The debate between Shinobu and Kanbaru this episode is interesting even by –monogatari standards. Their dialogue gives us a lot to think about, while simultaneously telling us exactly what to think. Yet, the telling in this scene isn’t the same as bad telling (i.e. ‘I was scared’), nor it is quite the same as good telling (i.e. Hibike Euphonium revealing Reina’s flaws by telling us “band isn’t an individual activity”). To figure out what exactly this new telling is, obviously we need to check out some dialogue.
Shinobu Mail is a story of Shinobu’s past with the Apparition Killer, and their eventual meeting and resolution of conflict. That’s how’d you summarize it, anyway. Throughout this arc are themes of repetition and the hope for an ending. We spent a lot of time looking into repetition two episodes ago, and Owarimonogatari essentially means ‘End Story’. How do these themes play into the conversation between Shinobu and Kanbaru, and what do the characters tell us about this story via those themes?
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.
I hope you like symbolism because we’re about to talk about a lot of it. I’ll be trying to keep this tied to a theme, so hopefully I maintain the same focus as the previous essays in this series despite the broad topic. Once again, about half of the episode is dedicated to a lengthy storytelling sequence packed with absurd visuals, so let’s figure out what exactly we’re seeing.
Before Gaen even starts telling the story, the backgrounds reflect some of the themes of episode. The clouds and heavens swirling like a grand spiral above Gaen mirror the repetitive, cyclical nature of the Apparition Killer’s death and rebirth. It’s actually possible for us to predict the rough outline of the story about to be told if we pick up on this detail and a few keywords like “revive”.
Immediately, Gaen presents the idea of the sun as a vampire’s (an immortal being’s) weakness. Exposure to the sun is a sort of ‘death’ for vampires, although one they can be reborn from. For now, let’s just remember that the sun is generally associated with the passage of time and the beginning of a new day. Gaen’s explanation will be useful in a moment.
Proving once and for all that dreams can indeed come true, Shinobu returns to the screen in Episode 8. She’s one of the world’s most powerful apparitions trapped in a child’s body, or that’s how Araragi/we perceive her, anyway. If we leap back to Nekomonogatari Black for a second, Oshino says “apparitions are made of human belief”—that “apparitions appear and behave according to the environs.” He goes on to say that Araragi’s perception of Shinobu, and his behavior in light of that perception, affect how Shinbou will act. Well, specifically, he says anyone who acknowledges Shinobu will affect her.
Evidence of this influence can be seen throughout the series (the scene with Shinobu on a throne in Tsukimonogatari comes to mind as good example). In addition, the style and cinematography of the scene changes to accent the changes in Shinobu’s behavior. Since we have two characters influencing the little vampire in two distinct ways at the end of Episode 8, why don’t we take a look at what I mean?
Let’s set up the ways in which Araragi and Kanbaru view Shinobu, respectively. I’d argue that Araragi views Shinobu as mostly cute/moe, like a semi-helpless little girl carrying too large a load up some stairs and trying her hardest to do it alone. Think about the various donut scenes where Araragi acts almost fatherly, as well as that throne scene in Tsukimonogatari where Araragi consoles Shinobu’s wounded pride. I’d also say Kanbaru sees Shinobu as a cool heartthrob. Kanbaru is super-excitable and weak in the knees around Shinobu, and tries to put on mature, laid-back airs when speaking to her. She doesn’t want to protect a cute Shinobu so much as, let’s say, woo/be wooed by her (Shinobu calls Kanbaru a pervert, after all).
Though it may primarily be a tool to save time and money on animation, the –monogatari series makes both practical and artistic use of text-on-screen. Note that I am not referring to subtitles whatsoever. I simply mean characters or words drawn or inserted into the frame—the stuff that would be there even if you were watching this as it aired in Japan. This ‘stuff’ on the screen—both in its practical and artistic use—is a way to bridge the gap between light novel and anime.
When I say ‘practical’ use, you may be thinking ‘lazy’ use instead. Title cards to indicate scene changes or leaps in time may be considered lazy compared to showing the change of time via the sun or a clock. Or, you could argue that it’s excessive. A jump cut or fade or a variety of other options can indicate a time or scene change as well as a title card could. These are the tools available to visual mediums. Both of these points are fair, but considering the structure of –monogatari’s plot, neither of those approaches fit (at least not all the time).