Shinobu Mail and Suruga Kanbaru’s Turn

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Previously, on Owarimonogatari, the Sodachi Lost narrative arc provided Tsubasa Hanekawa with a perfect opportunity – the opportunity to show just how much she’s changed both over the course of the series and her most chronologically-recent appearance in Tsubasa Tiger. She delivers a crucial line of dialogue at exactly the right time in such a forceful way that it immediately unifies her with the despairing Sodachi Oikura. They travel the same path, but are at dramatically different points on that path, and Hanekawa’s words help guide Oikura out of her powerful self-loathing spiral.

This week, in Shinobu Mail, it was Suruga Kanbaru’s turn to shine.

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Were there a ranked list of Monogatari characters offering sage advice, Kanbaru would be firmly at the bottom, likely keeping company with Nadeko Sengoku. The aforementioned Hanekawa was always seen as intelligent, and – even though a large part of this perception was due to a facade of perfection that she has since dropped – offering advice to others within is expected of her character. She is thoughtful, deliberate in all things, and is known to think four or five steps in advance of her own position.

In contrast, Kanbaru acts on emotional impulse more than anything. This is exactly why her initial story is so relatable and easy to understand. Her “monkey’s paw” wishes that eventually grant her the devil’s arm are ones born of spite and jealousy, and her subsequent guilt is equally resonant. The seasoned Monogatari viewer already knows from Hanamonogatari that Kanbaru tapes her arm up every night, and every morning is a slow and detailed process of undoing herself before checking the newspaper, to ensure that she hasn’t attacked anyone in her sleep. It’s a burden she accepts without incident – or even notice, until her morning routine is revealed.

While Kanbaru isn’t necessarily an idiot, she does have a carefree, happy-go-lucky demeanor that goes hand in hand with her impulsive nature. Drawn to rather prurient and lowest-common-denominator fare – the previous episode saw Araragi buying her a BL title called Brutal Garçon Huff-Huffs a Half-Blood Boy! – she’s an athlete, not a scholar. In her adventures with Araragi, she’s street smart but not particularly book smart, and all of her “advice” comes in the form of dumb sex jokes or referential humor. Kanbaru is Araragi’s buddy in crime, not someone he immediately goes to for an intellectual or thoughtful discussion.

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However, what Shinobu needs is hardly an intelligent back-and-forth, but an emotionally-driven punch to the gut that only Kanbaru can provide. In fact, Shinobu mocks Kanbaru for her lack of intelligence and logic throughout the exchange, to which Kanbaru answers, “So what?”

Kanbaru knows what it’s like to have incredibly intense, possessive feelings towards another. She also knows the pain that Shinobu’s first minion is likely feeling – rejection, jealousy at being replaced by another – and forces the vampire to confront her own insecurities, a layer of self-doubt nearly always covered by blustering bravado. Shinobu now has to be brave, as Hitagi Senjougahara was with Kanbaru, and own up to her first minion’s feelings while also rejecting him firmly. Due to the fact that Kanbaru is rash, stubborn, and emotional, she bests Shinobu with her directness and pushes the vampire down a path of self-acceptance, all before Kanbaru’s own chronological emotional narrative in Hanamonogatari.

Monogatari is such an unwieldy beast of an anime franchise partially due to this continued focus on building emotional layer upon emotional layer as the characters themselves age and transform before the viewers’ eyes. The series’ Second Season was all about confronting the inner demons established in Bakmonogatari and Nisemonogatari. Owarimonogatari continues this trend with those who have already crossed that threshold helping the stragglers along their way.

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