July 17, 2015

If you figured that a certain protagonist was missing in the sense that she didn’t even have an arc of her own in the second season, that is because they decided to cut that out and put it separately as another season or story. But to some they could consider this to be a continuation or extension of the second season. But whatever it is, for those who love the Monogatari series, that won’t stop you to go watch more stories and of course Hanamonogatari, the story in which Suruga Kanbaru is the ‘star’. Like the rest of the girls, she has her own story to tell and problems to deal with. That is why they gave us 5 episodes for this ‘flower story’ to ‘bloom’…

Episode 1
Kanbaru remembers her mother’s stinging words for her. It was confusing nevertheless. Not that she could understand anyway. When her parents died, Kanbaru lived with her grandparents and could never understand what dad saw in her. To him, he was the cutest girl but Kanbaru always thought her mom was like the devil. Kanbaru wakes up in her messy room, her monster arm tied down. It would be good news if she had not hurt anybody the night before. As she heads to school, she tells us Araragi and Senjougahara are no longer around because they have already graduated. Kanbaru is now in her final year of high school. She meets Ougi along the way. She is puzzled Ougi is dressed as a boy but he says he has always been one. He mentions if she has heard rumours about Sir Devil. In class, Kanbaru talks to her classmate, Higasa who is also part of the basketball team about this. It is believed that if you talked to Sir Devil about your problems, it will definitely be solved. Remembering what Ougi said, this Sir Devil is supposedly a real person, a high school girl who actually goes around helping others. But can she actually be doing this out of mere kindness? Later Kanbaru contacts Karen for her opinion and although she has not heard anybody getting hurt from this, Karen says she doesn’t believe in stuffs like devils and monsters. That’s so fairytale. As explained, there are 3 ways to find Sir Devil based on their difficulty. The easiest being writing a letter, a phone call to Sir Devil is moderate while the hardest is meeting Sir Devil in person. Kanbaru picks the third choice and it seems Sir Devil turns out to be Rouka Numachi, Kanbaru’s basketball archrival during her middle school years.

Numachi mentions ever since she got injured, she had not taken any entrance exam and thus isn’t going to school right now. Because nobody will hire her with such injuries, she has so much free time and what better way than to assume Sir Devil. However she isn’t doing this out of money. She hasn’t taken a penny. So why is she doing this? It is for her own betterment. When she hears other people’s problem, she is assured there are others who are as miserable as her. Also, she keeps all the letters and phone recordings as collection. It’s one sick hobby. Kanbaru didn’t like this and slaps her when she says she is not a basketball player anymore but a counsellor. Numachi tells her not to be so serious. In fact, nobody is worst off when they seek her help. Kanbaru thought she solves people’s problems so they don’t have the right to complain. However Numachi points out she is wrong. She doesn’t do anything. She just listens to their problem and relay this problem to the right authorities who will help deal with it. (If you’re falling asleep right now, surely this little shocker of Numachi grabbing Kanbaru’s breast would wake you up). Then how did rumours Sir Devil will definitely solve your problems surface? Numachi says time alone itself helps the healing. Worried people are assured when they hear somebody assure their problems are taken care of. This makes Kanbaru think that had she endured her problem rather tried to solve it, would not many people have been hurt? Although Kanbaru doesn’t approve of her sick hobby, she lets her go seeing nobody gets hurt. This also has her thinking if a day would come when she can sleep well without taping her arm to the wall. Next morning when she wakes up, she is surprised to find her monster arm is reverted back to a human kind!

