Welcome to Anime Amateur, a feature where yours truly (Nick Robinson, Whiskey intern) comes out of anime-watching retirement and jumps into the deep end with some of the stranger shows the world of Japanese animation has to offer. Join me as I try desperately to find my bearings in this strange and often beautiful land. My goal? To filter these shows through a decidedly non-otaku perspective. Let's dive in!
Yup, you read that subhead correctly. This episode takes some notable cues from the reality-bending metafictional novel House of Leaves. So why am I kind of bored?
In case you're not familiar, House of Leaves primarily tells a story about a man who, after measuring, finds that the inside of his house is about half an inch larger than the outside. He measures it exhaustively; with a ruler, with a friend, with a borrowed laser distance meter, and so on. It's a story about obsession, insanity and footnotes. Lots of footnotes.
While episode four of Bakemonogatari has none of those specific things, it does share a similar angle of inexplicable spacial dynamism (phew!). Araragi, Senjougahara and Mayoi spend the first half of the episode walking up and down a suburban street looking for a particular house and failing to find it. While House of Leaves only dedicated a couple paragraphs to the whole “determining that something weird is going on” bit, it takes Araragi and crew something like nine minutes to pin down that something's even awry. To be fair, the time spent wandering the city is full of conversation between the three, so it's not quite agonizingly slow. It's simply low-key, hangout-y stuff, and it's pleasant enough, but it's not riveting.
Still, the style continues to prop up the rest of the show for me. The mixed media madness continues: you've got traditional animation, x-ray photos of human bones, CGI vehicles, quick cuts of beautifully illustrated landscapes, photographs of real-world Japanese currency and cell phones. It's as prevalent as ever, and it's doing a good job of keeping me engaged when the dialogue drags a bit.
It's something I haven't brought up before, but here's a thing about the dialogue inBakemonogatari: this show throws around anime fandom terms like nobody's business. The characters of Bakemonogatari have uttered at least one instance of otaku shorthand in every single episode so far, to the point that I think it might be one of this show's 'things.' Tsundere, moe and now yaoi are all words on the growing pile of bafflingly specific terminology this show busts out, all without ever stopping to explain it to the layperson. Even though I'm not what you'd call an 'anime guy,' I've been lucky in that so far it's mostly been concepts I'm at least peripherally aware of. Still, stuff like 'siscon' and 'sorocon' sure as hell weren't terms I knew before this show, and in both cases, are words I kind of wish I could go back to not knowing.
Anyways, I've heard from many of you in the comments that this is the slowest part of the slowest arc, so I'm pretty excited to see what the third and final part of the Mayoi Snail arc has in store for me. Onward!
Oh! I also finally checked out the arc-specific title screens I've been skipping, per user Turambar's advice. I'd seen the title screen for the first arc, and assumed it was the same thing the whole way through. NOPE. Here's a side-by-side comparison of the openings for the arcs covered so far:
Yup! it's hard to imagine any two things being any more different. It's like they aren't even for the same show, but that's what's so great about this! I can't even imagine what the third arc's opening will be.
Turambar, by the way, has been doing some excellent blog posts following and supplementing my progress through Bakemonogatariwith a more informed, more expert perspective on the show. Definitely check them out!
Nick Robinson is a Whiskey Media intern and a journalism student. Won't you follow him on Twitter at @Babylonian? He'd be ever so appreciative!