Nekomonogatari (Kuro)

April 5, 2013

Any one of us here likes cat girls? So okay. Maybe that has really nothing to do with Nekomonogatari (Kuro). But I’m sure you would already get the hint. This series is another one of those many Monogatari stories and this one is precisely a prequel to Bakemonogatari. As the title indicates, this is a story arc on one of the main girls in Bakemonogatari, Tsubasa Hanekawa. This is what happened to her during the holiday season of Golden Week that caused her to have that split cat personality. And how Koyomi Araragi got involved of course.

Episode 1
Tsukihi is serious in killing Araragi in bed with a crowbar!!! HOLY SH*T!!! She feels she doesn’t stand out much like the rest and wants to go for the yandere route?! Actually she previously woke him up and he got the guts to go back to sleep. No wonder she’s pissed. Yeah. Seriously. She really wanted to kill him. Thank God he evaded. Once things have calmed down, big brother wants to talk about… Love. Yes, he is serious. Who else can he rely on for love advice? He’s saying that he might be falling in love with a girl in his class whom we shall know as Miss H. Of course Tsukihi is shocked but Araragi wants to know when is it one realizes one is in love. After punching him in the gut for such dumb question, Araragi goes into explanation how much he loves Miss H. From seemingly stalking her to even stop buying porn! I guess that’s too much information. Noting that Tsukihi has a boyfriend named Rousokuzawa, he wants to know when she concluded she was in love with him. Her answer seems ambiguous with lots of ‘somehow’ and ends up thinking after all that excuses to think whether you’re in love or not, she feels you’re pretty much in love if you always want to be with someone. So Tsukihi decides that he has fallen in love. If he says he thinks he might have fallen in love, why not believe that he is in love? Since it’s just falling in love, Tsukihi thinks it’s nothing to worry about too much. The list of examples given next is what she constitutes pretty normal. Till he mentions about touching boobs. That’s not normal. He wants to touch them since well, that’s love, right? Tsukihi even allows herself to let him try it! Freak out! Maybe he doesn’t know how to touch a girl’s tits because it hurts like hell! I don’t know. Tsukihi says it’s just a test. To prove that he had no interest in little breasts like these. She just admitted being flat like a panel… To summarize, Tsukihi points out he mistook his libido for feelings of love. There is a danger he might fall in love with someone he doesn’t like just because of the breasts. He thought he could fondle his sisters’ boobs if ever such cases arise but I don’t think they want to sacrifice themselves for such silliness. They rather sacrifice him. So to solve his sexual frustration, Tsukihi allows him to go buy his porn magazines. Karen then comes back all wet. But it isn’t raining outside. That’s her sweat. Holy cow! Her what?! She just ran a full marathon. Holy cow!!! Araragi now asks Karen how does one figure one is in love. Her answer is short and simple: If you want to make babies with that person, you’re in love. Right on the dot.

Later when Araragi goes out, he chances upon Hanekawa (Miss H, I presume). I don’t know why but the first thing he did was flip up her skirt! Nice view of her black pantsu, eh? Of course he gets slapped but Hanekawa still finds him a kind and nice guy. As they walk along, they talk about families. Despite Araragi always having troubles with his sisters, Hanekawa points out it is what being a family is. She doesn’t have one. Despite being and only child, she has no parents or grandparents. From her confusing description, her current parents are not her real biological parents. That would mean they don’t consider her kindred to them. She always used to think it was possible to be a family without being blood related but that seems like fairytale now. Araragi asks about the bruise on her face and she wants him to keep it a secret and not tell anyone. Not even his sisters. Her father hit her. Before he can say anything, she wants him to look from her dad’s perspective. Imagine being a 40 year old and a 17 year old talk back to you like she knows everything. Vexing, isn’t it? Araragi is perplexed since she is sticking up for someone who is not her real dad. He can’t keep the promise so she will do anything to keep his mouth shut. Anything? Suddenly it’s like he scored a goal because he becomes excited to think what kind of stuff he should do to her! Yes, opportunity is knocking on his door. What to do? What to make her do?! He’s going crazy just thinking what he should ask her. Too many options to choose. Hanekawa thought he should have been touched by her sincerity and swear eternal silence. What’s that? Screw that says he?! Now he’s becoming the worst. What is pissing him off more is his indecisiveness! So much so he can’t remember the topic they were discussing minutes ago and even his name! That bad, huh? He even starts twisting that wish thinking he may do anything he wants on her forever. Luckily that is a cue for her to add a ‘clause’ that he can only do it once. Sheesh. So has he finally decided what he wants to do? In the bushes… He wants to… Lick her wound. Lick… What? Why? Remember he has lingering side effects from being a vampire and has healing attributes. He suggests she keep that bandage on to avoid suspicion but Hanekawa says her parents aren’t the kind who cares. They might not even remember her face. Araragi goes home as he went out to release his pent up frustration. Now he ends up more depressed.

