In order to fulfil a promise made to the specialist Izuko Gaen, a woman who claims to know everything, Araragi meets up with his adoring underclassman Suruga Kanbaru in order to mediate a meeting between Kanbaru and her aunt Gaen. However, Araragi’s plan quickly goes awry when the pair are attacked by a sentient suit of armour looking to reclaim the demon sword Kokorowatari that he leant to Araragi’s vampire companion Shinobu 400 years ago.
After the three fantastic and unique arcs seen in Owarimonogatari Part 1, the 6 episode final arc Shinobu Mail returns to a more traditional Monogatari feel whilst maintaining the same top-notch quality that we’ve come to expect from the franchise, albeit still bearing some of the same small flaws.
To go off on a little bit of a tangent before I get into the meat of Owarimonogatari’s finale, I just want to quickly touch on the chronology of the Monogatari franchise and how it’s become a bit of a mess. This is my second time watching Owarimonogatari, but when I first hit upon the Episode 1 of Shinobu Mail, I was confused as all hell as to when the episode was actually taking place. None of the arcs from Second Season onwards are in chronological order and it soon becomes hard to really know where you are at in the timeline in any given episode. Although the first episode of Shinobu Mail does briefly recap on the events from Shinobu Time (aka Onimonogatari), I still had to go do a bit of research to get a good idea of what exactly was happening. A re-watch of Onimonogatari is definitely recommended before jumping into Shinobu Mail, unless you’re feeling very confident in your Monogatari timeline knowledge.
Chronology confusion aside, I still really did enjoy Shinobu Mail quite a lot, although perhaps not as much as some of the arcs in Owarimonogatari Part 1. As I mentioned before, Shinobu Mail drops the mystery-centric nature of Ougi Formula, Sodachi Riddle and Sodachi Lost in favour of something more reminiscent of Monogatari Second Season, which was very much expected, given this arc’s nature as a sequel and conclusion to the Second Season arc Shinobu Time. This arc deals with the direct aftermath of Shinobu Time, and actually makes me enjoy that arc way more now I’ve seen Shinobu Mail, as it alleviates a lot of complaints I had about it. Much of Shinobu Time is dedicated to telling the audience Shinobu’s backstory, which just feels unnecessary there, but the story here makes it all justified, and gives that side of Shinobu Time a fitting conclusion at last. I will say that Shinobu Mail’s placement is perhaps a little bit questionable, and may have served better as a Second Season arc, but given how all over the place the chronology is anyway, it probably doesn’t make too much of a difference.
The one complaint I do have, as before, comes in the pacing and Shinobu Mail suffers in this regard. The last half of Episode 3 and most of Episode 4 are dedicated to an incredibly large exposition dump from Izuko Gaen, and as such the pacing just slows to a crawl as the audience is bombarded with pure information for half an hour. The visuals are still fantastic, and alleviate the overload somewhat, but I can’t help but feel that it could have been slimmed down a fair bit in order to make for some snappier pacing. I was also quite let down by the absence of the mysterious Ougi, who was quite prominent in Owarimonogatari Part 1, being reduced to a cameo appearance, but given that this only adapts part of the Owarimonogatari novel, with Owarimonogatari Season 2 being broadcast in Summer of 2017, I can forgive it, under the assumption that she will feature heavily in later arcs.
As is the norm for most Monogatari arcs at this point, Shinobu Mail is really about its characters, and it is certainly one front that this arc delivers on in spades. Surprisingly, the character who gets the most out of this arc is not the titular Shinobu but Kanbaru of all people. Of the many, many girls who feature in the franchise, Kanbaru is easily the most underutilised, so I was incredibly happy to see her in a substantial role here. Not only does she provide some really great humour in her exchanges with Araragi, whom she bounces off of superbly which makes for some amazing chemistry, but she also gets one hell of a scene with Shinobu in the penultimate episode, which might actually be one of my favourites in the whole series. Kanbaru is quite often used for comedic relief, a role she’s well suited to, but her scene with Shinobu proves that she can be so much more. Despite having her name in the arc’s name, Shinobu doesn’t get too much screen time, but the aforementioned scene with Kanbaru is great for her as well as Kanbaru. I’m pretty sure we’ve not seen Kanbaru and Shinobu together before, but I’d love to see more.
I’d also be pretty remiss if I didn’t mention another quite brilliant scene in the final episode between Araragi and his girlfriend Senjogahara. Senjougahara is another character that doesn’t get anywhere near the screen time she deserves and this small but heartfelt moment just reinforces how much we need some more Senjogahara! Honestly, Araragi and Senjo are one of my all-time favourite couples in anime, so it really is a shame we don’t see them together that often past Bakemonogatari.
Just as with Owarimonogatari Part 1, Part 2 has some really amazing and surreal visuals, that as always, I absolutely adore. Shaft continue to go all out with both the quality and style of the animation, and they have absolutely cemented their place as my favourite studio.
Yet another area that I can’t heap enough praise on is, once again, the voice acting. All the usual Monogatari suspects are here including Hiroshi Kamiya, Maaya Sakamoto, Miyuki Sawashiro, Chiwa Saito and Satsuki Yukino, as well as new addition to the cast Rikiya Koyama as the voice for Shinobu’s first minion, Seishirou, and they are all amazing as always, being the driving force behind this mostly dialogue driven series. We’re also treated to our fourth (!) opening in Owarimonogatari Part 2, ‘mein schatz’ by meg rock, and whilst it is a rather pretty looking opening, I’m not too keen on the operatic style of music, it’s just not really my cup of tea.
Despite a small number of flaws that are pretty much standard for Monogatari at this point, the final arc of Owarimonogatari just further solidifies my love for this series, and caps off what may be one of the best entries into the Monogatari franchise.