I’d been hearing about this episode around twitter and forums and from various friends before I watched it. It was all smut. Not a single piece of plot development to move the story forward. Just a weird fetish surrounding toothbrushes. Also incest and pedo and so on and so forth. I had resigned myself to not liking this episode. I had even started to plan the post ahead of time, pulling another magical flying panther stunt. I mean, why would I expect otherwise? I don’t really like this element of Nisemonogatari, or Bakemonogatari for that matter.
I was not prepared.
Most of the episode was just Arararagi and his sister pissing about. For 15 minutes or so it was the usual -monogatari banter. Generally amusing, neat turns of phrase, dragging out each segment of the conversation far longer than it needs to be, and the usual creepy fascination with panning up and down teenage girls’ bodies. It was very similar to the post-arc conversations Arararagi would have in Bakemonogatari with the girl who was central focus in the last arc. Usual shtick of girl opens up to him and finally admits (in a very roundabout way) that she wants a nibble of his meat and two veg.
But wait, that’s his sister! We can’t be having that now! How dare anime suggest that siblings would want to bone each other.
I’ve been trying to figure out why, for a change, it really didn’t bother me. Perhaps I had just seen so much goddam incest in anime over the years that I’ve become immune to it. But that’s a weak excuse. I think it has to do more with the world the -monogatari series have set up. If we compare to, say, Ore no Imouto, it was clearly trying to present these two as having a legitimate sibling relationship inside a real world. Hence its devolution into incest was frustrating because you can’t do both. But the -monogatari series do not exist in a real world. This is a weird hypothetical world, where there are no background characters. It is a magical realm where every girl who meets out main character fall for him. It ties in with the artstyle, such as how the sense of space is distorted when none of the buildings are real. In this world, of course Karen wants nothing more than to gargle her brother’s semen. It would be weird for that not to be the case.
That said, there’s still this mental block I have with any sister characters. I will never find them attractive or sexy or whatever. For that mental block to kick in though, they have to be presented as a sister character, rather than a character that just happens to be a sister. It’s like the difference between a MILF and wanting to actually bone your own mother. I don’t really find Karen sexy at all. Toothbrushing though? That’s pretty darn sexy.
Toothbrushing. I felt like I should be repulsed. Indignant that Nisemonogatari had decided to go in this direction. But the delivery of that scene. The build up in dramatic, spotlight fashion as Arararagi explained the rules. The imagery of him wielding the toothbrush as a conductor would wield his baton. The musical cues with each delicate swipe. The CGI bristles moving in a way that I would never have before described as sensual, but can only now be described as such. The way the score builds up slowly, changing as the dynamic of the scene itself changed.
I have no idea what the scene read like in the original novels, but somehow I can’t imagine it worked that well. The least effective parts of that scene were the occasional monologues by Arararagi. While it may be quite a audacious move to present toothbrushing as sexual, delivered incorrectly and it would have been nothing other than weird, pointless and creepy. I can’t see the -monogatari series ever pulling something like this again and succeeding. But for now, I want to bask in the light of some of the most sublime directing I have ever seen in anime.
This is art.