Nisemonogatari: Fake Tale, Vol. 2

By NISIOISIN. Released in Japan by Kodansha. Released in North America by Vertical, Inc. Translated by James Balzer.

Despite being almost as long as the first in this series, Karen Bee, the second Nisemonogatari book, Tsukihi Phoenix, only got adapted into four episodes for the anime. As you can imagine, therefore, there’s a lot of content that got omitted or severely cut in order to fit it into the timeframe, particularly in the first half of the volume. As such, anime fans will find much to enjoy here. In particular, I think they’ll be amused at Araragi’s description of Senjogahara post-Karen Bee, who he describes as no longer caustic and sharp-tongued at all but now sweet and devoted, and how all of her formerly cruel and spiteful actions (which, let’s face it, the reader is aware were broken attempts at flirting) are replaced with normal girlfriend responses. Anime fans may be wondering what the heck happened, since the next time we meet Senjogahara in the series she’s still much the same.

In fact, Nisioisin seems a bit conflicted about the series getting turned into an anime – there’s a sense he tries to take things too far here in order to avoid having the anime continue, though obviously that didn’t work. Nisemonogatari has a reputation for being the sleaziest of the series, though, and it’s not inaccurate. Most of that reputation comes from this volume, which features the now infamous “toothbrush scene”, where Araragi and his sister Karen have a bet that he can’t brush her teeth for five minutes without her crying out. It’s obviously meant to suggest sex, and in particular incest, which earlier in the book Araragi had been mocking himself. Several times in the book he says that he feels no sexual desire towards his sisters before doing something sexual to them (he later steals Tsukihi’s first kiss, which horrifies her). Araragi is becoming a somewhat unreliable narrator, to be honest, though we won’t really see how much till later books in the series with other character’s narration.

This volume features his “younger younger sister” Tsukihi, who so far has been defined mostly by her temper and her mood swings, which we certainly get plenty of here. It’s also a good introduction to her personality in another sense – Araragi notes that Karen is the one with the actual sense of justice, while Tsukihi “just likes to run wild”, and it’s true – she tends to go along with what others do rather than making her own firm choices. The reader may wonder how much this ties in with the main plot, which suggests that – surprise, surprise – Tsuhiki is not who she seems. In the end, though, this book is about family in the good ways as well, which means that it’s not just about suggestive incest but also about loving your family even if they’re not what you thought they were – and Araragi, as a human who still retains vampiric powers, should know about that. Here he goes up against Kagenui, a “specialist” like Meme Oshino who specializes in eradication, and Yotsugi, a deadpan reanimated corpse who is her assistant. We’ll see a lot more of Yotsugi, not so much of Kagenui.

Speaking of Yotsugi, we can briefly talk translation. The issues are much the same as Karen Bee – dagnabbit mad is still there, and it’s still really annoying, but it didn’t appear as much as I feared. Tsuhiki also sounds like Yosemite Sam when she catches Araragi and Karen brushing teeth, but that’s more clearly deliberate comedy, and the anime watcher likely heard the heavy ‘fake accent’ she was using then, so it makes more sense. As for Kagenui, she too uses a fake, overdone accent, but it’s subtler, and the translator seems to go with “old-time Northern England”. It doesn’t jar much at all, and reminds me how much anime subtitles tend to gloss over accents. Speaking of which, Shinobu still sounds old-timey, as she always does, whether she’s Kiss-Shot or no.

Overall, I was quite pleased with this volume, a few issues aside. It also does sort of feel like he was trying to wrap up the series once more, but he failed again, and now tells us he has two more stories after this to write, about Hanekawa and Hachikuji. In fact, the Hanekawa story grew so large it got split into its own two-part book. Stay tuned for Nekomonogatari Black in November, when we FINALLY see what happened Golden Week.

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