「しのぶメイル 其ノ參」 (Shinobu Meiru Sono San)
“Shinobu Mail Part Three”
So it turns out the ‘crab’ from last week’s cliffhanger was actually a crab/monkey/snake chimera, which only raises even more questions. When it’s just Agagari’s old foes making encore appearances I can perhaps chalk things down to just a strange phenomenon, but when they’re being spliced together into a horrific bio-Voltron it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t some greater will at work, in the same way that a fanged, invertebrate primate in real life is a clear sign of mad science. I wish our characters had shown more interest in exactly what that abstract sin against nature actually was. Failed apparition? What does that mean? Is it really safe to eat?
One would also think that a team-up of Monogatari‘s greatest hits would be more impressive but, alas, it’s put down in one hit anyway. Isn’t it sad? After the dramatic entrance and the cliffhanger it didn’t even amount to boss material. I suppose it was just we already have the suit of vampiric armour to serve as the climatic fight if need be, so this interim act would be more for showing off the competency of Shinobu (and, more importantly, her sword). Still, it’s a shame, because that’s probably the most action we’re going to get for a while. There’s a lot of exposition we need to get through, it seems, and so enters Gaen, or rather, Oshino Izuko. Everyone wants to be an Oshino it seems, and it’s curious that Gaen (the one who claims to know everything) is already using this trick before Ougi (the one who claims to know nothing) has even stepped onto the stage. I suppose Oshino Meme is everybody’s friend, so claiming relation to him is a useful connection to have, but it does seem like his good name is suffering a good deal of sullying, and of course he’s not around to defend it (where’s he disappeared to? Yet another pervasive mystery). I’m only slightly apprehensive about Gaen pinning on the Oshino nametag than I was about Ougi doing it, because while Gaen has nominally been on Araragi’s side in the past i.e. a ‘good guy’, to put it naively, she’s certainly no less enigmatic than Ougi. Of the Occult Research Club alumni, Gaen is probably the hardest one to deal with, more so than Kaiki, even. At least one is assured that Kaiki is a liar, while Gaen is untrustworthy in an entirely different way. Kaiki has his obvious profit motive that he cites, while Gaen’s agenda is much harder to discern.
For example, take this week of Gaen story time. It was all of modern Monogatari in a nutshell; lots of talking around in riddles, set to both surrealism and heavy stylistic flair. I daresay that Gaen more or less hijacked the episode; contrast the questionably meaningful minimalism of the first half to the heightened imagery of the second. One particular motif stands out: Gaen’s cardboard figures. They make one thing quite clear: Gaen is playing god. Usually, a character like Gaen, the kind that is preternaturally informed and seems to exists only to dump information onto the protagonist, is a dangerous on to have, tempting writers to at best be lazy and at worst the thorny paths of deus ex machina. And so I guess that’s why Owarimonogatari plays it to the hilt, unashamedly apotheosising Gaen. Her pantheon is of an appropriately Hellenistic kind, fickle, intrusive, and without much respect for proper storytelling. Which piece is Araragi in her designs? More than a pawn, I hope.
But Gaen does make some good points; Araragi does get involved with a lot of apparitions. Now, I was of the impression that the supernatural was just rather common in the Monogatari setting, but that’s apparently not the case. It’s almost like Gaen is questioning the narrative itself; nobody has a problem with detectives running into a lot of murders, because that’s a precondition for the story. There was a similar undercurrent in Tsukimonogatari; I wonder where they’re going with it.
Hey, maybe Gaen will just tell us! She still has a good deal of monologue left in her, I’d wager, since after all that talking we’re still only at ’15 years ago’. Yeah, I can totally see why Shinobu Mail is going to be half the season. It’s shaping to be, if nothing else, a thorough adaptation.