Wednesday, April 11, 2012

:anime: First Impression:: Nisemonogatari Ep. 7

<--To Nisemonogatari, Ep. 6

Nisemonogatari, Ep. 7 - "Karen Bee, Part 7"
[Crunchyroll] [Crackle] [Hulu]

Sorry for such a long wait. With the importance and amount of notable information in this episode, I got away from the brief summarizations and fell back into a more full review (I slimmed it down since then, but there was too much good info to simply gloss over). That and a number of other factors have led to this coming as late as it has. --HD

Everything comes to a head in Nisemonogatari's Karen Bee arc, and so, straight from last time…

--On Shinobu's tip, Koyomi finally finds Karen, resting in a park. Given her condition, he wants her to go back home, but she is still too angry about Kaiki. As Koyomi won't listen to her, she decides to let off steam by fighting him instead. They engage in an all-out brawl, albeit a one-sided one where karate master Karen pummels Koyomi, who is reluctant to use his vampiric powers or Shinobu's help against her. The fist fighting soon turns into a war of words, as Karen tries to vindicate herself and the Fire Sisters' operations, but Koyomi wants to hear nothing of it. He points out the hollowness in their duty to "justice" and reasserts that they are not "heroes" but "fakes" and children playing a game. Karen, still in belief that that they are doing nothing wrong by helping others,  is hurt by his criticism, but in an embrace is told by Koyomi that despite everything, he is still proud of her and Tsukihi and wants her to leave it to their big brother to fix…

--After carrying Karen back home, Koyomi and Hitagi finally confront Kaiki together. He says all the right things--vowing to stop his charms business with the middle-schoolers, saying that the sick Karen, who only fell under instant hypnosis, will be completely healed in a few days, even promising to apologize about what happened to Hitagi's mother and return all of the money he pilfered from her father--but Hitagi doesn't bite, even after a retooling of his words. They are deemed empty, and rightfully so: Kaiki never meant a word of it. But despite their suspicions, he claims to be nothing more than a middle-aged sham whose knowledge of the supernatural only goes as far as the knowledge from people who believe they are in the know. He at least proves as much by explaining away an old plague caused by the wreathe-fire bee as the product of fear-mongering among people unaware its fictitious background. Much like how people don't believe in ghosts, but still fear them, there was no supernatural bee to be concerned over and, thus, no real illness afflicted Karen.

--Hitagi asks for, and then breaks, Kaiki's phone. He says he won't be able to reach the kids he wronged to help them, but she couldn't care less, especially when it was their fault and he wouldn't do anything for them other than scam them some more. Though he unblinkingly agrees, he laments over how boring, heavier, and fatter she has grown up to be when she reneges on sinking her fangs into him any further. In spite of his insults, she holds up Koyomi's love for her as a reason to love herself. Not wanting to impede on young love, he makes his exit and says he will be gone by the next day, but not before rubbing in face that one of the con-men that tried to rape her died in an accident and not by her own hands and casually mentioning their previous relationship before leaving the two.

Koyomi asks of this, but she takes slight umbrage it before stating that she would have fell for anyone that was willing to save her back then--Kaiki included, who was the first one to offer such help--but she was very glad that Koyomi was the one who ultimately that did. Before they leave, Koyomi asks her about what the request she made earlier again. She remarks that it was nothing special and that contrary to Kaiki's words, she believes she has already come to terms with her past. She asks him to compliment her, feeling he neglected his duty as her boyfriend to do so and also being hurt by Kaiki's words. Brings Koyomi close to her against a fence, she asks him to be gentle with her that night…

--The next day, Karen--her illness subsiding ahead of schedule--and Tsukihi happily rush out the door to school. Even though Kaiki's gone, they still believe they have to clean up his mess and help his victims. Koyomi cautions them not to get caught in their game, but they remain adamant. "Fakes" they may be to him, he nonetheless considers them to be closer to the "real thing" than anything else…

This all also entailed…

--Massive destruction of public works.

--Bodies (or more like "a" body) flying into nearby overpasses

--A park beneath a bunch of overpasses.

--A younger, slightly taller sister beating down her older, slightly shorter brother.

--Or from another perspective, a karate prodigy pummeling a vampire.

--Allegations of a love affair between a teenager and a middle-aged man.

--Naked sleeping.

Nisemonogatari's "Karen Bee" arc ended in a big way with two very different battles. One was an all-out, near DBZ-level fight between brother and sister involving collapsing freeways and the other was an acerbic war of darted words between the primary antagonist and the not-so-heroic heroine, with both proving to be very compelling for their own respective reasons. However, there was far more to the episode than the scintillating visuals and dialogue, as a number of notable things pertaining to the characters came into light that placed the series into a new light.

For example, past Koyomi and Karen's epic and outlandish fight and the latter's scary-powerful move-set, there was a serious undercurrent to it all, which led to a heated airing-out of feelings. Karen's impassioned defense of her fight for justice and her dislike of Koyomi's judging was heartfelt and not at all like the childish act her "volunteering" seemed to be at first glance. However, Koyomi made valid points concerning the naivety and inherent problems in what his sister claimed to be were doing. In the end, their "do-gooding" was nothing more than a game, one that they fooled themselves into believing was truly real. Concurrently, I couldn't help but think that Koyomi was talking about himself, too. Similar to how his siblings subconciously were unaware that they were making sport of something they didn't believe they were doing, Koyomi seemed unaware that his criticism over their recklessness and self-sacrificing, while not at their level, could apply to him as well.

