BEST OF 2013 POSTS!
Yeah! 2012 was sort of a washout in terms of year-end lists... so was 2011, for that matter... but 2013 is gonna be different. We're starting with anime because why not.
I'd include OreImo season 2 on the strength of the character designs, but it made me mad as often as it made me happy. I also really came close to including Free, which was beautifully animated and well structured, but I still prefer girl-based SoL. Tamayura: More Aggressive and Non Non Biyori were also totally excellent but I think that would have been SoL overload. HenNeko's amazing Kantoku character designs made it a joy to watch, but the plot was just too messy. Aiura was also fantastic but it felt weird putting a 5 minute show. I wanted to include Tamako Market, because I really loved it, and as a sign of like, solidarity, or whatever, but it didn't make the cut. Maybe I should have made this top 10, I dunno.
I started watching this show because I had seen the manga advertised during Hidamari Sketch and I figured alright yeah that looks basically good enough. This is about three high school girls and their day-to-day adventures. They are part of this "information gathering club" or something where they basically just dick around on the internet and talk about stuff but it isn't a major focus. What sets this aside from other slice of life shows is... okay, well, first off, let's be honest here. There really isn't any reason this needs to set itself aside from other slice of life shows. Honestly, I would prefer it didn't. I dread the day that the all-girl-high-school-nothing-happens-slight-lesbian-romantic-tension-moeblob genre dies. Luckily we are far away from that, but shows that stick to this formula with such purity are still to be treasured.
Anyways, what this show has that most slice of life shows don't is this sense of franticness. Both Yukari and Yuzuko have this sort of awareness where they know they are being overly wacky and genki and deliberately play it up to annoy Yui. Yuzuko especially has this level of deliberate provocativeness that's really great and unique. In turn, Yui goes beyond the typical "straight man", she gets legitimately annoyed and angry. The dynamics are much more extreme then in a lot of SoL, and the results are often hilarious. On the other hand, in scenes where Yui gets more dere and admits (usually privately) how much she enjoys them as friends, it's all the more heartwarming. Even better than that are the scenes where Yui herself can't help but get caught up in the group's maniacal sense of humor.
It has this sort of bizarre escalation of humor sometimes that I think can only be compared to Eric Andre or Tim and Eric or something... just this sort of internal memeing where the very fact that it is funny becomes funny itself, both for the characters and the audience. At the same time, it's still very mundane and down to Earth stuff. The characters in this show just really like to laugh, and it's really infectious, it has the sort of heartwarming quality that hearing people laugh brings.
The animation reflects this frantic humor really well. The character designs are really nice and simple, bringing about a new age in moeblob technology of round faces. They're quick to simplify further with Hidimari-style line eyes or all-white eyes, which I think is like their own innovation. It's all obviously very cute but adds to the overall pace and aesthetic of almost deranged franticness.
Really, this is just everything I could want in a slice of life show, which means it's everything I could want in anime. As far as I can tell the only complaint anyone could ever have is that Yukari's eyes look weird when she closes them.
4. LOVE LIVE
Idol shows are basically the future of anime, as far as I can tell. Well, that or girls as ships shows. The idol formula just makes so much sense to me. There's this sense of competition and tension where the girls have to struggle together and stuff, but there isn't any need for "villains" or people who end up being the losers (unlike shows like Saki, where most of the characters you meet will end up crying). You can do a whole arc of like, recruiting people into the idol group - Love Live absolutely nails the whole "nakama gathering" structure of many shonen. It's a good way to focus on each individual character while always making it relevant to the group. Plus, the actual main event itself is singing and dancing in various outfits, like, what is more moe than that?
Love Live takes this blossoming genre and makes a really good show of it. The whole "if we don't succeed they'll shut down the school" is a pretty contrived way to just add more drama for free, but whatever. The individual characters' arcs are compelling, and that's what counts. Their group ends up having 9 members, and none of them feels forgettable or underdeveloped, which is pretty remarkable for a 13 episode series. With a cast that big, it's easy to have at least one character you end up really liking (Maki is bestgirl for me), and it's lots of fun to ship them and stuff.
As mentioned, the show is structured around the classic "nakama-recruiting" scheme, connected by training and further improving and such. This basic formula allows them the requisite training camp episodes, Akiba episode, etc, etc. They don't go quite as genre-diverse as like Idolmaster, which is maybe a shame, but Idolmaster had the benefit of being 26 episodes. For a show so packed with idol activities, they also manage to get a lot of quality slice of life downtime, which is really appreciated.
Of course, the cornerstone of this genre are the performances themselves. The really brilliant thing about any music based show is that the studios basically get to double dip on BR and CD sales. The music here is pretty good, nice and catchy. The choreography of the dance scenes varies... Any animated part is really nice but the CGI isn't quite there. CGIing dance scenes works in shows where the general aesthetic is really cartoony like Aikatsu or Pretty Cure but with this more "realistic" art it becomes jarring sometimes. But that's like whatever.
It seems like more and more seasons are having a requisite idol show now. So far the genre is still hit and miss as they work out the formula, but hopefully I can look forward to having a good idol show to watch every season, like I currently have with SoL. Love Live is a great start.
3. KILL LA KILL
This isn't even halfway over and I'm including it at #3. On the other hand, there's probably some people who would ream me out for having it any less than #1. Cause, like, this is the show that's "saving anime", right? I mean, for people who haven't seen any shows since Gurren Lagann, this certainly seems like it is. I don't really buy that, though. I think anime is in a really wonderful place, being able to produce the titles I gave first and second.
Okay so aside from the fallacy that this is "saving anime", what is up with this show? It's still fantastic. The characters are all super-likable, the animation is insane, the fights are exciting, the music is godlike... it has it all. The plot is ramping up in a really intense way that makes me both baffled and hyped for the latter half. The style is the hyper-western cartoony style that Trigger has become so adept at, and it never falters for a second.
What's really cool, though, is how Trigger takes this relentless, excessive, fairly "western" aesthetic and negotiates it with the best tropes of modern anime. We have all sorts of fanservice - of every type, often simultaneously. Like, Mako is basically about as moe as a character can get, and as genki, and as Western cartoon slapstick. Every trope and element is turned up to 11, and it's played with a sort of dual sincerity/commentary, where it both acknowledges the ridiculousness of the tropes, but also embraces them. The end result is that it ends up being both a parody, loving pastiche, and outwards exemplar of a "real anime"... I guess this is why so many people say it's "saving anime". Well, whatever. It's the best show in the mode of Gurren Lagann since Gurren Lagann, and it's always great fun to watch. Special shoutout to Nonon Jakuzure for having the best voice of the year.
2. KINIRO MOSAIC
Okay but for real, let's think about what we're really watching anime for. It's to watch cute girls do cute things, right? Anime is the only medium to ever master this genre, and it's the genre that allows anime to perform the unique miracle of anime. Slice of life anime reminds me of that Mountain Goats album... We Shall All Be Healed. Well, it reminds me of the title, at least. Iyashikei, the term for "healing" media, really cuts to the very root of what makes anime appealing to me. The comedy and cuteness, the friendship and love, the voices and music, it all attributes to this calm and happy feeling that keeps me watching, season after season. It can bring you from bitter Tallahassee-era to John Darnielle to... Get Lonely-era serene happy/sad John Darnielle, which is the best one to be. It's an emotion richer than just happiness. I don't really know how to describe it. I don't think talking about Mountain Goats helped but whatever.
So anyways, the gimmick of this show is that two of the girls are from England. This is like, really brilliant, because they haven't experienced Japanese culture before, so there's a lot of opportunities for them to get introduced to things. Of course, this is supposed to be endearing to Japanese viewers who find their first attempts at Japanese culture naive and cute, but it's also just objectively naive and cute, even if you don't really know any better than them. Actually, given how much high school anime I watch, I'm practically on the side of the Japanese viewers at this point... uh but whatever.
