After finishing this premiere episode of MSSS, all I have to say is – damn Monogatari, why so good? Despite the fact that it has been over a year since Nisemonogatari ended (not counting the Neko Black OVA), I always have this feeling of familiarity whenever I watch the beginning of a new Monogatari series – almost as if it was saying “welcome back” to me. It’s akin to going back to school after a long break – it’s been clearly quite some time, yet stills feels familiar all the same.
SHAFT does what SHAFT does best
Part of that “familiarity” would be due to SHAFT’s infamous animation+art style (Sasami was their most recent work IIRC). For old-timers, needless to say everyone will recognize the traits that make them stand out from the norm. First and foremost, the most obvious one of them all: the animation itself, or the lack thereof. Opting to go for the “quick-multi-scene-still-frames” instead of the more tried and true method, watching Monogatari is more like watching a PowerPoint slide-show rather than a proper anime. There is still proper animation of course, just that it is minimalistic compared to the usual fare. By extension of the aforementioned still-frames, this also includes the “blank” frames that we all love to hate (because they are kinda redundant after all), and the “monologue” frames where nothing except text is displayed, usually to convey a character’s thoughts or actions. In the end, one could call this style of animation unorthodox, and unorthodox it surely is. To some it may seem like a gimmick or marketing ploy, I personally find it refreshing and unique, if nothing else.
With the most of the technical blabbering (which I suck at explaining) out of the way, I have a gut feeling that this opening episode was intentionally a throwback to the various quirks that simply makes Monogatari, Monogatari. This includes, but is not limited to:
- SHAFT’s trademark head tilts.
- The various extreme closeup shots of a character, be it their eyes; lips; hands; wherever.
- Characters who simply love talking in strange and at times, awkward poses.
- Them sparkles.
- Good ol’ fan–service.
Even though I’ve harped on about the visual aspect of MSSS thus far, I think that the true gem of Monogatari lies not in what you see, but what you read/hear. Being dialogue-heavy and at times philosophical in nature, there are tons of puns and wordplay, some of which unfortunately gets lost in translation at times – making it hard to actually appreciate the beauty of the series fully. Couple that fact with the all-star voices behind the main characters, I would say that watching Monogatari is an absolute treat to the eyes, the ears and the brain. In other words, it isn’t hard to see why MSSS is one of the, if not the most anticipated show this season, while living up to its popularity thanks to the success (and money) that Bakemonogatari/Nisemonogatari brought about. Remember, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Since this is a first-impression post after all, I am partially writing with the consideration that some people who read this might be new to the series, hence all the SHAFT introductory talk. With regards to the show’s background settings; characters; development of the story so far, I’m just going to assume that the reader is already familiar, if not acquainted with those. So yeah, on to the actual episode at hand.
To go unnoticed when absent is less of an existence than going unnoticed when present
The first obvious thing that came to my mind is, where is Araragi? Interestingly enough, the main protagonist of Monogatari is nowhere to be seen, or heard at all. He did get briefly mentioned by Hachikuji Mayoi, who seemed to be missing her backpack (which I didn’t even notice it until she mentioned it). Something definitely happened somewhere along the way. Before I go any further, I want to emphasize that I have read the light novel summaries, a long time ago, so I have all but forgotten most of them. When it comes to speculations and whatnot, I’m mostly stabbing in the dark.
Gahara still the best (subjective)
The next question I want to pose is: “who won the most points this particular episode?” While the main heroine in Neko White is rightfully Hanekawa (as evidenced by the OP), Senjougahara totally stole the spotlight this time. I might be bias in that regard but past the 7 minute mark it was
all mostly Garahara-sama. Furthermore, I believe this is one of the few times where we actually get to see the softer side of her, where Senjougahara got all flustered about Hanekawa after the latter’s house burnt down rather conveniently – knowing that Hanekawa doesn’t like to ask others for help, even though she explicitly told Hanekawa that she should not try to solve everything alone during their conversation earlier. In addition, Senjougahara also knows that Hanekawa and her foster parents do not get along together (hinted at during the start of the episode). It is definitely uncharacteristic of Senjoughara to openly display such emotions, but that also makes her all the more endearing… No?
In the final scene, where Senjougahara invited Hanekawa to stay over at her place, it felt like watching the same manzai scene in Bakemonogatari all over again. Except that it was Hanekawa who plays the role of the tsukkomi this time instead of Araragi. When Senjougahara subsequently invited Hanekawa to take a bath together, there was much rejoicing from fans all over the world.. Alas it was more of a tease, at least for now. Make it happen episode 2!
A tiger in tiger stripes?
Going back to the plot, the oddity in question seems to be a tiger (because looks can be deceiving). That said, not much else is known, or revealed just yet. With Araragi possibly out of the picture (at least for now), it will be interesting to see if he will even make an appearance at all in Neko White. Part of me kinda thinks that might just be the case given how he is shown to be “busy” with something else, and more importantly how Araragi did not have a single line voiced this episode. Could it be some high-level foreshadowing, or perhaps I’m just reading too much into it?
All in all, it was a fairly slow start (or so I think), mostly to allow viewers to get themselves reacquainted with the Monogatari universe. There wasn’t a lot of action or serious business so to speak. Nonetheless there was still a fair bit of humorous/witty exchange, mostly between Senjougahara and Hanekawa (and a little Hachikuji). Heck, it wasn’t until Senjougahara started stripping did it remind me that this series does contain a fair bit of fan-service, not that I’m complaining or anything.