Holy shit, Nisemonogatari actually had a plot with an actual conflict, not just orally dancing around the issue of sex? Apparently it does, according to the ominous red glow that silhouettes the gnarled trees outside Kanbaru’s estate and Senjougahara’s own expository confession! Oh, and the plot synopsis was probably a dead giveaway, the catalyst of this plot being none other than Deishu Kaiki, the swindler who’s finally made his appearance after two episodes of nothing but Shaft-style conversation. Before anybody adjusts their hopes accordingly though, I assure you that, much like in the past few episodes, there are only a few minutes of actual plot; the rest is the overindulgent dialoguing that we’ve grown to know and love, mostly battling wits between Koyomi and Senjougahara as is par for the course.
There’s a small handful of events and themes that can be touched on here: The continued introductory symbolism of Suruga’s jumbled life, the nature of the relationship between Koyomi and Senjougahara… really, there are no wrong answers here. So, with that in mind, I’ll choose the least wrong answer and make good on my post title.
In the first series, we didn’t get much of a look at the impact of Koyomi and Senjougahara’s relationship once they sealed the deal and officially got together. We saw plenty of their witticisms and labyrinthine jabs at each other, which was perfectly fine on its own but that was only the short term. This episode changed that by revealing the reason why Koyomi was held hostage by Senjougahara in the opening of the first episode, which was your standard “For your own good, don’t get yourself in danger” reason. And, for better or for worse, this perfectly encapsulates how their relationship has developed since that first fateful meeting in the stairway at school.
Whether she likes to admit it or not, Senjougahara is definitely controlling; if Koyomi doesn’t play along how she thinks he should, she makes him one way or another. And he does need to get roped back in line, especially with all the nubile young girls clamoring for him in ways ranging from subtle to hopelessly unabashed. This is as much for his safety when his life is threatened as it is the security of their relationship, as is shown in this episode. It’s a healthy restriction, which Koyomi is more than happy to play into up to a certain extent, which is when his family becomes threatened.
Koyomi, on the other hand, is much less stringent about his relationship with her. We barely see the two together, except when she calls for it, which seems perfectly fine for her. The two walk that fine balance between independence and affection well, something that’s difficult to see pulled off well in any medium. Even if Senjougahara comes off as overprotective in this episode, it’s done with Koyomi’s knowledge without much protest. It’s a surprisingly functional relationship, with Koyomi and Senjougahara respecting each other without completely sacrificing their own interests in the process. It’s even more surprising, given the general level of dysfunction shown both in Nisemonogatari and its prequel on behalf of these two.
I can’t honestly say that I think Nisemonogatari is all that great. Yes, I have a lot of good things to say about it, but it progresses at a frustratingly sloth-like pace and has many of the same bothersome pretentions of its predecessor. But it’s still undeniably entertaining, the conversations really bulking out the otherwise meager story to the extent that you hardly notice nothing of worth is really going on, the animation filling in everything else to give the words that are said more gravity. But every once in awhile you get an episode like this, which expands on the universe while sticking with the pre-established mold of continuous verbal tango. Not only that, but it does occasionally reveal a lot about the characters without saying it outright. These moments make Nisemonogatari worth watching, and its world feels all the richer for them. I can’t say that this changed my opinion on what I’ve seen so far, but it’s rejuvenated my slightly waning interest, making me want to see more.