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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
MONOGATARI Series: OFF & MONSTER Season

How would you rate episode 1 of
MONOGATARI Series: OFF & MONSTER Season ?
Community score: 4.1



What is this?

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Having graduated from high school, Araragi Koyomi's story is over. This time, it's truly over. However, the story of the girls who were saved by Koyomi was not over yet. A prequel or sequel to the story of these girls struggling in their youth.

MONOGATARI Series: OFF & MONSTER Season is based on the Monogatari light novel series by NisiOisin. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.


How was the first episode?

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Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

MONOGATARI Series: OFF & MONSTER Season looks to be a Monogatari season without Araragi—and if this episode is anything to go by, I'm going to love this one. That's not to say I hate Araragi as a character—I don't—however, his role has almost always been that of a plot tool. From a meta sense, it's his job to be someone for the ever-increasing female cast to play off of—as well as someone to connect all the various narratives. However, by this point of the story, he's not necessarily needed for this role. The girls are all so well-developed at this point that they can play off each other just fine and have odd supernatural adventures all their own.

And that's exactly what this episode is. Set after the events of Zoku Owarimonogatari, Ononoki is discovered by her supernatural target of observation, Tsukihi, and decides to play things off as her being a magical girl from another world on a mission to stop a monster. To pull off this con, Ononoki enlists the aid of Nadeko—and, when things go predictably off the rails, it's up to Mayoi to pull off a literal deus ex machina to wrap things up.

All in all, it's a fun little Monogatari one-off adventure. On one hand, it's full of all the creative visuals, comical situations, and enjoyable wordplay you've come to expect. On the other, it's a re-examination of Tsukihi as a character.

What makes her truly dangerous to be around isn't that she attracts misfortune—it's why she attracts misfortune. She is simply unable to learn from her mistakes—she forgets anything traumatic. She acts carefree and irresponsible because, from her point of view, doing so has always worked out for her. She never has any reason to not act that way. This makes her unable to grow as a person—doomed to repeat her mistakes forever.

When it comes to Ononoki, this episode is a look at hubris, pride, and the power of the unexpected. And through her, we get a truly profound observation about the meaning of life. Living a good life is finding just the right amount of difficulty to make life worth living—to have just enough bad moments to make the good moments worth treasuring.

All in all, this is a fantastic episode of Monogatari and I can't wait to see more of what this season without Araragi has to offer.


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Kevin Cormack
Rating:

So far, this Summer 2024 anime season's been particularly strong for sequels – not just Oshi no Ko, Shy, and NieR:Automata, but now the long-awaited return of studio Shaft's beloved adaptation of author NisiOisin's Monogatari Novels. While Akiyuki Simbo mans the vague-sounding “chief director” role, Midori Yoshizawa, previously an episode director for both Owarimonogatari and Zoku Owarimonogatari takes up the reins of the director's chair. Based on her work on this extended-length 32-minute opener, she's doing a fantastic job so far.

This episode adapts the short (54-page) third arc, Tsukihi Undo, from the novel Orokamonogatari. Perhaps too slight a tale to spread over two full episodes, the choice to extend the length was a good one. Unfortunately, we forgo a traditional Monogatari character actor-sung opening song, and I can only imagine that will be held back for the eventual Blu-ray release. I'll knock half a star off for that because I love those OPs, and knowing Aniplex, it'll be years until said Blu-ray is available to buy in English and at their vastly inflated rates.

Although we mainly focus on Koyomi Araragi's seriously unhinged sister Tsukihi and her expressionless undead corpse masquerading as a plush doll Yotsugi Ononoki (one of my favorite characters, by the way), we're treated to appearances from now-hikikomori manga artist Nadeko Senkoku, and even newly-ascended snail god Mayoi Hachikuji. The way writer NisiOisin riffs off previous plot lines and themes never fails to impress me, as he links in Nadeko's previous means of liberation from her possessing snake god with Yotsugi's problem in this episode, leading eventually to Mayoi's involvement. It all seems very organic and logical.

Monogatari's anime adaptation has always excelled at deft character work married with striking visuals and snappy dialogue. All of these strengths are present in full force in Tsukihi Undo, as Yotsugi messes up her clandestine spy operation in the Araragi household, and Tsukihi learns, to her horror, that the life-size doll she's been sleeping with is actually a sentient organism. Yotsugi's attempts to defuse the situation by appealing to Tsukihi's love of magical girl anime is completely inspired, even though it leads inevitably towards chaos and madness.


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Christopher Farris
Rating:

Being as it always has an effective anthology of spiritual stories, I can understand Nisio Isin just not being able to stop writing chapters about the characters of Monogatari regardless of how long ago the main "plot" wrapped up. And so something as simple as Yotsugi trying to eat a cup of ice cream kicks off a new incident covered in the premiere of this season of bonus material. It's honestly great as a vehicle for spending a solid half-hour conversing and catching up with several of the cast members. While technically centered around Yotsugi, this episode also makes heavy use of Tsukihi, a character who's long felt underutilized by the series despite what a big deal she technically is in the spiritual scheme of things. That already bodes well for ways this Monogatari DLC might branch out.

After like a hundred episodes, I don't know that OFF & MONSTER Season here is going to change anybody's mind about Monogatari that they haven't made up already. Still, it's worth noting that this entry features zero appearances and only a couple scant mentions of Koyomi Araragi, its most polarizing protagonist (I've honestly always thought he was fine, myself). Whether Yotsugi serves better as the central character is a mileage-varying lateral move. Her positively breathless narration covering nearly the entire length of the episode does get just a little exhausting by the end, impressively implemented as it is. Yotsugi does provide an interesting unique vector through which to view standby characters, like the aforementioned Tsukihi or an enjoyable aside with Nadeko. Her dedicated dry role as an observer makes Yotsugi the perfect choice for playing catch-up like this, with the overall plot of this episode being a pointed shaggy-dog story that exists solely at the behest of bringing back all these faves.

Just being back with SHAFT's take on Monogatari is going to be a major attraction for this new anime, and even that comes with its own refreshing of things. One of the biggest questions going into OFF & MONSTER Season was how its look might shift with Akiyuki Simbo stepping down from the director's chair (or up into "chief director" as it were). After previously directing a few episodes of preceding seasons, Midori Yoshizawa is definitely bringing her own take to the series with this new start here. This episode feels just a bit more active than the static, framed look that defined so much of Monogatari for so long. That's a good thing, if you ask me, since bringing the series back after all that earlier material necessitates a degree of newness. This is a vibrant look for the series, swinging around to explore the odd sets and scenery from closer, more human angles. There's still time made for the classic chapter breaks and regularly inserted askew visual gags, of course. But it still feels fresh just as much as it feels like coming home.

That's the high praise I can hand down to OFF & MONSTER Season—that it justifies its existence in providing more of a series that's fun to just marinate in while also feeling like it's indulging in something new. As a silly little bonus entry, it makes clear what the path forward for this season will probably be: the ability for Isin's characters and the odd excursions of their lives to basically run with incidental plots forever. Given a huge chunk of Yotsugi's existential narration in this episode is about the topic of eternity, and the repeating cycles of learning and living, that feels philosophically appropriate. I'll be happy to keep on tuning in to see what supernatural hijinks these girls will get into next - so long as Kanbaru puts in an appearance sooner rather than later.


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