Wherein we focus on a rather difficult problem for Hanekawa.
What They Say:
At the end of summer vacation, upon the morning of the opening ceremony for the second semester, Tsubasa Hanekawa encounters an enormous tiger on the way to school.
“White. So white… So purely, blandly white…”
Proclaiming Tsubasa as such, the white tiger strides past her and vanishes. Later, Tsubasa’s house is destroyed in a fire. But this is just the beginning of a series of unfortunate incidents for her and the people around her. Koyomi Araragi decides to save her with help from the former “Kiss-Shot,” a legendary vampire.
This limited edition includes a deluxe booklet and a pinup postcard set, with packaging illustrated by character designer Akio Watanabe!
Contains episodes 1-5.
The audio presentation for this release is quite good for a stereo mix as it presents the original Japanese language using the PCM encoding. The dialogue here is what dominates the show to be sure as it comes hard and fast quite often with a lot of placement throughout. There’s some very minor action but the way the mix works is to handle the quick cuts, placement along the forward soundstage and to immerse you in it as best as it can. And it does it very, very well. The nature of the show is one where it has its quiet moments, but when it gets running with the fast paced dialogue and the way it shifts scenes so much, it’s impressive and comes across cleanly and beautifully here.
Originally airing in the summer of 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With five episodes to this part of the season, it’s spread across two discs with three episodes on the first disc and two episodes plus an omnibus episode on the second disc. Shows animated by Shaft really require high definition transfers in order to shine and it does just that here, keeping the bit rate steady in the high thirties throughout, the stills and the strong, vibrant colors it chooses to employ. With a range if styles to be had, the transfer brings it all home in a really strong way with no loss of detail, solid colors and very fluid looking animation that stands out all the more because of the encoding. With so many detailed and interesting backgrounds, being able to soak them up when paused or enjoying them in motion is just all the better with what’s done here.
The packaging for this single case release is pretty nicely done with a slipcase for the Blu-ray case that has a few extras inside that fans will like. The packaging has an orange flavor to it side panels but the main artwork is appealing with its look at Hanekawa in her transformed mode amid the pink moonlight and the red of the construction buildings. The back cover goes a little different as we get a look at Hanekawa in her normal human form sitting on a bench while the surreal nature of the supernatural is all around her as the sun sets, adding a bit more pink layering to things. The package does the solid orange on the side panels with white text and it definitely works nicely. Inside the slipcover we get a great package of postcards with the characters from this arc that are beautifully designed and we also get great twenty page booklet that goes into the show lightly with a lot of character artwork, images from the show and the preview panels in an easier to see form with translated text. It’s not full of really detailed information, but it’s got a great feeling to it and definitely adds some value here. The Blu-ray case basically replicates the front cover artwork with a clean look to it and a white side panel instead of the orange which helps to tie it all together nicely. There aren’t any inserts in here but we do get a nice piece of background artwork on the reverse side of Senjyogahara’s place with all the finished spots and construction beams.
The menu design for the series is pretty good overall with the character artwork along the left having a vibrant feeling, the logo along the right brings some balance. The navigation is kept along the bottom where it tiers upwards as you make selections, though they’re all just a little too small and thin. The text is white on varied color backgrounds depending on the disc and it’s easy enough to read overall but could have used a little more definition. The navigation is easy to move though and the disc defaults to the Japanese language with dialogue only subtitles. It also has the option for dialogue+signs as well as the commentary track subtitles.
The extras for this release are pretty basic as we get the clean versions of the opening and closings as well as the promotions and commercials for these episodes. We also get the first omnibus episode, which was episode six in the season, that retells in compressed form the events of Nekomonogatari Black.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the four part Nekomonogatari Black run of episodes, the property shifted gears to the summer 2013 Monogatari Second Season series, which is getting broken out into the individual arcs for its releases here through Aniplex USA. While part of me really wants to just have the large season sets and absorb the whole thing, the other part of me is quite enjoying the smaller, laser-like focus on the storylines that doing it in this manner affords. And since it’s focused more on Hanekawa than anything else here, especially since Araragi is barely even in these first five episodes, it’s an extra dose of welcomeness for me. Hanekawa simply is appealing both in character and design since there’s a facade there that’s being explored with the whole Black Hanekawa aspect.
