After gaining a very sharp-tongued girlfriend and helping a lost child find her way home, Koyomi Araragi has once again meet two more girls with their own case of supernatural problems; Suruga Kanbaru, the athletic superstar, and Nadeko Sengoku, the reserved childhood friend.
Finishing Bakemonogatari Part 1 feels like a checkpoint for Part 2. Now that Part 1 has laid out the groundwork for the characters and current events, Part 2 is able to expand on the character relationships established in the previous volume as well as juggle the themes and motivations involved with those characters, both old and new.
The first chapter starts off introducing Kanbaru Suruga, a sports celebrity in Araragi’s high school. Normally, since Araragi is a third year high school student, he wouldn’t have come into contact with Kanbaru who’s a year below him. So when Kanbaru approaches him, Araragi becomes surprised. The two exchange in friendly small talk on multiple occasions but when Araragi is almost killed by a shadowed figure in a raincoat, he concludes that the suspect that must have came across an apparition this time was Kanbaru.
Action scenes make a brief return and the scenes are conducted in a similar fashion to Kizumonogatari’s, combining Nisioisin prose style with Araragi’s internal reactions. With the first action scene, Part 2 has reintroduced a sense of urgency and danger to Araragi’s life. In Part 1, the apparitions were mostly stemmed from psychological traumas. It didn’t lose anything from not having action scenes, but Part 2 certainly regained that extra advantage.
That isn’t to say that Part 2 loses the characterization that the Monogatari series is known for. Kanbaru’s backstory is a lot more involved than other arcs, mainly because Senjougahara is a driving force in Kanbaru’s arc. Both past and present events featuring Senjougahara have an residing effect on Kanbaru’s mentality. Combining how that temperament came to be along with an easy to understand folklore makes Suruga Monkey an amusing story.
Suguru Monkey is not only about Kanbaru but also about Araragi and Senjougahara newly established relationship. They conduct their average everyday behavior, but the both of them are inexperienced when it comes to a intimate relationship, as expressed by Araragi’s sparse discomfort whenever he’s with her. This along with the fact that their apparitions had a tremendous psychological effect creates an interesting position for these two troubled lovers. What’s also interesting about this development is the timing, as it ties itself into Kanbaru’s story, resembling an odd love triangle. Fortunately, Bakemonogatari doesn’t deliberately rely on using typical rom-com bits to further the romance aspect. As we see more scenes featuring the both of them together and how the other characters view them their relationship starts to become a long-term motif of teenage intimacy.
What already has become a recurring point in the series, is Araragi’s selflessness. Araragi will always attempt to try to save a person–that’s the kind of person he is, and that’s what his friends like him for. But on multiple occasions in both Part 1 and Part 2, his kindness leads him to have no regard for his own self and will take it to the extreme in some cases. The cast has pointed this flaw out, but it isn’t until the climatic endings of these arcs, more specifically Nadeko Snake, that novel deliberately criticizes his kind nature.
In the second half of the book, Araragi and Kanbaru take a trip up to a local temple due to a job given by Oshino, but once they arrive, they arrive to see Sengoku pass by them and a graveyard of executed snakes. Nadeko Snake features the reserved childhood friend, Sengoku Nadeko, but despite being the titular heroine, we really don’t know her as a person. Her arc tells us about the circumstances regarding Sengoku, but the arc is completely dominated by Kanbaru’s presence as she grows her relationship with Araragi. She ends up being overshadowed and her tale, as a result, is considerably weaker.
There’s no lack of conversational dialogue in Part 2, as it has essentially become a staple for the Monogatari series. Luckily, for those who couldn’t tolerate Senjougahara’s constant berating of Araragi, the insulting becomes now more tolerable–well, it changes into a form of harsh love but the change is apparent. Instead, what we have taking the lead of the conversations (literally) is Kanbaru. Her brazen and forward attitude when talking with Araragi is more entertaining than the previous volume, compared to Senjougahara’s bitter insulting and Hachikuji’s childish banter. However, Kanbaru completely dominates Araragi in conversation so if you doesn’t like her character and her unusual quirks featuring plenty of sexual innuendos, you won’t enjoy reading them.
While Nadeko Snake and Sengoku herself are the weakest part, it doesn’t become a detrimental factor to the rest of the book. Bakemonogatari Part 2 is filled with layers of unique characterizations and themes, while making the previous ones residual and apparent, and capitalizing on those fronts. Bakemonogatari becomes increasingly stronger after its first volume, and I would highly recommend it.
Rating: Highly Recommended
Translator: Ko Random