I have a lot for reasons for why the Monogatari series bores my brains out of my skull, but I’m going to put them aside for this post in order to ask a question that’s been bugging me for a while now: what exactly is the point of its character development?
Obviously, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have characters that are developed in your story. Still, whilst I get the appeal of origin stories and seeing people change over time, the praise for it is getting to the point where it’s becoming as overrated a virtue as “not taking yourself seriously”. James Bond and Indiana Jones are well-loved cultural icons and they don’t really develop over their franchises so much as receive characterization as a consequence of the story arc they’re attached to. And even if you argued that they did go through fully realized character arcs within the entire span of their franchises’ lifetimes, you can’t deny that said arcs were ultimately used as a means to an end, whether it be killing Nazis or having your new wife killed not even five minutes after you’re married. Because if you don’t have said arcs become a means to an end, you just get The Prestige without its plot twist ending.
I read some of the positive reviews for Tsukimonogatari shortly after finishing it and whilst I’m confused at how they can possibly excuse the fact that it was nothing but setup at the end of the day, I did notice the praise going to Araragi’s maturation over the series (snicker) as well as the development given to Yotsugi, who if you’ve been paying attention to the promo material for this, is supposed to be the main focus of the arc. But what the reviews failed to point out is this: what is the development used for? Because even the good “character porn” stories like Iron Man 3 have a point to its character growth at the end of the day.
Let’s start with Araragi. Ignoring the fact that I’d argue he hasn’t developed at all, as well as most of the fans I know having gotten sick of him and his pedophile ways, why exactly is him maturing a good thing? Is it supposed to be a commentary on how playboys mature over time? Because that’s kind of hard to believe when he still gropes his sisters every chance he gets. Is it to symbolize the transition between high school and adult life? Because I haven’t seen him work a job or anything. At the end of the day, all that’s changed is how he deals with a problem. But that’s useless if the problem isn’t compelling, and from where I come from, compelling problems don’t have an ending that lame. Also, his vampire story is going to continue in Koyomimonogatari or whatever the next novel is, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what the appeal of that story is either. For an insight into vampires that don’t sparkle? Well unless you want to pretend that the “no reflection in the mirror” is a new thing, I see no evidence to support that claim.
Well then let’s go to Yotsugi. From what I can understand, her (woefully underdeveloped because the show focused so much time on Araragi’s crap) arc was to develop her from a sort of emotionless doll into a more friendly person. If I had to think of a reason for why said story exists, it’s to symbolize how even the most monstrous of people can be human, even when they “kill” a man out of nowhere because they’re monsters at the end of the day. So something similar to Migi in Parasyte? Well that’s nice, except it wasn’t original when Parasyte did it, and it’s not original here either. The “monster becoming more human” thing is about as tired a story trope as “save the rainforest”, and unless you inject freshness into the trope, you’re not going to sell it to me. And I don’t think I have to spell it out to you that Tsukimonogatari failed to sell Yotsugi’s development as anything meaningful or new. I could clarify why, but that would involve getting my overall problems regarding Monogatari in general involved, so I won’t.
And of course, this extends to the other characters too. Now I’ve only seen Hanekawa’s and Kanbaru’s stories, but I got the gist from what I’ve read and whilst I’m all for improving characters, what is the point of making Nadeko likable? I’ve seen theories that it’s supposed to symbolize the girls moving on from their dependence on Araragi as a sort of take that to Clannad’s wish-fulfillment thing, but that seems kind of weak because Monogatari is still going on long after those arcs have finished to the point that said theme is a small part of the story at best and irrelevant at worst. There’s like six more novels to adapt for Christ’s sake, and that’s excluding that mythical Kizumonogatari that is in no way going to be worth the buildup. I don’t care if Monogatari is a bunch of fragmented stories. The good episodic stuff always have a strong connecting theme to their individual pieces and I’m not seeing anything of the sort in regards to Monogatari’s character pieces.
So yeah, at the end of the day, I’m not seeing Monogatari as any more than junk food with the occasional smart idea buried under a mountain of garbage. Of course I’ve listened to the people I know on a more personal level regarding why they like Monogatari’s storytelling, but they mostly praise the aesthetics (voice acting, Shaft style, etc.), and we all know that I can’t get into a work of fiction purely for aesthetics (I mean Iron Man 2 had a lot of things catered to me and I still found it to be a boring piece of shit). The more intellectual-minded of my confidants aren’t really much better at selling the show to me because they’re not as strict(?) about themes as I am, plus they’re into that sort of “watching characters constantly grow and change over time” sort of storytelling with no real climaxes provided the foundation is strong. I can’t buy into that. I want my entertainment to always challenge me, and I have my own standards regarding what I consider challenging.
And that’s why I fail to see the appeal of Monogatari’s character arcs/development, let alone its actual story…whatever it is.