The main girl is a huge Westophile who always fauns over the two British girls. It's nice to see an MC who is actually one of the more unreasonable characters, it makes it so the jokes are more oriented around wacky things rather than the wacky characters sort of just "popping in" for punchlines. The British girls are the meek Alice and the spontaneous Karen. Their dynamic is great when they explore Japanese culture. They're both supposed to have "accents" I think but only Karen's is that noticeable (and adorable). They also speak "English" occasionally... really, I think the VAs were doing the best they could, which makes it all the more endearing. This show manages to make even a "technical" limitation into a moe feature! So powerful!
The other two girls are Aya and Yoko. Aya is a pretty standard tsundere in the Kagami mold, right down to the twintails. Yoko sort of teases about their (obvious, inevitable) love for each other, but she's never that insensitive and you can tell she really actually understands Aya's feelings. Likewise, Aya's also not above acknowledging these feelings on occasion. The end result is like... the best pairing I've seen this year, hands down. It's fine to have fun shipping wars and some ambiguity but sometimes they need to have an explicit pairing like this and just knock it out of the park.
The pacing of the show is great... meaning very slow. They get all the classic episodes... studying for a test, summer festival, fishing in the mountains, school festival, Christmas party... there's even a few purely "nothing" episodes, which are always a nice treat. It's great, everything is great. It's so pleasant, so healing. I think really though the biggest appeal is the one that appeals to Shino herself - the blonde hair! Something about the coloring, that golden color... it's just perfect.
1. MONOGATARI SERIES SECOND SEASON
So I think I've established pretty completely that "healing" slice of life stuff is my favorite thing about anime, but it isn't the only thing I like in anime. This has... everything else. Where do I even begin? The second season packs in adaptations of Nekomonogatari (White), Kabukimonogatari, Otorimonogatari, Onimonogatari, and Koimonogatari...
I'm getting the feeling that I might end up writing a whole lot about how much I love this show and why I think it's so great, and there'll be a lot of spoilers, so if you haven't seen it, or don't care, or whatever, you might want to skip it. I'll get the main points out of the way right here, though. NisiOisin is like the gold standard of light novel writing in my (extremely uneducated) opinion. He blends legitimately interesting philosophical discussion, great and lovable characterization, enthralling mystery and suspense, and a great emotional range with the sort of easygoing wit and humor that defines light novel writing. This total medium mastery is matched by Shaft, easily the most progressive and artistic studio working today. They don't mess much with NisiOisin's content, retaining most of his dialogue and even a lot of the narration via intercut title cards. That isn't to say they give it total reverence - some directorial choices, most notably the (perhaps more logistically based) decision to skip some of the novels for the time being, make a lot of sense for the anime format and actually heighten the mystery of the overall plot. For the most part, though, they just set themselves to the task of "performing" the script of the light novels.
And oh my god this performance is through the roof. The VA cast is like one of those crazy ensemble films, except everyone devotes themselves to the role so much that my basis for their voice is now totally oriented around this role. The Monogatari series is known for its dense, rapid-fire dialogue, and hearing these actors work is just a sheer joy, even if I don't know the language. Most of the show is basically just conversations, so the inclusion of even one poor performance or grating voice could ruin whole arcs... however, this is far from the case. The few action scenes also mean that Shaft has almost total freedom to illustrate the conversations however they like. Of course they nail the action scenes 100%, getting beautiful fluid motion with no sloppy off-model frames. But Shaft has more money than God, and it has to go somewhere, so every conversation takes place in just the most absolutely gorgeous settings ever.
I'm getting more and more into mise en scene study in film, so this is probably something that I care really disproportionately about, but the "set design" in Monogatari is like the coolest stuff ever. There are few directors that will construct on both the grand scale and meticulousness of this anime... Kubrick, Ozu, I dunno... but even they had technical limitations. Anime can go so much further. It really seems like Shaft is the only one to realize this potential. Wait, wait, this is supposed to be the quick summary... Uhh, all I'm saying is that the show is very pretty and interesting to look at, on every level.