Episode 2
Araragi pays Shinobu a visit. She seems to take a liking for his doughnuts he bought for Oshino. Can’t resist them. I’m not sure about that dog training he made her do before letting her devour the entire box. He feels guilty for turning her into this state. She hadn’t say a word ever since and her expression is always sullen. With Oshino coming in, he advises him not to bully her too much or he’ll regret it. So as they talk about environment influencing a child’s behaviour, Oshino’s ultimate advice to Araragi is that if he screws around too much, his influence may end up becoming negative. But the real topic is on Hanekawa. Oshino knows something must have happened that Araragi can’t talk about it. Yeah. The promise. He works the other way instead. Instead, tell what he can say about Hanekawa because it’s not like he is forbidden to speak about her. Araragi explains about his day beginning with Tsukihi right up to his meeting with Hanekawa and omitted the parts she wanted him to keep secret. After that, Hanekawa spotted a dead cat on the road and picked it up. Oshino hopes it is not a silver tailless cat. What do you know? That’s what it is. Is it that bad? It is. Oshino says that is a curse cat and is an oddity he is collecting. Because Hanekawa is not normal, something simple might turn into an earth shattering incident if she gets involved. Oshino will go exhume the cat’s body while he has Araragi go check on Hanekawa. In person. Make sure she is safe by actually seeing her and pay attention to her eyes. As Araragi cycles along, he sees a sexy cat woman. Could that be Hanekawa? Looks slightly different. But what makes him think it is her? Her black pantsu… Oh. That. Cat woman tosses to him the unconscious body of Hanekawa’s parents and wants him to help out in disposing them. He can even kill them if he wants. Cat woman walks away but Araragi isn’t done yet. Big mistake. Because it riles her up as she tears his left arm!!! HOLY SH*T!!!! She scorns him this pain is nothing to what her master endured for so long and that now she has her, Hanekawa doesn’t need family, friends or even herself. She’ll free her master and release the huge stress she’s under. After she’s gone, Araragi calls the ambulance, partly attaches back his hand (remember the healing attributes) and watches his blood slowly evaporate.

He picks himself up and the next thing he knows, he has slept a full 12 hours and wakes up in Oshino’s place. Thanks to Shinobu, his arm’s healing is more effective when they’re closer to each other. Oshino mentions he picked the wrong opponent. Not so much his enemy but more with the match up. The cat curse has more damaging affect to his wound. Araragi understands the energy drain as his immortality got torn off with his left arm and that it is a threat to vampires. But Oshino corrects him that what he meant for match up was his personality. Not that the curse cat and a vampire had equivalent power. Although vampires can use energy drain, it is not exclusive to them. The curse cat can also use it but is not as powerful. As vampires are king of oddities, to them the curse cat is just a weakling. Oshino couldn’t find the carcass of the cat in the grave, which means the situation has taken a turn for the worse. He wants him to go home and rest to avoid his family getting worried unlike Hanekawa. Well, his handphone had 146 missed calls and 209 mails! I guess you know it’s from whom, right? Araragi still wants to help and he can’t leave Hanekawa alone after going through such a thing. Oshino says to leave it to the pros this time. He apologizes for getting him involved and what more, got injured. He views himself as a failure as a Balancer as he disregarded the textbook course of action and did something that went against his policy. Araragi has done more than enough. He can’t help Hanekawa in whatsoever way. What he lacks is skill and ability and it’s not the matter of what he feels. It’s his responsibility and his job to not get in his way.

