What They Say:
On August 20th, on his way to delivering Mayoi what she had forgotten at his home, Koyomi encounters Yotsugi Ononoki, a familiar girl. Koyomi spends the day buying Yotsugi ice cream instead of doing what he originally planned to do. Unable to find Mayoi, Koyomi gives up and heads home and realizes that he has not done any of his summer assignments, even though tomorrow was the first day of school. With help from Shinobu, Koyomi travels back to the past so that he can finish them, but instead, they end up traveling back 11 years ago!
The date is May 13th, the day before Mother’s Day when Mayoi was killed in a car accident on her way to see her mother. Koyomi realizes that he can save Mayoi by changing the past, but what will be the outcome of his actions..
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 four episodes to this part of the season, it’s spread across two discs with two episodes per 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 of 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. It simply looks fantastic.
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 blue hue to it across the board and including the spine. The front cover of the slipcover is nicely done with Mayoi on it against the deep blue sky while the other side has her in the doorway in her usual look, complete with backpack. 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 building exterior that’s an important part of Mayoi’s story.
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 latest omnibus episode that retells in compressed form previous events.
As the series continues and we get the arc breakouts here, this installment gives us the four part story known as Kabukimonogatari. With the way the show works in telling its tales with these kinds of arcs and making clean breaks that do provide a connective tissue to the rest of them, it makes it easy to dive in and just enjoy the work at hand but also to see it in context to everything else that’s going on. The previous arc gave us some good Hanekawa material and that certainly set the season up well. With this set, we get a Mayoi story, or at least that’s what it appears to be, but is instead far more a Shinobu story. And when you realize how little she’s been in the property overall, it definitely helps to increase her presence and my own interest in her as a character.
Having Araragi and Shinobu spending time together, there’s an interesting kind of bond between them that’s talked about at times but is also left unspoken. Both are reliant on each other and with her resting and living in his shadow, she sees pretty much everything that goes on with him, though she interacts lightly when you get down to it. But when the two do interact, there are some fascinating things that can be said, which is what the arc focuses on at the start with the discussion about how there are ramifications to everything you can do. The bit about stop lights, the danger of crossing streets and the nature of how you aren’t safe out in the world (and honestly, you aren’t at home either) plays well for the style of this series since it delves into the kind of balance that these characters inhabit within this particular universe. The two of them understand the nature of how a change can alter things in unforeseen ways and the danger of it in relation to the stop lights, but can also still try to tamper with the fate of the world.
Almost as a whim in a way, the pair find a way to use some trapped power in a shrine in order to leap back in time by a day just to see what it’s like and what happens. Instead, they end up going back in time by about ten years and that sets into motion a series of intriguing events where they decide to see if they can change Mayoi’s fate. With her having died in an accident at the age of eleven, the idea of saving her is something that Araragi latches onto. He’s even very good with the idea of just delaying it in order for her to see her mother before she dies so that she can pass on without becoming the spirit that she is now. The pair have some amusing moments just in trying to find her and who they run across in the past – cute and young Hanekawa! – but in the end the focus is on Mayoi as she’s pretty much as we know her for obvious reasons. But as the pair seek to at least delay destiny, they find that it has interesting ways of getting its own way and that works well to keep it brisk, fresh and moving as they try and adjust to it all.
There’s a lot to like with how all this plays out and the dialogue that exists between the three in different configurations as they go about trying to save her. Of course, Araragi gets all pervy with her when he first goes to speak with her and that fits in his character well. And Mayoi’s innocence comes across well as we get to know more of her at this point as a young girl that’s alive with the different kinds of things she talks about compared to her spirit self, which she notes is almost around as long as she was originally alive. There’s a kind of fun here, but also a sense of dread as you know things will change. And when that part happens, which spirals into the second half of the arc, it’s fantastic. Time travel stories, alternate timelines and changing things up from what we know to show how bad things can go is endlessly fascinating and fun to me, especially when you have such well defined material as the whole Monogatari series. We get that here, and it is done well as we see how saving Mayoi changes the world, but it comes with some great twists. And a real exploration of character for Shinobu as she factors well into how that world would change, but largely because of the loss of Araragi. With it in a way going back to the beginning of the arc and focusing on the bond they have, we get it made crystal clear just how much Shinobu is tied to him and what the loss of him means. Giving her the chance to confront herself about it is instrumental in making her a far more engaging and sympathetic character, something I never really expected from her with this show.
Having enjoyed the previous arc with Hanekawa, I was a bit wary with the Mayoi arc because as much fun as we did have with the character early on in the first series, she’s not been a favorite of mine since she often plays to some less than interesting themes and has an adverse effect on Araragi. While she plays prominently here in the arc as a whole, what it’s really about is Araragi and Shinobu. And Shinobu has been the weak link for me so far. That’s rectified in a huge way here as the two get to go on a full on adventure here and just ride it for all its worth. It is, admittedly, a big butterfly effect kind of arc and there are obvious areas that it’s going to go throughout it, but the focus on the character material helps to drive it in a fantastic way while also making sure that once again it’s beautifully animated. Aniplex USA has packaged it all together in a great way as well, making it probably one of my favorite arcs overall so far.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Digest Video, Season Two Preview
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: August 26th, 2014
Running Time: 100 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.