Okay so great plot, great characters, great voice acting, great animation, great design... what more could anyone ask for? At the same time, though, I have a hard time recommending this to just anyone. I think this is really something that only TROO ANIMUY FANS can appreciate. It really plays off your expectations for the medium and genre. Like, I think the way I and most bigtime anime fans engage with the show is something that's developed from watching so many other shows that are sort of like it. Mainly this is in regards to interacting with the characters. At it's most superficial, the Monogatari series is a harem story - there's all these girls who like Araragi, and he's gotta choose one, or whatever. As Shaft and Oisin are wont to do, there's all sorts of deconstruction and subversion, but as a viewer, you still engage with it as a harem show - you root for some girls, you sort of "aspire to self-insert", etc, etc. I think if you didn't have this tendency to really ship hard and fall in love with moe character designs and stuff, you wouldn't enjoy the show anywhere near as much. But I dunno I might be wrong. If you do feel like watching it, make sure to watch Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari first. Bakemonogatari is great but not quite as good, Nisemonogatari is reeeally polarizing, but it's worth it.
Anyways now I'm gonna look at each arc more in depth and talk about just how good it was. I think if any of these four arcs were released as a standalone show, they'd still have a really good shot of making number 1 on this list.
A great thing about the Monogatari series is that they have all these characters that operate on a duality. Or rather, a many-layered system of dualities. At first, they appear to be one simple thing, usually some endearing character trait. Like Hanekawa is basically a "good girl", just the straight up class rep. archetype. If you're a fan of class rep. type characters - and who isn't? - you'll already like her. But then, of course, Oisin deconstructs this role, forcing you to think about the stress and burden that a real person with this role would have. It's that stress, and the quest to relieve it, that forms the basis of Hanekawa's first arc and her second, the excellent Nekomonogatari (Black). That's great, that's cool, that's multifaceted and deep. But what I love love love is that Oisin acknowledges that fixing these sort of psychological disorders isn't some binary, one-step thing. Hanekawa's acknowledging and acceptance of Black Hanekawa is a continual process, one that she approaches from different angles and with different strategies.
In Nekomonogatari (White), the mystery of the Hystery Tiger isn't immediately even tied to Hanekawa's condition. I remember thinking things like "well, Hanekawa's like 'fixed', or whatever, so this is now her sort of like, battling a new anomaly, all empowered and stuff". It's a great misdirection because when you realize that hey yeah wait Hanekawa's still pretty screwed up emotionally, her home situation is still obviously waaay below acceptable... you feel pretty bad, you feel bad that you didn't think she "ought" to get another arc. I'd say the major "moral" of this arc comes out in the opening scene of the third episode, when Senjougahara really analyzes Hanekawa's character. You realize that, beyond the "class rep who knows everything", the "nice girl who accepts everything" is also an unfeasible, unrealistic archetype. This was actually really profound for me.
Now, even if you didn't like the class rep. archetype, even if you didn't feel compelled by her struggles - and you might, if you didn't like that archetype - there's still something compelling about the character. It's this third layer of deconstruction that I think is really amazing. Not only has Oisin examined the reality of an anime archetype, he's examined an actual aspect of the human condition! I don't really throw that term around lightly. That's some Dostoyevsky tier stuff, right there. Okay, not really, but it is good.
So many execution things here are brilliant, too. The interweaving of these books is really highlighted by the anime format. Araragi's absence is felt so much more as an absence of image and voice than just plot relevance. Furthermore, the promotion of Hanekawa to arc protagonist really highlights the strength of the characterization - you get excited to see her interact with the other characters. They're all so well established that you can basically choose any two and be able to predict the (always enjoyable and interesting) conversation that results. Hanekawa explores other possibilities of being beyond "pure whiteness" through the other characters, and their feelings towards the "perfect" Hanekawa come through - it's all very compelling.
The "missing chapters" and Black Hanekawa running around are great elements, too. The contrast between the Black and White Hanekawa are emphasized more than ever as they both battle the tiger, instead of just work against each other. The tiger is a great villain, too - his voice, his appearance, his abilities, all impart a crazy sensation of unprecedented power. The final battle is fantastic, but I'd give the best scene of the arc to Hanekawa's letter at the start of episode 5. The first time I saw it I remember just being speechless with awe. This had the best OP I had seen that year, too.