Episode 3
Araragi sneaks into Hanekawa’s house. He saw something that made him so scared that he ran back home hugging Tsukihi! Till she wanted to kiss his worries away. Anyway the sisters are worried he ran into a cat monster because she heard rumours it was attacking random people. That explains the calls and SMS. When she mentions Karen is making preparations to go cat monster hunting, Araragi feels in a pinch. He can’t put them in danger so he lies that he is so scared that he can’t sleep without them around. Tsukihi is so happy and manages Karen to drop her hunting plans and stay home. Yeah, let the police handle that. That night Araragi ponders about being disillusioned in love especially about the ridiculous love talk with Tsukihi but he can’t help stop thinking about Hanekawa. He notices there are 6 rooms in Hanekawa’s house but none of them belonged to her. For 2 days, Araragi went to school but finds Hanekawa absent. When he visits Oshino, he is shocked to see that guy badly beaten up though he is in the midst of healing himself. He got into a fight with the cat monster and lost. Twenty times. Oh sh*t! I guess her black pantsu was a big distraction, eh? Araragi is baffled that if the cat curse is weak and a low level oddity, how come he lost? I mean, even Oshino mentions an amateur can deal with it if they put their brain to use. Firstly he didn’t want to get Araragi involved. Secondly, as a curse cat, it pretended to play dead and possessed whoever approaches it out of pity. This time it was Hanekawa. The curse cat may not be powerful but remember, Hanekawa is an honours student. That means she has the brains and with the physical body, they make a deadly combo. All the techniques he used on her had no effect and even odder that the oddity used tactics and strategies to attack people. Oshino believes Hanekawa still exists inside the curse cat. Her strength shows that a large part of Hanekawa’s consciousness is still intact and this wouldn’t have happened if both the mind and body were completely taken over. This might be bad news but it still gives hope that they can save her. They better salvage Hanekawa’s consciousness while it still exists and exterminate the monster cat or else she will disappear from the face of this planet for good. Explaining about balance (light exists because of darkness, etc), it is a cat because of facade. There is no human who is perfectly fair and virtuous so in Hanekawa’s case, her stress piled up when she insisted on becoming such perfect human. The real danger is if the outcome is of that she hadn’t been possessed by the cat at all but they have to do something before she completely merges with it.

Next day Araragi goes back to school, sit on Hanekawa’s desk and licks it! WTF?! Cat woman caught him doing that. Pervert! She mentions she wouldn’t really want to tangle with a vampire. But with her master’s knowledge, she was even able to overwhelm an oddity specialist. Araragi wants to know why she attacked random people. For distraction. Call it a stress buster. Noting that Araragi has entered Hanekawa’s house (cats have good sense of smell), she explains Hanekawa has been living under that household for 15 years. Imagine the pressure they put on her. Thus playing pranks on people relieves her stress and have nothing to do with the curse. Because she usurped Hanekawa’s mind, she understands how she feels and wants to lend a hand in her stress busting. But to attack random people? That’s where the fun is, attacking strangers. Also noting that she has a more mellow personality than they first met (I’m sure he’ll remember her for tearing his arm off), this shows there has been a positive effect. The stress busting will end if she attacks 500 more people. That’s a lot more to go. He wants Araragi to tell Oshino not to interfere and to leave the saving of Hanekawa to her. This is her way of repaying her debt although she is not obliged to. When Hanekawa buried the cat, she did hold a funeral but she was void of any emotions. Hanekawa’s only desire is to be a normal girl and to a point she would follow rules and laws. Though it is common sense to pick up dead cats and bury them, the common folks won’t even if they knew it was the right thing to do. But Hanekawa would. And she will do it without emotions. Like a machine. She may have been given lots of funerals but none were on par like Hanekawa’s. That’s why she felt inclined to save her. She reminds Araragi to tell Oshino not to interfere (or else she’ll sue him for animal cruelty) because she could’ve killed him on the first round.  She didn’t as Hanekawa is a friend of Oshino and held back. In short, if you want to help, don’t do anything. Araragi points out that her parents are the stress source. Even if she finishes attacking 500 people, going back to that house means resetting it. Then she’ll just keep beating them up till they stop coming back. Araragi knows he can’t touch her or else he’ll be cursed. Cat woman tells him to live a happy live and it’s best not to get involved with her. Araragi laments he loves Hanekawa so much that he can’t even touch her. This feeling of love is of the past. Right now he doesn’t want to be with her. He wants to die for her.