This arc has an interesting focus as it starts to get down to some of what’s at the heart of Hanekawa. Similar to other Monogatari arcs, it’s a bit roundabout in how it gets there, but it does all wrap up well. Hanekawa has always felt just a little off in some ways because of how she comes across as the solid student, clean, well spoken and mostly what you’d call a model young woman. But she’s experiencing issues with her family that has her not wanting to be there for awhile since there are some undefined difficulties for part of it. What allows her that separate though is a little unusual, as she has an encounter in the street with a large white and striding tiger that talks. It turns out that the spirit is one that causes fires as it doesn’t take long until her family home is up in flames and little is left. Because of the issues with her parents, she claims that she’ll crash with friends while they figure things out and find a temporary residence.
What she does though is to crash in an abandoned building for a night. That lasts only so long as Senjyogahara discovers this and brings her back home with her to spend some time, though she can stay for only so long. We also see her crashing at Araragi’s place since he’s not around and there’s some fun with her spending time with the Fire Sisters as well. What most of this arc does though is to break down who it is that Hanekawa is, all while having that dark side of her there as well that comes out once in awhile. Hanekawa is a kind of nervous girl in some ways, and especially when it comes to someone like Senjyogahara as she pelts her with all kinds of questions, little bits of conversation and just her upfront personality. Spending a day and a night with her is full of presence that can be difficult to take, especially because you know that she’s just probing and exploring what it is that makes Hanekawa tick. And that starts to push Hanekawa towards understanding herself as well.
There’s also some good fun to be had as she spends time at Araragi’s place since she gets to spend time crashing in his room, something that sends all sorts of shivers through her. With what the sisters talk about and the back and forth with Senjyogahara before about her feelings towards him and Senjyogahara’s point blank statement that Hanekawa has lost to her, it’s definitely enjoyable to watch how she copes with all that’s being said and her place in it. There’s also something very sharp and cruel that comes from the brief time we get to see Araragi’s mother as she basically cuts Hanekawa down in a very cold fashion. All of this, all the stress of it all, really starts to make an impact on her and we see how that feeds Black Hanekawa. Which is certainly not a bad thing since that’s who has to deal with the tiger apparition that’s causing all the trouble which will follow her around and set more residences on fire.
While we get the bigger story here involving the tiger, which has some absolutely gorgeous visuals and a great moment where Araragi arrives to help out, the crux of events here is really the exploration of Hanekawa herself after the events of the Nekomonogatari Black and her feelings towards Araragi. While I certainly like the Araragi and Senjyogahara pairing and all that it entails, I really like Hanekawa and seeing the way she’s unable to make the connection she wants with Araragi is definitely really fun to watch. You can feel for her in a big way and it’s painful in its own way to see her going through what she goes through. Particularly with the way Senjyogahara makes it so clear that she’s won him and even his mother makes it clear that she is definitely not family in any shape or form. To see her deal with all of that and potentially come across as stronger really is great to see.
I always feel a bit of unease about the Monogatari works because it’s delving into some great psychological and storytelling styles here and there are some really meaty areas to work with. But it’s done in a way that really combines the dialogue with the visuals that it becomes difficult to explore without practically writing a thesis on it. This arc covers the first five episodes of the second season and it handles the flip side of the Nekomonogatari Black material quite well. With some beautiful visuals throughout, especially with the tiger, and some highly engaging discussions that Hanekawa has with multiple people, it’s easy to be drawn into it and deeply analyze it – and overanalyze it as well. It’s a compelling work with a beautiful presentation here, though I’m mixed on whether I like the breakdown by arcs compared to half season sets or not.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Digest Video
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: June 24th, 2014
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.