Hanekawa's story is beautiful and tragic. I won't say she's whole now, I've made that mistake before, but it's certainly an admirable and convincing improvement. What was once a simple "class rep." character now feels whole and human. Wow, what a great anime. And in just 5 episodes! Wow! What will happen next?
This is supposed to be the Hachikuji arc, right? They go back in time so Araragi can do his homework, and end up trying to save her from her untimely death. The premise starts with a great mix of comedy and straightforward sincerity that contrasts it nicely with the previous arc. Of course, as is standard with time travel stories, they end up changing the future in undesirable ways, and have to run around correcting it and all that. What really sets this apart from a lot of time travel shenanigans plots is that the dramatic implication of their change is actually predictable, if you thought really really hard. It actually makes sense! A time travel plot actually makes sense!
This arc is a great study of contrasts. Araragi's rampage through the past is hilarious, a great mix of the courageous selflessness and totally degenerate selfishness that makes him one of the greatest protagonists in anime. Then, when they get to the ruined future, it really does play well as a post-apocalyptic future. The prevalent tension, the emptiness, the loneliness... the atmosphere is genuinely compelling, even in this bizarre construction. It's also an interesting taste of the potential future when only Shinobu and Araragi, both immortal, are the only ones left. It's a prospect that she hinted at in Nekomonogatari, and I've found it really haunting ever since. We get slices of the town at it's most lively and dead, and the contrasts in design and tone are really great.
Eventually the cause of the apocalypse is revealed. I don't think many people could have predicted it right away, even though it was there if you really looked for it. Beyond that, which is already brilliant, this "twist" works great because it both humanizes and emphasizes the inhumanity of Shinobu. The deconstruction/reconstruction of Hanekawa is great, but it operates through examining an anime archetype through greater psychological realism. But how could you apply psychological realism to an immortal vampire character? There's really no basis to examine the human condition in an inhuman character. Nisio sorta wrote himself into a corner there, huh? If he humanizes Shinobu too much, makes her have the problems of a human, it ruins the entire point of the character. But how do you make the problems of a vampire compelling?
Well, here's how. This ain't Twilight. By contrasting the two possibilities of Shinobu through the time travel plot, we can examine her character in way greater emotional depth while still really emphasizing her vampire qualities. Beyond just being immortal, her power over anomalies and her connection with Araragi give her a sort of confidence and invincibility of character. This is what allows her to lecture Hanekawa, things like that. This is what had to persist through this examination and deepening of character. This isn't a trait that can operate as well after scenes of the character feeling guilty, or helpless, but it's those exact scenes that deepen our connection to her. Ah, but if it's guilt or helplessness at the hands of herself, then it manages to both empower and enfeeble the character. Holy cow that's brilliant.
So the Hachikuji arc ended up being the Shinobu arc. Well, whatever. At least she got her OP, which was the best OP I had seen at that year. And I have to say the best scenes of the arc were still the traditional, gag-machine gun, pun blitzkrieg, theater of demoralization and degeneracy that are the conversations between Hachikuji and Araragi. Especially the one at the end, when they get a little nostalgic about the whole thing... in the context of the "Shinobu" arc, it's just way too heartbreaking. But we'll get to that.
Ah, the Sengoku arc! I looked forward to this so much. In her first arc, she did some creepy things, yeah. But she was just troubled! So cute!! And in Nisemonogatari, she probably went over the line, but did you see that outfit! Oh my god, SO CUTE! Sengoku was probably my favorite character, she was so cute. The voice, the hair, the clothes, the mannerisms. Like, have you seen Renai Circulation? It's the most adorable OP in history.
Do you see the problem here? I sure didn't, because I'm stupid. Nisio brilliantly deconstructs the impossibilities of the class rep. girl and I applaud him and anticipate it, but here we have Sengoku, who is way more extreme an impossible archetype. Beyond just the anime tropes of an intelligent pretty responsible kind cute class rep girl, Sengoku represents modern anime's ceaseless drive to make these girls even more smart, more pretty, more responsible, more smart. And she's a failure of it, right from the start! Her whole arc in Bakemonogatari comes from an ugliness of character, her love for Araragi is twisted and idealized, the whole undercurrent of Nisemonogatari shows her utter lack of agency in the face of Kaiki's plotting... but I overlooked it all! Because she was cute, I overlooked it all!
