「しのぶメイル 其ノ陸」 (Shinobu Meiru Sono Roku)
“Shinobu Mail Part 6”
I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Even though it’s the season finale I think I’m going to have a lot of trouble keeping a straight face for this post. I just can’t get Sesame Street out of my head now. There’s counting and a cackling vampire. What else is one supposed to think of?
For those of you who didn’t have the Count in your head until now, you’re welcome. I haven’t ruined the episode for you. I have improved it exponentially.
In serious, this was a pretty good way to wrap up Shinobu Mail, and goes a way to redeem the overall slowness of the arc. There’s both action and drama, and there’s a general holistic feeling to the ending as it connects itself with, from our perspective, both the past and the future. What I enjoyed most of all, though, was the gentle moment Araragi and Senjougaha shared before Araragi goes off to fight a duel for some other woman. In my opinion, some of the best of Bakemonogatari was the night the Araragi and Senjougahara shared under the the stars, and after these years the two are still just as great together. Not to detract from the rest of the harem, but there’s no beating the chemistry the main couple have with each other. Maybe it’s because that there’s been so much emotional outburst in Owarimonogatari (courtesy of Sodachi and Kanbaru) that a simple, heartfelt conversation made for a good balance.
That’s not to say the rest of the episode was bad. Plenty of good things there too, starting with the fact that they finally gave the first a name, which makes writing about him a lot easier. Shishirui Seishirou (Koyama Rikiya) cut a much more flattering figure when he was properly dressed, properly grown, and properly voiced (sorry, Kamiya-san). The thing is, though, we already know that Araragi is going to win (I’m glad he had a trump card up his sleeve this time, as opposed to his usual reckless lack of strategy), since we have SEEN THE FUTURE. So the real ordeal (as ordained by our resident god-figure) is not the duel, but whether Araragi chooses to fight it at all, or instead save Black Hanekawa a lot of burns. Gaen is right (but she would that she’s always right); this duel is quite a useless thing. There is really no reason why Araragi has to indulge Seishirou, since Shinobu had already chosen Araragi (but it wouldn’t do to have anyone start caring about what she wants). By the ‘vampire-minion relationship is romantic’ metric, this is just a chauvinistic penis measuring contest to impress the maid, and I’m not even that convinced about the metric. Really, if his obsession was so great that losing to Araragi makes him go full Wicked Witch of the West (or was that the talisman’s fault?), I’d be hard pressed to call it a healthy relationship.
But the important thing is that Araragi gets to look cool and Shinobu gets some emotional closure. We should remember, though, that she already had emotional closure, if not for the fact that her minion/lover/whatever came back from the dead. This is less saying goodbye to an old flame and more putting down your rabid dog, or the part of the zombie movie where they have to re-kill their family. In that light, Shishirui Seishirou really was just an angry wraith, a ghost that needed to be laid to rest once more. Shinobu eating her first is a good scene not just because it is emotionally powerful, but because it’s the proper way to end this story. If you have a zombie lover, you have to kill him yourself.
Final impressions ~ half-time pep talk
Just to be clear, Owarimonogatari hasn’t actually ended yet. There’s still a good volume of novel left to adapt, so it’s not really the right time to be writing a ‘final impression’. But I’ll try one anyway, only for you, dear readers. Merry Christmas.
This season of Owarimonogatari was a curious thing. It’s only really two story arcs—one about Sodachi and the other about Shinobu—and they both had different approaches. For one, Sodachi’s arc was very low on the supernatural, while Shinobu’s arc was steeped in it. That may be expected, because vampires have always been at the centre of the Monogatari Series‘ mystique, but it was rare for Monogatari to play things as straight as it did in Sodachi Lost. It just goes to show, one doesn’t always need a fancy metaphor in their story; there’s merit in being completely direct as well.
How would I rate them though? A tricky question, but thanks for asking. I would say that while Shinobu Mail did end better, Sodachi’s arc was stronger overall. Shinobu Mail, I think, stretched itself a bit thin at times, in a way that wasn’t sustainable over a full six episodes. One must remember that we’re still in a sort of setup phase for Owarimonogatari right now, with the full meat being the last volume (or so I expect, since the true nature of Ougi will be revealed there). So right now things are a little slow, and not at the peak of the overall myth arc. It’s similar problem suffered by some parts of Tsukimonogatari; much of it also felt like it was setting up for something else, and ended up feeling a bit overextended.
The advantage that Sodachi’s arc had was in its conflict, in that it had more of it than Shinobu’s. Conflict is what drives plots, and Sodachi’s arc was all conflict whether it be through Ougi or Sodachi herself. They were, for the large part, antagonistic, and for our purposes were obstacles for our hero Araragi to overcome. Even when Ougi was being helpful, she certainly didn’t feel too helpful because of her role as a villain, or at least someone we’ve learnt not to completely trust. Compare her monologues to Gaen’s. They’re both more or less omniscient and spoonfed information to Araragi, but Ougi was nominally a ‘bad guy’ while Gaen nominally was not (though both are shady in their own ways). I actually have rather low tolerance for blatant exposition from either, but Ougi’s was more interesting simply because she was an antagonist (though, to compensate, Gaen’s monologues had some interesting imagery to them). And Sodachi’s arc also had the advantage of being framed as a mystery, which is sort of a persistent, overarching conflict so long as the mystery holds. In comparison, Shinobu Mail only really had Shishirui Seishirou, who had some good parts but couldn’t make up for a general lack of conflict across 6 episodes.
All that said, I found Owarimonogatari to still be rather good overall thus far. It ended well enough, so even its slow parts paid off eventually. It would have been helped, though, if it had maintained the same kind of snappiness of the double-episode Ougi Formula throughout. Otherwise, I’ve said my piece on the specific episodes in their respective posts, so I’ll spare you the rehashing of them. Let us instead look forward to a refocusing on Ougi and whatever dark truth surrounds her and her connection to Araragi. Before that, though, there’s actually going to be an adaptation of Koyomimonogatari! I hear that those short stories are actually fairly important to Owarimonogatari, so if you manage to get your hands on it (it’s being distributed as part of a Japanese smartphone app, to make things difficult), it should be worth watching. And, of course, the first part of Kizumonogatari should be out in Japanese theatres in January. It’s a bit weird calling this season the ‘End Story‘, isn’t it? We still have so much more to go.