Sunday, January 19, 2014

Anime review: "Monogatari Series: Second Season"

I've been eagerly waiting for next season of "Monogatari" series since first seeing early announcement for it. I like a lot of anime and genre, but if I had to pick, this kind of weird-humor series would be my first choice (like "Durarara!!", "Baccano!", "Tatami Galaxy", "Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei"). So I felt unreasonable joy and expectation before watching the last season!

I first waited for all episodes to come out - I didn't want to be forced to wait. And before watching "Monogatari Series: Second Season", I did a rewatch of all previous shows, in order they came out: "Bakemonogatari", "Nisemonogatari", "Nekomonogatari (Kuro)". First, it was a good thing I did it, because I really did miss two episodes in first season, because they were released as specials. And second, it really put me in the mood for fresh season.

The new season, "Monogatari Series: Second Season" consist of five arcs. Surprisingly, all these arcs deal with previous girls, while I expected introduction of new characters. But don't take me wrong - this is a superb show and there is no feel of recycling old themes. It's hard to write a one-paragraph blurb since all arcs are very different, but if you liked old seasons (especially if you like original "Bakemonogatari") you will love this one!

First arc came as a surprise. First, there is no Araragi - he is absent and is only mentioned. This means that we see story first time from other people's eyes and it give us a different perspective, especially on Senjougahara and Hanekawa. And Senjougahara is very funny here.

I was again reminded how this show greatly uses nonlinear storytelling. We see (or they are mentioned) a bunch of new characters and previous events that we know nothing about, but everybody talks about them as they were shown. And later when they really are displayed, they came out completely different that we expected. Like constant mentions of first meeting between Araragi and Shinobi (which should be shown in announced movie "Kizumonogatari"). Also, a lots of stories remain unresolved (I hope they are saving it for later). This first arc uses another dirty trick by those missing Black Hanekawa scenes - you will know what I am talking about, believe me.

Another trait of this season is that it the show lost much of it cuteness and became more morbid, serious and violent. It always did have these elements, but they were not so evident mixed with playfulness and fanservice. This is so evident that even the faces changed - Tsukihi is much more rugged than in "Nisemonogatari".

Second arc is good, but not as epic as other ones. I didn't expect a time-travel/zombies story - it didn't really fit in my idea of "Monogatari". But it was quite good in the end. I especially liked Oshino's letter to Araragi.

Next comes the third arc, with introduction of that ominous Oshino Ougi and with Sengoku Nadeko. I never liked her in previous shows, but I really didn't expect what happened here. It is another arc that is not told from Araragi's POV and where he is almost nonexistent.

Fourth arc is similar to second one - not so epic, but good in its own way. We learn much about Shinobu's past, which was a surprise to me. We also spent more time with two new characters. Well, Ononogi Yotsugi was introduced before, but only shortly. She was a great character in this season, especially with her strange ways of talking. The other one was Gaen Izuko - very mysterious characters who adds several layer of confusion to all that has happened. We will see more of the in the future, mark me. Also, this arc is a pretty sad one.

And then came the last arc, the masterpiece! It is told from point of view of Kaiki Deishuu! Yes, him. The one man I would never expect to told a story, especially concerning how he lies to everybody including himself. Add to that the fact that this arc is told in by-the-book noir style (including the raincoat), it is really something. I was swept with last two episodes (especially the cliffhanger in penultimate one).

It reveals some unexpected facts, about relationship between Senjougahara and Kaiki. I was surprised how Araragi was made to look like a child in last episode - let an adult resolve the situation! I later realized that this arc had not one ecchi or fanservice scene. Anyway, now they have to make a sequel, they can't be so cruel not to reveal further story.

Now, little bit about technical side. There are 26 episodes in this season, but episodes 6, 11 and 16 are just recaps, so feel free to skip them. The visual side of anime is on the standard level for this series, maybe somewhat darker and rugged. There are several OPs and EDs, of which I really liked only one. Be careful, because there is sometimes more story after ED and sometimes there isn't. Oh, and I didn't like the short haircuts.

Well, in the end, there is not much to say that I consider "Monogatari Series: Second Season" the best anime of 2013 (with "Shingeki no Kyojin" on second place). Even better than the original "Bakemonogatari"!

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