One of the Monogatari series favorite tricks is playing with chronology. Adapting from the original Nisio Isin light novels which are also technically out of order chronologically, the anime series similarly scrambles the chronological order of its narrative arcs. This refocuses the series on the emotional development of specific characters that would otherwise be lost if the story was told in chronological order.
Airing immediately after Nekomonogatari: Kuro, Nekomonogatari: Shiro is the shining example of the Monogatari series’ success. Placing the two side-by-side thoroughly explores Tsubasa Hanekawa’s character growth from a time before the first Bakemonogatari series — and immediately after Kizumonogatari, the first arc in the chronological timeline — to nearly four months later.
Koyomimonogatari is a series of short stories collected into one light novel that span a large amount of time across what viewers are already familiar with, including the recent Owarimonogatari arcs of Ougi Formula, Sodachi Riddle, Sodachi Lost, and Shinobu Mail along with the theatrical release of Kizumonogatari‘s first film.
Beginning with Koyomi Stone, Koyomimonogatari initially focuses on juxtaposing two objects to create an entirely new object or perspective. Using visual trappings from Rene Magritte paintings, Koyomi Stone sets the tone for the rest of Koyomimonogatari — these will be short stories interspersed into the main Monogatari timeline presented in chronological order. It presumes that we know everything from prior Monogatari story arcs and plays with this idea throughout, juxtaposing bite-sized peeks against the chronological series calendar.
One of the more overt winks at the audience comes from Nadeko Sengoku in Koyomi Mountain. From Nadeko Medusa in Monogatari Series: Second Season, we know that this very moment is in the middle of Nadeko’s transformation from self-centered junior high school girl to vengeful snake goddess. Continuous shots of the white scrunchie on her wrist are scattered throughout her exchange with Koyomi Araragi reminding the audience of Nadeko’s mindset in that moment. The scrunchie is a visible indicator that she is speaking with snake god Kuchinawa, who turns out to be a self-made repository of her more toxic thoughts rather than any sort of preexisting deity.
Not-so-coincidentally, Koyomi Mountain opens with Ougi Oshino speaking of the balance in their town, and how they lack an answer should another oddity of Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade’s magnitude appear. Ougi is additionally the initial catalyst for Nadeko’s actions in Nadeko Medusa. The sage audience realizes that Nadeko later becomes the shrine’s new goddess, and Nadeko’s arrival later in the episode is all the more powerful for Ougi’s words.
Nadeko’s appearance is the most obviously pointed nudge at the Monogatari audience, but the most affecting recurring moments come from both Tsubasa Hanekawa and Hitagi Senjougahara. As Koyomimonogatari progresses, Araragi’s respective relationships with both young women evolve and change.
Of the many people Araragi revisits for advice throughout these shorts — Nadeko, Senjougahara, Suruga Kanbaru, his sister Karen — Hanekawa becomes Araragi’s closest confidant and go-to friend for advice. Their friendship only deepens throughout Koyomimonogatari as Araragi returns to Hanekawa time and again for a friendly, remarkably intelligent ear. Where Second Season showed Hanekawa before and after her travels, Koyomimonogatari fills in the blanks and allows us to watch as Hanekawa develops a genuine friendship with Araragi untangled significantly from their respective personal hangups — especially after Hanekawa departs on her trip following Araragi’s rejection and her request for help from “Black Hanekawa.”
Most interesting about Hanekawa’s appearances are her surroundings when speaking to Araragi. Hanekawa’s appearance, particularly after the events of Tsubasa Tiger, are striking and ground the viewer within a specific Monogatari timeframe better than any actual date. Hanekawa calls Araragi herself in Koyomi Sand when she’s out on the streets at night, avoiding returning to her broken home. The next time we see Hanekawa, Araragi seeks her advice while she’s in her bedroom — the one we know she specifically requested from her parents — planning her upcoming trip. From one shot to the next her hair changes, reiterating the fact that she dyes it every morning to keep up appearances, but is wholly herself in her room at night.
Subsequent shots of Hanekawa come from different locales on her trip. All the while, Araragi is feeding Hanekawa information, which explains why she does know what she knows come time to sneak back into town and speak with Deishu Kaiki.
Like Hanekawa, Senjougahara is tasked with listening to Araragi’s musings on a few of the riddles and fake oddities that he encounters during Koyomimonogatari. However, instead of watching the progression of a friendship, we see snippets of growth in Senjougahara and Araragi’s romantic relationship with one another.
Following their romantic night under the stars in Bakemonogatari, Senjougahara and Araragi’s relationship occurs primarily offscreen, which creates an interesting backdrop for Araragi’s actions across multiple narrative arcs. Senjougahara is always present, and the dedication from both Senjougahara and Araragi is always there, but we rarely see them together as a couple. There are many notable moments — the most recent in airing order occurred in Sodachi Riddle and Sodachi Lost — but the two communicate more through text and phone calls while onscreen in the Monogatari series. Koyomimongatari offers more phone calls and texts along with additional moments like Senjougahara making Araragi homemade donuts in Koyomi Torus, or insisting on escorting him to university in Koyomi Dead.
Koyomimonogatari ends on a cliffhanger that presumably leads into the remaining three Owarimonogatari arcs. For that alone, Monogatari fans will likely tell you that the series of shorts is worth watching. However, I think Koyomimonogatari has a greater value to the Monogatari fan in providing small, effective character moments that fill in gaps between the series’ various emotional narratives. Since the airing of Second Season, the series’ ability to retread its own timeline in service of developing characters has been both Monogatari‘s greatest strength and largest weakness — the latter specifically for newcomers to the series who may find themselves daunted by the amount of material — and Koyomimonogatari is yet another chapter to that end.