Episode 2
Still in disbelief, Kanbaru briefly tells us how she got that monster arm thanks to her hatred over Araragi and because her wish for him to disappear never came true, it ended up incomplete. As she goes jogging, she tripped and injures her arm. It’s painful. Then Ougi comes by to tell her that there was a note yesterday saying that Sir Devil will stop helping people from now on. Kanbaru tries to find Numachi but she is nowhere to be found. A few days later, at the train station, Kanbaru is shocked to come into Kaiki. Instantly she runs away but he runs faster than her and without much effort! Holy cow! I guess the loser has to listen. He wants to talk to her and has been waiting for her here since summer as Araragi and Senjougahara kicked him out of town. He treats her to BBQ meat and Kanbaru is not amused he is playing the good guy. So much so she wants him to do something bad so she can hate him. Not likely. He’s kind enough to cook meat for her. Kaiki explains he knew her mother back when they were in university. Kanbaru never knew her aunt’s name was Izuko Gaen until after she left. Because Kaiki never got along with Izuko, Kanbaru’s mom helped him quite a lot with that. She asked him to take care of Kanbaru if anything happened to her. But that is not the reason why he came to town last year. It was a secondary concern. Her mom never paid him anything so he was not obliged to do so. But since he was in town, might as well check on her.

Kanbaru guesses that Kaiki was in love with her mom because he keeps calling her maiden name. Because by calling her married name, it is like calling the name of the rival he lost out to. He admits he was in love with her but since he had a girlfriend then, he never got anywhere with her. Oddly enough, when Kanbaru asks if she resembles her mom and he says he can’t remember much less than her since it was 15 years ago he last saw her. Kaiki then hands his name card and wants her to call him if she needs help. After all, he did promise her mom. Is he trying to con her? He assures he isn’t. He knows she respects Senjougahara and if she doesn’t stay on her guard to hate him, it is like betraying the senior she respects. That is why he won’t con her. So she can’t hate him. Well, at least he can con others for her. Like she needs that kind of help. She takes up his offer anyway although she remains suspicious. She is surprised when he knows she is keeping a mummified monkey’s paw from her mom. He tells her never to use it. Someone will come to take it and when he does, give it to him. That collector is trying to assemble parts of a devil. Do not refuse. Just give it away. Before he leaves, she asks one last question how he knew she will be at the station. Her friend told him. Who? Higasa? No. Numachi. This opens a lot of questions for Kanbaru. How did Numachi get in touch with him? Why would she do that? Did she realize she was after her? What other information did Numachi tell him? Kanbaru decided not to question all that to keep her monster arm a secret and avoid revealing her knowledge of Sir Devil. Sharing all this information with him would be dangerous. Later Kanbaru contacts Karen with a request to help find Numachi.

Episode 3
Kanbaru confronts Numachi in class and she knows she was the one who stole her monster arm. When did she do it? When she fondled her breast then. Kanbaru realizes she is the collector Kaiki was talking about but whether or not Kaiki knew about this, Numachi says Kaiki always tell half his information. He wants to be the good third party but doesn’t want to be the one deciding the story. To hear more, Numachi tells her to meet at the gym after school. So we see the girls in basketball action. Numachi is doing so much better than her than you wonder if she was faking her injuries. Like it was never there in the first place. After an hour of sweating, it’s time to talk. Kanbaru wants to know what she has been doing for the past 3 years. Numachi teases her that she is the type that likes girls more than boys and starts seducing her. Kanbaru oddly can’t run away (something she is good at I suppose). It ends with Numachi giving her a teasing peck on the cheek. Numachi shows off another cool basketball move that Kanbaru never thought she could pull off. Numachi tells her to forget about the devil’s hand and return to her normal life but to Kanbaru, it signifies the sin she has to bear. Numachi tells her back it isn’t hers to begin with. Revealing her monster arm, it is shorter than it is since Kanbaru’s first wish came true. She left part of her soul that it ate inside her thus the hand reverted to its original size. Numachi then reveals her left leg. A full monster leg.

