by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Monogatari got back to its roots this week, and by that I mean “I sure hope you like untranslatable puns and on-the-nose sex banter.” Shinobu Mail knocked us two months into the past (relative to Sodachi Riddle), back to when Araragi was separated from Shinobu and Hanekawa was first meeting a certain spectral tiger. In the now-burned shell of the old cram school, Araragi called a meeting with Kanbaru, where he intended to proposition her about… something. We never actually got to what that “something” was (though it's clear chronologically that this is a result of Gaen's request from Shinobu Time), because when Kanbaru and Araragi get together, Isin really lets himself go.
That's pretty much all that consumed the first half of this episode - Kanbaru making puns about her knees and crudely propositioning Araragi, Araragi tut-tutting and feeling vaguely uncomfortable and generally playing the straight man to Kanbaru's early-series self. There wasn't anything in this sequence the series hasn't done half a dozen times before, and wasn't anything visually interesting to spice it up. In fact, it seemed almost like Monogatari was taking this emotionally neutral moment to enjoy a visual vacation; this sequence was confined largely to repetitive mid-distance shots of the abandoned school, a jungle of vines and desks that we've also seen plenty of times before.
That whole half was basically a wash, but fortunately, halfway through the episode, a big set of CG armor stomped up to join the party. This new visitor made immediate sense of all this arc's variables - Ougi's insistence on finding the truth from the first scenes, Araragi's declaration that this would be “wrapping up one last story” before the ending, and Shinobu's presence in the actual arc title. This visitor had to be Shinobu's first partner, the man that was almost swallowed by the force that threatened Mayoi. Back when he nearly died the first time, Shinobu revived him as a vampire, and he allegedly killed himself. Apparently, things weren't quite as simple as that - and now he's back to regain his demon-killing sword and likely get some revenge.
This episode's second half was definitely more exciting than the first, though it still had its issues. The main problem here came down to aesthetics - the battle between Kanbaru and the set of armor lacked the strong traditional animation of Bake and Nise's best scenes, and the CG armor set felt very out of step visually with the rest of the show's aesthetic. There were some rewards here and there, though; some good shots framing Araragi or Kanbaru as imprisoned by desks, as well as a nice set of color shifts to play back Kanbaru's duel with the monster.
In the end, this whole episode was really just preamble. The fate of Shinobu's first partner is clearly not something we've had any reason to care about for its own sake - but how that relationship reflects on Shinobu and Araragi's bond could hold the key to how this entire series ends. Shinobu and Araragi have always had a strange, sad, seemingly codependent relationship, where each of them coddles the other in their loneliness. Mayoi Jiangshi centered this melancholy bond, and Shinobu Time expanded upon it by demonstrating Shinobu's ultimate incompatibility with human life. In this episode, the unhealthy hold Shinobu has on Araragi was made clear when he expressed that he'd only be “happy” dying with Shinobu. If Shinobu were just a normal apparition, she'd be an expression of Araragi's feelings of isolation and worthlessness; if Araragi gets past those feelings, their relationship may be on unsteady ground. This episode wasn't particularly strong, but if this arc ends up digging into that charged, tragic relationship, I'll be perfectly happy with a less-than-stellar opening.
Owarimonogatari is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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