Episode 4
For a week, Araragi kowtowed to Shinobu. After she kicks him, she gives him an oddity slayer demon sword, Heart Bequeath. Oshino tells Araragi that Hanekawa’s parents were discharged from hospital. He talked to them and though didn’t find anything useful to fight against the curse cat, he found out about the slap. It was so hard that Hanekawa flew and hit the wall. But guess what happened after that? Hanekawa politely told him it’s bad to hit a girl’s face. In a smile. That’s what makes it creepy. Though Araragi feels Hanekawa is not wrong, Oshino asserts he is neutral but imagine, living under the same roof with someone so righteous, and her parents aren’t admirable people to begin with, it’s like having their immaturity shoved into their face every single day for 15 years. It’s a nightmare. More amazing they held it in this long without hitting her. Araragi doesn’t want him to further badmouth her or else he will have to kill him. Does he pity her? Don’t be ridiculous. He never feels pity. Unlucky woman turns him on and is just relieving his sexual frustration. That’s a joke, right? I don’t think his serious face is saying that. High school girl with cat ears in underwear. Mmm… I can see why. As explained, Heart Bequeath will exterminate the curse cat and leave Hanekawa unharmed. Oshino warns him that though this might do the job, it will be something that she will be most on her guard and might have took measures to counter it. Araragi is confident it will go smoothly. Another thing he asks him is how he is going to find her. Don’t worry. He has a plan. And it’s not just hoping or wishful thinking. They should each do what they can with their own methods. Oshino won’t interfere even if it ends in bloodbath or tragedy.

As Araragi waits in the abandoned building, he sends a text and after 30 minutes, the cat woman crashes in. At first it was like Hanekawa’s original personality came up worried about Araragi. When she realizes the text he sent about him being attacked by a vampire was just a lie and trap, she changes personality. But Araragi knows she is Hanekawa. Firstly, she didn’t use her cat puns while speaking. He has been her friend for so long that he knows even if her personality changes, her character won’t. Regardless of whether she gets possessed by an oddity or took in one. If somebody is in need of help, she will rush to their aid without second thought. That is who she is. She may be mad at him for lying but also relieved that he is alright. He praises her for being strong and righteous but she is going to be that kind of person for the rest of her life. He wants her to suck it up and give up. How can she? She wonders if he is going to show any pity. No he won’t. She never found out who her biological dad was, her mom committed suicide and failed to get along with her current parents, thus growing up in a cold household. She forced herself to be a normal girl but that is just what she succeeded at. He tells her she is going to go back and live like she always used to with her family. She can be happy or sad after that but she can’t change the fact she had an unhappy past. Don’t use the cat or misfortune as excuse because at the end of the day she is just hurting herself. If she wants to relief stress, he can take care of it and grope her boobs all she wants. Because he won’t play the hero for her, she wonders he hates her. Yes he does. The feeling is mutual for her too. Hanekawa then wishes herself to die. At that time, the cat woman takes over her and since Araragi did mention she will take care of her stress, she will have him die for her. He’s okay with that.

