What They Say:
One day in February, Koyomi Araragi was taking a bath with his younger sister Tsukihi amidst finishing his studies for the college entrance exam. This was also following the incident involving Nadeko Sengoku, which was successfully amended behind the scenes by Deishu Kaiki. Koyomi noticed a change on his body “that could not be overlooked” and sought advice from Shinobu Oshino leading him to contact Yoduru Kagenui and Yotsugi Ononoki. Was this change signifying retribution for everything that Koyomi has done?!
First arc to the Monogatari series’ final season.
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 2014, the transfer for this TV special is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With four episodes to this arc that aired on one day, it’s spread across two discs with two episodes each. 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 red 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 Yotsugi getting all the attention as she sits limply in her stone throne where there’re a lot of child-like things about her that adds to the unusual tone. The back cover goes in a very different direction as we get her and Shinobu together in skimpy outfits that have the two of them set against a stained glass wall that really gives it some great pop of color and catches the eye perfectly. 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 red 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 arcade where Araragi and Shinobu end up “acquiring” Yotsugi for awhile.
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 Suruga artwork from the front cover while the second disc uses the pairing 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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coming after the end of the main series but before the Hanamonogatari series, at least chronologically, Tsukimonogatari provides a bit of closure for one aspect of the property while also leaving things ambiguous. In a sense, this is one of those rare story arc in the series where things aren’t all that different at the end than they are at the beginning as it all comes down to Araragi’s sense of willpower more than anything else. That’s not to say there isn’t a little fallout along the way, but in terms of our primary characters we’re still essentially in detente when it comes to Araragi and Shinobu with their arrangement and what it means for those that are letting them essentially slide for now instead of being hunted.
The crux of this story is what’s going on with Araragi as a certain circumstance causes him to realize that he doesn’t have a reflection anymore. While he’s used his vampire abilities through Shinobu before for many things, this is the first time that it’s happened this way and it naturally freaks him out. That has him pulling things together with Shinobu in order to figure out what’s really going on since even Shinobu’s not sure. Their pairing/bonding isn’t a normal thing with the kind of symbiotic relationship they have and it’s left her uncertain of the truth of the matter though she believes things will be all right. What it requires though is some expert knowledge, which means getting to Yozuru through Yotsugi, which is a lightly comical sequence. Yotsugi’s design as a doll is one that’s comical with how she ends up in awkward places and having her inside of a claw machine is just priceless with how Araragi and Shinobu go after her. It’s an important lightness before the seriousness.
The arc does a good job of exploring the choices that Araragi has made since he met Shinobu and how it’s impacted him with his using the abilities he has because of it. We’ve had instances where there’s been a cost before, but that was in the moment. Here, after using them for a variety of reasons for the past year, he’s no subconsciously moving to becoming a full-on vampire. Which has its own problems with how Yozuru would treat both him and Shinobu. It’s a really neat moment when there’s such straight talk about who would kill how and how the dynamic would change because of the symbiotic relationship being broken. Yet that honest dialogue is also what gets them to move to avoid it because they know it’s not the path they really want to take, at least not at the moment. There’s a quiet unease with how it does play out and that sense that it’s all orchestrated on a higher level is there, with even Araragi calling Yotsugi out on it, but something about it just leaves me feeling uneasy about the experience overall, even if it does largely end in a decent way.
This arc of episodes plays out with the familiar structure where we get the simple times and silliness at first before it moves into the serious. The silly is not unfamiliar, though problematic for many, as we get Araragi and his younger sister Tsukihi together at home after Karen goes out for a run. Both have the idea for a bath at the same time, but neither wants to give on it. That leads to most of the episode being them bathing themselves and each other as they dance around the awkwardness of their sibling relationship. Shaft manages to produce some utterly beautiful episodes throughout this series run and they don’t skimp when it comes to the fanservice elements like this, making it such a forbidden fruit with how the two of them are with each other. It teases, tantalizes and toys with the viewer – much as Tsukihi does with Araragi – and one can’t help but to feel really uneasy about it in most ways but still finding it really engaging to watch because it’s such a polished scene. It really does just make you wish they were “old enough” so that it wasn’t an utterly skeevy sequence.
The Tsukimonogatari arc was a New Year’s special at the end of 2014 and it was certainly one way to close out the year for fans. What we get is an arc that does bring certain things to light regarding where Araragi is after being involved with Shinobu for the past year and how that’s altered him. We do get him on a new footing and there is progress overall made here. But at the same time it’s one where it really does feel like things are the same at the end as at the start. That’s not bad because we do know and understand the changes an impact as it moves towards the conclusion. Aniplex USA continues to make some deliciously beautiful releases with this series and this one is no exception from top to bottom. It just oozes quality from the transfer and overall design and is a strikingly beautiful release. Those who are fans and buy in won’t be disappointed in the slightest as the standards of past releases are fully realized here once again.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Textless Ending, Promotional Video & Commercial Collections
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
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.