Wednesdays Watching Anime – Monogatari Series, Second Season

April 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

This week, we’re doing Monogatari Series, Second Season OP4, “Kogarashi Sentiment” by Miki Shin’ichiro and Saito Chiwa.

Ben: It was hard choosing an OP or ED from the Monogatari series because, like almost any Shaft production by Shinbo Akiyuki, they’re all so beautiful and stylish. For a while, I had settled on “Staple Stable” by Saito Chiwa, the first OP from Bakemonogatari, but I soon realized that I was saying things about it that I’ll just be repeating when we do one of the Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei OPs here. Instead, I chose the last OP of the Monogatari series’ so-called “second season,” which aired after BakemonogatariNisemonogatari, and Nekomonogatari (Kuro). Those are all the first season, I guess?

That’s okay, I like the second season’s final OP better anyway. Beyond its consummate style, I’m going to point out a few things going on, which make it altogether a brilliant OP.

First, the OP is a duet between two characters who hate each other, even though they used to share something in the past, and the OP captures it perfectly. The voices of Saito and Miki aren’t really suited for each other, so the parts where they’re singing separately sound like two slightly different songs and the parts where they’re singing together have a false quality to them, both of which are appropriate. Meanwhile, in the visuals, Kaiki Deishu and Senjougahara Hitagi barely appear together! There’s a brief moment around forty-eight seconds into the video, where they briefly stand back-to-back and almost touch hands, but otherwise there are just rapid cuts implying that they’re in the same scene, which give way to shots spliced oddly to put them side by side, like Kaiki driving vertically next to Senjougahara or him rising in miniature out of her truncated head. A massive sense of unease is created by juxtaposing these two characters, which is crucial to encapsulating their relationship in the past over the course of just ninety seconds.

Second, the OP plays with other juxtapositions, particularly between new and old, in order to presage what the six-episode “Hitagi End” arc will cover. Although I’m an avid viewer of anime both old and new, I’m sure you noticed it as well, switching between hand-drawn eighties-style animation and the sleek computer-assisted animation of the late naughties. It’s the predominant feature of the OP, one well worth a closer look. Kaiki is from an older generation, the previous one to Senjougahara and hers, and the older anime represents him in his youth: clear and bright, with a simplicity that is almost ugly to us now. The scenes from that side of the OP tend towards nostalgic scenes with nice clothes, a sports car, cocktails, and the beach. Someone in the YouTube comments brought up Kaiki having a lost love, whom Senjougahara might possibly represent in the OP, and although I don’t entirely agree that it’s meant as one-to-one symbolism, it’s definitely there. On the other hand, Senjougahara has had a romantic history of stress and trauma that has culminated in her relationship with Araragi Koyomi, the protagonist of the Monogatari series who unfortunately is a philandering douchebag plagued by the supernatural. Hence the dark and brooding modern anime, with its blurred lines and post-bubble spectacle, stands for her.

Third, even with everything I’ve said about the dichotomy between new and old, the pairings can be flipped quite easily using other criteria, like between light and dark. Let the gloomy and deceitful Kaiki be the dark-toned anime where everything’s exploding with crabs and snakes. Let the calm and courageous Senjougahara be the throwback anime that looks like a current-day fairy tale done up in shoujo style. The fact that the two can be interchanged, so long as different things are emphasized, drives home that they are similar despite their seeming polar orientation to each other. All in all, this is about a pair of estranged characters who still have as much in common as they don’t, which feeds into one of the central themes of… well, not just the “Hitagi End” arc, but the entire series. What more could an OP aspire to be?

I don’t really know what’s up with the crabs and snakes, though. I know they represent Senjougahara and Nadeko, but they’re so obvious, it’s like a manager walked into the storyboard meeting and was like, “Well, what about some real symbolism, like animals for people?” Ugh. Have some more Senjougahara and Kaiki instead.

Hitagi Senjougahara meets with Kaiki Deishu secretly in Monogatari Series, Second Season

Katie: I’m sick (a leftover present from Sakura-Con) and all confused on NyQuil and I know nothing about this show, so this should be fun. In fact, for maximum ignorance, I’m not even going to read what Ben wrote until after I’ve written my half. Let’s go!

