What They Say:
One day, Suruga Kanbaru introduces Koyomi Araragi to a new transfer student by the name of Ougi Oshino. She claims that she is the niece of Meme Oshino. She tells Koyomi that she draws a map of every school she transfers to, and she points out there is a mysterious hidden classroom in the Naoetsu High. After getting trapped in the classroom which shouldn’t exist in this world, Koyomi starts remembering some incidents from his past…
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 2015, the transfer for this TV special is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With this set having the first seven episodes to this arc, it’s spread across two discs with a four/three split. 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.
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 a soft color palette design to it to it across the board that works well with what it wants to present. The front cover of the slipcover is nicely done with Ougi in the foreground with the game pieces laid out around amid the desert dune setting and the cool visual of the eclipse. The back cover goes in a very different direction as we get Oikura looking out the window while being in the shadows herself, giving it an eerie but appealing tone. 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 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 the classroom where a lot of things get underway here.
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 first disc uses the Ougi artwork from the front cover while the second disc uses Oikura artwork from the back cover, giving each its own feeling and tone that goes a bit lighter as it works with a white layer to the background 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 are fairly standard fare here in that we get the opening and ending sequences in clean form as well as a look at the various promotional spots and TV commercials for the release.
Coming out a year after Tsukimonogatari, which I enjoyed fairly well, Owarimonogatari is a thirteen episode season that landed in the fall of 2015. This set brings the first seven episodes of it out in the same form as past sets, subtitled-only, and it’s essentially episodes sixty-three through sixty-nine of the larger work. I’ll admit I’ve long last track of continuity in this show, what’s real and what isn’t, and the focus for me has become more on the individual story as opposed to the larger narrative and whether they’re enjoyable or not. The baseline characters are certainly still there with Araragi as the center but trying to figure out where it all fits in simply doesn’t work well for me anymore, especially without novel background and more so because of how many years we’ve been watching these now and the gaps between them.
With this set we get three mini arcs that all connect together that’s part of the larger overall seasonal arc. We get the two-part Ougi Formula arc, the two-part Sodachi Riddle arc, and then the three part Sodachi Lost arc to bring it all to a close. But even though they’re labeled as arcs and do work in a defined way, they’re like past seasons in that it’s all sprawling together so that if they weren’t broken out that way in the titles you wouldn’t really register it in a significant way because of the larger flow. The focus with this one is on two characters that are playing against Araragi as the center once again, with Ougi setting things in motion by taking Araragi to a non-existent space where it replicates his past in high school at an event where bad things went down. All of this is designed to bring the character of Sodachi to the foreground, someone who like Hanekawa was someone that he knew years ago but actually forgot about as time went on and thought of them as new people when he reconnected with them.
Using Ougi as the focus here to push Araragi through to some realizations about his past certainly sets up a lot of what’s to come, but mostly she’s just presented as a schoolgirl within the academy that has a very dark and mysterious aspect about her. That’s reinforced well with the floating nature and how her uniform moves, as well as rarely seeing her hands. And when we do they’re covered in skin tight black covers that just makes it all the more jarring. Her use of mathematics to kick off the arc has its own joys for those that are in love with the beauty of numbers but it delves heavily into psychology from there with how class 1-3 got into some real trouble with a study group that may have cheated and the role Araragi had in determining who it may have been. It’s interesting seeing how he went through this a few years back and why he’s been so distant ever since as there are some strong emotional moments from him and you can see this as a big turning point in his personality at the time.
The early exposure we get to Oikura here is pretty interesting as you can see how she was intent on things going right and dealing with the problem that happened with the way it would shame not just the class but teachers and the school should it not be resolved. The set wants to focus heavily on that in the first two arcs with Araragi’s involvement in it and how he was the one pushing back against her. The visuals are fantastic in the supernatural space where Ougi first plays this out, especially with the student representation and the desks placement and movement as well. There are a lot of little visual cues to be had in this and the way it reveals itself and peels back more of the truth is found in that area as well, not just in the dialogue. A solitary desk amid many others can say far more than a few paragraphs of dialogue in some ways and the animation and creative side definitely works that well. But that’s expected after what we’ve seen in the other sixty or so episodes so far.
The third arc is one that gets into some of the resolution phase, at least for what’s presented so far as there’s more Oikura material to come in the back half of the series, and it works very well to work through Araragi’s guilt and highlight what happened to Oikura after middle school and how she ended up back in high school with Araragi for all of this to happen. With Hanekawa involved at this point, a nice bit of grounding that reinforces some of what Araragi had done before in forgetting about people, digging into Oikura’s past helps to show the ripple effect of things that Araragi has done and the impact of it on others, which ended up coming back to haunt him as well. There are no real happy endings here and what we mostly get is that Araragi has unknowingly done a lot of harm to others, and himself, and it’s coming home to roost in various ways.
I’ve enjoyed a lot of the Monogatari works over the years but this set reminds me of the kind of side story material that should have been blended into the main work earlier and could probably have been condensed a bit more. That’s not the Monogatari way, however! And I get that. I definitely appreciate the show for its technical beauty and design, which is a bit more subdued this time around overall, and I’m interested in these stories that gives us more of who Araragi is, making it clearer why some of his choices worked out as they did. But at the same time it feels like we’re more off the path and into the weeds than we need to in order to make it an engaging story. Totally works as something in the novels I’m sure, and i’m hopeful the back half will flesh this out in a more engaging way, but right now I’m kind of wondering why so many resources were devoted to this story.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Textless Ending, Trailer Collection
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: October 25th, 2016
Running Time: 175 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.