“I dislike Monogatari.”
Just three words, right? Pretty simple and pretty straightforward. It was a tiny luggage I had been wheeling around in my anime years, as I not-so-fondly remember when Bakemonogatari came out. Strange dialogue, stranger characters, and the strangest fanservice – the Monogatari series seemed like the antithesis of why I personally enjoyed anime, and I soon became to loathe the franchise for being the staple (pun intended) of one’s dish to enjoying anime in general.
“Monogatari is bad.”
The words became a default, as the series continued to air with more and more installments. I gave Bakemonogatari a second chance in 2012; it still rubbed me off the wrong way with how obnoxious and self indulgent it was, with little emotional payback. Just what did people see in this show that I couldn’t? Was it me? Was I not good enough? I lashed out at myself, wondering if maybe there was something I missed, maybe some kind sign or hidden context. The years passed, and so did more and more episodes of Monogatari. I paid little attention, even as some of my friends continued to express joy and excitement with new arcs.
That all changed with one tweet – ironically, in one of Monogatari‘s last installments – by a friend of mine, who was marathoning the show at the time. I had vowed to never look back on my attempts with the franchise, but the four screenshots took me by surprise with their sincerity and truth. I bit my lip, chewed on it a little, and decided to give the show another shot.
“Monogatari is not so bad.”
I’ll admit: Bakemonogatari was an uphill climb. Getting used to the tone and style of the show was a stubborn fight as I tried to let go of Shinbo’s overt imagery and fanservice and focus more on the stories and characters. I was lukewarm on the show until the very end of Mayoi Snail, where in a brief scene, Mayoi realizes she can never attain peace and be reunited with her mother, but puts on a brave smile and walks toward another day, because she loves Araragi dearly. Combine that with a genuine confession from Senjougahara, and I was taken back by surprise for the first time. Following Kanbaru’s arc of being queer, with Hanekawa’s arc about suppressed emotions, and I was sold by the end of Bakemonogatari: there was something special about this show. It wasn’t until Nisemonogatari came along that I really came to appreciate how consistent and honest the franchise could be, even if it had ….questionable indulgence. The words came to me a little easier now:
“I like Monogatari.”
I’m currently midway into Monogatari‘s second season, having finished the devastating conclusion to Hanekawa’s arc and watched the first two films in the Kizumonogatari series. I have a hefty sum of episodes left before the third and last film comes out. I’ve cried multiple times at how sincere these characters can be, even if they are messy, thirsty, and confusing human beings. You could argue that it’s part of the franchise’s charm: there are so much ridiculous things you could easily put off as gross, unreasonable, or disrespectful. All of those things are true. I mean what I said all those years back when I stated Monogatari is bad, or I dislike Monogatari. There are parts of it that don’t necessarily stick with me. But there are some beautiful, cherished parts too. Whether it’s Hanekawa desperately asking for help from her counterpart, or Mayoi being honest with Araragi’s self doubt, or Karen’s insistence on being an adult – Monogatari is a flawed journey filled with emotional bits, and I’ve become incredibly fond of them and the show as a whole.
It is an effort – a continuous struggle – to realize that sometimes, you and a show just don’t work out. It is an even more important struggle to realize that in the end, it’s okay if it doesn’t work out, because your personal bond with a piece of media does not need to be justified. Maybe now is not the time. Maybe it never will be the time. And that’s perfectly alright.
But sometimes, it does work out. Maybe all you needed was time, or a little push in a different direction. Or just a little more faith in yourself and that show. I’m glad I gave Hyouka four chances. I’m glad I’m giving Yuri on Ice! another go, even if it may still end up not working out for me. But for 2016, overall, I’m glad I gave Monogatari a third chance. It took me a while to say it, but: