As mentioned in yesterday’s moment, my relationship with Bakemonogatari over the course of 2010 was similar to my relationship with K-On. Having gone from almost dismissing the show in 2009 to finishing it and enjoying it with a wishy-washy sort of ‘almost love,’ my feelings for the series then slowly shifted.
In the wake of watching Bakemonogatari and To Aru Majutsu no Index, my love for them became superbly interconnected. To me, Bake and Index were two sides of the same coin, and I experienced fandom for both series very similarly in terms of the way I loved the characters and the way I loved certain aspects of the shows so deeply that they made me forget about the parts I didn’t care for; as well as in the way I went on obsessive doujin hunts for both. These were, I would say, the first two anime that came to be unmistakably favorites of mine for reasons that extended far beyond watching the actual anime.
My feelings toward Index became more mixed as the year progressed, mostly because of the disappointment of Railgun and being reminded of all the worst parts of the franchise in the first episodes of Index II. Meanwhile, Bakemonogatari finished its three extra episodes and they were so utterly amazing that all my wishy-washiness towards the series was blown out the window.
Having rewatched it for the sake of this post, I really think that episode 15 qualifies both as one of the best episodes of 2010 and as one of my favorite episodes of anime in general.
Bakemonogatari Episode 15 – Oshino Shinobu’s Crowning Moment of Awesome
This episode is like a giant tension rubber-band. Right off the bat, drama kicks into overdrive, and I must say, even with 6 months or so since watching any of this show, I had no problem immediately getting involved in the episode on this rewatch. It’s thoroughly intense and a genius showcase of everything that kicks so much ass about the series, reflecting what kicks so much ass about Nisioisin’s writing style.
And that is truly mesmerizing dialog. Nisioisin’s stories are always about hugely dense conversations that weave the narrative and random intrigue together seamlessly along with so many other elements. Nisio wondered how the hell they could make his work into anime, but when he talked with Shinbo about how they would do the series, he was confident that they could do it right.
They did, and it shows more in this episode than ever before. Take into account the following facts:
1. 75% of this episode takes place in exactly one location.
2. 50% of the time, Araragi and Tsubasa Cat are standing in one spot.
3. Every single line that Tsubasa Cat (played by Horie Yui) speaks is laced thoroughly with the ‘nya’ sound.
The first two points would make for something that sounds unexciting, but this episode is an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride from start to finish. Bakemonogatari is almost a long series of ‘bottle episodes‘—it sits characters down in a location and they talk, and that conversation can be about absolutely anything, just before it turns in the direction you least expected and everything is redefined. This is Nisioisin’s specialty—in Zaregoto, he goes so far as to subvert conversations several times, and then ends the book by subverting the entire thing.
Only a conversation in a Nisioisin story or a Quentin Tarantino film can have you clenching your asscheeks with nothing but words; but only in a Nisioisin story can a silly moe trope sound so intense and brilliantly used. In episode 14, Horie’s pronunciations of the ‘nya’ sound in every statement had me laughing hard. In episode 15, it just had me smiling as I watched it continue at full tilt without ever betraying the drama or intensity of the situation. I can only call this brilliant.
I’ve yet to even take into account the way this arc played out. The seemingly separate stories of the missing Shinobu and the arrival of Tsubasa Cat are woven together beautifully and re-contextualized in the end when we learn that Oshino Meme set a lot of it up to show Araragi that he could handle himself.
Araragi gains so much from the sequence of events. He finally grasps his own feelings for Senjougahara. When he considers giving his life to save Hanekawa, he suddenly flashes to Senjougahara, realizing that she would kill Hanekawa if she were to kill him. I wonder which is his bigger concern—Hanekawa’s death, or his lover being driven to commit murder? Surely both, but I like to point out that both of those things were in consideration because otherwise, it would seem as though Araragi was still working for Hanekawa’s sake alone in sparing himself. I don’t think that’s the case.
Tsubasa Cat proves to Araragi the worth of his friends and how much they want to help him. Not just by reminding him of how much the other girls are doing for him—not even just by showing him how much Shinobu cares. She shows him by giving him so many hints and opportunities to stop her, proving that even she had the desire to save him from herself, even if it meant harm to her.
The most awesome moment of the episode is when Araragi calls out for Shinobu. The small vampire comes from out of his shadow and, in a tremendous animation sequence, royally owns Tsubasa Cat before silently returning to the shadow again.
Shinobu has always been one of my favorite characters in the series even though she almost never gets to do anything. Some would say that I’m shallow because my opinion of her is so largely governed by her character design rather than her actions. I’d argue that it isn’t that I love Shinobu in spite of her doing so little, but that I like her because of the way in which she does so little.
This was Shinobu’s biggest moment and the final key component to her character. After this, I think I can perfectly grasp who Shinobu is and what kind of life she has, and those are the only things I need to really love a character.
Before the episode is over, it even gives me some of my favorite Senjougahara moments, being able to watch her in rabu-rabu mode. I cannot overstate how much greatness came from just this one episode.
Come back tomorrow to watch me unwrap my next gift!
Bonus: Have some neko moe~