by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Last week's episode almost let us forgot this is largely an Araragi-Kanbaru arc, but there were no illusions on that front this time. After Gaen laboriously explained the full nature of their current situation, Araragi, Shinobu, and Kanbaru were left to figure things out for themselves, wasting time until nightfall while Gaen went out to call for backup. And yet, for all this episode felt like a reminder of Monogatari's least interesting elements, it managed to be something that prior Mayoi and Kanbaru content have rarely managed. This episode was actually funny.
We started off this week with Gaen still in control, laying out the truth of the shrine and our heroes' culpability in spite of all Shinobu and Araragi's protestations. Gaen first explained how, from fifteen years back, their town had become a hub of supernatural activity. The old shrine was supposed to act as a conduit for apparitions, where they could be gathered and then dispersed harmlessly through the powers of an apparition expert. But fifteen years ago, the appearance of Shinobu's first servant had essentially worked as a power surge, shattering the shrine's defenses and leaving the town as an open beacon for supernatural beings. And thus all the misfortunes of the series thus far could technically be attributed to Shinobu and her absent friend.
Neither Shinobu nor Araragi liked hearing this information, though for very different reasons. Shinobu doesn't like feeling powerless, but her relationship with Araragi necessarily puts her in a pretty vulnerable place. That's something she's come to accept - but hearing that even her return to Japan was beyond her control, and that she was guided by some kind of spirit beacon, threatens her agency in a way she's prone to argue against even without an argument.
Araragi doesn't care so much about the fate or responsibility stuff; he's already a guy who thinks everything is his responsibility, and so learning he's doomed everyone is pretty much par for the course. What Araragi feels insecure about is the existence of the samurai. A figure he thought was long gone, and had only existed as an abstract story, is now back in town and presenting a strange gulf between him and Shinobu. Whereas Araragi tends to hide his doubts and weaknesses even from those closest to him, he confides in Shinobu - but if her “first servant” has returned, that makes his bond with her a whole lot less special.
Shinobu urges him to ignore these fears in her own snarky way (“don't show worthless envy. Leave it at a cute level of jealousy”), and so the second half of this episode shifted to more pressing concerns - Araragi using some lunch money from Gaen to go buy Kanbaru some BL porn. Well, technically a BL light novel, but “Brutal Garcon Huff-Huffs a Half-Blood Boy” doesn't really leave much to the imagination. This segment was pretty classic Monogatari comedy, but personally I thought it really worked. Instead of aiming the characters at each other (like when the joke is that Araragi wants to molest Mayoi, and that's the joke), this segment was just a really funny, positive articulation of the weird relationship between Araragi and Kanbaru, along with some great digs at light novels.
The setup of “do you think I'm one of those people who treats light novels like degenerate art or something?” leading into that book title was great, as was Kanbaru's “this one, the 21st book in the series, is especially highly anticipated by the experts.” Monogatari is often about sexuality, but it doesn't necessarily have to be about sexuality in an aggressive sense. Kanbaru and Araragi have fun bantering like perverts with each other even though their relationship is totally platonic, and that can be a pretty great thing to see.
Overall, this episode wasn't full of dramatic peaks or stuffed with great visual ideas (though there were a bunch of fun references, ranging from Hajime no Ippo to Crying Freeman and the Shawshank Redemption), but it was still witty and fun. I'd say the first half dragged a bit too long, but the second half was one of the show's better comedic sequences, and it's looking like we'll be heading back into the drama next week. Monogatari chugs merrily along.
Owarimonogatari is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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