It all started 3 years ago after some basketball regional tournament where she broke her leg due to some pressure. She adds she was into football in her elementary days but notes boys didn’t like girls when they do better than them in that. It made her question about why some have talent and some don’t. After she graduated, she also moved on from football. Why basketball? Because she wanted to up the challenge. She was good with her legs and now she wanted to try out something with her hands. So after she broke her leg, the funny part was how teammates she never got along with and people who found her obnoxious treated her kindly. Despite all that, she knew her left leg will not be able to play sports again so she quit school and requested her parents to move far away. Before she moved, that was when she discovered her misery collecting hobby. When she was in hospital, one of her teammates visited her. She wanted some advice but Numachi saw what she wanted was to talk about someone who was more miserable than her. Someone like Numachi. At the same time she didn’t want someone to look down on her while giving advice. But Numachi wasn’t mad. Because she felt better after listening to her story. That is when the satisfaction of hearing other people’s misery started to take shape. So Numachi told her she understood her problems and assured she will fix them so she doesn’t have to worry about a thing. This was a big lie and she said it so that she won’t come back the next day to tell her other problems. Before Numachi was discharged, that girl returned with a big relief and thanking her profusely. Numachi couldn’t understand a thing she said except she knew the problem was solved. And that is where her hobby started. She entrusted her with her worries, stopped worrying and in time the problem solved itself. And in time and perhaps from her perspective, Numachi was like somebody who could solve things. This wasn’t an issue for anybody since she was able to save someone and heal her own wounds without much effort. That is when she decided that this would be her life task. She felt she had found a place to die as an athlete. It was the birth of her as a misery collector. Kanbaru knows she hasn’t told her the story of collecting parts of a devil. Numachi gives her a choice: Hear the rest or don’t. She thinks she’ll better off not knowing it but Kanbaru questions her back that it is her who is going to do the choosing: Tell her everything or return her arm. Looks like she’ll be continuing. Be warned, this is a real story of a real devil and hearing it won’t make her feel any better. Too late to turn back.

Episode 4
After Numachi was discharged and left town, that is when her misery collecting hobby start to take off. She took advantage of being new in town to spread rumours that she was Sir Devil and talked to others about their problems. This was also how she met Kaiki. You could say that they share the ‘same business’ although his goal is to make a profit from conning others. Through him (at least his theory), she found that aberrations exist in this world despite Kaiki himself doesn’t believe in monsters or ghosts. The start of her devil collecting began with this girl, Rouka Hanadori. She begged for help in a polite manner and showed her monster left leg. The leg would have a mind of its own and tried to kill her mother. When she realized the cause of her mother’s hospitalization, she became desperate and sought Numachi’s help. Numachi also thought of helping her and that meant she wanted to take her place of having that leg. So she called Kaiki and was told it would cost her. The next morning, her left leg become that monster leg. It was a good thing in a way because it replaced her broken original leg. She continued to wear fake bandages and crutches because people tend to be more open with a handicap. It was very convenient. Shortly, she gained this goal of collecting the devil’s parts. Then she heard of a man who was the opposite of her. He made the misery of others permanent. Each time she hears of this, she goes to ‘fight’ or rather ‘collect’ him. Therefore there are other parts of her body that are now the devil’s and thus she took Kanbaru’s hand for that personal reason. Although she has not even collected 1/3 of the parts, if she does wouldn’t she turn into a devil? True, be she intends to absorb it. That is all to the story. Numachi believes they won’t meet again.

