Breaking down Kizumonogatari III: Reiketsu-hen

 

Warning -Spoilers Ahoy!-

Before we get into the thick of it, I need to state that I loved the film… for the most part. It is a lavishly animated cacophony of chaos. There are few anime films that dare to stray so far from what made the stylings of the original. Yet Kizumonogatari is able to find a distinct voice in a series that is already not quite like anything you’ve seen before. It is a true testament to Oishi’s avant-garde vision of the Monogatari world. However, Reiketsu-hen in itself is a rather peculiar conclusion for the Kizu film trilogy.

There are two issues I want to address. The first of which is the over reliance on comedy, injecting comic relief at the worst of times. The second is that the film squanders its short run time on certain scenes that spend way too long getting the point across. But for all my grievances, Reiketsu-hen still manages to pull it together at the end and deliver one of the most satisfying finale’s I’ve seen.

Oshino is one sly bastard

As with Part II, the film jumps straight into the story, not wasting any time on frivolous recaps. It’s always nice to see Oshino, with how little he appears through the series. The beginning of the film might seem like an unnecessary exposition dump, with Oshino explaining why Kiss-Shot was so easily defeated in the first place, but it helps put what many call a frustrating deus ex machina ending into perspective.

From the start, Oshino has been pulling all the strings. He knows exactly how things will play out, yet continues to observe from far. For a film with so little characters, it’s important that every scene has a sort of significance. It might not be the most exciting way to start a film, but I’m glad they gave the scene the time it needed.

Best girl Kiss-Shot

As Araragi meets up with Kiss-Shot to make her whole, we see genuine affection from both characters rarely seen in the series. The teasing between Kiss-Shot and Araragi is cute. Wish there was more.

Regardless of how Shinobu feels about Araragi later in the series, I don’t believe it was ever as pure as the moment he reunites with her. She believes she has finally found a true companion. From Araragi’s reaction, later on, I don’t think she considered that he might not like her munching on people.

Kiss-Shot decides to open up to him about her first servant. It is a beautifully animated sequence by Ueda Hajime, who has done work on various Monogatari endings, serving as a great aesthetic tie-in to the series.

Discount CGI Heads

 

He leaves to go grab some food and as he returns, we are treated to one of my favorite scenes: As Araragi climbs the stairs, he fondly thinks of time spent with Kiss-Shot. He looks like a guy returning to the love of his life. I loved every second of it. It’s only when we get to the reveal, as Araragi reaches  Kiss-Shot only to discover that she has killed Guillotine Cutter and is devouring his corpse that I just fucking lose it.

Like, you gotta be kidding me. Why in the hell is Guillotine Cutter’s head CGI? This is one of the few creatives choices in Monogatari that has visibly made me angry. When I read the light novel, this scene was no joke. In the film, everything leading up the Kiss-Shot holding up his head is vividly detailed and grotesque. Now I understand if they didn’t want to realistically depict a severed head, but why even have her hold it up then? The fact that they zoom in on it, not once, but twice! As if they are proud of this great achievement.

What’s even more upsetting is that his head is hand drawn when she casually munches on it. Too bad it’s after the scene has lost all of its impacts. Like, how can you stare at that stupid CGI head and take the scene seriously afterward? Come on Shaft, I thought Shaft was better than this. Araragi’s mindfuck isn’t nearly as awkward yet still feels out of place in such a pivotal scene.

Araragi’s subsequent freakout only helps to make the previous scene stand out all that much more. He is truly disturbed by what he has just witnessed. He is disgusted not only in Kiss-Shot but in himself for having brought her back from the dead. Everyone who dies at the hands of Kiss-Shot is on him. And then we get another tremendously disturbing scene hurt by the very element of Oishi’s work that makes it so unique in the first place.

I feel so conflicted. A Hanekawa doll with an exposes skull feel so Monogatari, yet it just ruins the atmosphere of an otherwise amazing scene. Ugh, still can’t decide on this one.

When breasts become a vital plot point

Okay, let’s talk about Hanekawa’s groping scene. I don’t hate the scene. Hell, if anything, I was quite invested in the lovely plot revealed. I read the light novel and knew the scene was coming up, but I was certain for the sake of time they would have slimmed it down. They didn’t. We spend the next twenty minutes with Hanekawa, with just as much time dedicated to Hanekawa doing what she does best in pushing Araragi onto the right path. Was having ten minutes of Araragi endlessly teasing Hanekawa as he is about to grope her necessary?

