Owarimonogatari I

As we travel through life we tend to collect emotional baggage. The older we get, the more we will be able to look back on past friendships and other associations and wonder what we could have done differently. There will always be plenty of unfinished business. Sometimes there will be a person in our past we would like to see again, but probably never will. Sometimes we will long for a chance to make amends, explain our actions, or simply say sorry. Sometimes we will desire one or more of those things from the other person. Or maybe there’s somebody we are hoping we will never see again, because it would just be too difficult. The central theme of the first season of Owarimonogatari is very much about these kinds of past regrets, and what happens when an association that didn’t end well crashes back into somebody’s life.

There are 13 episodes to the season, and strictly speaking those episodes are subdivided into four different arcs: Ougi Formula, Sodachi Riddle, Sodachi Lost and Shinobu Mail. In reality, the first three arcs all form one continuous story, so we have two main plot-lines to enjoy for this instalment in the sprawling Monogatari franchise.

Ougi is a character we have met before, but Monogatari regularly jumps back and forth through Koyomi’s timeline, so this season actually represents his first encounter with her. We are also introduced to a new character, Sodachi Oikura, a former classmate of Koyomi who has been absent from school for a long time and has now returned. Ougi is established as something of a Sherlock Holmes figure, even down to the hat she wears when there is a mystery to be solved, although she is something of an enigma herself. She has black eyes and grey skin like some kind of a zombie, and she has knowledge of Koyomi and his friends beyond anything that she should possibly have been able to acquire, so she is presumably some kind of an apparition. We are left to guess about that, but she is obviously scripted and animated in a way that’s designed to make Koyomi, and the viewers by association, feel uncomfortable. She is sexually predatory towards him in a way that seems to reflect his own perversions, which is an interesting challenge to Koyomi and anyone who was happy to accept his shenanigans and even enjoy watching them. The close-up shots of her head-tilted, dark-eyed expression when she is being overly familiar with Koyomi is an effective representation of the sense of troubling wrongness such behaviour can inspire. But Ougi is really there to join the dots of the central mystery more than anything, and that concerns Sodachi’s absence from the school, a missing classroom that nobody can see (and then Koyomi finds himself trapped inside), and then when Sodachi returns we also get the question of what went on in her past to make her the person she is now, why her mother is missing from her life and where she went. It’s a lot to cover in seven episodes, and it’s all fascinating and deeply saddening and disturbing when the morbid truth is uncovered. Sodachi is a superb character, very different from the rest of the girls in Koyomi’s life, mainly thanks to her unexplained (initially) hatred of him. It feels like this story should have been told much earlier in the Monogatari run, because she’s far too complex and interesting a character to be introduced, examined, and dispensed with (presumably), in just a short run of episodes. It must surely be far too late for her to become a regular part of what stories remain to be told.

The final six episodes of the season focus on Shinobu’s past instead of Koyomi’s, and are slightly the weaker of the two halves of the season, simply because there is not quite enough story to stretch (compared with the first seven episodes where there was more than enough). Time therefore has to be filled with disposable silliness like Koyomi being sent off on an embarrassing shopping trip and a lot of unnecessary chatter. But the main story is utterly magnificent, with Shinobu’s first minion returning to life (sort of) and coming after Koyomi, his recent replacement. That throws up all kinds of questions and problems. Will Shinobu meet with him, and what will it mean for her relationship with her current minion (the word is completely insufficient as a way to describe their bond)? The very nature of emotional attachments is examined, with remarkable candour thanks to the brutal honesty of Koyomi’s girlfriend Senjougahara, and the way Suruga is completely determined to force Shinobu to face up to her past, even at the risk of her own life. Annoying Shinobu is not exactly a risk-free thing to be doing, after all.

In the end, both pieces of unfinished business this season are dealt with in a satisfying manner, but both also leave dangling threads, which is a clever reflection on real life past relationships. Even if we do find resolutions to nagging regrets, true closure is a tricky business, and a slippery customer. Sometimes the past just won’t stop haunting us.   RP

Read next in the Junkyard… Owarimonogatari II

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Anime, Entertainment, Reviews, Television and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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