Onimonogatari: Demon Tale

By NISIOISIN and VOFAN. Released in Japan by Kodansha. Released in North America by Vertical, Inc. Translated by Ko Ransom.

Every once in a while there comes along a volume where NISIOISIN shows off exactly why people are turned off by his writing so much, and I think that Onimonogatari may set a record there, as it’s extraordinarily difficult to get through. While Araragi is the narrator again, a large chunk of the book is told by Shinobu explaining past events to him, and helps to show off (as she herself admits!) why she’s a bad storyteller and why the rule that “aberrations shouldn’t narrate the series” is a good one. Moreover, given that the main interactions Araragi has in this book are with Shinobu (who looks eight), Hachikuji (who looks ten), and Ononoki (who looks twelve), we really get far, far too many pedophilia jokes, and having the other girls be really pissed off at him for them really doesn’t help, no. That said, the book isn’t a total writeoff, and you get the sense that a lot of this book is the author realizing they need to have a genuine backstory and goal for the series, and creating one on the spot.

We’re back in August again in the Monogatari timeline, and the events of Kabukimonogatari have just finished. But Araragi still can’t go back to school and actually start classes, as he and Hachikuji are being pursued by a mysterious darkness that consumes all in its path (well, seemingly all in its path). After being rescued by Ononoki, they end up holing up in the abandoned cram school, where Shinobu tells Araragi and the reader about her first visit to Japan four hundred years ago, which led to her first encounter with “the Darkness” and also the backstory with her first thrall, Araragi’s predecessor. Unfortunately, the Darkness is really good at coming after them – or more accurate, after Hachikuji, who seems to be its goal. Can Araragi figure out what’s going on and save her? If only there was someone who knew everything to offer even MORE explanations…

NISIOISIN has often taken the advice “show, don’t tell” and stomped all over it in hobnail boots, but this book may take the cake in that regard, as there ends up being very little action and a whole lot of talking about the problem, both from Shinobu (who, as I said, is not a good storyteller) or by Izuko Gaen (who is deliberately written to be arrogant and uncaring). “The Darkness” may tie into the ongoing plot – is it related to Ogi, who it turns out Araragi has been narrating the entire book to? We also get discussion of MORE events on that busy August weekend that haven’t happened yet, which I assume will be in a future book. Where this book does succeed is a) it’s meta-humor, particularly Shinobu shilling for the Kizumonogatari movie, which is especially hilarious as it ended up coming out five years after the book did – and b) the ending, which I won’t spoil but is touching and a bit heartbreaking.

A necessary read if you’re interested in the world of Araragi and company, in the end I found Onimonogatari to be a bit of a slog. The book teases that Senjogahara will be narrating the next book in the series, but let me spoil this and say: no she doesn’t. As for who does? Well, it’s not Araragi either. We’ll find out.

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