Owarimonogatari: End Tale, Part 03

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

It’s been a long detour since we last saw Koyomi Araragi getting brutally murdered by Izuko Gaen at the end of the short story volumes. We’ve seen how Ogi came into his life, why he got so disaffected in his first year of high school, and finally finished up with everything he was doing in that very busy August. But now we’re FINALLY ready to wrap up all the plot points that have been bubbling under for the entire series. The history and state of the town ever since Kissshot Acerolaorion Heartunderblade arrived one year previously. The string of oddities that have popped up ever since, particularly Nadeko Sengoku’s transformation into a snake god. The “darkness” that erases things that break the rules, which removed Mayoi Hachikuji from the series. But mostly, everything Ogi has done ever since she arrived. Can Araragi wrap this all up? Despite being dead? And can he pass his exams? Heck, can he even go on a date with… um… what was her name again?

Oh right, Senjogahara, who graces our cover, and who is quick to point out that it’s been so long since she’s had a major role in the series she’s forgotten her character. Before we get to her, though, we get Mayoi Hell, where Araragi, as all vampires do, goes to Hell, meeting Mayoi there (she’s there for dying before her parents) and going on an extended recap of his life. This serves to remind him of his tendency to save the girl, and that if he had to do it again he’d do the exact same thing. After a long explanation of what’s been going on (he had to die to get rid of his vampirism, Gaen’s gonna revive him), and a brief “do I deserve to live” that gets the punching from Mayoi that it deserves, he returns… with Mayoi, who he basically kidnaps in a leglock. Which is very him. Aside from my usual issues with Mayoi (the “lol he’s sexually harrassing a grade schooler and it’s funny!) stuff, this was alright, though it suffered from endless exposition (more of that later).

Next we get Hitagi Rendezvous, the “sweet” center of the book, where Senjogahara takes Araragi on a date, something they have not done since Tsubasa Cat waaaaay back at the start of the series, and attempts, through various date activities, to get him to swear one thing for the rest of his life. Sadly, she keeps losing. This has some of the best writing in the series, apart from a brief interlude with Ogi interrupting Araragi’s dream (he falls asleep at a planetarium) to provide more exposition (more of this – yes, even more – later). Senjogahara has never been the tsundere she claims to be – she’s too straightforward for that – but here she does have some very odd push/pull dynamics, as she’s clearly dressing in a “Hanekawa” way as she thinks that’s what he finds attractive, but is also discussing their future together to the point of naming their daughter (Tsubasa, which Araragi finds “heavy”, and I think Hanekawa would agree). The ending of this one is the high point of the book.

This leaves Ogi Dark, where we finally get the true nature of Ogi revealed. It makes sense within the series – indeed, clever readers may have guessed it already – ties in with the series mythology, and also allows the basic conflict of “what do we do with aberrations” to come into play. Gaen, Hanekawa, Meme Oshino, and Ogi Oshino all have different ideas on how to deal with them. Unfortunately, sometimes they lead to bad things, as we saw with Ogi’s manipulation of Nadeko. Gaen tries to convince Araragi to take care of Ogi once and for all… treat her like the “Darkness” she’s pretending to be. But, of course, Ogi is not only the main villain of the series, and Araragi’s dark mirror (more on that next book), but also a girl that needs saving. Despite also getting bogged down in exposition (always a danger with Gaen in the story), the ending to this part was excellent, even giving us a “happily ever after”.

So my main complaint is the wordiness of the backstory and exposition (which isn’t going away) and the lolicon jokes (sadly also unlikely to go away), but for a series finale it’s mostly a winner. We even get a hint as to why Ogi is still around for Kanbaru’s book, and why’s he’s a guy in that one. That said, we aren’t QUITE done with Araragi – the final final book in this arc, End Tale (cont’d), is due out soon.

Owarimonogatari: End Tale, Part 02

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

We saw Nisioisin in the last book begin to get ready to wrap the series up (which, spoiling you, he absolutely did not do) and tell the stories that he’d been skipping around and only hinting at: the first appearance of Ogi Oshino and the story of why Araragi got so broken before the start of the series, i.e. the story of Oikura Sodachi. He’s just about ready to finish up by telling us what happened after Gaen literally killed Araragi and sent him to hell at the end of Koyomimonogatari. However, there’s another story that got too big to tell – he says in the afterword it was supposed to be part of the other two “August” Araragi-narrated books, Kabukimonogatari and Onimonogatari, but there simply wasn’t room. And so we get Shinobu Mail, a story big enough to get a volume to itself. It’s ‘mail’ as in armor, and is Shinobu-focused, but also has a heaping helping of Kanbaru, who’s had very little to do since her own narrated book.

