What They Say:
Koyomi’s Rival Appears!! After the summer break, Koyomi breaks the link with Shinobu Oshino and returns to being human again for the first time in six months. He heads to the cram school ruin with Suruga Kanbaru, but they are attacked by a strange entity wearing Japanese armor. Saved by Yotsugi Ononoki, they head to Izuko Gaen for her advice, but she starts telling them an unbelievable story about Shinobu’s 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 last six episodes to this arc, it’s spread across two discs with a three/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 front cover of the slipcover is nicely done with Shinobu in the foreground as we get the whole doughnuts invading aliens motif playing that gives it a good sense of fun and playfulness about it. The back cover goes in a very different direction as we get a much darker pairing that fits the tone of the episodes themselves to some degree, at least at points. 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 artwork from the front cover while the second disc uses artwork from the back cover, giving each its own feeling and tone that goes a bit lighter. 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 trailers for the release.
As has been the case for a few episodes at this point even prior to the Owarimonogatari series, of which we get the back half of here with six episodes, the overall property is one that is really showing the strain of the production. With episodes in production since the summer of 2009 and this set bringing us to seventy-five total so far, well, there is a lot of material to contend with. And as the show weaves in and out of past stories and attempts to add new views to it and side skew interpretations of events, you really do need something like a handy breakdown chart or flowchart in order to figure out everything – especially if you’re not rewatching previous episodes and it’s been years since you saw the early events that are now fading to memory.
With this batch of episodes we get a six-episode arc that makes up the Shinobu Mail storyline and that’s a problem right from there. The show has handled things well with the two or three episode arcs because it’s only going to deal with so much at a time. When you have that structure you know you’re getting silly and playful banter for an episode, some setup for the second episode, and the resolution. With a six-part storyline you’re going to get a lot of dialogue and a lot of deception going on as to what the real truth of the events are. And even marathoning it over a couple of hours means it’s going to be dicey because you also have the past seventy-odd episodes of material to contend with as well. The more I got into this arc the more I really lost track of what happened when since the show has backtracked a few times already from the previous ending that we got.
Honestly, the story here is really simple in that we have a previous minion of Shinobu’s that was turned to ash four hundred years ago that drifted into this area at the same time that other events began occurring, causing the series of coincidences – or not – that have happened since. With Araragi and Shinobu together for this after he initially works with Suruga, it comes down to this idea that upon the previous minion’s death and dissolution to ash, he’s spent the last several hundred years trying to reform in order to find his final resting. And that’s been complicit in some of the events that have gone on even if only by being a draw to the area which may have caused Shinobu to come here years ago as well when she was supposedly just trying to find her way to Mt. Fuji.
But what drags things down is that we get so much dialogue and back and forth between characters, especially once Gaen shows up on the scene, that it’s hard to believe anything because any and all of it could be a lie or half truth. And when circling back to all the past events and trying to reconnect it all, well, I’ve long forgotten more of this show than I care for simply because of how it stacks things on top of itself and layers it in oozing amounts of dialogue. There are some neat moments to be had but similar to a decent part of the first half of this particular series the main draw continues to be the delight I get from the animation and design work. It simply does some creative things in order to present the material as best as it can, material that may simply work best in novel form than it does here, and I love the look of it as it’s so beautifully brought to screen. That’s not enough to make the story work but it makes for some very memorable scenes.
Owarimonogatari is a series that I desperately want to like and enjoy but ends up being a series that makes me feel pretty dense and stupid. There are a lot of things going on here that will reward the devoted fans that understand and dig into all the nuance and twists and turns of it all but as a somewhat casual watcher since the beginning, where I was far more invested than I am at this point, this particular arc is a real struggle. There are some neat moments to be had visually but the story simply doesn’t land for me and animation quality cannot carry a release for the most part. Aniplex USA has put together another very solid release here that will definitely please fans that have been getting them all along but I now find myself in a position of hoping for some true closure to this franchise sooner rather than later.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Textless Ending, Trailer Collection
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 20th, 2016
Running Time: 150 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.