Monogatari Series Second Season – Shifting Perspectives and Studying Light Novel Structures

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There is one aspect in Monogatari Second Season which made it an unique highlight different to that of previous seasons, focusing on other characters – by actually shifting our perspectives on the other characters aside from the all-familiar series’s protagonist, Araragi Koyomi.

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Before I continue, here’s a narrative structure I see in a lot of light novels. Taking advantage of it’s textual format, there are a lot of monologues and soliloquies – these can be on how the character is facing certain dilemma at the moment, or how they feel about their current situation or environment or so on. These aspects of light novel helps us delve into the characters in a more personal, emotional and immersive level, even more so if the story was told from a first-person perspective. Now, seems familiar?

Monogatari Second Season did exactly that. Focusing on other characters aside from Araragi, the side of the story on other characters are shown to us in a more literal, visual and immersive manner. Their emotions – all of the struggles they are facing while trying to conquer their inner flaws, or to solve a certain problem, all feels incredibly personal and emotional. It really does help us connect to them in a much deeper level.
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That day, I was at some famous shrine in Kyoto, Japan. It’s New Year’s Day. I was at a shrine on New Year’s Eve to ring in the new year, so to say.

…and that’s a lie.

It was partially for fun, to observe visitors throw away money, more important than their lives, as if it were nothing but trash. I came to a shrine to study the ecology of people of that nature.
~by Kaiki

Perspective shifts themselves are also pretty common in light novels too, first-person or third-person alike. As there are no direct pictures for literal information, we discern the shifts of perspectives of different characters by analyzing the personality of these very characters, and how they interact with their surroundings. In Monogatari Second Season, there was a part where the perspective shifted to Kaiki’s, and you can clearly see how different he interacted with the surroundings compared to Araragi. For example, have Araragi interact with some of the heroines of the show and it will immediately turned into a harem/ecchi commedy. Try to do the same to Kaiki, and in contrast, he will be indifferent to the scene unfolding right in front of his eyes, perhaps with a few sarcastic remarks to boot too.

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Shaft made an interesting direction that really does literally tell us Monogatari is indeed a light novel. The perspective shifts is one thing but there is also one other visual element that Shaft really utilized well – the rapid flashing of words in certain frames which I would assume were coming straight out from the light novels themselves, and give further insights to the scenes and characterizations. However, using abstract symbolism, various unique visual metaphors are manifested in the anime, interpreting the events from the original textual light novels in very artistic ways.

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If there is one thing I like about Monogatari, it is how they adapt the textual novel scenes with such abstract, vibrant metaphors, yet, retaining the features of it’s original medium – light novels, and in Monogatari Second Season, the constant shifts in perspective contribute much more to the aspect that makes the series an artistic and literature masterpiece.

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11 thoughts on “Monogatari Series Second Season – Shifting Perspectives and Studying Light Novel Structures

  1. Kizumonogatari where?!

    I definitely agree that Monogatari showcases much of what LN’s are capable of; but more so I attribute it not only to Shaft’s creativity (though they do contribute immensely), but also to Nisio’s natural narrative expertise. As a writer he’s always been good with establishing his characters, so much so that they can easily be distinguished even from a first person perspective – and that’s not an easy task in writing at all. Translating that to the screen is left to the production; and Shaft, particularly Shinbo, has been spot-on in doing so.

    A lot of stuff can get lost in the transition from text to anime, and it’s unavoidable. Internal monologues/soliloquies have so far been improving as of late (Monogatari and Yahari as recent examples); but literary tricks are for the most part restricted still. For instance, the opening chapter of Koimonogatari (a narrative switch from Senjougahara to Kaiki) is one the best mindscrews ever, but it doesn’t work anywhere else – which is why I believe Shaft left it out. For readers of HakoMari, the same would be true in trying to adapt the first novel (Hoshino mistaking Mugi for Kokone).