Which is, of course, the whole point, and the crux of Otorimonogatari. But I was shocked when I saw the flash-forward at the start of the arc. Shocked! Because I'm stupid. I was shocked when I saw her (which is one of the best performances I've ever seen). Because I'm stupid. And when she swallowed the snake, when she started to rampage... Well, by that point, I had started to see my mistake. See, this is what I mean when I say this show works best when you engage it with an experience in anime. I saw what I wanted to see with Sengoku. I wanted to see the most moe cutest most adorable girl in anime history and I found it. I fell into the same trap everyone else did. It's something that could have happened only in this medium, in this genre. I dunno, maybe other people saw it from another, more distanced perspective, like Kaiki sees her in the latest arc. Maybe they still liked it, I dunno.
Anyways, like Hanekawa, the redemption and humanization of Sengoku is a multi-step affair. The exposure of her "true self", her twisted love for Araragi, etc... these were certainly big steps, but a psychotic snake-God fixated on revenge isn't really the healthiest place for someone to be. However, we know a part 2 to Sengoku is happening in Koimonogatari, airing now. And Oisin prolly realized he had the momentum of success that he could definitely do a part 2 to the story later, so he knew he could really leave it on a cliffhager. And ha ha do they ever. This also had the best OP of any anime ever.
Ah, here we go. The real Hachikuji arc. Like Shinobu, Hachikuji's character is unique and interesting, but not really one that can be expanded on in a lot of ways. As a human, sure, there's the unresolved tension of meeting her mother, but as a lingering ghost - an anomaly that leads people astray - there's not a lot to work with. She isn't really a super deep character with emotional issues or stuff like that, she's all about the comedy. Her rapid juxtaposition of puns, slapstick, and twisted moral quandaries is unique and deep humor, but it's one that usually serves to enlighten Araragi, not really deepen our connection to her. At the same time, her fragile existence as a ghost - occasionally and hauntingly hinted at, highlighted in- and her mysterious and arbitrary appearances and disappearances gave the character a compelling sort of fragility and rarity, like a rare enemy encounter in an RPG that drops really good loot.
It's this last quality that comes out in this arc. Like the Shinobu arc, if you thought really hard about the series, you might be able to predict the problem before it's explained. The idea of the "law" of this consuming void that deletes "malfunctioning" anomalies is, of course, new to the viewer, and still is pretty mysterious, but the whole issue of Hachikuji no longer doing her "job" has that great quality of being obvious in retrospect but obscure in foresight. This arc has a sense of overall mystery while also having a lot of micro-level confusion and ambiguity.
Once again, the arc manages to establish an aesthetic that's not only new to the show, but feels fresh and unique, period. The combination of the dread of the darkness, the bizarre Ononoki, and the beautiful and serene locations of the classroom, the forest, and Gaen's home... The closest thing I can compare it to would be the ending areas of some Final Fantasy games. Shinobu's story shows Shaft delving deeply yet again into an entirely different style of storytelling - the art here is just objectively fantastic, and shows that Shaft is way more than just a rich studio that can throw budget at things. The story also works on all the same "deepening without normalizing" principles that I praised Kabukimonogatari for.
And that's what ends up happening with Hachikuji, too. We're able to connect with her character on a deeper level without losing her unique characteristics. The rarity and fragility of her existence is fore-fronted, making all her puns and jokes feel all the more precious. And I'm not usually one for the traditional sappy ending, I'm not one to praise unilateral self-sacrifice as a particularly compelling ending, but Shaft... I can't say I cried, but I damn well came close.