Back home, Kanbaru gets a call from Karen that she has found out something on Numachi. When Kanbaru mentions she just met her, Karen believes it is impossible. Because Numachi killed herself 3 years ago! After getting injured in a basketball game and transferred to a new school, she slit her wrists before graduating. So could that girl Kanbaru saw was a ghost?! She thought of calling Kaiki but ditches the idea. There is no better way than to clear the mind but to take a midnight run. I don’t know how far she ran but she finally tires out and is surprisingly picked up by Araragi. This dude now is driving a car of his own! Kanbaru can’t help feel disappointed and starts teasing the roundness of his Volkswagen model. So she’s talking about the dilemma she is facing now and what would it feel like to be like herself. I don’t know. Shouldn’t she know that better herself? Kanbaru is also in a dilemma in helping others because sometimes things are better when it is best left alone or if it is a good idea to help when others prefer to be in the misery. Araragi doesn’t understand but he what he does understand that she is bothered by it. Bothered enough to take action and that itself is a big deal. If she is bothered by it, so will he. So will Senjougahara. But sometimes when you need help, the only one who can do anything is yourself. Kanbaru has heard lots of things from other people but he points out they are not her. When did she get smart enough to start worrying about others? He has done what he wants all the time so she too should just do what she pleases. If you want to follow someone else’s opinion, go ahead. If you can’t, then fight. Kanbaru feels better now and she decides to fight on. She doesn’t need his help but if she does, probably it’s to help clean up her room! Do that yourself!

Episode 5
Kanbaru finds a package for her. It is the devil’s head. Meeting up with Numachi again, she is not pleased that Kaiki had it all along and tricked her. Maybe he wanted to take all the parts from her in the end or sell it to her. Numachi wants the head but Kanbaru won’t give it to her because she can’t stand looking at her after becoming a devil. Then don’t look! Kanbaru suggests a one-on-one basketball game. They’ll play what they are best at. Kanbaru on offense while Numachi on defence. Numachi gets it if she wins otherwise she will stop her misery and devil parts collecting hobby. Numachi feels there is nothing in it for her but Kanbaru adds if she wins, she will not smash the head. There’s your added incentive. She’ll smash all the other parts too. Numachi is confident she will use the devil parts to her advantage. Even if she loses, she will take it by force. Kanbaru disagrees that she can steal but she can’t take it by force. As Numachi goes to get some shoes to wear, Kanbaru starts shivering because from what Numachi said, she doesn’t realize she is already dead and a ghost. She believes of wandering around and collecting parts and that is how she fills the gaps in her memories. What Kanbaru realizes she is about to do is to tell her old rival that she is already dead. As the match begins, Kanbaru talks about regret (it is better to do something and regret it later than not) as well as how she will eventually forget all this.

Kanbaru knows it will be tough to break through her defence so she uses the basic rule that basketball is a team game to trick Numachi by passing her the ball and then quickly grabbing it back. But Numachi is fast to recover and tries to block her from slam dunk. Eventually she gets the ball in. Kanbaru wins and falls on Numachi. They both start laughing. But Numachi disputes she handed her the ball so doesn’t it mean it is her lost? But Numachi didn’t take full control of it and if she was sure Kanbaru had lost, she wouldn’t have done the blocking. Numachi for once understood the meaning of defeat. Because teammates never passed the ball to her, she never expected that. Halfway talking, Kanbaru realizes Numachi is gone and all that is left behind are the devil parts. Kanbaru realizes she never hated her. She envied her. Kanbaru has a dream talking to her mother about either being the cure or poison otherwise you are just plain water. Numachi was neither that and even so only a muddy water. When she wakes up from bed, she is surprised to see Araragi beside her. She was sleeping naked. Don’t worry. Her body doesn’t turn her on. He prefers his sisters! Arrest this siscon! Kanbaru has a request and that is to give the devil parts to him to feed to Shinobu since she isn’t sure what to do with it. He doesn’t mind. He talks about wishes and his sisters. It doesn’t matter if a wish comes true or not. Wishes are something you grant yourself. The value is in making the wish. Kanbaru has Araragi cut her hair. She probably could have gone to the hair salon but this is her way of ending it. Besides, she wants him to cut it. She also requests to drive her to Numachi’s grave next time. She is in a dilemma whether to continue Numachi’s work of collecting the remaining parts. Araragi doesn’t want her to bother about that because it is best that the parts stay separated. He adds if people find out what she did, they’ll say a lot of things. Some will say she did right and some will say she did wrong. But it doesn’t matter because she did neither the right or wrong thing. It is all part of being young.

