「しのぶメイル 其ノ肆」 (Shinobu Meiru Sono Shi)
“Shinobu Mail Part Four”

If the third part of Shinobu Mail last week was a thorough showcase of Monogatari‘s visual style, the fourth part is probably equally representative of its writing. That’s not to say that this week diverges visually from the norm that we’ve come to enjoy from the team at Shaft (that is, no norm at all). There’s head tilts, familiar cardboard people, floating text, non-sequitors, obvious metaphors, less obvious metaphors, and things science can’t explain aplenty. The first half is but a continuation of the Gaen Story Time after all, though perhaps scaled down. Gaen, done playing god, has retired to the director’s chair. In her story, though, and in the goofy, tension draining comedy that follows it, one can see the essence of the writing of the Monogatari Series. That is, the fact that it’s untranslatable.

I know I say that with regularity about the Monogatari Series, but I think there’s few better examples of this axiomatic principle than Shinobu Mail Part Four, where wordplay is at a maximum. Now, puns are a staple of the English language, but Japanese takes it to a different level. It’s a relatively phonetically limited language, so homophones are a dime a dozen (a rhyme a dozen, even). And this is before we even consider the word associations that simply do not have a good analogue in English, which is, unfortunately for any subbing team, exactly the kind of thing that original author Nisio Isin seems to revel in. Even without noting the times that subbers have to resort to crude translation notes to get a particular piece of wordplay across, one can get a sense when Nisio is using his linguistic judo wring extra meaning from any particular piece of dialogue (i.e. all the time). Whether talking about something serious (like the nature of the angry wraith that was Shinobu’s first minion) or just playful banter (like promoting Kaiki x Episode BL novels), I suspect any hapless translator will have to almost rewrite entire conversations if they want capture the same wit as the original source. And this is before we even consider how they’d tackle Japanese cultural references that are no more than Mysteries of the Orient for foreign audiences not in the know.

Of course, I’m not saying that the Owarimonogatari experience is somehow crippled for anyone but those with native fluency in nihongo, just that one should be aware what filters they are receiving it through. Besides the language barrier, there actually is another: the filter on the Araragi-cam. I and others have mentioned this one before, and I won’t go into a lengthy discussion about the first person narrator right now. What I’m wondering is whether, for members of the anime-only audience like myself, the lack of Kizumonogatari also impacts our perspective of this arc. What Arrrraragi experienced, how he got fanged and turned into a vampire, how he was aided by Hanekawa Tsubasa, would all colour his view of this current incident. Normally, we’ll be seeing things from his perspective, but Kizumonogatari is not a story that has been told yet, so we have a disconnect. Right now, we’re just left to wonder about what our protagonist means to do and how he feels about it. For example, does Shinobu’s first have to be killed? If that were the case, you’d think they’d more adamant about seeking out Kagenui, who is definitely a ‘purge with fire’ sort of person (I suppose anyone who would make a career out of killings things that refuse to die would need that sort of personality). Araragi’s feelings about this, about vampires and about his bond with Shinobu are perhaps more obscure that they should be.

Kizumonogatari soon. Part of Kizumonogatari soon. Part of Kizumonogatari soon next year.

Until then, we shall just muse on other effects of Araragi-vision. After all Araragi did to disguise (looks familiar, right?) the BL he was buying, and to convince everybody that he wasn’t a lolicon, he finally meets the First in flesh… who looks both feminine and small.

I’m trying not to judge, Araragi. I’m trying very hard.

End Card


  1. Ok, so we finally have a (somewhat) clear explanation about why there are so many oddities in that town. Also, I didn’t expect the First’s human look to be so… childish? He looks like a kid.

    In the meantime, exposition about why VN aren’t degenerate art, or are they? I have the feeling the author was making fun of his own genre.

    And talking about VN, I’ve heard that the Owarimonogatari series won’t adapt (yet?) the final volume of the trilogy. Any news about their plans for it? After reading the titles of the chapters in the news, that looks like the most promising novel of the bunch:
    Show Spoiler ▼

      1. She’s definitely in the top three at the current point in time but she still loses out to Shinobu. Mind you if this was happening before Hitagi’s haircut she’d be at the bottom of the top three but as it stands she’s definitely the second most attractive woman in the series at the moment in my opinion. All in all she’s still pretty high up there for me.

  2. – Kanbaru and Shinobu’s playtime
    – Episode and Kaiki on the BL cover
    – Gaen on the gravure idol magazine
    – Employees’ laughs as Araragi purchases those books

    I really died at those parts.

    And back to the serious bits; as someone who doesn’t know the story for Kizumonogatari, it really does leave a big gaping hole at Araragi’s thought process. The whole Gaen’s “it’s all your doing so you have to take responsibility” reminds me of another term used in xxxHolic, Hitsuzen.

    Was it all really destined/fated, or just a cruel coincidence? To some extent, I could sense a tiny bit of uncertainty when Gaen was doing the explanations, while touching onto her age at that point in time (being in college), how much could she have possible known or be in control of “everything”?

    I also really wanted to know what was Kanbaru thinking when she overheard (and now know) that Shinobu’s an immortal vampire. Araragi’s been very careful to exclude individuals in the story from overwhelmingly supernatural incidents, and each of said individuals were only exposed to their own incidents, which seemed like nothing. But this was clearly a long drop finding out that her senpai was linked to a god-like immortal vampire such as Shinobu (and everything in regard and untold, eg. Kizu).

