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The Monogatari series is as dense and convoluted as it is long, and my feelings towards it are as complex as they are difficult to explain. Earlier this year, I made an hour-long video analyzing the franchise in full, which I recommend checking out not only because it’s one of the best things I’ve written, but also because there’s no way in hell I can explain the franchise in the span of this video. If you don’t know anything about Monogatari, then this video is not for you, as I’m just going to go ahead and talk directly about the latest iteration in the series, Hanamonogatari.
In preparation for writing this video, I rewatched Hanamonogatari in the interest of confirming what I liked about it, only to wind up as dumbfounded as ever as to why I love this series so much. Most of the five-episode arc consists of characters standing around talking, as is normal for Monogatari, but in this case the majority is said by a character unique to this arc, Numachi Rouka, as she explains her entire backstory and frame of mind at great length. Numachi is not an uninteresting character, but she’s not easy to care about either, considering that all we get to see her do is stand around and talk about herself. I can’t tell if it’s a selling point, or the opposite, that she relies much less on moe appeal, and feels the most human and normal of any character in the series, despite her supernatural nature.
Shortly after rewatching this arc, I happened to glance over at a poster of ef ~a tale of memories~ on my wall, and realized how similar Kanbaru’s arc is to that of Shindou Kei. Both are basketball playing highschool girls whose unrequited love causes them to experience some level of self-actualization–or, as Araragi puts it, adolescence. But then I thought about how I had to look up Shindou Kei’s full name, and how I don’t have a figure of her on my shelf like I do for Kanbaru, and how I don’t own an ef artbook like I do for VOFAN, the character designer for the Monogatari series–and I think this cuts to the heart of the matter.
Somehow, I really like Kanbaru Suruga. Sure, I’ve always loved short-haired sporty girls, and sure, Miyuki Sawashiro is one of my favorite voice actresses and this is perhaps my favorite of her roles, and sure I love the character designs in this series altogether; but I feel like there’s something more than just the sum of the parts that endears me to this character and to this show. It’s a little deeper than just the way that the themes of this franchise appeal to me, or the way that I’ve always been a big fan of director Akiyuki Shinbo and studio SHAFT and all the ridiculous and awesome visuals that they pump into this series.
Were I only discussing Bakemonogatari, I could surely talk about the romanticism of it, and the way it used each arc to develop Araragi and Senjougahara’s relationship; but when it comes to the rest of the series, I think more of the appeal is shown in how each of the characters keeps changing their hairstyle. I guess it’s the fact that the series just keeps on going. Old characters keep finding themselves in new situations, with new motivations and new things to learn, and even if the individual stories aren’t all that interesting, I’m more invested on the level of how much I care about these characters and want to continue to see them.
The first time I watched and wrote about Bakemonogtari back in 2010, I said that it felt like “an old friend,” and it may be that very same feeling which keeps me coming back arc after arc. Not to say that it isn’t earning its keep, or that I would watch it no matter what, since after the Tsukihi Phoenix arc I was really worried that if the series didn’t pick up again I was going to finally drop it, but I guess what I’m saying is that the Monogatari series no longer has to impress me in order to hold my attention. It only has to present the characters that I already love in unique situations, without flanderizing or making them boring as Nisemonogatari almost did.
If there’s a character that I related to in Hanamonogatari, it was the same one I’ve always related to–old ass, grungy, Volkswagon-driving, long-haired Araragi, bragging about his disgusting perversions while dispensing advice to the underclassman he loves and wants to see succeed. In a way, this is like the purest essence of what moe is and how we respond to it as people who have once been adolescent ourselves. Araragi is like someone who’s somehow grown up without forgetting what it was like to be a child.
Hanamonogatari might be a little bit glib about Kanbaru’s adolescence, as is the tendency of the franchise, but at least it actually lets that adolescence happen in full, with all of its emotions and character arcs in tact; which is why I said before that Hanamonogatari was the most emotional installment of the series since the original. For once, the narrative, while presented in an unorthodox way, isn’t bending over backwards to be subversive or ridiculous, and I think moments like this are where Nisioisin earns his keep.
This might be the most unhelpful review I’ve written in this series, but that’s the nature of Monogatari–or at least, that’s the nature of my relationship with it. Hanamonogatari can be watched legally for free on Daisuki, and if you want info on the rest of the series, check my other video on all of it. It’s worth noting as well that Tsukimonogatari will be dropping on the last day of the year, so you may as well consider that tied for #13, as I’m sure it won’t be better or worse.
So what did you think of Hanamonogatari? Let me know in the comments below, and in case you missed them, check out my videos on #15, Ookii 1-Nensei to Chiisana 2-Nensei, and #14, Mushishi Zoku Shou, and stick around on my channel to find out what my twelfth-favorite anime of the year will be tomorrow!