Nisemonogatari, Ep. 4 - "Karen Bee, Part 4"
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I think it's safe to say that after this episode, there is absolutely no chance of this show ever airing on Adult Swim, or let alone anywhere else on American television…
--Back at home, Koyomi tries, in vain, to get his sisters to spill on what has happened to Karen, but Tsubasa intervenes before he loses his cool. Back in his room, she let's him know that she has been assisting the girls in getting to the bottom on the charms. This isn't something Koyomi is too keen on and it reminds him of Meme's concern over her being too smart for her own good. Though she was unable to be around to help Karen confront the apparent source, she says that the "ill-omened" man's name was Kaiki Deshuu…
--As Koyomi ruminates on the ordeal in the tub, Shinobu Oshino--the vampire formally known as Kiss-shot Acelora-orion Heart-under-blade--makes a sudden appearance from his shadow. Even more shocking is that she can still actually speak (for the first time since the events of Kizumonogatari). It is here that the two have a bonding moment of sorts and smooth out their differences, even though neither can forgive the other over what has happened before.
--According to Shinobu, a story of Meme's points to Karen being afflicted by a supernatural insect called a "wreathe-fire bee", whose poison is causing her to have fiery-hot fevers. Both her and Koyomi surmise that even as a con man and a "fake", there isn't anything "fake" about what Kaiki is capable of. The conversation, however, soon moves on to the subject of Koyomi's vampire powers--in particular, his possible immortality and how he could gain his humanity back by ending her life. Koyomi wants to hear none of it, citing their mutual unforgiveness towards one another, and that they will continue to live together until they die. Shinobu, in spite of not minding spending her waning years in his shadow, makes no bones of her own willingness to kill him at any time as they share an embrace.
Now, why exactly has this no chance?
--Nearly 2/3 of an episode-worth of a naked, loli-bodied vampire and naked teen boy bathing together.
--Said naked loli is shown in as many pre-requisite Shinbo/SHAFT and fetishistic poses as possible.
--Said naked boy shampooing and sitting in bathtub with said naked loli.
After subduing himself in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, director Akiyuki Shinbo let his freak flag fly high and free (once more) in this episode. If the former title represented him at his controlled best, then the Monogatari series are him at his unrestrained finest. He is certainly a visionary and has shown to be as fearless with his visual content (and, sometimes, subject matter) as he is in framing a scene. However, he really goes all in by devoting the majority of the episode to two people just talking and bathing in the buff (albeit in a bathroom fancy enough to make a king jealous). That one of them may be a centuries-old vampire in prepubescent form isn't even new territory for the director (see Dance in the Vampire Bund…when no one's around). Nonetheless, it's not exactly my thing seeing her wash herself in various positions, either, so all of the loli action detracted from the episode a bit. Shinbo's boldness is one of my favorite qualities in him, but I can do without all of that.
That wasn't the sole issue with the episode, though, as much of the talking seemed drawn-out to fill time and amounted to only a few bullet points on the monster afflicting Karen. The talkiness of Nisemonogatari is something that comes with the territory with NisiOisin's stories, but doubles as part of the allure with its cleverness and insight. However, this series has been a little guilty of pushing its luck with how much it is being done and how little is coming out of it, which I have been giving a pass until this episode, when it has became all too apparent. That's not to say the show's a disappointment, but as a dialouge-reliant series, it has to be careful of becoming overly-reliant on witty banter in stringing Point A to Point B, and with how little the actual show's plot has progressed overall (especially when most of it occurred last time, but not much here), it can make one a little restless after a time.
All that said, there were still some good positives to be found among all of the chatter and skin. For one, the staff did a good job in censoring Shinobu's body with extra shine and blurring. A number of anime use this method, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in terms of fitting into the scenery (function over form, one could say). However, with the moonlight from the sunroof above, it felt like a natural fit for the scenes and cut down on some of the ickyness of it all (though I fully expect the shine to disappear on the disc releases). In addition, there was also the information on the wreathe-fire bee, the relationship dynamics between the Araragi siblings, and some welcome insight on Shinobu's time in silence.
In no small part due to occupying the majority of the episode, the most enjoyable (and interesting) parts of it had specifically to do with her and Koyomi. Their relationship is similar to what one usually sees in a vampire master-servant relationship (though their's could go either way), but even so, it was very surprising to see the bashful, relieved look on Koyomi's face when Shinobu appeared and as they interacted. He seemed to treat her on the same personal level as a girlfriend, which was eye-opening to see, but understandable in context.
|I doubt either Hitagi or Tsubasa ever got a smile like that…|
Of particular interest were the final moments of the episode, where Shinobu raises a very good point about Koyomi's longevity as a vampire and how it will only be her with him centuries after everyone he loves now will have been deceased. Not only did it snapped the story back into focus and into a more serious light, it gave a whole new perspective to Koyomi and the dilemma around the power he has been so reluctant to use. It was an unexpected powerful scene that saved the episode from feeling like a waste in bringing everything around full-circle--and both it and the series were all the more better for it.
On another note, there is the matter of Tsubasa, who manages to look like both a whole other character and still cute as a button with her new haircut and lack of glasses. Looks can be deceiving, however, as there is something about her that just doesn't sitting right. Part of it could be contributed to her more voluptuous look and her cat spirit form reappearing in Bakemonogatari's last arc, but she seems more mischievous than last time, and even a little dangerous (there is also the fact that one of the latter Monogatari stories is named "Nekomonogatari"…). That she seems to have Hitagi wrapped around her finger after getting her to free Koyomi in Ep. 3 with a threat to make him her boyfriend was funny, but perhaps a warning sign, as well. She was trustworthy before, but now, not so much…
Episode 4 was not bad, per se, as it had its moments (including a hilarious one with Tsukihi walking in on her brother bathing a young girl in a tub and walking back in with a knife and pot lid in her hands), but aside from some vital information yielded, it may have been the weakest episode thus far in spending a little too much time meandering in the middle and focusing too much on the bath action. Well, at least Shinobu finally spoke…
P.S.: Wait…I thought I wasn't going to take a whole lot of screenies this episode due to all of the bare-skinnedness? :/
|An Utena reference in an Akiyuki Shinbo show? How utterly perfect…|
(And I've always wondered what it would be like if Shinbo/SHAFT did an adapation of Utena. I don't know if the world could possibly contain such an aesthetic overdrive…)
|Dakimakura prints: GO!!|
|If Hitagi is the "Tsundere Queen", what does that make Tsubasa, now?|
|Toggle between this picture & the next to get a gist of Tsubasa's drastic change in looks.|
"As Seen On TV!"