By NISIOISIN and VOFAN. Released in Japan by Kodansha BOX. Released in North America by Vertical, Inc. Translated by Ko Ransom.
It’s been a long detour since we last saw Koyomi Araragi getting brutally murdered by Izuko Gaen at the end of the short story volumes. We’ve seen how Ogi came into his life, why he got so disaffected in his first year of high school, and finally finished up with everything he was doing in that very busy August. But now we’re FINALLY ready to wrap up all the plot points that have been bubbling under for the entire series. The history and state of the town ever since Kissshot Acerolaorion Heartunderblade arrived one year previously. The string of oddities that have popped up ever since, particularly Nadeko Sengoku’s transformation into a snake god. The “darkness” that erases things that break the rules, which removed Mayoi Hachikuji from the series. But mostly, everything Ogi has done ever since she arrived. Can Araragi wrap this all up? Despite being dead? And can he pass his exams? Heck, can he even go on a date with… um… what was her name again?
Oh right, Senjogahara, who graces our cover, and who is quick to point out that it’s been so long since she’s had a major role in the series she’s forgotten her character. Before we get to her, though, we get Mayoi Hell, where Araragi, as all vampires do, goes to Hell, meeting Mayoi there (she’s there for dying before her parents) and going on an extended recap of his life. This serves to remind him of his tendency to save the girl, and that if he had to do it again he’d do the exact same thing. After a long explanation of what’s been going on (he had to die to get rid of his vampirism, Gaen’s gonna revive him), and a brief “do I deserve to live” that gets the punching from Mayoi that it deserves, he returns… with Mayoi, who he basically kidnaps in a leglock. Which is very him. Aside from my usual issues with Mayoi (the “lol he’s sexually harrassing a grade schooler and it’s funny!) stuff, this was alright, though it suffered from endless exposition (more of that later).
Next we get Hitagi Rendezvous, the “sweet” center of the book, where Senjogahara takes Araragi on a date, something they have not done since Tsubasa Cat waaaaay back at the start of the series, and attempts, through various date activities, to get him to swear one thing for the rest of his life. Sadly, she keeps losing. This has some of the best writing in the series, apart from a brief interlude with Ogi interrupting Araragi’s dream (he falls asleep at a planetarium) to provide more exposition (more of this – yes, even more – later). Senjogahara has never been the tsundere she claims to be – she’s too straightforward for that – but here she does have some very odd push/pull dynamics, as she’s clearly dressing in a “Hanekawa” way as she thinks that’s what he finds attractive, but is also discussing their future together to the point of naming their daughter (Tsubasa, which Araragi finds “heavy”, and I think Hanekawa would agree). The ending of this one is the high point of the book.
This leaves Ogi Dark, where we finally get the true nature of Ogi revealed. It makes sense within the series – indeed, clever readers may have guessed it already – ties in with the series mythology, and also allows the basic conflict of “what do we do with aberrations” to come into play. Gaen, Hanekawa, Meme Oshino, and Ogi Oshino all have different ideas on how to deal with them. Unfortunately, sometimes they lead to bad things, as we saw with Ogi’s manipulation of Nadeko. Gaen tries to convince Araragi to take care of Ogi once and for all… treat her like the “Darkness” she’s pretending to be. But, of course, Ogi is not only the main villain of the series, and Araragi’s dark mirror (more on that next book), but also a girl that needs saving. Despite also getting bogged down in exposition (always a danger with Gaen in the story), the ending to this part was excellent, even giving us a “happily ever after”.
So my main complaint is the wordiness of the backstory and exposition (which isn’t going away) and the lolicon jokes (sadly also unlikely to go away), but for a series finale it’s mostly a winner. We even get a hint as to why Ogi is still around for Kanbaru’s book, and why’s he’s a guy in that one. That said, we aren’t QUITE done with Araragi – the final final book in this arc, End Tale (cont’d), is due out soon.