VISUALIZED: Bakemonogatari 15 (PART I: Lighting and Setting)

It’s been a long time coming, but those 20 guys at SHAFT finally got their stuff together and managed to get that last episode of Tsubasa Cat onto store shelves. Having recently *ahem* acquired my own copy (I plan to buy all the BRDs eventually, okay?) along with writing a blog post lamenting the lack of bloggers who focus on visuals, I’ve been meaning to put my opinions on Bakemonogatari 15 to digital paper for a while. Now that I’ve finally gotten up off my butt and taken some 40 odd screencaps to help prove my points, right now seems like a fine time to talk about the last episode of Bakemonogatari!

You shouldn’t really expect some deep, high-minded analysis out of this. I do plan on reviewing various parts of Bakemonogatari in the future (provided I can find a way to get gg’s subs onto BRD rips) a bit more deeply, but for now I’m just going to look at the visuals, what I like about them, and comment on how they affect the narrative. Specifically, I’m just going to look at the main part of the episode, Black Hanekawa and Araragi’s confrontation.

I’m going to start off pretty general then move into specifics, so lighting seems like a good starting point. Hanekawa and Araragi’s confrontation has two distinct lighting schemes: a night scheme underscored by flashing lights, and a desaturated yellow color scheme as things move towards daybreak, and the episode comes to a climax.

The more expositional section of Black Hanekawa and Araragi’s dialogue–which consists mostly of Hanekawa throwing plot revelations at Araragi, and Araragi reacting in utter shock–is backed by the nighttime color scheme. Both characters are brightly illuminated by the lights around them, which is accentuated by a subtle bloom. This style of lighting is characteristic of classic Shinbo works, when they’re not obsessing over crazy color schemes. You can see this bloom effect make its way into things like Yamamoto Yohko, Tsukuyomi, and Cossette. Here it provides a good deal of contrast, adding a lot of drama to the visuals, complementing the actual drama between the characters perfectly.

The lights around the characters flash on and off, presumably reacting to Black Hanekawa’s powers as they fluctuate with her changing moods. At one point she explodes in anger, followed by the lights around her doing the exact same thing. With everything now dark, a sense of uncertainty is introduced on top of the drama, and stresses this sense of tension between the characters.

Right as the episode moves into B-Part, the lighting changes abruptly from nighttime colors to a more bleak, dark, and desaturated yellow color scheme. This style of coloring seems more in line with series director Oishi Tetsuyta’s style, as seen in his Maria Holic and Negima!? openings.

Even though we seem to be near daybreak, the nighttime colors actually seem brighter and more vibrant than they are here. The colors in this section of the episode really do well to suggest an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Once again, these feelings evoked by the visuals work as a complement to the drama happening on screen. At this point Araragi has resigned himself to death at the hands of Black Hanekawa, if it’ll rid normal Hanekawa of her stress.

But once Araragi realizes that Senjougahara will mess Hanekawa up worse than Black Hanekawa is currently messing him up, he tries to break free of the oddity’s grasp. Of course, it’s hopeless, and this hopelessness is once again driven home by the colors. It’s not until he summons Shinobu from the shadows that things brighten up, and the sun rises.

As the Tsubasa Cat arc progresses, the city in which the characters live comes into its own as a character. The final part of the arc focuses around a search for the lost Shinobu. During this search the city gets characterized as an expansive, lonely place composed of very large, imposing buildings. This last episode contains lots of wire-frame structures: electricity pylons, ferris wheels, suspension bridges, tower cranes, and scaffoldings around buildings. The immediate area around Araragi and Black Hanekawa is mainly shaped by the flashing lights I mentioned earlier. Their designs are very stripped down, sleek, and modern. Nothing more than poles adorned with large lights.

If you’ll allow me some armchair philosophizing for a minute, I feel these last two episodes in which Araragi traverses the city with Black Hanekawa in search for Shinobu is a good parallel to the thematic wandering of Hanekawa’s heart. Hanekawa is separated from her real parents, abused by her current step parents, and to top things off, the man who she’s had her eyes on for a while is now with another woman. She’s completely alone, and aside from being a good way to save on budget, this empty, dark, and bleak city is a good representation for how she feels. Her Black Hanekawa variant parading around with Araragi throughout this cold city drives this idea of her wandering heart home even further.

The emptiness of the environment along with only Araragi and Hanekawa in the middle of it all is perfect visual framing for the issues between the two. Hanekawa is facing the source of her stress face on, and right now he is the only person in this cold, empty world to her. This environment even interacts with them at times. I already mentioned the flashing lights, but there’s another key point in which the roar of a plane passing overhead is used to emphasize a particularly angry exclamation by Hanekawa.

From a purely visual standpoint, I really love the environment SHAFT created in this last episode. While episode 14 was more about full on architecture porn, this episode is more about silhouettes of wire-frame structures cutting into negative space, with the constant howl of wind in the background. There are a lot of aspects of this episode that are just visually arresting– things such as buildings, and the title pattern on the ground below the characters are simply well designed and interesting to look at.

To close off this section, here’s some more screencaps.

That’ll be it for now. Hopefully I can write up part 2 in a more timely manner…