    P.S – Didn’t Ougi already existed at this point in time (since it was only a little after Shinobu Time), I found it interesting that Gaen did not mention the entity named Ougi.

    1. According to the first episode of Owarimonogatari, Ougi met the cast in October, claiming she moved recently. Shinobu Mail happens two months before that. If Ougi existed back then, she probably didn’t do anything to warrant attention.

    2. Kanbaru did swing Araragi around by the intestines. I don’t think she’d be that surprised to find out that the source of his regeneration ability is an immortal vampire, if she hadn’t already known by this point.

    3. I found it interesting that Gaen did not mention the entity named Ougi.

      That would technically be because chronologically, Ougi hasn’t made an appearance yet.
      This arc may have a glaring absence of Ougi, but ironically, Show Spoiler ▼


  3. Kizumonogatari, the novel, is actually coming out in English on the 15th of this month. It will be interesting to see how they decided to translate everything in book form, whether they use a bunch of cliff notes, if they just ignore the puns, or if they tried to find the right English words to use try to recreate the puns.

    1. I assume a novel translation will have a longer timeframe than simulcast subs, so they can really smooth out the translation if they put the effort into it. That said, I’ve also seen translations with appendices full of notes. It may simply depend on how liberal they allow themselves to be with the translation.

  4. Eh? In my opinion, this is a downfall from the excellent Sodachi lost arc. Maybe Gaen but… this is so talkative to the extent that I ceased to care about the mysteries. It’s emotionally distant too. Never been this pissed on a Monogatari arc since Shinobu Time.

    1. Maybe it’s because it’s very, very slow, the main mystery to hook the viewer (“who the heck is that samurai?”) is solved in the middle, and it recycles previous characters and concepts in order to tell a side story, even if it may be the build-up for something more important and the answer to the question “why are there so many oddities in that town?”. But build-up is not main dish, after all.

      The emotional distance is probably because this is a personal issue for Shinobu, not for Araragi, and the story isn’t exploring her side of the events.

      Also, there’s a painful lack of Ougi in this arc, but that’s just personal taste.

      1. Uhm.. Yeah, it is kinda ironic for the creepy Ougi not to be present in this arc. Maybe it’s my personal taste but it feels like Gaen is just a plot device for the author to explain things in the Monogatari universe.

        Also, the way on how Shinobu’s story was told in a rather cold manner here. We know her circumstances but it was just.. told.. that.. way. Hey, everyone loves your loli vampire. Let the story be told in her point of view. Or at least give her character some depth like they did in the Sodachi Lost Case.

      2. I agree with you, Gaen wouldn’t be my choice of narrator for this story either. You’re right that she feels like a plot device, with no personal connection to the events and no meaningful connection to Araragi or Shinobu either. Also, she wasn’t sought (as Meme tends to be), but just appeared to serve the samurai’s history on a silver plate. Araragi and company were there just to listen.

        Compare that to the previous stories in Owarimonogatari, that followed the more traditional detective story. First, the people affected tell their side of the story (Araragi in Ougi Formula and Sodachi Riddle, and Sodachi herself in Sodachi Lost). Then, the cold and eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes Ougi Oshino makes sure she (and by extension, the viewer) has all the information to solve the problem. Finally, the solution is presented and lessons are learnt.

        Gaen gives lectures about other people’s lives as if they weren’t present. Ougi extracts the information from them in situ. Ironically, it fits their characters. As Passerby pointed out in another episode, Gaen claims “to know everything”, while Ougi pretends “to know nothing”.

  5. If you think about it, Ougi is listening to the entire conversation of Gaen, through Araragi’s recollection of events months prior. Does anyone not find it oddly unsettling that she’s getting all this intel in the background?

    1. Almost forgot this is supposedly Ararai telling that story to Ougi. Well, Ougi has always had this already unsettling ability to make Araragi spill the beans, no matter the situation, so this wouldn’t be the first time he speaks too much.

      Why Araragi considers Ougi so trustworthy despite all the evidence on the contrary, that’s a mystery I want solved… although it seems we’ll have to wait a bit for that. I’ve just found out that it’s not only Kizumonogatari, there’s another series starting in January called Koyomimogatari.

  6. I just really don’t buy Gaen’s character. She’s just like a walking DEM when she’s around. Meme was okay because he is not as direct as Gaen and leaves it for Araragi to figure everything out through trial and error or via tangible evidences. But Gaen is pulling everything off some DEM hammer space.

  7. >What I’m wondering is whether the lack of Kizumonogatari also impacts our perspective of this arc

    Far more damning at this point is the lack of Koyomimonogatari, which was supposed to come before Owari volume 1. That book ends in an absolute juggernaut of a cliffhanger that was supposed to add a huge sense of urgency and impatience to Owari volumes 1 and 2 (Owari 3 picks up right where Koyomi leaves off). The reader’s relationship with Gaen, in particular, is hugely different without Koyomi.

    I see lots of comments about people dozing off during Gaen’s exposition in these last two episodes, but when I read the book I couldn’t help but be laser focused into everything she says, desperate to know what she’s planning.

    The prologue of Shinobu Mail had Araragi talking to Ougi in his room, and the epilogue resumes there, and they have this bizarre metadiscussion that almost reads like Ougi taunting the reader directly, ignoring continuity. Then it’s revealed that this discussion is happening earlier in the same day that the above mentioned cliffhanger event occurs. It was awesome writing, and I wonder how Shaft will handle it without the Koyomimonogatari to refer to.


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