Hey guys! It’s been a long time hasn’t it, heh heh heh… Yeah school started up, and because of that I’ve been having trouble finding the time to write anything except stuff for BraveNewMoe. So yeah, now that I’m into the groove of school I think I can start up with regular posts again, and what’s a better way to reboot my schedule than writing about the next arc of Bakemonogatari: Suruga Devil.? Nothing, that’s what! Let’s begin!
I didn’t think it would happen, but it finally did. I’ve finally found an arc of Bakemonogatari I’ve truly enjoyed the whole way through! Now when I say I enjoyed it, I mean that I actually liked the process of watching all the episodes in this arc, which is more than I can say for the previously boring Mayoi Mai Mai and cramped Hitagi Crab arcs. Yes technically speaking all the typical Bakemonogatari problems are here, there’s still the same awkward fan-service, heavy exposition dumping, and the often over the top visuals I’ve come to expect from the series, but, not only is their presence diminished here, this story also has a great backbone that truly engaged me throughout. I can safely say that Suruga Monkey is the best Monogatari arc I’ve seen so far in my short relationship with the franchise, and it’s getting me slightly more excited for the upcoming seasons; but only slightly.
Anyways this arc once again follows the exploits of Koyomi Araragi, who is now officially in a relationship with Hitagi after the events at the end of Mayoi Mai Mai. This time he finds himself embroiled in a new problem, which concerns Hitagi’s underclassmen Suruga Kanbaru, a girl who was once very close to Hitagi, but due to various circumstances has been shoved to the side by her over the past year. Now, like every other girl in the series so far, she’s been plagued by a supernatural spirit that has turned her left arm into a monkey’s paw. And, also like every other arc in the series’ so far, Araragi must now find a way to fix psychological aliment, I mean fix her supernatural problem!
Now, like I said before, I really enjoyed this arc. To me it finally really hit what Bakemonogatari has been aiming for this whole time, not only in terms of execution, but in content as well. Throughout Bakemonogatari’s past two arc, the show has been trying to push the message that these girls psychological problems need to be solved by themselves, not Araragi, but the past two arcs showed much evidence to the contrary. In Hitagi Crab, Hitagi was the one who made the final blow to the monster yes, but otherwise she still needed help and encouragement from Araragi, and in Mayoi Mai Mai it was much the same. Mayoi wasn’t the one who fixed her problem, though admittedly it was slightly better since Hitagi did most of the work solving it. However, it still didn’t really fit into the female power thing the series’ has been trying to go for.
Luckily Suruga Monkey succeeds on all fronts in this department! Yes, Araragi still does try to help out Suruga on his own with the help of Meme Oshino, but in the end he’s punished for it. By the end of the arc he didn’t really accomplish anything, and it ends up being Hitagi who comes in and saves the day. She gets angry at Araragi for almost getting himself killed in a battle with the tranced Suruga, and she tells him that they shouldn’t keep things like this from each other. Not only was this a great development for her and Araragi’s relationship, but it also shows that Araragi’s help isn’t always the best option, and that sometimes it can be more damaging for the victim than it would seem on the surface. If Araragi had let the monkey’s paw kill him, Suruga would have had to live with having killed Hitagi’s boyfriend, which would be extremely devastating! Here the series’ argues that letting an outside source like Araragi try to solve the problem often ends in tragedy, and the only true way to solve your problems is to deal with the source. It’s a powerful message, but it’s also held up by the great character at the center: Suruga.
Suruga is probably my favorite character introduced in the series so far. While she is still stuck in an otaku fetish archetype like all the female characters in the show, that being the sexual lesbian archetype, she’s a lot more relatable than Hitagi and Mayoi. While I like Hitagi more than I did in the first arc, I still find her cold and unapproachable in terms of characterization, and Mayoi… Well Mayoi is just annoying as shit. Suruga, however, comes off as a lot more open and understandable. Maybe this has to do with the comfort she has in her sexuality, or maybe it’s because I have a lot of homosexual and transgendered friends, and I find her situation very believable. Suruga’s main problem is that Hitagi rejects her affections toward her, and when you’re a lesbian in a mostly straight society like the one we have today, her situation is very true to reality. When a extremely small percentage of the gender you’re sexually attracted to may or may not like you back, then issues like the one Suruga has to go through are going to happen a lot. And to me that’s what makes Suruga a lot more likable than the cold quipping Hitagi, or the moe loli Mayoi. She’s realistic and understandable; which is a great thing!
That being said Suruga Monkey is, like I said before, not perfect. Suruga is very openly sexualized by the director and writers throughout, often cutting to close up shots of her slender legs and well developed breasts. I also can’t help but think that Suruga was probably written as a lesbian to appease the whims of thirsty men, which kind of ruins the good representation she gets in this arc. The other characters such as Mayoi, Hitagi, and Hanekawa also get an equal amount of objectification time in this arc, and in general the show’s still trying very hard to appeal to male otaku.
The animation and over the top direction has also not been calmed down for a second. While it is slightly more subdued in this arc, the subtitle card pop ups, and the other typical Akiyuki Shinbo direction quirks are still shoved into these episodes. It’s not necessarily bad, and there are many scenes that have amazing shot composition, but those who find his style grating will not enjoy the visuals of this arc.
Speaking of weird visuals though, there was a rather interesting scene in the middle of episode one, where Hanakawa tells Araragi about Suruga and Hitagi’s past relationship. Not only did this scene have weirdly implemented subtitles, but it gave us some very interesting hints about Hanekawa’s relationship to Araragi. Throughout the conversation she seemed to be trying to make it so Araragi will stop trying to know more about Hitagi, and already the show seems to be hammering in the hints about a possible love triangle between the three characters. Hmm… I wonder if this will be useful in the final arc of this season: Tsubasa Cat?… Well, I guess we’ll see later on down the line!
Anyways, I’ll see you next week for my post on the penultimate arc of Bakemonogatari: Nadeko Snake! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you then!