I can't wait a second longer to tell you about the most recent two books that I've read, namely books 9 and 10 in the Monogatari series, Kabukimonogatari and Hanamonogatari! It's just too exciting! So let's dive right on in...
Kabukimonogatari. Long story short, Araragi, an 18 year old high schooler and his loli vampire friend Shinobu (they have been bound together in life by the events of the previous books) travel back in time in order to save a girl from getting run over by a car when she was 10 years old. They debate for a long time whether or not their actions will be enough to change her fate, or if their being there in the first place will create some sort of time paradox or butterfly effect. Ultimately, they succeed in saving the girl, then return to the present, only to find their world has been laid waste, and nearly all of humanity has been transformed into zombie vampires. Through a series of events they learn that they never actually changed fate at all, but that they accidentally jumped into a parallel timeline where the world would have met it's demise whether or not they saved the girl.
And that's where it gets interesting. It's the who and the why that really turns this story into mesmerizing, tear-jerking gold. I don't want to give the masterpiece of an ending away, but let me just say this: you won't be disappointed. If you read this book as a standalone novel without reading the entire series leading up to it, you will be somewhat confused and let down. But if you are already a Monogatari fan and have invested the time to really understand the characters and all their little quirks and emotional ties, this ending will likely be the most powerful of all the endings in the series thus far. Oh man, this was the knockout punch for me. I literally closed the book after reading the last page and gave Nisioisin a standing ovation...in my living room. What a beautiful ending. Since I can't contain myself, I'll give you just this little nugget as a teaser. The major themes of the ending are friendship, love, companionship, sacrifice, commitment, redemption, and forgiveness. Talk about heavy. But as with all his writing, Nisioisin constructs it in such a way that it is light and entertaining at the same time. Wow. What a masterpiece.
Like most of the other books in the Monogatari series, Kabukimonogatari is told through the eyes of our lovable protagonist, Araragi. Hanamonogatari, on the other hand, is told through the eyes of secondary character, Suruga Kanbaru, a nationally ranked basketball all-star who had to give up her athletic career because she chose to wish on a Monkey's Paw, the remnant of a cursed devil creature. As a result, the arm attached itself to her and replaced her own arm. To cover up the gaffe, she faked a career ending injury and kept her arm wrapped tightly in a makeshift cast. She learns to cope with the transformation and develops a routine so that she can move on with life as normal (or as normal as it can get for a high school girl with a monkey's arm).
Then one morning, after meeting an old basketball rival, she wakes up to find her arm has returned to normal and the monkey's paw is nowhere to be found! Given that her conversation with her old rival was the only thing out of the ordinary that happened, she knows it must have something to do with her. And that's where the adventure begins. While this is by no means the most groundbreaking, nor emotionally engaging of Nisioisin's works, it's still a fun read full of witty banter and memorable moments. I think if this book didn't have the misfortune of following immediately after the masterpiece that was Kabukimonogatari, it would have fared more favorably in my mind's review. But such is life. Still well worth the read, but not at the same level as the likes of Kizu, Neko Kuro, Bake 1, Bake 3, Neko Shiro, or Kabuki.