While this week's Nisemonogatari may officially bring us the start of the show's Tsukihi Phoenix arc, episode eight still prefers instead to devote its attentions to elder sister Karen. Lots of attention in fact.... *clears through* - a decidedly large amount, you could say.
With his studying disrupted by a demanding Karen, Koyomi is rather concerned that his sister is being bullied - I mean, why else would she be wearing a skirt... a skirt "borrowed" from her sister no less? We don't really get an answer to this question, but Karen seems unusually eager to please her brother, and eventually perhaps we come to the crux of the matter - Karen wants to meet Kanbaru. It seems like a pretty reasonable request given their shared interests, and they'd probably get on like a house on fire... which is exactly what worries Koyomi given Suruga's sexual proclivities.
Thus, to dissuade his sister, Koyomi agrees that he'll allow Karen to meet Kanbaru if she wins his game - and this is where things become a little odd. Essentially, Koyomi's challenge to his younger sister is for her to allow him to brush her teeth, which he seems assured is something that will make her feel too psychologically uncomfortable to endure given its intimacy. It seems, however, that Koyomi has underestimated his sister... and indeed himself, as they both end up enjoying this situation far too much - a rather awkward admission once Tsukihi walks in on them, to her disgust.
It isn't too often that I'm left speechless on this 'blog, but I simply don't know what to say about this episode of Nisemonogatari. Okay, okay, so I do know what I want to say about it: My first thought is "what's happened to the series I love in its Bakemonogatari form?" - that kind of quirky, witty and smart story-telling certainly feels like a thing of the past in comparison to what this instalment offers. Or is it? On the flip-side of that coin, there's such a knowing nod and wink to Koyomi and Karen's incestuous behaviour that it's almost delivered as piece of clever, post-modern fan service - a line in the sand which posits that nobody would be sick enough to derive enjoyment from watching a girl writhe sensuously while her big brother brushes her teeth, while depicting this very event with such erotic force that it effectively defies you not to be aroused by it. The result is... well, awkward really - something horribly and completely wrong, but still visually arresting at the same time.
The kicker for me however is how this scene closes - Karen and Koyomi's implicit desire to continue down the same path even haven been given the opportunity to say "hey, that was a mistake" destroys some of the "magic" of what came before. It crosses the line that the episode itself has drawn, crossing from embarrassing, flirtatious and erotic folly into something far more creepy and unpalatable. Looking back at how Bakemonogatari is remembered by many for those beautiful scenes as Araragi and Senjougahara talked under the stars, I hope that Nisemonogatari isn't going to be instead going to be remembered simply as "that anime with the incestuous toothbrush scene". At the moment though, it feels as if that might be the case.