Cat woman lunges at Araragi, splitting his body into half! OMG!!! F*cking gory!!! However she starts squirming in pain. Seems Araragi has hid Heart Bequeath inside his body and when cat woman slashed him, she got cut by the sword too. Cat woman doesn’t know about this so Araragi says even Oshino only knew about this recently. She definitely wouldn’t have fallen for this if she knew such killer item existed. There was a faint chance she might and was just his part of wishful thinking. But looks like she doesn’t and it shows she doesn’t know everything. That’s why he doesn’t want her to act like she does and give up on life. Araragi lies in his dying breath, happy to die for Hanekawa. Though it may solve the cat curse, it still won’t help Hanekawa overcome her stress or resolve her family friction. This is probably what Oshino wanted to warn him about too. Perhaps he too could’ve ended the cat fight in the first round if he wanted to end it this way. Suddenly Hanekawa starts writhing in even more pain. Araragi wonders if the sword had an adverse effect instead. Wondering why the cat is doing this, shouldn’t she be grateful for what Hanekawa had done? Because they’re no longer humans, it was how it was for him. After he was attacked by vampires, Hanekawa never pitied him. She looked at him as an equal. A lifesaver. That’s why he wants her to stop tormenting Hanekawa. Suddenly Shinobu appears and for the first time she speaks. Insults rather. She rips her arm and pours the blood over Araragi so that his body could be as one again. Like as good as new. After all, she won’t let him die so easily as she is his responsibility. She is going to show him how it is done to slay an oddity. Watch and learn. She goes up to cat woman and bites her neck. In an instant, everything dies out. Hanekawa returns to normal.

Next day when Araragi visits Oshino, he sees Shinobu wearing a helmet. Oshino bought it as a present for solving the curse cat case. Oshino mentions Hanekawa has no recollection of what happened during the week. Since her case was exceptional and can’t refer it to as the curse cat, Oshino calls this oddity Black Hanekawa. Apparently, Hanekawa temporarily regained consciousness when she used energy drain on her parents. Her wish was so strong that it dragged the cat back when it was about to leave her. It go absorbed even deeper into her. And thus that is how the new Black Hanekawa oddity was born. On the topic of monsters, Araragi mentions Hanekawa has always been possessed by a monster in the name of family. But she doesn’t consider to have one so how can it be a monster? Maybe the concept of family is an oddity in her eyes. Oshino suggests he marry her to grant her a real family but Araragi dismisses it and that she too has her own feelings. It’s because she has feelings that she can be bewitched. A culprit or even a victim. Oshino thought he was in love with Hanekawa but Araragi brushes it off. He feels this is for the best. But he laments it would’ve been better if Hanekawa leaned on him and sought his help. Oshino says maybe she did. People don’t really look for help by asking to be helped. Araragi narrates how he will someday fall in love with someone other than her. Because she showed him how to sympathize with others so there will surely come a day when he falls in love with one of those people. He will never forget that week in which she lost her memories. No matter what the future holds or the path he takes, these feelings he developed for her can never be denied and will forever stay the same.

The Stories Continue…
As shown right at the final scenes, there are indeed lots more stories to be told in the Monogatari series. Wow. That’s really a lot. They can sure really tell lots of stories.  Everything can be turned into a story. Of course this series serves as an ‘appetizer’ for the continuation for another Monogatari sequel said to be running in July 2013. Whether it will be an extension of the oddities of the current girls we know or new ones, or even more prequel stories has yet to be seen. I will have to see it myself then.

