An ode to the Corrupted Monk (Part 1)

I can still write about Sekiro. Wonder when I’m going to run out of material.

I’m still keeping up my regular boss rush appointments. Still having fun. I love fighting a lot of the bosses in Sekiro – this is one of the best boss fight rosters in any video game ever. The best boss is Sword Saint Isshin, but I have a massive soft spot for the Corrupted Monk – both as the True Monk and the Shade. She was the first boss where I realised Sekiro was on its way to becoming my favourite game, and that its bosses were heading the same way.

Beyond the sentimentality, the Monk has a lot going for her. She is visually striking, and one of the most fun bosses to fight – her fighting style and deflecting patterns have a unique rhythm to them. And even after god knows how many times I have rematched her she still has the capacity to surprise – something not many bosses can say. (This post will focus on the boss fight itself – I’ll try to do another post focusing on lore and stuff down the line).

Like most video game boss fight, the boss fights in Sekiro eventually exhaust what they are capable of. Patterns, attacks and timings will be figured out – even more so in a game where bosses can be fought whenever one pleases. While the same applies to the Monk, she does have a few attacks she rarely does (extremely rarely even) that catch me by surprise. As good as Isshin is, his capacity to surprise has been diminished (not his fun factor though). The Monk still has this with three moves. Two that are meant to clear out folk who hide in the trees of her arena, and one move she only uses in phase three.

I don’t know what sets off the tree orientated attacks when she’s on the ground. I cannot get her to do them consistently. One of them see’s the Monk launch herself in the air like someone going up for a dunk. It’s clearly meant to attack an enemy in a high position. But when I’m not up in a tree, and the Monk jumps up that high it’s always amazing. She has hops – far beyond anyone else in Ashina. For the record, I don’t know what sets this off when I’m on the ground with her. She brings it out at such random intervals that I never remember what position me and her are in when it happens. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.

I think that (maybe) being in the air near the trees might do it. Maybe.

Another attack the Monk does that targets the player in trees is a skyward thrust. Again, I think this is meant to happen when the player is in the tree but sometimes she will do it when Sekiro is on the ground. It looks super weird in that circumstance. First time I saw it (this year – 3 years after Sekiro came out) I didn’t know what she was doing.  I forgot for the moment that Sekiro is a single player game – is there someone else in the trees? Nope, just the Monk breaking out some weird new tech.

Again, I’m in the air near the trees.

The final phase attack is a four-hit combo. The Monk’s attacks are normally graceful – characterised by beautiful, clean swings. Brutal grace, but still graceful. The four hitter is devoid of grace, full of brutality. Prior to this the Monk has always been in control of her actions – here it’s all anger and flailing limbs. This combo reeks of desperation. It’s four flailing hits that’s just lashing out. This is her regular combo:

This is the lashing out combo:

I don’t see this attack a lot. Most times. I can go 10 to 15 fights without her doing it. Then she will do it in back-to-back fights. It can be hard to pick up on first glance because it’s so different to her regular attacks.

Speaking of her regular attacks – the Monk is one of the most beautiful boss fights of all time. In Sekiro she stands alone in terms of grace. She wields a unique weapon – either a Nagamaki or Naginata (it’s one of the two – I previously called it a Nagamaki – now I go back and forward). The way she swings the weapon is mesmeric – incredibly clean arcs chained together. The way she holds it is different – she has an open stance, switching the weapon between one and two hands. Aesthetically, her appearance plays into this. Her robes flowing whenever she swings her weapon and every swing of her weapon dragging up a wave of maple leaves – just beautiful.

I love that if you keep deflecting the Monk’s hits the combo will get longer. She still works with the Sekiro rule set (clear defined attacks to be deflected, mikiri’d or jumped over) but she plays with those rules differently. Genichiro, Isshin and others all have combos – attacks that go for three to seven hits (give or take) hits. But those combos are set – Genichiro and his floating cloud passage for example – that is set. Same with Isshin. Same with Guardian Ape. Same with Owl. They have attack chains that are set – before another attack comes out there is break – the sort of break that would represent a combo ending in a fighting game.

(I had footage of the Monk going for like 10 – 12 hits – that I accidently overwrote when clipping another bit of footage – so well done me. Idiot. Imagine this clip below but without the mikiri – that what she does. She skips the mikiri opportunity and goes into another combo.)

The Monk on the other hand can just keep going. She can chain regular swings together. She can go for eight, nine maybe more hits if deflects are kept up. I do wonder if she had an infinite posture bar how long she could go for. She can also stop these combos – normally she will turn it into a mikiri opportunity. But sometimes she will turn the final hit into a big sweep to push Sekiro away. She plays Sekiro, but she’s playing Sekiro in her own way.
I love her.
Notes and Asides:
I mentioned another post will be on the way about lore and stuff. It will also include my thoughts on her boss fight arena amongst other things because I want to talk about that as well.
One of my impossible dreams is to see the Corrupted Monk but animated by Arc System Works. Her colours, her movements, her attacks in that Arc Systems style. That would be something.    

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