Look, I understand developing Hanekawa’s relationship with Araragi is important in contextualizing why she is so stressed later in the series, But by the end of Kizu II, we’ve gotten to know Hanekawa very well. We have a good understanding of her motivations and why she is so interested in him. It’s just not worth spending so much screen time on this specific scene.

It kills the pacing of the film and I would have greatly preferred a truncated 2-3 minute scenes tops. It was time better spent on best girl Kiss-Shot, who we’ve rarely had the chance to see in her adult form. They should have spent more time on the final fight than indulging all of the Hanekawa fanboys. I mean why settle for anything less when you have best-girl Kiss-Shot?

Decapitation City

Dismembered limbs flying all over the place, severed corpses running around, and tons of decapitation. There is no end to the number of silly moments found through the final fight. It’s hard to quantify my thoughts on Araragi vs Kiss-Shot. It is one of the most bizarre anime fights I’ve ever seen. However, at the same time, it’s silliness removes the bittersweet tone found in the light novel. Here are two people, desperately longing for companionship, fighting to the death. Nothing about the events that have unfolded is supposed to be funny. So why the hell do we get moments like this?

The fight is largely played for laughs and feels like typical Monogatari. There are some fabulous moments found throughout the fight, and despite the radical shift in tone from the light novel, as a carefully crafted piece of animation, it doesn’t hold back.

Yet I can’t help but feel a darker tone was needed to give the ending more weight. Before they fight, Kiss-Shot asks Araragi before to stay as her companion. The entire story hinges on her loneliness, how the one servant she ever took ended up killing himself. Araragi proved to her that he was willing to face all odds, to save her life and make her whole. The bizarre nature o f the fight undermines the themes of the story.

The fight is juxtaposed with Kiss-Shot desperately trying to convince Araragi that the guilt of eating humans would go away. I don’t believe that Kiss-Shot actually wanted to die coming into the fight. It’s only after ferociously fighting Araragi and is unable to convince him, that she gives up hope. Kiss-Shot would rather die than to ever be alone again.

It is a shame that the battle concludes with a heavy use of CGI, as it is extremely noticeable and makes it feel disconnected from the rest of the hand-drawn animation. This might just be a nitpick as it doesn’t last very long, but look at how…off this looks:

Wound Story

This is a story of deep seated scars that can never go away. Araragi is able to consume kiss shots power, rendering her useless. It’s at this point that Hanekawa realizes what Kiss-Shots ultimate goal is. She had no intentions of turning Araragi human. If he wouldn’t be with her, he would just have to kill her. It might be selfish, but having lived such a long tedious life, it makes sense why she is so distressed. Of course, Araragi and his messiah complex can’t accept this conclusion. He shouts for Oshino, who he knows is watching, to come out and resolve this mess.

I’ve read complaints about Oshino’s appearance in the end. However, as I mentioned earlier, he knew full well how things would turn out. He understands the nature of vampires, and still let Araragi go to Kiss-Shot without a worry in the world. All Oshino wants is to witness everything unfold with his own eyes. It is a bit fucked up on Oshino’s part, but he sure knows how to resolve things in the end.

There can only be one solution; One in which all parties are forced to compromise. Araragi can never become wholly human, nor Kiss-Shot wholly vampiric. They would live on the fringe of their worlds, tied together for all eternity.

So why does Araragi force Kiss-Shot to live? Wouldn’t it be merciful to let her die with some dignity, instead of forcing her into such a pitiful existence? It’s because Kiss-Shot is just like him. Consumed by self-hatred and loneliness. The choice of forcing Kiss-Shot to live is Koyomi’s act of mercy. He would rather have her live as a husk of her former self than to perish.

The film concludes with the Shinobu we all know and love. We are treated to one of the few internal monologs in Kizumonogatari, quite fitting in tying the finale to the rest of the series. It is satisfying to have context as to why Shinobu looked so lifeless throughout Bakemonogatari. Why it took so long for her to face Araragi again. But ultimately, Kiss-Shot got what she wanted in the end, a true companion that will always be by her side. Some might call it bittersweet, but it was a necessary one. To give birth to the best girl in the Monogatari series, my loli princess Shinobu.


The silliness and pacing might have thrown me off, but I can’t help and love Kizumonogatari III in the end. Maybe it has a little to do with the fact that Shinobu is my second favorite anime character of all time, but as a rabid fanboy,  I’m willing to overlook these flaws. The Kizu adaptation might not have been exactly what I envisioned while reading the light novel,  but it still delivered on a visual spectacle like no other. Reiketsu-hen didn’t get everything right, but it nailed the finale and that’s all I could have ever asked for.

 

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