Few of us will be unaware of Monogatari, SHAFT’s idiosyncratic adaptation of NisiOisiN’s light novel series. Its fascination with theology and mathematics are well documented, while the different iterations at once conform to genre clichés and stand totally separate.
I’ve been mulling over Monogatari for as long as I’ve been reviewing anime, certainly enough time to figure out what it is I like about the franchise and what I’d rather less of. By the time Owarimonogatari was simulcasting, I’d already grown tired of some of its more tangential ramblings, pretentious asides and pervy indulgences. I even dropped the series at the time, before revisiting it for the sake of this review.
In a messy narrative no one knew they wanted, never mind needed, Owarimonogatari filled a gap in what is already a convoluted tangle of plot lines and character interactions – seriously, this stuff makes Tolstoy look simple. As far as I was concerned, it was one of the less interesting instalments, certainly compared to some of the releases that came before it – Tsukimonogatari and Hanamonogatari. Yet the more I watched this time around, I realised it a refinement on the formula, with the staccato text cards less manic, less frequent and even more readable.
It begins with a cosmic locked room puzzle, Koyomi Araragi and transfer student Ougi Oshino trapped in a classroom, time stood still around them. Oshino, adorable in her oversized sleeves and bob cut, is a kind of quizmaster, guiding Araragi to epiphanies and breaking through his convenient amnesia. The classroom is symbolic of his psychological shift from middle school to high school, his presence there forcing him to confront his past. What may seem like a simple witch hunt to find the cheater on a math test, snowballs into something so much more significant. Perhaps it’s the butterfly effect in motion, or it might just be that the smallest actions (or inactions) in adolescence have some of the most profound consequences in our adult years. And so it became more a case of discovering why it is that Sodachi Oikura hates Araragi, something that revealed itself two years after.
As it happens, Sodachi was once tutoring Araragi in math, in what appears to be a desperate attempt to stop the domestic abuse she was suffering. Araragi’s parents are both police, you see, and though she can’t directly come out and say what’s happening, nor does she want to drop her family in it, so inviting Araragi over is a silent and tragic call for help. I was startled by the sensitivity with which this was handled. This was Monogatari, after all. It was in the later episodes of this small collection that it really came into its own. The story, more focussed and streamlined than we’ve seen elsewhere, is also more terrestrial, and recognisable in our own flawed world. This, more than any other instalment, shows that underneath its avant garde imagery, sexual perversions and talking heads is a real human heart and emotional backbone.
Clean opening/closing animation