Owarimonogatari Ep. 10 – The One You’ve Been Waiting For
Fanservice—in all its forms—is a way to quickly appease and entertain the viewer. Whether it’s slapping something sexual on the screen or engaging in meta-interaction with the fans, it’s not required to tell the narrative and is meant to be instantaneously gratifying to the viewer. This is why gratuitous fanservice is so off-putting—it’s extraneous (unless we’re talking about something entirely sexual in nature, in which case, obviously, it’s the point). You could say fanservice is a distraction from the story.
We’ve already seen how this series uses absurd backgrounds to keep our eyes stuck to the screen while simultaneously invoking specific feelings in us or providing secondary information to us. So then, does –monogatari also kill two birds with one fanservice stone? Our experts say yes.
We get comedy, meta-reference, and semi-lewd content all together. The Holy Trinity, you could call it. Let’s take a moment to distract ourselves from this essay by appreciating this trinity, then we’ll figure out why the show was smart.
I don’t really need to explain why Araragi and Kanbaru changing the tone of their voices or arguing over her boy-love novels are funny, but it’s worth pointing out that these sex-driven vampire novels are probably what Nisio Isin perceives his ‘young adult supernatural novel’ competition as. At least, he thinks it’s true enough that it’s worth making a joke about. It’s funny that his books can appear dignified in comparison, especially when we consider something like Nisemonogatari.
Before I go any further, let me say that I believe this segment in question was mostly lifted straight out of the Owarimonogatari novel, and will therefore be attributing the dialogue to Nisio Isin’s writing. You could easily replace his name with ‘everyone and anyone involved in creating the dialogue of this scene’, but I’ll leave that up to you.
Anyway, things get really meta as Kanbaru and Araragi begin discussing the importance of a book’s title. Kanbaru says a lot of focus is placed on titles nowadays, but the “masterpieces” of the past only give a “vague idea” of what the story is about. Something like Bakemonogatari/Monster Story definitely falls into the vague idea camp, and Nisio Isin is definitely enamored with his naming convention (as am I).
Isin’s obsession with mystery stories also pops in to say hello. I don’t want to make it sound like he’s ranting about the decrepit state of literature or anything ridiculous like that, but he’s certainly poking fun at the lesser works of the genre he loves. He also takes a moment to honor catchphrases, something he loves as much as ending series with –gatari.
All the talk about bras is somewhat sexual in nature (Kanbaru groping herself is, at least) and also some more comedy. I suppose this bit sort of follows the story since we learned Kanbaru was braless in a different fanservice scene a few episodes ago, but that doesn’t really count. Either way, it gives her an excuse to talk about bras in a way only Kanbaru could.
The fun and games wrap up by putting a Kaiki lookalike (maybe just Kaiki himself…) on the cover of Brutal Garcon Huff Huffs a Half-Blood Boy and having Araragi attempt to prove he doesn’t have a Lolita-complex. It’s been a bit of a long ride, but we didn’t mind the distraction.
Oh, right. This was all just a distraction—something to turn and look at while the story revved up. And now, suddenly, things are very serious again. Now, suddenly, the first servant is in a humanlike body.
What if instead of all this talk about light novels and bras, Araragi just walked off to go buy food like he said? That’d be a good enough excuse to leave the shrine. Araragi could just encounter the Apparition Killer on some street on his way to the convenience store—we as viewers would accept that. In fact, we’d probably be able to predict it. You can imagine the scene yourself: Araragi is walking down some long street or alley thinking to himself, and we begin to wonder why the camera is showing us a walking scene. The only reason for showing such a mundane scene would be if Araragi was about to encounter some danger.
Remember the sleight of hand Owarimonogatari pulled back at the start of season? Once again, we let our guard down. Sure, you can argue that this is just a simple tonal shift from light and comedic to threatening and serious, but I believe that shift works so well because of the distracting nature of fanservice. Especially coming off of Gaen’s lengthy explanation that consumed all of last episode and most of this one, we’re happy to stare at the sparkly lights and pretend the story doesn’t exist. So when the story jumps back into the frame, wearing a new body and standing inches away from Araragi, we get whiplash. Plot is about to go down and we are not ready.