Ah yes, the second season. This is the Monogatari series at its absolute best, with almost every book in this season being at least a 9/10.
Before I start though, to newcomers who have yet to read it, The Monogatari series has a really confusing timeline, and this season is when it starts to show. I wouldn't say that reading it in the published order is wrong, but I believe that reading Onimonogatari right after Kabukimonogatari and reading Otorimonogatari right before Koimonogatari would make for a less jarring experience, though it's not a must.
Anyways, right back to the review. The second season is where the
characters, after being established solidly in the first season, shine at their brightest. In fact, my opinion on almost every character skyrocketed right after reading the second season. This is done through NisiOisin's clever replacement of the point of view characters, such as letting Hanekawa and Senjougahara take the reins as protagonist of their respective novels. Of course, our boy Araragi still has two novels of the season for himself, but this change in perspective is refreshing and ingenious.
The second season starts out extremely strong, with Neko White. Hanekawa's arc throughout the first season comes to somewhat of a closure with Neko White, and this definitely is the most "beautiful" novel in the series. Getting into Hanekawa's mind and viewing events from her perspective is both refreshing and fascinating, and seeing characters from a different perspective compared to how araragi sees them is one of the highlights of these different point of view novels. Anyways, the way the story unfolds is slow but gripping, and the way it ends is definitely one of the most bittersweet endings in the series. All in all, truly a fantastic read, definitely one of the best novels in the series, and it got me to really love Hanekawa.
Right after that we have Kabukimonogatari, probably the most underrated book in my opinion. Not going to spoil much because discovering what the plot of this particular novel is had me cracking up at how bizarre it is, but it truly is the most outlandish novel yet at least. Shinobu was a character that I felt needed more screentime in the first season, and despite this technically being Hachikuji's arc Shinobu definitely was the star. Seeing Shinobu's and Araragi's relationship develop was fantastic, and this novel was extremely thrilling to read, with many twists and turns, all culminating into one hell of an ending.
Next, we have Hanamonogatari, which is probably the greatest outlier in this season. Why? Because for some reason, NisiOisin decided to jump all the way to the next year, skipping over all the many events that would happen later in the season, and focus on Kanbaru. Not complaining though, because Kanbaru is definitely one of my favorites. Hanamonogatari has gotten criticism for being much more of a slower burn than the other novels, but I think that's what makes it so good. Seeing things from Kanbaru's perspective is an absolute delight, and Rouka makes for a great foil for Kanbaru. Ultimately, this novel tackles Kanbaru's growth, and it's a great read.
Then, there's Otorimonogatari. Otorimonogatari now focuses on Sengoku, aka ms renai circulation, and Sengoku's growth from being my least favorite heroine to being one of my all time favorites definitely has to do with this book. Sengoku's character is extremely fascinating to read, and the way her character changes throughout the novel, and with one hell of a plot twist nearing the end, is jaw droppingly gripping. This novel gave perspective on Sengoku, and made her so much more fascinating than just a cute girl.
Onimonogatari is probably my least favorite of the season, mainly because of how Shinobu spends a pretty long time explaining her past, which was interesting at first but got a bit too drawn out imo. But who cares, because all three lolis are in this novel, and it is a delight. The three characters, Shinobu, Hachikuji and Ononoki, are all extremely enjoyable to read, and they bounce of Araragi really well. The whole concept of a tracking Black Hole is also pretty intriguing. Again, my main issue is the first half of the book, but after that it is extremely fun to read. Until of course, the ending, which is definitely the saddest scene in the series.
And then lastly, Koimonogatari. Starring Senjougahara, and Kaiki as well, Koimonogatari deals with the fallout that occurred at the end of Otorimonogatari, and it is oh so good. This novel is arguably the best in the series, mostly due to Kaiki carrying this tale. Senjougahara is fantastic as well, i'm especially a fan of how much she grew since the first season, however Kaiki just steals so many scenes you'd wonder why he isn't the main POV of this novel, but oh well. The plot is gripping and exciting, with probably the highest stakes so far in the series. The ending is as always fantastic, and it wraps up the main conflict of the second season in a very satisfying way. Also, this novel was when Ougi becomes extremely suspicious, which is definitely set up for the next season.
In conclusion, the second season's greatest strength is definitely the characters. Every character that had a major role went through much more development and fleshing out, and with more plot elements being introduced, this season masterfully sets up the next season.