reliance on others. Koyomi thanks the cute little corpse girl and promises to repay the favor. The entire time though, he’s been sitting in the cram school wearing only his boxers. Yotsugi has been constantly complimenting him on his muscles and physique to an uncomfortable degree. And when Koyomi thanks her and says he owes her, she says that it’s the custom of people as transient as her to be repayed immediately for their good will, should they never see that person again. She uses this opportunity to steal a good kiss from him before departing.
Once she’s gone, Koyomi sees this as his chance to be alone with the little ghost girl and have his way with her, but he’s a bit too slow and consistently too unfortunate. Shinobu wakes up and gives him a good solid punch before he can really screw anything (up). She then makes it clear that she’s seen what Koyomi’s been up to with the girl and knows that he’s been smooching her hated rival, demanding an apology. What Koyomi actually does is steal his own kiss from her. He then uses the opportunity to explain to her the situation, hoping she knows what it was that they saw. Shinobu knows, but she’s not happy to be reminded of a creature she met in the past, and that got the better of her four hundred years ago. She promises Koyomi to tell him the story of their encounter
End of episode.
It feels so good to watch this show again. I missed the show’s leisurely atmosphere and pacing, coupled with its relentless and rapid exposition and dialogue. And of course I missed the signature art and animation of the series and director. Having an episode with both Mayoi and Shinobu in it lead to a lot of adorable screenshots, many that will not make this post.
As for the situation Koyomi finds himself in, this one is unique for sure. As far as we can tell up to this point, the problem doesn’t seem to revolve around a person or personality, so much as just a random phenomenon. A phenomenon that a show full of freaks and oddities has trouble even categorizing, which is a special thing. There’s got to be an overarching theme to this arc, like any of the others though. And right now I’m wondering. I’m wondering if it will revolve and his reliance on his friends/harem, and also the extremely, extremely intimate bond between Koyomi and Shinobu. There are also nagging questions involving some of the oddity specialists and why some of them have disappeared. There’s also a certain time manipulating woman running around that couple further complicate things, even as this story goes on without her. It’s hard for me to even comprehend where this story is going to end up going. I do know this though; it’s going to be real awkward again seeing loli Shinobu and Koyomi have more of these intimate moments. I’m conflicted with whether I should enjoy them or feel shame.
No doubt, SHAFT saved money with this episode. But I do enjoy a good story, even though Shinobu’s life simultaneously seems too fantastic and too boring to be real.
Shinobu’s story is fantastical, and at the same time very understandable. Where we start off in the story, it’s easy for us to see how see eventually got revered as a god. Basically living her life at the height of her powers, she came to Japan on a whim, and through mere coincidence ended up being the savior for many people. These people saw it fit to repay her benevolence with worship and tribute, and she in turn saw the opportunity for a peaceful and easy life. She took up the guise of a god in a world with no knowledge or legends of vampires, and even helped sustain the people with her repeated “miracles” of rain. But no good deed goes unpunished, which was the case for her and her eventual partner.
Shinobu’s fame and stature as a god brought her an interesting visitor, a slayer of oddities who carried two swords. One for slaying oddities, and one for reviving them (this will sound super familiar to anyone who has watched/read InuYasha). They ended up having a good relationship, but eventually Shinobu’s presence invited trouble. Eventually, the villagers who worshipped her, and even those that knew of her started to disappear. And this continued until everyone in the area was gone aside from her and the oddity slayer. Eventually, as they searched the area to find out what had happened to everyone, they came across the problem. The same phenomenon that Koyomi met last episode swallowed up most of the oddity slayer, and then a sizable chunk of Shinobu. In her panic, she leapt off to the South Pole (I told you her story was fantastical) with the oddity slayer’s hand still attached. For hundred of years after that (this is the boring part), she stayed in solitude at the South Pole with only the oddity slayer’s hand still with her. Eventually she got tired of being lonely and tried to resurrect her old associate, the oddity slayer with just his hand. It succeeds and fails at the same time, as the oddity slayer is hurt and distraught over being made into a vampire, and eventually kills himself in the sunlight.
End of episode.
This should be the end of the story, but Koyomi has some well founded doubts. There’s also the knowledge that the oddity slayer had fashioned a replica of the oddity slaying sword before he died. I don’t doubt that will come in handy later on.
I had a good time taking in the slow, artistic style of telling Shinobu’s story. I liked how the flashbacks were told exclusively through the use of paintings on an endless scroll. I could deal with Shinobu’s blahzay and carefree style of storytelling, because the material was interesting enough. Though I hope I don’t have to sit through that twice. For now, it seems we’ll just have to take Shinobu at her word.
For now, I’m formulating the theory that the phenomenon is somehow related to the negative energy and malice she may have drawn to her while serving as a god in the village. Perhaps what pursues them is a sort of black hole of negative energy, and that’s why Shinobu says she was unable to detect the phenomenon. Maybe it’s the embodiment of a curse? All I’m sure about is that Shinobu doesn’t know how to defeat it, and that they’re in real trouble if that thing is sentient in any way.