    For the most part, as you said, Monogatari gets around it by using abstract visuals; scenes that are not meant to mean much, but at the same time they are scenes that you cannot really imagine on your own while reading the novel – the scaffolding at the cram school, Koyomi’s ridiculously large bathroom, the snake shrine. All meant to take you into that dialogue, and probably compensate as well for what it can’t show you through words.

    • Indeedwhere!?

      Ahh Nisio Isin, from what I can see from Monogatari anime, I definitely agree with his ability in characterizing his characters. Also, from some of the “flashing text” scenes in the anime which I assume it’s from the light novels itself, I notice he’s particularly good with wordplay, to the point that even the seemingly most simplest of scenes can become a total mindscrew, especially with the way he worded it out.

      Ahh OreGairu, I think the protagonist of that show, Hachiman has a very “colorful” character too xD His pessimistic behaviour are totally reflected into his monologues. Again, I didn’t read the LNs, don’t think the translation progress for it is active, but if it is, I’m definitely going to read it, just to immerse myself into his almost humorous pessimistic monologues xD Ahh, that vague first-person identity trick. I seen some LNs did that, HakoMari, like the scene you highlighted, DDD, and even Monogatari. Indeed, this is something which anime or other media with visual qualities might have problems adapting :p
      Indeed, you just take the words right out of my mouth, and don’t forget Araragi’s banana sofa! I’m sure that must be representing some kind of metaphor… xD

  2. I don’t agree that Monogatari is the best that light novels are capable of, but I do think it does a lot of interesting things with the format. It was probably only in the second season that the formula really started to work on me at all, but I’m glad it showed what it was capable of.

    (kizumonogatarifilmwhen?)

    • From all the light novels-originated anime, Monogatari always indeed has that unique, wacky flair that makes it different from the others. Though my “masterpiece” assertion for Monogatari is purely from my subjective opinion, so take that as you will xD

      Lol, everyone is asking this xD

  3. More sexology and intricate conversations and less Araragi make OG a very happy boy. I am ready to forgive Shaft for the blasphemy that was Nisemonogatari and watch their shows again, particularly Nisekoi.

  4. Monogatari S2 truly is a brilliant work, and it’s one of my favorites of 2013, second only to the greatness that was White Album 2. Monogatari S2 added substantial characterization and really took the characters in new directions and I very much appreciated that. The perspective shift was a big part of that, as a good half or so of the arcs were given from the view of characters that weren’t Araragi and it was a very pleasant change. Nekomonogatari: Shiro was a nice start to the season with more on Hanekawa’s perspective and it was nice seeing a sense of closure with her interactions with Araragi. But I think where things got really interesting was Otorimonogatari with Sengoku at the forefront. Bake established her as being the shy, quiet, timid girl you’d come to expect from her appearance, yet Otori did an amazing job of building on the darker aspects of Sengoku’s personality and her character was handled very well. Beyond Otori, however, the undeniable highlight of S2 for me was Koimonogatari and the brilliance that is Kaiki. I found Kaiki to be an intriguing character in Nise but wasn’t all too attached to him then, but Koi really flips your opinion on his character and the more that is revealed of him, the more I came to love him. Beyond being a gripping tale that brought fantastic closure to the season, Koimonogatari presented some fantastic themes and made Kaiki much more than I had ever anticipated he could be, and in a cast that I absolutely could not pick a favorite for back when I first started Monogatari and caught up (which, at the time, was around the middle of Nekomonogatari: Shiro), Koi solidified Kaiki as not only my favorite of the series but one of my favorite characters of all time.

    The flashing words very much fit the Shaft style and I always found it interesting how they gave (literal) flashes of the thoughts of the characters and more detailed bits of what was going on in their heads, even if such information wasn’t always substantial or necessary. One of these days I really want to read through the LNs for Monogatari to see how the storytelling compares, the series is presented so brilliantly through the anime medium and I wonder just how captivating the source material is given how well LN tropes seem to be displayed in the adaptation.