Now we get something completely different. I wasn't expecting this, I figured the resolution to the Sengoku arc would be endgame stuff. Underestimating Oisin has delighted me yet again. Here we have Nisemonogatari antagonist Kaiki as our hero, Senjougahara as instigator, and Sengoku as villain... Huh? I love how these arcs have played with switching around the roles of all the characters, dividing and reorganizing them. It's a testament to the strength of the designs, that any subgroup or permutation of position seems inherently exciting. Plus, it further hypes up the characters who can freely transcend these roles... Gaen and Ougi, etc. We'll get to that later, maybe.
Anyways, the contrast between Kaiki and Araragi as protagonists is really compelling and often hilarious. It goes back to this idea of the unique way anime fans engage the series in the harem genre. Araragi, as the harem protagonist, gets a sort of special treatment. It's expected of him, both for the viewers and in the world of the show. In typical Shaft/Oisin fashion, these rules are always being played with and deconstructed. Watching him negotiate these rules, whether he flies by them or abuses them, is what makes Araragi such a great protagonist. Kaiki, as a former villain, has a set of rules expected for him, too. But he doesn't really play with them at all.
Kaiki seems like a real human being. More than any other character in the series, really. Sure, one of the genius things is how reasonable and deep they can end up making anime archetypes like the genki girl or the tsundere, but Kaiki goes even further. He's just very, very reasonable. He acts in his own interests, but isn't one-dimensionally pragmatic. He has flaws and weaknesses, tendencies and habits. He feels like what he is - an adult in a world of children.
On the other side is Sengoku, the most childish of all. Kaiki's cross-examination of her character is yet another way for Oisin to deepen a character without nullifying what makes them so unique. I keep rambling on about this "technique" or whatever... I hope it's making some sense, 'cause I think it's something that's screwed up a lot in writing and I think Oisin basically nails it. It's like, the typical way of doing it, is you have your protagonist who meets a character who is really strange and unique, and that's compelling. But eventually you want the reader's relationship with that character to deepen, and usually you do this by having the character face some problem, and the protagonist/reader realizes that the character's problems aren't that dissimilar from theirs, and it's like, endearing and stuff.
Okay but the problem with this is that when the character's problems aren't that dissimilar from the protagonist, that's... kinda lame, right? Like, it goes against what makes the character so unique and compelling in the first place. "Wolfman worries about being asked to the prom, too!" or whatever... sure, but isn't like, "Wolfman battles sheep eating crisis" way more compelling? Of course, it's harder, because you have to make the reader care about the sheep eating crisis, which is harder than something they can immediately relate to. But that's way better, right? I dunno. The other way isn't the worst thing, it's way better than just leaving the character as a one-dimensional oddity, I figured before I saw this season that that's what we'd get, "ghost girl and vampire girl and snake god girl are reasonable people deep down", and I was okay with it, but this is way better. Do you get it?
Well, whatever. My point is that Kaiki and Sengoku, one extremely reasonable and understandable, and one extremely unique and baffling, are both compelling characters that viewers develop a very strong attachment to, and that this mix of reasonable and unreasonable and those in-between is what makes this arc so compelling. And the ending, oh man, that "twist", if you could call it that... How can one little revelation both explain so much, and be so surprising, both feel so unexpected and yet so satisfying? Kaiki's final speech to her is some of the realest shit I've ever seen. Inspirational, honestly, inspirational. Great OP, too. Did you catch the fact that Sengoku loves eighties anime? Man, I love this show.
With this season, this series has moved from a "top ten probably" to a "solid top 5" and maybe even "top 3". I really feel like I've failed to express why. It's so much more than just the characterization or the topics, those are just what I felt like I could explain easiest. It's the atmosphere, the structuring, the mise en scene... things where I feel like I could ramble on and on just to explain one shot, and then feel like I'd just have to start right over again with the next. It's that varied, and yet that consistently awesome.
And oh man am I excited for what's coming next... In the ways of the best shonen - One Punch Man and One Piece come to mind - Oisin has teased us with future developments. Ougi and Gaen, specifically... like the bosses of future shonen arcs, he's made these characters so fascinating that it makes me giddy. There's a sense of escalation where I'm just sure I'll be blown out of the water yet again.
And yes, Kizumonogatari and Hanamonogatari will eventually get adapted. Please have faith.
Next I'll do my top albums list, I think. Please have faith.