Monogatari: Second Season is BEAUTIFUL

And oh so glorious.

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So glorious.

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Anyways, I caved and finally started watching Monogatari: Second Season (and so far nothing else). And I just was so overwhelmed with the first couple episodes that I felt the need to write up some preliminary thoughts before I get swamped by work again.

Now, I’m aware the the Monogatari series is a polarizing one, and I’m not going to try and persuade anyone to switch camps. And right up front I’m going to say that I love absolutely everything about the series: the strange poses, the rapid cuts, the bright colors, the fetishization/sexualization, the walls of text, the winding dialogue… everything.

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Now, we all know all the series is meta as fuck, so I’m not going to write a long essay about how and why it’s so damn meta or whether that’s a good or bad thing (although I’m sure you can guess how I feel about it). Instead, I’m just going to highlight just a couple points of what I think it’s doing this time around and why.

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One of the first things that pops up is that the series is very aware that it’s not only an animated show, but furthermore an adaptation. As such, it does a lot of stuff to play around with this in terms of animation styles and “breaking the fourth wall” dialogue. The amount of stills and cuts are all chosen deliberately to emphasize this type of thing, as is the general style of the show. This isn’t really all that new though, since the series has been doing this since Bakemonogatari.

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It’s doing more than that this time around though – it constantly makes sure the viewer is reminded of the fact that it’s an adaptation. Most directly, this is done by flashing cuts/chapter numbers on screen as the episodes progress, so we are given direct updates of how the series is adapting the book. (In a similar vein, the series is also obsessed with time , so that’s obviously present in spades as well.)

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First and foremost, it makes sure to point out all these “clever” little things it’s doing explicitly to the audience. That’s new (as far as I recall). Why the change?

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Well, at first you would think – like many LN adaptations (and anime in general, actually) – that it’s just being trying to show off how “clever” and meta it is. It’s treating the viewers as stupid and lazy, unable to catch these small details that add extra depth to the show (E-minor, for instance, felt the same way about Psycho Pass).

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Take the fact that the chapters skip in-between several scenes. The show explicitly points this out to the viewer, even though the revelation/connection probably wouldn’t have been too hard to make once Black Hanekawa made an appearance. In fact, it just states this fact up front at the same time, just to rub it in. So for anyone who might be mad at spoilers, it makes absolutely no difference because Shaft just beats you over the head with this.

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Monogatari: Second Season then goes along and attempts to reference a bunch of other shows very noticeably in both its dialogue and activities (which essentially is dialogue, but whatever). This is very much like the typical LN adaptation’s an attempt to show it’s “clever” and “self-aware”.

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But it already does that just by it’s very style (quite successfully I might add) – why go out of it’s way to continue to emphasize it in less subtle ways than it did the past two/three seasons? It doesn’t make much sense, unless you assume that the series is attempting to copy other popular hits in an attempt to rake in more cash. Judging by how well Shaft’s doing at this point though, I kind of doubt it.

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I think both of these make sense once you think even more meta. That is, the show is actively criticizing trends in anime/LN adaptations by purposefully emulating them. It’s not just self-aware of its nature as an anime or, going further, an anime adaptation (those are a dime a dozen in LN adaptations these days), but is intimately aware (like in Sasami-san) of the relationship both of these have with the reader/viewer and with the mediums they inhabit. And – most importantly – it is aware of the ways that content flows between them.

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It snuggles up close to the typical LN adaptation just so we can tell the difference between the average adaptation and what Monogatari: Second Season is doing. I might even say it expects us to do so. Rather than disrespecting the viewers intelligence as most meta-aware LN do, I think it instead reaffirms it. All these elements are letting us know that, like us, Shinbo also thinks other shows don’t give the viewers enough credit. Or really take them into as much consideration as they should.

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Now, whether this is true or not is up for debate, but what’s certain is this: Monogatari: Second Season is clever enough to inspire a blogger to think that this is what it’s doing, even if it’s really not. And maybe that’s all that matters in the end. Or maybe – and this might be quite the stretch – that’s the main point of the show – that the distinction doesn’t matter, since it all depends on how you want to look at things.

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Speaking of looking at things, look at that damn fine Senjougahara.

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BEAUTIFUL.s6

Follow-Up Questions:

Do you think I’m completely off here, spot on, or somewhere in-between? And how much did I miss?
How do you feel about the Monogatari series? (Anything’s fair game here.)
Which Monogatari character is your favorite and why?

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5 responses to “Monogatari: Second Season is BEAUTIFUL

  1. Bakemonogatari strikes me as one of those kinds of stories that would feel ridiculously fun to write. The fact that it got so popular to read is what baffles me sometimes, honestly. Stylistically, it feels similar to D.H. Lawrence’s novels, which often read like the author’s mouthpiece for social commentary, with the characters all sharing a part in voicing their musings. I suspect like a D.H. Lawrence novel, Bakemonogatari is regarded as important and influential because the overall shape that the meta-awareness takes lends itself to the novel form – which is something, as you’ve pointed out, that the adaptation is self-aware about. It functions as a story first and foremost. So as a work of art, it is extremely open to interpretation, no matter how much it seems as if the author is just building the story around his own witticisms.

    I’m ambivalent about Bakemonogatari, actually. As an artist, I despise it, but on that same level I respect it. Perhaps it just makes me feel jealous, that a story so obviously written for one’s own gratification and no one else’s could, in fact, resonate so strongly with others. But maybe that’s the point of fiction. Or maybe it’s because Senjougahara is hot.

    • If Bakemonogatari really reads like that (damn you and your Japanese! :p), I’d say it reminds me a lot of Joyce, who’s novels always seemed to be written for his own gratification but which ended up becoming “classics” for similar reasons. Maybe it means that there’s something universal in these stories in that, because no one can fully relate to it…everyone can. Or something. It doesn’t have to make sense, right?

      But yea – it’s probably because Senjougahara’s hot.

  2. The difference, at least to me, is that by and large, I dislike Lawrence and I like Bakemonogatari.

    Senjougahara IS hot. It really is kinda a harem show, even though he’s more admirable than most harem heroes.

    • I mean, the series is very conscious about being a harem show, and goes to great pains to showcase and deconstruct it (both in terms of the girls surrounding Araragi and Araragi himself) within the show itself and more generally as a genre. Araragi definitely is more admirable as a protagonist because he actually has a personality (and a quirky one) as well as a spine, plus most of his interactions don’t feel too forced…at least within the show’s bizarre framework. Plus the girls actually have personalities for the most part, and are treated as human beings instead of just love interests (although clearly objectified human beings subjected to the “male gaze” or whatnot).

      And hell yea – Senjougahara appreciation ftw!

  3. Pingback: What ARE Otaku Exactly? The (Non)Dual Nature of the “Otaku” in Gainax’s Otaku no Video | Chromatic Aberration Everywhere·

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