I can’t help but feel good about how Araragi reminisces about Senjougahara at the beginning of the episode. It tells me that their first date was indeed about something. Every step forward in his relationship with Senjougahara is initiated by her, and a lot of the good feelings I have come from these:
- Senjougahara apologizing to Araragi in Hitagi Crab 02 for her teasing and telling him her wish to be friends.
- “I love you.”
- Rescuing him from Suruga who had him by the entrails.
- “This is all I have.”
In every moment, Araragi is validated. His existence is justified. He is shown, through a discriminating perspective that is easy to respect: Senjougahara, to be a person of worth, and worthy of love. We thank her for this because it’s as if she is validating us, our own existence. Why do we feel this way?
It’s because I don’t feel that Bakemonogatari is being coy anymore. Araragi is not a viewer avatar for us to project ourselves into. He is us, and we don’t complain because we are fascinated by Senjougahara, who loves us. She loves us! We’re saved!
Senjougahara is an interesting carrot, and a beautiful one. But if there is a carrot, what of the stick?
Bakemonogatari uses a carrot and a stick: Senjougahara and Senjougahara. Rather, guilt and shame that Senjougahara spares Araragi from. Note that she never held anything about his character against him. The thing she complained about, his willingness to save anyone, she re-framed as a virtue. So how are we to feel the stick?
It’s really up to us, and how we feel when we see Araragi sneak up and attack Hachikuji from behind, shamelessly groping her and blatantly and joyfully talking about seeing her panties. This is not the first time he did something like this to Mayoi, and it’s not the first time I took note of it:
How does Araragi behave? Frankly it’s rather outrageous. As cowed and emasculated he seems in the presence of Senjougahara, Kanbaru, and Hanekawa, he is outright aggressive towards the other two. He not only groped the grade schooler, he actually fought her like a bitch. And when he’d win, he raised his arms and acted like a champion! [->]
I didn’t mince words then. I didn’t think much of him as a man. However, every time I feel like I’m disgusted by this guy, and somewhat ashamed at how I must be becoming as a viewer and consumer of anime, Senjougahara rescues him. Senjougahara rescues me. I’m still ok. I think Bakemonogatari is particularly clever in doing this. I think it’s very effective. It’s interesting, and riveting.
In Araragi we see a reclamation of our souls as otaku.
I’m not saying that there’s no better way to enjoy Bakemonogatari, that it’s not accessible from other appreciation strategies. This is just one that particularly gripped me and perhaps others may find interesting. After all, the show can be appreciated directly as (perhaps an unconventional) harem show.
Haneko Tsubasa justifies the harem dynamics here. She explains how Araragi suddenly became very attractive to all these girls. His vampirism lent gave him the powers of charm. After all, even Hanekawa feels particularly vulnerable to it, despite being a staunch supporter of his relationship with Senjougahara; as opposed to Mayoi who thought it weird that he picked Senjougahara over Hanekawa (though it always seems that Araragi is most himself when he is with Hachikuji).
Araragi suddenly became very attractive to all these girls. His vampirism lent gave him the powers of charm. After all, even Hanekawa feels particularly vulnerable to it, despite being a staunch supporter of his relationship with Senjougahara; as opposed to Mayoi who thought it weird that he picked Senjougahara over Hanekawa (though it always seems that Araragi is most himself when he is with Hachikuji).
Later, when Araragi was already committed to saving Hanekawa, he asked her in the same ceremonious manner to hand him her hat… to validate her cat ears. Hanekawa gave the same response, “You are making me angry.” Then Araragi showed a bit of character, and told her that he cared more about helping her — that is to return the favor for her saving him during Golden Week.
In the end this is what we want to remember about Araragi, a good man in a down to earth way. He indulges his naughtiness like the worst of us, and does people right like the best of us.
We might be tempted to remember love for Senjougahara as Ararararararararararagi did at the beginning of the episode; so here’s how wonderful Bakemonogatari seemed for us, and perhaps how we prefer to remember it [->]
Some dynamics of guilt when watching anime [->]
I imagine Letter Bee to be Ararararararararararagi’s choice of show to watch; he can safely view it while Tsukihi and Kallen mill about in his room as well [->]
What I imagine Suruga Kanbaru found out about Ararararararararararagi’s fetishes in Nadeko Snake 01 (2DT 2009/11/02)