Something in anime is becoming a rarity for me these days. It’s an insignificant characteristic, one that isn’t necessarily any one series’ fault since being an adult has its own time constraints, but it’s been months since I’ve been able to sit down, watch an episode of a show all the way through, and never once glance at the clock wondering how much time I have left. The last show that was able to do that is Mawaru Penguindrum, which any long time subscribers might recall had me salivating week to week, and easily nestled snugly into my Top 10. Well, Nisemonogatari of all things managed to fill that gap this week. Am I saying that Nisemonogatari is as good as Mawaru Penguindrum? Read on to find out.
To be clear, I liked Bakemonogatari, if having Senjougahara plastered all over my header didn’t set off any alarms. It was an incredibly clever, gorgeous, and well written show, at least as far as dialogue is concerned. Saying that though, it never managed to break the glass ceiling into what I’d call a favorite or even greatness. I even stopped 12 episodes in for no reason, and pushed through the last few some months later. Others will probably debate this, but I think what Bakemonogatari was missing that Nisemonogatari has is some kind of catalyst that manages to glue it together into one cohesive story: Deishu Kaiki.
As good as Bakemono was, there wasn’t some central conflict keeping things going. Yeah, it had a theme and its own shtick with each of the arcs, but once they were resolved they didn’t make much of an appearance again. Hachikuji, my favorite character in the whole thing for a number of reasons, only appeared a scant few times after her arc concluded. It made sense, considering she had no direct importance in the other arcs of the series, but the show was a little choppy as a result, with little residual effect from the girls that Araragi dealt with. About the only connecting thread was his burgeoning relationship with Senjougahara, which was touched on just enough to make it the best part of the show. By adding in Deishu Kaiki and giving Araragi’s sister’s more importance, Nisemonogatari has added another dimension of depth between the characters that I felt was missing from the first series.
Take Senjougahara, for instance. As crass as she is, she very rarely comes across as somebody who gets flustered. She has a cool, detached feel about her that’s as enthralling as it is chilling. She quips sarcasm and insults with little hesitation, managing to run circles around her with her words. Yet, there’s a playful air about it that makes it difficult to be completely intimidated by her force of character. That aloof attitude is missing here, instead replaced by cold, yet searing hatred toward Kaiki that she admits has little reason to upset her so much. Or it would, if she didn’t feel that he was directly responsible for driving her parents apart and setting things into motion for her to be possessed by the crab spirit. This is the second time that her emotions have been laid bare before the audience, and it’s a little disconcerting hearing her legitimately warn Araragi off, and hear him respond exasperatedly in return with brunt honesty that sometimes he doubts the security of their relationship.
Beyond her memories flooding back and banishing the crab spirit as a result, we hadn’t seen Senjougahara really let her feelings be known without skirting the issue with jabs and insults toward Araragi and those around her until now. But that isn’t limited toward just Sejougahara; Kaiki implanting the Wreathfire Bee in Karen inadvertently brought Shinobu back, further bringing to light the power struggle between her and Araragi as she helps him find his wandering little sister. It’s something small that makes the world feel lusher, filling in for the sparse backgrounds and odd design choices to create a world that’s both unreal and brimming with very real, strong bonds between people rarely seen in the medium. All the characters also seem to be functioning by themselves, no longer relying on Araragi to prop them up as far as relevance goes, which has been a nice change from him being the only pillar of strength in the last series.
It’s odd that by adding one little number to the equation in the form of an overarching villain and his effects on the characters, Nisemonogatari manages to give off the feeling of being a more complex, well-directed package than its predecessor. While by no means perfect, it’s managed to tweak the Bakemonogatari formula into something that I’m digesting and picking through with little trouble, and I look forward to each and every one of these posts so I can continue to gush and explain why. Once again, very few shows have managed to pull me in to the extent that I completely lose track of time, sitting by and actively absorbing information until I realize the episode ends and the credits roll. I can count Nisemonogatari among them now, and that’s something special that shouldn’t be scoffed at.