Real or fake? Truth of the lie or lies masquerading as truth? When the curtain rises, all you can ask yourself is “what now?”
G’day ladies and gents, the Inverseman here with another review. After settling some more pressing matters, I got to finish Nisemonogatari and here’s how it all went down (and check out our review of Bakemonogatari).
Okay, so if you happen to know the Monogatari novels, this season will be adapting the “Karen Bee” and “Tsukihi Phoenix” stories, so if pestering little sister types are not your thing, you have been warned in full so do not blame me if you get “platinum mad” or anything. Much like the past season the framework is similar, if not, the same. Our paranormal creature magnet Koyomi Araragi finds out some chick he knows are being afflicted by some supernatural thing so of course the way to solve the case is to sit around and talk for about 22 minutes and pop it out. It’s a lot more entertaining than it sounds.
Going into the season, we get a nice re-introduction to the characters from last season and get a nice taste of Araragi’s rather interesting relationships with them. It’s a nice refresh after the very confusing fate the last couple of episodes of Bakemonogatari suffered back in 2010 with those episodes being web-cast instead of regular broadcast. However, the tactic does have one drawback; Shaft basically used up two of their eleven episodes for (mostly) recap, so springing into even the groundwork for the case doesn’t really happen until episode three. By themselves, the two episodes are nice and all, but it seems like you would just relegate this stuff to one full episode tops.
When Karen’s chapter does get off the ground, we are slowly lowered into the situation. Basically, a supernatural wreathe fire bee can give a fatal fever and of course, Karen has contracted it, dragging Koyomi’s siblings into the supernatural matters he’d rather not involve them with. In the midst of the chaos, Senjougahara’s past comes up again; one of the men that conned her in the past is back in town and she’s hellbent on revenge. Critical to the solving of this incident is Araragi’s vampire acquaintance Shinobu, who has a much more prominent role this season and even gets lines! Lots of ‘em! In fact, Shinobu as a character really get to shine in this season, a perfect setup for Kizumonogatari when it comes out eventually in theaters. It’s great to finally see her get some characterization outside of “vampire loli that sits there.”
The thing with act one is that even for this series there’s a bit of dragging going on. While there’s lots of meat to cover between a dude and his girlfriend trying to take a disease spreading “fake” to town, the real punch of the arc doesn’t really hit until maybe episode four or five. When it does hit, we really start moving until we get to the resolution in episode seven where you will have a lingering feeling of disappointment that I feel is actually very appropriate given the themes of what was going on but I will not say what. (Curse you, spoilers!) All I will say though is that some characters can be magnificent bastards.
Going off the excitement of the last few episodes of the first act, we have a siesta of comic relief. The eighth episode will make you feel very awkward the next time you go to the dentist, but of course this only leaves three real episodes for the “Tsukihi Phoenix” chapter. A new “specialist” comes to town and she’s the real deal. She even has her own supernatural “partner,” much like Araragi. She’s fearsome and powerful, and nothing is going to get in her way, even if the target is a certain someone. While the second act is much shorter, I will arguably claim it has a much bigger impact than the first one (but to be fair, it delivers and fulfills the themes established in the first act), especially when the writers deliver a semi-unexpected sucker punch to the audience. By then, Araragi has grown; he knows what must be done. Instead of consulting and deliberating over how to resolve the case, he has his plan set this time, so you as the audience feel much more invested in this case. And if you’ve forgotten about a certain someone due to the Fire Sisters, don’t worry, she’s around ready to tease you at the end of it all.
The sisters themselves really take spotlight for most of the season, though to be fair, it seems more focus was given to Senjougahara in the “Karen Bee” arc so it kinda overshadowed time given to Karen’s character development; it’s there though, our fiery justice-loving hothead. Time put into writing for Tsukihi isn’t as strong, considering the “Tsukihi Phoenix” chapter is much shorter and tries to do a finale and a case and development in basically two or three episodes. Compared to last season where the “Tsubasa Cat” arc had essentially five episodes to finish the series off. So Tsukihi comes off as a first class princess type… And… Basically stays rather similar but due to plot reasons. (Then again, she never had the life-changing dental incident.) Fortunately, there was some nice limelight given to her early on before we got into Karen’s case, so it’s a bit disjointed.
Pacing issues aside, the animation is solid and Shaft-like as usual, with the last couple episodes looking much smoother. Maybe it’s because I’m used to it by now or maybe it’s because Shaft had more money this time around, but there’s less of the still-image photo-realism shenanigans seen back in first season. The BGM is minimalistic so not much to say other than a satisfied pass. The OPs and ED are solid (Chiwa Saito is fantastic). In voice talent the cast continues to shine. I can almost swear that Shaft has Hiroshi Kamiya on speed-dial.
I’d like to go into more of the themes personally, but I don’t wanna really spoil anything for the folks at home so maybe next time. So I’ll break my promise with a question. If given the real thing and an indistinguishable fake, which would be better? Take the question for whatever you want it to be. Join me next time when I go splurge my paycheck on donuts.