Gaen is on the cover along with Shinobu, and she’s also in this book a fair amount. Which may be surprising, given it’s also loaded with Kanbaru, but Gaen solves the problem by simply lying through her teeth about who she is, and Kanbaru, while not dumb, is straightforward enough not to question it. Gaen is here – along with Episode, who hasn’t really had much of a role in the series since Kizumonogatari – to deal with a part of Shinobu’s past that has shown up. Her first thrall, Seishiro, who we had been told (by her) had killed himself rather than be a vampire with here, has managed, after 400 years, to reconstitute himself – killing yourself when you’re Kissshot’s thrall is HARD – and wants to roam the world with Shinobu again. And if that means killing Araragi by fair means or foul, welp, those are the breaks.

This is a particularly well-written book in the series. Araragi and Kanbaru’s long, long, LONG dialogue at the start shows how much she was missed, and also how close the series gets to lowbrow humor. Things aren’t helped by Araragi, in what is meant to be the coolest line in the book, tell Gaen that he knows that both Senjogahara and Hanekawa would understand – he’ll happily leave them to save themselves to rescue a little girl. On the bright side, though she doesn’t actually appear in person, we get another terrific conversation between Araragi and Senjogahara, this one meant to parallel the thoughts that he’s been having about him and Shinobu. Senjogahara, despite admitting that if a man better than him came along she would absolutely dump him, knows exactly what he wants to hear, and it’s actually very romantic. As for the resolution, it’s very appropriate to Araragi.

The whole book is framed as a conversation Araragi has with Ogi right before he leaves for his exams – a trip we already know ends in his death. It feels like all the dots have now been connected. Is his death permanent? Well, we’ll find out next time with the last of the End Tales. Till then, this is a strong volume in the series, especially for Shinobu and Kanbaru fans.

Owarimonogatari: End Tale, Part 01

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

Yes, I know. This came out in mid-December, and here it is the following April. Part of it is that it’s still print-only (Kodansha is doing e-books for the series, but not right away), part of it is that it’s a long book even in a series with many other long books. But mostly it’s the subject matter. Monogatari in general has been a series that tends to be overdramatic and over the top, be it Araragi’s narration or the events involving a bunch of vampires, ghosts, cat demons, snake demons, devils, corpses and Senjogaharas. And, let’s face it, Ogi Oshino, who is all over this book, is not simply going to end up being Meme’s precocious niece. No, the real star of this book is a brand new character, who arrives and leaves all at the same time – Sodachi Oikura. She loves math and hates Araragi, but there’s so much more to her story than that. And it’s that story that is told here, in excruciating three-part detail.

The first story, Ogi Formula, sees Ogi at last get a proper introduction – she’s been around since the 8th book, but always after the fact; here we get the context of her meeting Araragi for the first time, and the two of them getting trapped in his old first-year classroom, which helps set up Sodachi’s story but more importantly tells us exactly how and why Araragi went from a mostly well-adjusted kid to the “I don’t need other people” guy we met in Kizumonogatari. Sodachi Riddle then shows Sodachi returning to school after a two-year absence, and (after a brief fight with Senjogahara which is probably the highlight of the book) Ogi and Araragi then go back to an abandoned house to see how he met her in middle school and had forgotten it. Then, in Sodachi Lost, after Araragi recalls he also met her even earlier… and also forgotten it… he and Hanekawa try to get Sodachi to return to school while battling her own family past and the even-more-annoying-than-usual Ogi.

The stories told here are strong, don’t get me wrong, and I liked some of the writing. The characters, though, just make me miserable. Araragi, when he’s around Ogi, is a pale shadow of his usual self, and ends up being almost as pathetic as she makes him out to be until right at the end. Ogi is designed to be thoroughly irritating, of course, but so far the series has used her sparingly – here she’s in the entire book, and we are thoroughly irritated. (Her petty rivalry with Hanekawa is probably the highlight, as it turns her smug glibness into actual childish nastiness.) And Sodachi is a child of abuse who has gone through far too much, but is also thoroughly unpleasant in very explainable ways. I can’t blame her, but I admit I’m quite happy she’s not returning. Hanekawa comes off best here… but she announces she’s leaving the country, probably to investigate Ogi, who she finds 8000% more suspicious than Araragi does.

This is a necessary book, as the series has been setting up Ogi to be the villain, and this does a whole lot to advance that. It’s also a reminder that when it comes to actual real-life issues, as opposed to oddities, there’s little Araragi can do. But man, reading this book is like eating your beets. Next time we’ll go back to that incredibly busy four-day period in August – already seen in Tsubasa Tiger, Mayoi Jiangshi, AND Shinobu Time – for the one untold story we still have – what were Kanbaru and Araragi up to back then? Fortunately, as I dawdled reading this book, I can start that one right away.