Reviewby Richard Eisenbeis,
Araragi's senior year, filled with monsters torn from folklore and legend, has finally come to an end. The villain has been thwarted, and the mysteries have been laid bare. Now all that remains is a hopeful future. But sometimes you can't move forward without first looking back.
The Monogatari series, which began back in 2009 with Bakemonogatari, is the story of not-so-average high school student Araragi and his attempts to help people suffering from occult maladies that are destroying their everyday lives. It's a franchise that mixes high-stakes personal drama with comedic word play and a healthy dose of over-the-top fanservice. It's also tantalizingly surreal and visually stunning.
Last year, after 5 TV series, 3 theatrical films, and 3 OVAs, the Monogatari franchise reached its climax with the second season of Owarimonogatari—literally translated “Ending Story.” With a name like that, you'd figure it would be the final story of at least the arc, if not the entire franchise. And as far as endings go, it's exceptionally solid. It ties up nearly every hanging plot point from across the franchise's numerous iterations.
But just when you thought it was over, here comes the newest entry in the series: Zoku Owarimonogatari, literally meaning “Ending Story Continued.” However, despite what the title implies, Zoku Owarimonogatari isn't a climactic continuation of the ending. Instead it's a rather low-key epilogue to the story as a whole.
NOTE: This review contains spoilers for all past Monogatari content.
Zoku Owarimonogatari begins the day after Araragi's graduation. Upon waking, he wanders to the bathroom and washes his face, only to notice his reflection staring blankly at him instead of copying him. And when he touches the static image, something odd occurs. Araragi finds himself in a weird mirror world. Not only is everything flipped left to right, but the people within are all reflected in odd ways as well. Characters who have alternate forms all appear as those versions of themselves: Kanbaru is the rainy demon, Hanekawa is Black Hanekawa, and Sengoku is in her snake god Kuchinawa form. Each of these forms are reflections—physical realizations—of the characters' respective regrets. Kanbaru wanted to have a relationship with Senjogahara, which was denied both by Senjogahara's love for Araragi. Similarly, both Hanekawa and Sengoku wanted to be with Araragi yet found themselves rejected by him.
However, what's important to note is that the forms our heroines take stem from regrets about situations that that they had no control over. This isn't about choices that they have made, but rather things that could never be regardless. This is likewise true for the other characters that Araragi encounters. Shinobu regrets that she became a monster, so she appears in her original human form. Mayoi regrets that she never grew up, so she's an adult. Karen regrets that she grew taller than her big brother (making her less of a “little sister”), so she's short again. Sodachi regrets her abuse-filled life, so she gets the good life she could have had if Araragi had noticed her plight. Ononoki regrets that she can't show emotion and so becomes (annoyingly) emotional. Only Tsukihi, due to her unique nature, is completely the same, perfectly balanced and content with nothing in the way of regrets in either world.
As for Araragi, he's certainly not without his own regrets, and this mirror world seems to be filled with reminders of them. Worse yet, every action he takes seems to affect the mirror world and its inhabitants in negative ways. As he strives to uncover the mystery of the mirror world, he becomes increasingly worried about the one person he hasn't been able to find—the dark reflection born from his own regrets and insecurities: Ougi Oshino.
Zoku Owarimonogatari is about more than just the regrets you find when looking back on your past, however. It's also about the fear of moving forward. Araragi finds himself in an odd state of limbo. His high school life is over but his college life is yet to begin. This causes him a wee identity crisis. He's not who he was anymore, but he's not yet who he will become. Afraid of an uncertain future, he turns to the comfort of the past, but in looking back he becomes trapped in a world of regrets. With each discovery he makes in the mirror world, the stakes rise and his worries grow. But in the end, this epilogue turns out to be nothing but a meandering and overthought mystery with a painfully simple solution. Given how pointless it is in the grand scheme of things, Zoku Owarimonogatari can be a slog to get through, even if that's meant to be the point as Senjogahara makes clear in the anime's final scene.
When faced with an uncertain future, Araragi becomes indecisive. Even deciding what foot to put first when walking can trip Araragi up if he thinks about it too long. He overthinks his choices to the extent that he finds it difficult to make any decision at all, leading to a meandering entry in the Monogatari franchise. But Senjogahara demonstrates that there is always more to a decision than simply choosing A or B. If you get caught up in indecision, you can always make a third choice, and if you can't see that third choice, all you have to do is ask a friend for help. It's a quality message that proves despite all the troubles he has faced and the regrets he may carry, Araragi is far better off than he once was, thanks to the connections he has made along the way.
Visually, Zoku Owarimonogatari is great as always in delivering surreal background images that complement the absurdity or thematic bedrock of any given scene. This is especially important given that this is chapter of the series only delivers a few seconds of action in its entire two-hour run. The rest is simply philosophy with the occasional bout of wordplay as the various characters try to talk Araragi through the mystery of the mirror world.
Overall, Zoku Owarimonogatari posits the question that all too often gets left by the wayside in popular media: what happens after the ending, when everything returns to normal? Using this question as a starting point, it explores the nature of regret and its protagonist's fears for the future. While it's by no means the highlight of the Monogatari franchise, this film certainly has a message to deliver, doing so with all the visual style and philosophical musings you've come to expect from this story.
Overall : B
Story : C
Animation : A
Art : A+
Music : B
+ Epilogue that satisfyingly explores the emotional fallout of the Monogatari series so far
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