Hitagi Crab was a pretty weird experience. I went into it with polarized expectations, and came out just as polarized with my own opinion. I liked parts of it, but the parts I liked were so shrouded in otaku pandering and boring expositional dialogue that I couldn’t really bring myself to say I liked or enjoyed it. It kind of left a sour taste in my mouth, but I persevered and soon found myself watching the next arc: Mayoi Mai Mai. Or, as it is literally translated into English, Mayoi Snail. Ironically that title actually turned out to be quite indicative of this arc’s content, since these episodes are as slow and as boring as a snail.
Okay that may be a little harsh, I actually like parts of this arc more than Hitagi Crab, if only because they don’t have to exposition dump you about the formula of the series. It also definitely felt a lot more organic with its character interactions, mostly because there wasn’t any more character introductions for Hitagi and Hanakawa. This left a lot of room for a subtle character growth, and some truly fun conversations between them and Araragi.
The high light of this arc is hands down the first conversation between Araragi and Hitagi. Watching Hitagi quip and seduce Araragi with her words is a true joy to watch and the scene, annoying fan-service shots aside, gives us a nice look into how Araragi views Hitagi. The sexual tension he feels throughout the scene is palpable, and this was all thanks to some expert cinematography which conveyed a sense of claustrophobia and infatuation with every shot. It’s expertly written, and the direction backed the scene up in the best possible ways.
However, after those first ten minutes of greatness, this arc quickly takes a nosedive into boredom with the introduction of this arc’s new female character, Mayoi Hachikuji. Mayoi is a young grade schooler, who appears to be lost and looking for her Mother’s home. Araragi decides to help, since he refuses to go home after he got confronted by his younger sister about how mean he was for not staying home on Mother’s Day; and he soon discovers Mayoi seems to be eternally lost. Even with Hitagi’s help they can’t seem to find Mayoi’s destination, and Araragi begins to suspect that she has been mislead by a mysterious supernatural being.
Now this arc is really boring, I think I’ve already made that clear with some of my previous statements. This is because, for about two thirds of this arc, we follow Araragi and Mayoi as they search for her Mother’s house. It’s not entertaining in the slightest, and the only thing that was keeping me interested in watching was figuring out what the inevitable twist was going to be. It was tiring to struggle through the two episodes worth of unfunny and uninteresting content, and I was truly annoyed throughout my experience.
My boredom also wasn’t helped by some extremely unfunny jokes tossed around in these episodes. Throughout all of Mayoi’s scenes she’s abused and is generally made to look like a joke. The fighting scenes between her and Araragi are especially painful, because it’s very clear the creators of the show want you to laugh at Araragi beating up the young grade schooler. Sure there’s no blood spilt, and Araragi makes a few cracks about the sickening things he’s doing, but just because he’s acknowledging he’s abusing a young grade schooler doesn’t make joke any less disgusting. In fact it kind of makes it worse, because it makes it even more clear that, despite the general nastiness of the joke’s content, the creators still find it hilarious, and they want you to laugh at it along with them. Yuck, yuck, yuck!
I also find it annoying that Mayoi is also clearly meant to be the cute, fiesty, loli archetype. Which of course means, like every girl in the show, she’s sexualized on many levels. We see her panties, she cutely fumbles her words, and when she clings on to Araragi’s waist you’re supposed to find it charming. Ugh, I know everyone has their sexual preferences, but I personally find loli-con fan-service to be degrading. It’s just creepy to me, and this fan-service lessened my enjoyment of these episodes even more.
Another thing holding back this arc were the visuals. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the visuals were still crazy Akiyuki Shinbo stuff, but compared to Hitagi Crab they were much less interesting and symbolically relevant. Basically it was too tame and boring, and it lacked a lot of the amazing shot composition I was hoping for. It was a little disappointing, especially considering the conversation between Araragi and Hitagi in the first episode was so well executed.
That being said, if there’s one nice thing I can say about Mayoi’s scenes in these episodes, it would have to be that the ending to her arc was really surprising! Throughout this whole arc, I, along with Araragi, thought Mayoi was the one who was cursed by the supernatural snail being, but later on the Mother’s Day conflict from the first episode comes back with full force. It turns out Mayoi was the ghost creature the whole time, and because Araragi was afraid to apologize for abandoning his family on Mother’s Day, Mayoi decided to curse him into being lost forever. This in combination with Hitagi’s heartwarming love confession to Araragi left me rather shocked. Yes, the twist when you think about it is really cliché, but that didn’t stop it from being any less surprising. Mayoi’s arc then ends with Hitagi and Araragi leading Mayoi back to the lot where her Mother’s house once was, and we see her walk into a bright light, finally being released from her role as an earthbound spirit. It’s an nice scene, and it was a good way to end her otherwise very boring character arc. That scene alone almost made the boring scenes worth watching…
And then at the end of the credits it turns out that she’s now been upgraded to a wandering spirit, and that she’s going to roam Araragi’s town for a little while longer… WHY!?!?!?
I didn’t like this arc. The only good parts about it were the scenes that had to do with the development of Hitagi and Araragi’s relationship, and considering that’s not really the main focus of this arc, that’s a bad sign. Sure, Mayoi got a neat little twist at the end, but it was quickly ruined by a hasty retreat into a stupid, “She still lives,” ending, and the fact everything else about her arc was as boring as a rock. Basically watch this only if you want to see some fun interactions and cute moments between Araragi and Hitagi, otherwise this arc was excruciatingly boring and not worth my time.
Anyways that’s all for this post, but join me next time when I cover Bakemonogatari’s third arc: Suruga Monkey. See you then!