After a little detour to watch Hanamonogatari, we are back with Monogatari: Second Season for a four-episode arc titled Otorimonogatari. The title loosely translates as “Decoy Story”, although as is often the case there are subtleties in the use of kanji that are lost in translation. But there is a sense of some kind of a deception, and that applies perfectly to Nadeko, who hides her true personality.
When we saw Nadeko during the first season, she was possessed by a snake spirit, but was freed from her affliction by the end of the original Nadeko Snake arc. It is therefore surprising to begin this arc with a scene where a snake-possessed Nadeko is fighting Koyomi and Shinobu, and winning. The next four episodes tell the story of how Nadeko gets to that point, and it’s quite a journey. We are also tricked into assuming a much more straightforward story than the reality of her situation: fittingly for the title, very little is quite what it seems with this arc.
The new snake in Nadeko’s life, Kuchinawa, is creepy, manipulative and a very entertaining villain, but the exploration of Nadeko’s character is the really interesting bit here. She is one of those people who is very quiet, cute and reliable, but living up to her perfect, nice girl image means she is repressing a lot of her true personality. For a start, Koyomi’s sister Tsukihi suggests that Nadeko’s feelings for Koyomi are simply an excuse to avoid having to think about getting into a real relationship, rather than any genuine love for the real person that is Koyomi. I wasn’t entirely convinced by that, but Nadeko is certainly repressing something, and when we find out what it’s a stunning moment.
At school, a teacher has been putting pressure on Nadeko to find a way to restore morale among her classmates, and it’s a near-impossible task. This has been going on for a while, and she has developed a defence mechanism to deal with him, which starts with an apology and continues along very deferential lines. Due to the influence of the snake (or so she thinks), which is apparently disguising itself in the form of a scrunchie she wears on her wrist, Nadeko just snaps one day, and unleashes a volley of foul-mouthed abuse at the teacher. She then goes on to vent her anger at her classmates, almost screaming her rage at them and smashing a desk across the room. It’s a stunning sequence to watch, made all the more powerful by the fact that it is so hugely out of character compared to everything we have seen from Nadeko before. It’s also a virtuoso performance from voice actress Kana Hanazawa. If I had to name the best scene from this whole show, Nadeko’s explosion of anger would be a strong contender. It’s also possibly the most remarkable voice performance I have ever heard in any anime. An incredible piece of work.
By the fourth episode we are of course back where we started, with a big battle between Nadeko and the dream team of Koyomi and Shinobu, after a few twists and turns in the story, with a big surprise along the way concerning the nature of the possession. Nadeko’s ultimate possessed form, with Medusa-like snakes for hair, is a visual treat. Shockingly, neither Koyomi nor Shinobu seem to be a match for her, and we leave this arc on a very exciting cliffhanger. Everything is perfectly poised for an exciting climactic arc for the second season, but first we are jumping back along Koyomi’s timeline to pick up from where we left off after his failure to change Mayoi’s past in the Kabukimonogatari arc. I love how this show has played with a non-linear narrative, with some episodes taking place concurrently with others. With its artistic, modern visuals, philosophical dialogue, and complex storytelling techniques, has there ever been such an inventive and original anime series as Monogatari? But we are about to return to an issue with this show that gives fuel to the fire its detractors seek to light under it: in the next arc, Koyomi’s perversions will be given more of a free reign than ever before… RP
Read next in the Junkyard… Onimonogatari (Review and Fanservice Debate)