I was worried about a lot of things before going into Nadeko Snake. I was worried about Nadeko, who is arguably the only girl in the cast of Bakemonogatari that most people agree on being horrible, and who just so happens to be the central character of this story. Also, from everything I heard, this arc seemed to be ridden with fan service and disgusting otaku spank material. Basically, according to all the information I could gather, this seemed like it was going to be the most polarizing arc for me yet… Surprisingly though, it actually wasn’t. In fact this arc wasn’t really all that bad. I mean don’t get me wrong, the fan service here is disgusting, and Nadeko is indeed the worst character in the cast (And that’s a lot considering Mayoi exists), but otherwise I found it to be pretty enjoyable.
Anyways, this arc of Bakemonogatari follows yet another adventure in the life of Koyomi Araragi, who decides one day to go with Suruga to an abandoned shrine to help Oshino with a job. However, upon their arrival there they discover dozens of snake corpses pinned to a nearby tree. Suruga and Araragi quickly leave, both sickened at the very sight of the sacrifices, and Araragi later finds out this strange ritual was committed by his sisters’ childhood friend Nadeko Sengoku. To his little surprise, he finds out that, like literally every other school girl he’s met, she has a supernatural problem! This time caused by a constricting, invisible snake that’s slowly killing her. Now it’s up to Suruga and Araragi to save her from her inevitable demise!
Now I’m going to be quite honest here, I think a major reason I enjoyed this arc is because of the stellar direction and animation showcased here. The animation, as usual, is pretty limited, and I will admit some of Shinbo’s quirks are still kind of annoying, but in terms of visual coherency and art direction this arc is just gorgeous. In my opinion this arc takes all the high points of Bakemonogatari’s style and merges it into one amazing menagerie of sight and sound. Everything here is layered, geometric, and saturated SHAFT goodness, and I honestly find it to be some of the most cohesive work I’ve seen from Mr. Shinbo since Madoka Magica. So basically what I’m saying is that, if anything, this arc is very pretty!
The content however is not nearly as good, for better and for worse. You see this episode introduces Nadeko, who quite frankly is just as annoying as everyone warned me she was. Unlike Suruga, Hanekawa, and Hitagi, Nadeko has barely any personality beyond her inherent fetish shtick of being the cute childhood friend who wants Araragi to be her onii-chan! She’s very one note, and aside from the fact she’s a lonely girl, she’s just more eye candy for the camera to focus on. I can’t think of a single moment where she wasn’t being objectified by the writing! Not only do we she her almost completely naked, and not only is she the most submissive and inactive of all the girls in the cast, but we also see her in a school swimsuit swallowing a very phallic like snake. It’s pretty gross, and it makes a lot of this arc very uncomfortable to watch.
That being said, everything that doesn’t involve Nadeko is pretty decent otherwise. Araragi has a few good moments for his character throughout, including the climax at the end which was brilliantly executed. You see, it turns out that Nadeko not only had one snake spirit but two wrapped around her. In a desperate attempt to save her life, Araragi rips the remaining snake off Nadeko’s body letting it break one of his arms and legs in the process. The brutal nature of this scene is hard hitting, but the payoff is even better as it turns out the snake will now head back to the person who cursed Nadeko and kill him instead. Araragi tries to stop it, but Suruga restrains him, telling him that he can’t save everyone.
Overall, it’s a very powerful scene which says a lot about the inherent selfishness of Araragi’s nature. He wants to help everyone, even if it hurts others in the process. And even then he’s willing to sacrifice himself as a martyr, despite the fact that the people who love him will be devastated. This message was better executed in Suruga Monkey considering that was more connected to Hitagi, who barely even gets mentioned in this arc, but at least it’s better than nothing!
In the end though, there isn’t that much to say about Nadeko Snake on the whole. It’s a pretty short arc, only being two episodes in length, and it’s mostly a retread of previous ideas. Like Suruga Monkey it has a brutal climax that reveals messages about Araragi’s character, and like Mayoi Mai Mai it’s full of fan service trash! If it weren’t for the fetish scenes and the stellar direction though, this would probably be one of the more forgettable arcs in the series. So I guess it wasn’t all that bad, and I definitely think it’s better than Mayoi Mai Mai in terms of quality, but yeah it wasn’t amazing…
So anyways that’s all for this topic! I’ll see you next time with my post of the final arc of Bakemonogatari: Tsubasa Cat! See you then!