    • I found out I rarely talk about White Album 2 (or perhaps I just couldn’t find the chance, or it completely passed my mind or something), but it’s definitely one of the best romance anime I had watched for the year, or perhaps even several years to come. I remember I watched White Album 1 but I don’t know why it doesn’t catch my attention as much, in fact, at some point, I almost forgot I actually watched it, lol.

      It is indeed a very refreshing change by shifting the perspectives on some other characters. Similarly, I was also the most fixated on Sengoku and Kaiki’s arcs, while watching the previous Bake and Nise, these two characters no doubt only showed us viewers their “outer” appearances. We did not see their inner characters as much, at least not as much as what Monogatari Second Season had shown us. Sengoku in particular, is incredibly shoking, lol. A seemingly, cute, adorable and shy girl can be turned so outright twisted. Interestingly, I heard that Sengoku’s arc is the least interesting arc for LN readers, it just goes to show the capability of Shaft’s creativity. Additionally, another main highlight of the show is Hachikuji, the ending to her arc is just so bittersweet.

      I would like to read it myself but from what the bits and pieces of what I heard, the novels are a philosophical mayhem, lol. At one point, Araragi discusses about white or black panties with his sister for almost five full pages, not sure if that’s good or bad, but I’m definitely curious xD

      • WA2 seems to be relatively under the radar, it feels like a lot of the people who have seen it value it a lot but it’s one that’s far from widely recognized (and the fact that the 2 probably repels newcomers likely doesn’t help this). That said though, I have a lot of love for it and it surpassed my expectations immensely, a friend recommended it to me and I just didn’t believe it was capable of being that great, yet it ended up being my latest 10/10 (and the first one I’ve given since I finished Geass about a year and a half ago, and it’s scary that it’s seriously been that long since I watched it) and it’s certainly one of my favorites now. It’s such a well-constructed romance and I feel it’s one of the great one-cours out there, I almost always feel that one-cours either rush the pacing or skip out on some development opportunities (sometimes even both), yet I felt WA2’s story (or at least this portion of this) was absolutely perfect for its length and everything just felt right as it was. It seems like a lot of people didn’t like WA1 nearly as much and I heard it wasn’t so great, but just because I loved WA2 so much I really do want to watch it just to see how it is and to experience it. Can’t hurt to get a better understanding of the context for some of the original WA songs, though Todokanai Koi is by far the standout song for me and that won’t be in WA1 for obvious reasons.

        Anywho, back to Monogatari, S2 really made things interesting by switching it up. The other seasons only scratched the surface on some of those characters, but Sengoku and Kaiki were fleshed out so much with the new perspectives provided for (or rather, from) them. Sengoku’s characterization really turned the series on its head, presenting a character that seemed lovable and innocent into a warped, twisted yandere-esque character with psychological issues and a bizarre love complex, and this did a lot for her depth that I would never have predicted from the brief appearance she made in Bake. It’s strange that the arc wasn’t as interesting to LN readers though, I’ve heard that pacing and content presentation for some of the other arcs wasn’t the best in some of the other arcs (I heard this particularly with Kabukimonogatari) so it could be that those were even better in the LNs so I’m curious about those. But it could just as easily be Shaft doing a brilliant job of presenting that arc too, the intro to that arc was a huge shocker and the way the storytelling built up to how things got to that point was very clever. And Hachikuji’s departure was quite an emotional moment, I wasn’t a big fan of Onimonogatari and it was my least favorite arc (though as far as world building and establishing a foundation for future arcs, particularly involving Ougi, I’m sure it’ll be completely necessary) but that conclusion was very powerful and convinced me to bump S2 up to a 9/10 when I was on the fence. That was only solidified with Koimonogatari right after, and if anything that arc brought it up to more like a 9.5/10 for me.

        That sounds quite bizarre indeed, I’m not sure what to make of it but it’ll at least be interesting to experience for better or for worse. Come to think of it, I’m really wondering just how the toothbrush scene from Nise is presented in the novels, I imagine that’d be a really awkward read.

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