This arc has turned from an exodus, to a quest for knowledge. With Yotsugi reappearing (she never really left), and Mayoi awakening from her coma, things start to come together, and the girls despite all their rivalries start to come up with a plan. Sure things may have gone quicker and more smoothly if Koyomi wasn’t busy molesting Mayoi, and Yotsugi and Shinobu weren’t having a metaphorical d*ck waving contest, but at least they figured out that they needed to find someone with knowledge of what that darkness phenomenon is. Unfortunately, that’s when the very thing they’re conspiring against shows up to snatch them away. They attempt to use Yotsugi’s Unlimited Rulebook: Escape Edition (the one where she jumps really high), but something goes wrong…
When Koyomi reawakens, he’s told that he’s been asleep for twelve hours, and that Shinobu hasn’t shown up the entire time, even though it’s night. This has Koyomi incredibly worried, and when they go back over the events as they just left, they realize that the darkness touched Koyomi’s shadow just as they were leaving, apparently severing the connection between him and Shinobu. The side effect of this is that both of them are weakened and progressively getting worse. It’s the old race against time again. But they don’t have time to spare searching for her at the moment. For now, they take the time to contact Yotsugi’s partner Kagenui and Koyomi’s harem. Then they make their way down the mountain in hopes of borrowing someone’s phone, but end up finding Gaen Izuko instead, the very person they needed to find most of all.
End of episode.
There was a lot of faffing about early in this episode, and by faffing about, I mean groping. It was kinda fun though to sit back and see Koyomi catch sh*t for being involved in this very strange harem. Through some miracle, here he is stuck with the three cutest lolis in the series, and he even gets a blissful moment where all three of them bite him. A strange guy with strange pleasures, but I can’t fault a guy with his good luck. It’s one of those scenes in the Monogatari series where the dialogue is simultaneously fanservice and fourth wall breaking material. Though I have to say that Shinobu is likely the clear winner in the loli category, just as Senjougahara is for the more “full figured” side of the harem.
Getting past all that, I’m finally starting to make sense of everything that has been going on in this series. At this point, we’re seeing exactly what was going on with Koyomi’s disappearance in the early half of the show, and being allowed to piece things together scene by scene now. Things seem to be even more dangerous than I previously thought when we were just speculating with what was happening with him. I think we’ve also been given a good enough idea and hint as to how Koyomi came across that ridiculously long and powerful sword he used to slay the White Tiger oddity. And now we get to see what the mysterious new specialist, Gaen can do, maybe. I mean, if she can’t give them some clue as to how to handle this situation, then I don’t know where they get home from at this point.
The situation takes a turn for the hopeless here, as the meeting with Gaen yields no answers, but hard solutions. After agreeing to a series of tasks that mostly involve getting Kanbaru to help Gaen, Koyomi is allowed to the information he so desperately needs. Basically, what it comes down to is that the darkness phenomenon that has been chasing everyone is actually a sort of divine judgement, meant to spirit away oddities that aren’t doing there jobs, a cleaner of sorts. It explains why that thing chased down Shinobu 400 years ago, but didn’t pursue her once she went back to her vampire ways. She was perpetrating as something she’s not, and received punishment for it. Though that explanation doesn’t explain something like why the villagers disappeared when Shinobu was a god, but she didn’t get attacked until the very end. Perhaps part of her punishment was losing all the people that she knew and worshiped her, but that’s not made clear in this episode.
The question then becomes, is the oddity chasing Shinobu? And Gaen makes it clear that it’s not. Instead she said the oddity that has run afoul of supernatural law is Mayoi, who as you may remember used to be the ‘lost cow’, an oddity that got people lost. Ever since Koyomi helped her find her house, she hasn’t been doing her job, nor has she allowed herself to pass on to the afterlife. This has finally brought the darkness down on her. And it’s quite clear to everyone that the only way to keep everyone safe is to have Mayoi go back to being the ‘lost cow’ (which she refuses to do again), or to allow her to pass on. But Koyomi is the only one who refuses to accept it. Do to his complex about saving people, he can’t accept this hard truth. He’s going to have to say goodbye to Mayoi.
End of episode.
I’m just going to be honest and say that if Mayoi does have to let go of the living world, I’ll be really sad. Nadeko has already been lost, having become a malevolent god, determined to kill Koyomi and everyone he knows and loves. Mayoi is the last bastion of true cuteness in the show. But I do have hope that if anyone can do the impossible, it’s Koyomi. He won’t give up a piece of his harem that easily.
NOOOOOOOOO! I got distracted while I was watching and didn’t realize that I didn’t finish the episode! AUGH! This is depressing!
That’s it! She really is gone. I suppose I should take a break. Yes. I really do feel like mourning the loss of an anime character. I’ll miss you little snail. I really will!
I guess I was fooled. This whole time, I really was expecting this arc to center around Shinobu again. But in reality, her close call was just a foreshadowing of the pain that was ahead. I do appreciate the sudden, but straight forward way this situation came up. Koyomi got his chance for a goodbye, a proper goodbye. He got to hold someone he loved before she disappeared. He’s luckier than most. She didn’t meet a violent end, she wasn’t send through oblivion by being devoured by the darkness. It’s a happy ending, with a sad goodbye.
Now that Mayoi and Nadeko have moved on, we’re moving on to an arc focused on Kanbaru. And this makes me worry. There is an over arching story going on here. One that clearly will involve Ougi. In the epilogue for this episode and arc, we see Koyomi intentionally spilling the beans on the incident to Ougi. He does this in order to see what she does. Even without Shinobu telling him, he’s already been suspicious of her. And I don’t blame Koyomi one bit. I wonder what role she plays in all this. She says she has a job that involves punishing liars. Clearly that was what the darkness phenomenon was here to do. Are they connected? It’s too early to tell. For now, I’m with Koyomi in his statement that, it’s just a little bit lonelier now.
This arc has had beautiful and varied storytelling, memorable moments, fun moments and as always, a style all its own. And now I’m seeing the series mature and move on without some of its characters.
Note: something I noticed only after taking a second look at this episode. This entire episode takes place in a water-filled crater masquerading as a lake. Could this lake be where Shinobu first arrived in Japan 400 years ago?
- Check-in Station: Monogatari S2 eps12 – 15 (goodbye Nadeko Sengoku)
- Monogatari S2 – Episode 20 on Wrong Every Time