Owarimonogatari Second Season – Investing in Memory (and why it’s a good ending)

‘Cause we do talk about anime on this blog
(*spoiler warning* just in case, though I do try to be a bit vague on this one.)

^Just not as often as I’d want to nowadays, but hey, we’re here now so it’s all good :D. Plus, I feel that this post is very much warranted (at least by my very own standards) in that the series we’re gonna be talking about is very near and dear to my anime-viewing heart and I couldn’t just let the days pass without me getting a few words in. That is, for the next couple of minutes allow me to sing my ode to “the end” of one of the most celebrated anime series in recent memory — Monogatari.

I know, I know; this is obviously not gonna be a song (sorry) and Owarimonogatari Season 2 is “technically” not the end of the Monogatari Series per se. What it does represent (in my opinion) is the end of an era. This is the final chapter to the long-running saga of Araragi Koyomi’s last moments in high school — a story of a man who can’t help but help people (read: women) in need whilst subconsciously and subsequently adding them to his ever-expanding harem; a story filled with hilariously meaningless banter, needlessly exagerrated expostion, and a touch of meaningful exchanges.

Suffice to say, Monogatari was never a plot-driven story to begin with. It was always about the characters and how they interacted with one another. The oddities and abberrations are but aesthetic veils to dress the colorful dialogue the series is known for (famously or infamously). One of the very shows where you wanted to hear everyone talk, at least once, because you knew anything they could say would be gold. Talking — a staple to what makes all of Monogatari oh so good.

I will say this however (and this will lead us to our main point of discussion) that while Owarimonogatari S2 is indeed filled with our beloved talks; Owarimonogatari S2, in all honesty, wasn’t really that good. Be forewarned, what follows is not a rant, don’t worry. I’m gonna go somewhere with this so let me set it up first 🙂

To start, it was a season with an odd episode count at seven (Crunchyroll ups the ante in making a rather unique release by combing episodes that fall under the same arc making a grand total of three episodes altogether). This isn’t really something new with Monogatari as Nekomonogatari Black, Tsukimonogatari and Hanamonogatari, all receive the same treatment. The difference, however, is that all three of those releases contained its own singular arc: Tsubasa Family, Yotsugi Doll, and Suruga Devil respectively. Owarimonogatari S2 contains three “full” arcs in Mayoi Hell, Hitagi Rendezvous and Ougi Dark.

It can be argued of course that separating the sequence of events through arcs is pretty much a practice of semantics, but my gripe (if you can even call it that) for Owarimonogatari was its noticeably “different” pacing. We’ve had two-episode arcs before (with Hitagi Crab) but Mayoi Hell in particular felt like it could have used a good 30 minutes more just so it could breathe in-between it’s seemingly rushed exposition. It was too fast at some points, too slow at other points, and really just felt quite off. I came to find out after the fact that Akiyuki Shinbou (looooong time director for Shaft/Monogatari) did not work as the director for Owarimonogatari S2 despite having done so for literally all Monogatari shows prior — whether or not this did affect the show’s pacing is beyond me, but I’d venture this is a pretty good guess.

The ultimate payoff for the season’s final arc Ougi Dark is also tricky to count as something that went well because of what was ulitimately paid off. Without giving too much away, the strength of this arc’s narrative relies *heavily* on how much the viewer knows about Monogatari. Meaning, this season can’t really stand on it’s own just going off of the first two arcs alone. While Monogatari may not be a plot-driven show, it does rely very much on continuity. This is of course by design as (barring maybe the Kizumonogatari movie trilogy) none of the shows really “work” on their own and is something that the series simply can’t do anything about.

For all intents and purposes Owarimonogatari by itself is not what I’d consider the best feature to showcase the entirety of Monogatari.

Within hours after it made its way to the screens of many of Monogatari’s devout fans however, Owari’s ratings in MAL skyrocketed to a ridiculous high — managing to take MyAnimeList’s #1 spot (as far as top score is concerned) for a good couple of hours before things settled down (scores began normalizing, people needlessly upvoting/downvoting, the works) Of course, MAL is not representative of the entire anime-viewing public (case in point, both Anime News Network and AniDB have Owarimonogatari S2 well beyond the 100s in their ratings)

But it was enough to raise an interesting point of discussion with regard to the perceived “success” of Monogatari (and possibly anime in general) to the eye of the viewer — I believe it has to do with endings and the value of memory.

More than just the element of nostalgia at play, what Owarimonogatari S2 gave me was that particular feeling of euphoria when you’re nearing the end of a good book, or when you’re about to finish a good game. Not that I was glad that it was finally gonna be over, but more of it being the culmination of every bit of story since the very beginning, coming together at long last after all these years. Everything was more or less resolved now. It feels almost a bit self-serving to say, but Owarimonogatari S2 feels almost like it was meant to be a reward of sorts for sticking through to the end — as all endings tend to be.

I do find that the significance of Owarimonogatari S2 comes with having enjoyed the journey to get there. In a way, following the story of Monogatari felt like an investment as time went on, and Owarimonogatari S2 simply saw to it that you got paid your dues by the end. It made every story up to that point worth remembering; that investing in the memory of Monogatari for all of eight or nine years was worth it.

Not because Owarimonogatari S2 was a masterpiece on it’s own. I mean, it doesn’t even hold a candle to Monogatari Second Season (arguably the best iteration of the whole series) or even Bakemonogatari, but as the pièce de résistance for almost a decade-long opus-in-the-making, it was perfect. Monogatari didn’t need a blowout ending to begin with. It just needed closure — and that’s what Owarinomogataru S2 gave.

As Araragi Koyomi started to say his goodbyes to his adolescence, I couldn’t help but feel that he had kept some part of my adolesecnce as well with him all these years, and with a sort-of dread-filled acceptance I came to realize that the end to a series that I’d followed back when I first started watching anime was taking place right before my eyes.

A series that I didn’t expect much out of when I first picked it up.

A series that I never thought I’d see adapted to completion in my anime-viewing lifetime.

A series that I can’t yet imagine being over.

But it is.
As I said earlier, in a way it’s not truly over, as there’s still material left to be adapted (and Shaft has already announced that they will indeed work on the concurring novels), however with Araragi’s graduation comes a graduation to the many things that we’ve come to know and love about this odd odd series.

Something did end. And it’s an end we should celebrate.

Owarimonogatari Second Season is not a perfect feature, but at the same time, I can’t really think of a more-perfect ending.

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