Owarimonogatari Ep. 2 – Moving Metaphor
The –monogatari series has used surrealism and visual metaphor to express character intentions and emotions since Bakemonogatari. In fact, those moments of surrealism quite possibly define the series’ style better than anything else. There’s enough examples in every episode of the show to explain what I mean, but Episode 2 of Owarimonogatari stuck out to me. The proper introduction of a new character also makes it easier to get the point across. So let’s get into it.
Okay, so I wouldn’t quite call this surrealism, but this sequence of exaggerated Araragi faces juxtaposed with the expressions he’s actually showing Hanekawa is a solid example of the concept. He wants to show Hanekawa the super cheerful, carefree, and cartoony face we see flash on the screen, but he really feels more like the face drenched in a cold sweat. When we’re forced to compare those two “surrealist” expressions with his actual face that lies somewhere in the panicky middle-ground, we understand everything we need to about Araragi’s feelings and motivations.
Araragi continues to try to keep up this façade when he first faces Oikura. He isn’t actually tip-toeing around like he’s in a Scooby Doo episode, and he doesn’t actually make such goofy faces. I suppose you could argue that he does actually do those things, but I stand by my point that these are just metaphorical representations of how Araragi wants himself to be perceived. He hopes to leave the past behind and greet Oikura as aloof as possible.
Unfortunately for him, things don’t work out that way. The desks stacking up behind him are quite obviously just a visual metaphor. Either he feels that he has nowhere to run, or Oikura has asserted herself as such a threat that she won’t allow Araragi to run. We viewers become aware of the situation without either character having to tell us anything. The effect is immediate.
Oikura’s voice acting and dialogue do most of the heavy lifting as far as letting us know she’s crazy and furious, but the show employs one of its favorite visual tactics as well. Oikura’s twintails rising up like a cobra’s neck expanding should remind you of Hachikuji, who was often depicted in a similar way. Like the desks, this strikes a visceral note in the viewer and we feel right away that Oikura is a threat.
There’s one other girl who is quite the threat this episode. Senjougahara’s always had the personality of a cold-blooded killer when faced with an enemy, and this episode is no different. A quick cinematic tidbit: the snapping shots that pan up her body establish her very existence as imposing. The following ridiculous shots of her dragging Hanekawa across the classroom as the class prez clings to Senjougahara let us know visually that no one can stop Senjougahara from doing as she pleases.
So, last episode made a plain situation suspenseful and tense using specific shot composition. This episode made the moments when characters are talking to each other as energized as when they’re assaulting each other (if not more energized). This series has always had its most interesting moments during its conversations, and I believe the concepts I’ve discussed these past two episodes constitute about half the reason why. The other half? Dialogue, but we’ll get to that…