Wait, your series is named “Monogatari”? Like, that’s actually the name? How about this: I write a big series of Wheel of Time-style fantasy novels and just call it this: Epic. No, that’s too clever, because it sounds like an adjective. I’ll make a movie and call it Movie. Mainstream Studio Hit.

Digression: wouldn’t it be great/terrible if movies got names the way visual art does? Like, have you ever walked around a gallery and thought, “Untitled 421, are you fricking kidding me? You spent years painting this, but you couldn’t even name it? That’s the fun part! It’s like making a bottle of nail polish, selecting the color and all the metallic crap that goes into it, and then calling it ‘75201’ instead of ‘Vegas Golddigger.’ You want names? Pay me, I’ll do it for you!” Anyway, movies. Untitled Art Film. Seine, Paris, by Night, with Juliette Binoche. Blockbuster in CGI and Oils. Dreamworks Junkfood for Kids Series No. 78. What were we talking about again?

Oh yeah, the OP. Let’s watch:

  • 0:12 – Oh my gawwwddd is this anime Miami Vice? I always wanted that to exist! Bad. Ass. Still confused about that title, though. Ode on a Red Convertible.
  • 0:16 – “Lovestory.” Is that a loanword or band name? It has introduced an unwitting Ryan O’Neal to our scenario.
  • 0:25 – Gratuitous crab closeup…
  • 0:29 – It’s a DUET! YES! Oh man, maximum cheese, Paradise by the Dashboard Light.
  • 0:38 – What is happening to her hand??! Aaargh she’s being devoured by Cthulhu!
  • 0:43 – Back to the beach. Phew.
  • 0:48 – Uh, I hope that’s not the male romantic lead, Mr. Launchpad-McQuack-meets-Gary-Oldman-in-Dracula. (I like the pink cardigan, though, tied over the shoulders. Casual.)
  • 0:58 – Leave that crab alone, you bastard! He’s our sole supporting character! Is that nudity in the background?
  • 1:00 – Ooh, a girl drink.
  • 1:11 – Check out the fancy crosscutting: crab about to be eaten vs. convertible vs. brainworms. Mm, I can’t tell what’s winning in this scenario.
  • 1:23 – She’s falling against a white background. At least we have that nod to convention…
  • 1:25 – …YEEEEAAAUURGGGHHHH PARASITE EXPLOSION
  • 1:28 – Against all odds, only the crab is left. And he puts on the hat and strolls off. (No, only in my dreams.)

I’m sorry, Ben. I’m sorry for everything.

Ben: There’s nothing for which you should be sorry. Uh… two things, I guess.

First, it’s “Lovestory” because the title of the arc in Japanese is Koimonogatari. Koi is “love” and monogatari is “story.” No space there, no space here. I don’t know.  It made a lot more sense in the beginning with Bakemonogatari, a portmanteau that translates rather neatly as “Monstory,” but the subsequent titles for arcs have followed the letter more than the spirit of that.

Second, finding this OP to be weird is a perfectly normal reaction. I think, above all, the Monogatari Series wants to make you feel uneasy, whether in terms of dislocated reality or over-explicit fanservice. That’s why I’m a little proud of my own analysis here. I mean… you did read it, right? You finished writing your part and then you read my analysis. Katie?

Katie: Sorry, I drifted off there. Yes! Yes, I just read it. It’s actually a rather lovely, seductive OP with a lazy, sun-drenched noir sensibility, if a bit startling when you’re in an altered state. Your analysis seems to chide me (if unintentionally), but after the panels at Sakura-Con where we watched a series of vintage OPs, I want to say how much I appreciate something that isn’t the usual ’00s combination of upbeat-energetic-pop hit and running girls.

But seriously. Those brainworms should be rated M for Mature. Now I’m off to… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Ben: Oh! That should have been my third thing. They’re not brainworms, they’re snakes, which just happen to be coming out of Senjougahara’s head. You see, she’s opposed in her plans by Nadeko, a friend of Araragi’s little sister who is represented by… You know what? Forget it. Trying to explain the Monogatari Series is too often an exercise in looking stupid. Shinbo does that to us all. Get some sleep, Katie.

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