Overall this series is quite okay and still interesting in its own right. The drama and talking may put many off but it is essential to understand the story. You know how the Monogatari series work. An oddity possesses a girl and Araragi goes into action trying to help and solve it. Along the way we see the unfolding of the characters and the drama. We get to delve a little deeper into Hanekawa’s set of problems and just like Araragi figured out, it isn’t really her household to be blamed 100% for her stress. She is to at least partly to be blamed for wanting to keep a perfect righteous facade but underneath it all, a time bomb is ticking. All it took was just a small incident to blow it up from a molehill into a mountain. For those who have seen Bakemonogatari, we know that Hanekawa’s case isn’t completely resolved. But at least now we know the pain and suffering that she goes through. I’m sure Araragi would think twice about dying for her again. Even if he is an immortal, better think twice about dying again and again. It’s a shame that his love story came to a disappointing end but we know he ended up with a much more ‘dangerous’ girlfriend, right? So was it love or was it just lust? Look where this little topic got him to and where he ended up. But it’s good to know where he stands now, right? Hanekawa isn’t really the girl he had in mind, the one who thought he would ideally love.

When the episode first played, I thought I was going to relive all those words bombarding across the screen again. Well, it is the usual SHAFT style and one of this series’ trademarks. Thankfully they subsequently keep that to a minimum because I still feel annoyed if I have to pause and rewind a little just to read that short little message. The art and drawing style is consistent with the Monogatari series with all the interesting angles and different point of views during the conversations. Sometimes I feel when they show the facial close ups at an angle, I don’t know, it makes the character look a little horrible. Unless that is done on purpose. Also, the way they zoom in onto the character’s face and the way they tilt their heads looking at us, yeah, it pretty much reminds me of how SHAFT-like this show is. And sometimes when the characters talk, you can see them doing weird poses. Distraction for us not to fall asleep? Maybe our ears may be doing all the work so they’re going to give our eyes something to be amused of too. There’s another thing I noticed too. Where are all the people? Notice how this series is void of any background or extra characters? It feels hollow that if you think about it, it is creepy enough that as though the only characters you see are the only ones existing in this world.

I’m not sure about this but I noticed that the series is ‘prolonged’ with some side-track story that isn’t completely related to the storyline. What I mean is that in the first episode, 3/4 of it was dedicated on Araragi and Tsukihi. Although it is to play a subtle role for Araragi as he is to figure out what love is, sometimes it feels too long and when I come to think about it, the show could have been shorter if this part was omitted. Don’t get the wrong idea, this distraction isn’t bad. I just happened that in the other Monogatari series something like this also happened. In Bakemonogatari midway during Hanekawa’s arc, the said heroine wasn’t featured and instead it focused on deepening Araragi and Senjougahara’s relationship. Then in Nisemonogatari, Tsukihi’s arc started off with Araragi frolicking with Karen. So do you see a pattern?

Perhaps the prominent factor in this series is the sexually charged up element. That’s how guys like us stick around and watch through almost 2 hours of this oddity crap, right? Unless you’re gay, which normal guy wouldn’t get turned on seeing a cat girl jumping around in sexy lingerie? Even if cat girls aren’t my tea, the point that Hanekawa is well endowed and doesn’t look bad if she ever becomes a lingerie model still catch my attention. It’ll be even better if she cosplayed as a maid. Just saying… And then there’s that WTF moment whereby Araragi groped Tsukihi’s boobs. What was that for if not for fanservice or comic relief purpose for those with flat chest fetish? Then Karen nonchalantly taking off her sweaty clothes (you get to see her sweaty bum shot before that) right in front of her brother like as though she has no shame that he is a guy but just her silly big brother. Besides the fanservice factor, there are at points where the scenes can get bloody and gory. Thanks to the creative visuals, the impact of throwing up upon seeing Araragi lose his arm or his lower body half is lessened. But you’ll still get that revolting impression.

The existence of oddities depends on one’s belief. Some may say it is just a state of mind or blame it all on society as in Hanekawa’s case that made her have a split personality to deal with her household stress. I guess she is like the moe and sexy version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. At least she doesn’t turn green and go round smashing things. Perhaps going around attacking random people for fun doesn’t really cut it either. Would you prefer to have a green behemoth or a sexy cat woman pounce on you? I would have neither!