This is the same person who, in Bakemonogatari, risked himself when pulling a supernatural snake off of Nadeko, was flung around by his own intestines and pulverized into a bloody pulp by a possessed Suruga in an attempt to free her from her affliction, and even here in Nisemonogatari, risked his own health again by trying to transfer Karen's ailment to himself and refusing to use Shinbou's assistance or his vampiric powers against her in their fight. While he does what he does more for the people who are close to him than out of a notion of "justice", it's hard not to see the similarities in their propensity to help others in spite of the circumstances--something other characters have noted in the series, save for oblivious Koyomi. Still, it all works out in that he is merely that and not a hypocrite in what he says to Karen, where she and Tsukihi are more preoccupied with the "mission statement" and not of the dangers that they are naive or flippant about. Despite their differences or when he flatly says that he "hates" them, he clearly cares a lot about them, however,and the embrace he shared with Karen afterwards was a very touching capstone on everything, and one of the best scenes in the series.

On the opposite side of "warmth" was the tense and oft-sublime confrontation between Hitagi and Koyomi, and Kaiki. What Koyomi v. Karen was with fists and kicks, Hitagi v. Kaiki was with words and insults. And like the former, it was something of a one-sided affair, too, with the "ill-omened man" proving to be the master. When Kaiki, calls himself a "fake", he truly means it--without pretense or pause--and it permeates every part of his being. Every word he says is a lie…every intention he makes is false…even his lies are lies--literally everything he says cannot be trusted. As such, when he says that he does not know much about the supernatural or is simply just a "con man", it's hard to believe he is telling the truth.

He claims, for example, that Karen was under instant hypnosis when he got her and that people can still fear what they don't believe, but while Karen never believed in the supernatural, by extension, she never was expecting anything from Kaiki, nor was she told anything concrete about the bee or anything else supernatural (besides the vague "gift" mention). If she never knew about any of that, how could she fool herself into believing that she was being afflicted by such things? To use "hypnosis" in the manner he did seems to suggest a level of proficiency beyond what a simple con man is capable of. Some of his greater extent of lying was lampshaded when he suggested to Hitagi that he was perhaps lying about not remembering about her when she believes he is lying about the dead con man.

All of this also manages to showcase just how great a villain Kaiki was. Armed with just words alone, he not only rationalizes what he does, he also finds a way to exonerate himself of wrongdoing, tear apart the protagonists psychologically and emotionally, and talk his way out of confrontation--all without violence or physicality. He is also extremely dangerous, as one is never too sure of what he is really capable of underneath his layer, upon layers, of lies, but can also tell that he must be capable of something if he is able to subdue someone with a simple poke to the head. He may say that he will be leaving town, but after everything, I seriously doubt that he will.

Or will he?

A number of times, Kaiki noted (albeit in a more brusque manner) that Hitagi has become "normal", and in many respects, he's right. While she still has that sharp tounge and tsundere-ness to her, she seems "softer" than the more violence-inclined Hitagi of Bakemonogatari. Watching her subservience towards Tsubasa over Koyomi, the blushing, being more restrained (well, by her standards…), and being easily swooned over by a few cool words, she seems to have broken her shell some and seems more like a regular girl, but is also a bit aloof when it comes to matters of love and showing affection. It does take some of the bite out of her strong-minded character, but in return, it gives her an extra dimension and shows how she has grown, all the while keeping the core aspects that makes her who she is. Different, yes, but in many respects, she is still the same, memorable character.

Overall, Ep.7 did a very good job bringing the core meaning behind Nisemonogatari's name--translated as "Fake Story" (or, stylistically, "Impostory")--full circle through the two very different conflicts at play. It helped give the story more of a backbone and sense-of-purpose, made the series a little more worthwhile. While it was disappointing to see Koyomi not use his vampiric powers in his fight against Karen, their heartwarming embrace at the end was a fitting cap on their exchange. In regards to latter part of the episode, the verbal play and twisting of words by Kaiki was simply masterful and gave a different side to NisiOisin's signature command of prose. That said, I wasn't expecting a tersely cruel side to Kaiki with his brutal cutting-down and embarrassing of (his former flame) Hitagi. Not many flattering things were paid her way (and between this and the weird Tsubasa situation, the series as a whole has not been terribly kind to her, either), but it did make her more sympathetic.

Final Arc Impressions: A decent-to-good arc. It did a fine job reintroducing everyone from Bakemonogatari and slowly, but smoothly, transitioning into the main crux of "Karen Bee". However, that "slowness" and leisurely pacing belied a major problem in the show's composition, which felt too little on substance to be worth seven episodes (or four, if you remove the non-plot-relevant material) and too inconsistent, if not wasteful, in its plotting (some episodes being more plot-intensive than others, which is worsened when you only have so many episodes to work with to begin with). No doubt the arc should have been shorter and tighter, and less excessive with the naughtiness and poses, but there was still some satisfaction to be found in the tales' villain, character development, and requisite shenanigans and dialogue. Not quite up to expectations, overall, but it at least reached a sufficient conclusion.

P.S.: And now, a whole lot other screen pics!

To explain the joke a bit, Karen calls Koyomi a "kiss-sama" in the actual audio. "Kisama" being the Japanese equivalent for "bastard" (and for a few lesser insults, as well), this is in reference to Koyomi's attempt to transfer her illness via kissing in Ep. 5.  Pretty nice translation choice by the translator, IMO…


Part 1 of 3 of artsy SHAFT-isms…

Part 2 of 3 of artsy SHAFT-isms…

Part 3 of 3 of artsy SHAFT-isms…


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