Aku No Hana…
Well, well… Like you said it Araragi, it doesn’t really matter, right? I myself am not sure if the story itself is great or not. You can look at it from both sides of the spectrum. Basically, there isn’t anything that spectacular in this story except that it is about Kanbaru trying to lay the ghost of an old rival to rest. And they dragged out the drama and all the other parts and divided it into a few episodes. Like the first episode was the Sir Devil rumours and the meeting of Numachi, the second was the meeting with Kaiki, the third about Numachi’s background, the fourth heavily linked to the third explores further about how she came to have this peculiar habit and finally the last episode on how it is all settled. Parts in between the next episode may feel cut out but I supposed those aren’t important because if they do put in, maybe it’ll drag on for another 5 episodes. Those who are not used to this type of storytelling may find it too long and draggy just for something that doesn’t really end in any spectacular fashion at all. Personally, I was in between too. That sentiment of dragging out a ‘simple’ story had me feeling the drag at times but it is that same reason how they expand and convey the story in a smooth and seamless manner is what makes this entire series –cum-mini-arc interesting. In that sense, it doesn’t feel draggy.

I don’t know if Kanbaru got back her monster arm because she is still wearing those bandages in the end but that could be out of habit. But I don’t think it would be reasonable for her to get it back despite it has been part of her life. As for Numachi, personally it is hard for me to say about her character because I was expecting some kind of major twist about her in the end but all I got was the lukewarm ghost girl thing. She’s dead and doesn’t even know it. Can’t say I am impressed but I didn’t see it coming either because I was intensely trying to listen to the drama and perhaps catch something in it. Speaking of which, maybe that is why the added drama seems to drag out because lots of what they say may or may not be relevant to the storyline. Maybe they all are but a person with limited knowledge on the series may not grasp and connect them together and thus such conversations are just for distractions or a red herring to let your guard down. Like the fanservice between Kanbaru and Numachi is just teasing but with nothing much ado. Or like that big devil revelation story that Numachi warned Kanbaru before proceeding. I thought it wasn’t that scary. Boy, it had me thinking if that story was something horrifying but it wasn’t. Guess she got us, huh? Araragi once again is relegated to being a supporting role just like some of the other arcs in the second season. I suppose this is only fair as this is Kanbaru’s arc (duh!) so what she wants to do is entirely up to her. Araragi can only advice her but the ultimate decision lies in her hands. I wonder if Araragi is thinking about cutting his own long hair. I’m not really used seeing him with it. Looks entirely like a different person.

Like how I commented in all my previous Monogatari blogs, I will also comment it here. I’m talking about the visuals. Yes, the trademark SHAFT visual styles are ever present and fans of the series will definitely welcome it. Otherwise, some may feel that those creative and unique visuals serve as no more than annoying distractions because it would be damn boring if the angles shown during the conversations were just their head shots or character. So it is like while you listen to their drama, feel free to watch the uber cool designs and be in awe with them. Like in the final episode how Araragi ‘cleans’ Kanbaru’s room but in actual fact you’ll see him stacking them up all over the place just to play domino effect. Not relevant to what they’re talking but cool to watch? Then there is also those cool effects during Kanbaru and Numachi’s basketball match where the court is suddenly filled with ankle length water. You wonder what the hell this implication is for but don’t really matter because it just looks cool.

Overall, if you like the Monogatari series, you will also like this one with its deep drama and storytelling. Otherwise if you are a newbie and just jump in to check it out, you’ll not understand a big part of it because this series itself assumes that you know about Kanbaru’s case especially about her monster arm. Therefore if you want to start on this series, do it from the beginning and you better start now because there are lot more Monogatari stories to come. Speaking of which, there is already one that I will be watching very soon… When will it ever end? I hope when I’m dead, I will realize that I’m a ghost and move on. Otherwise I’ll be watching animes forever without realizing I’m already long gone. Hmmm… Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing after all.

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