There are Dark Places in the World, a Home For Ghosts: Bakemonogatari Finally (Finale)

[pem]_Bakemonogatari_15-D_-_Tsubasa_Cat_Part_5-D_[END]_[b81ea24a].mkv_snapshot_04.26_[2010.06.30_07.17.49]

In the end, what I take away is a story of friends and friendship. Senjougahara represented romantic love, and while all the other girls (Hanekawa, Oshino Shinobu, Hachikuji, Kanbaru, Sengoku)  flirted with us (yes, we viewers) in creating a harem dynamic, in the end they behaved as I would want my friends to behave, the way Oshino Meme is a friend.

It is interesting how Senjougahara is the only character whose behavior is completely unfriendly. With her it is either love, or punishment. Her characterization so thoroughly stands out from the rest in that while every other girl posed a physical or psychic danger or threat to Araragi, they ceased to manifest this after they were ‘saved.’ Senjougahara consistently, persistently poses a physical threat to Araragi long after he saved her.

She was the only character (IIRC) that specifically, formally, requested to be friends with Araragi. Then she said she loved him.

bakemonogatari 05 senjougahara points a finger

Relative to all other girls surrounding Araragi, Senjougahara is the most authentic. She is direct, and anything she withheld from him, she revealed in due course, on her terms. This authenticity demonstrated how she was the most powerful character in the show. Arguably, Araragi is more powerful for attracting her, and all the others; but she owns him – the deciding factor.

The most inauthentic, and thus the character that suffered a relapse of her curse/oddity, is Hanekawa Tsubasa. Hanekawa the nice, the helpful, the responsible was lying to everyone, was lying to herself. This allowed her oddity to resurface and take hold of her. The stress of her lies gave the cat something to feed on, and gave Bakemonogatari an anti-climactic final arc.

What this arc did well, was complete the relationships, the narrative feels whole as a result. Hanekawa provided some tension, some conflict. It put Araragi’s characterization through its paces:

Araragi by this time has revealed himself to us someone who is willing to sacrifice himself for others, with or without vampire healing abilities. He is wiling to put aside his own satisfaction so that others may be protected or saved. This played out in all of the girls after the Hitagi Crab arc. Senjougahara did well to point this out to Araragi, and she complimented him for it, if perhaps grudgingly.

bakemonogatari 11 hanekawa tsubasa cat

The crossroads: Araragi can save Hanekawa by letting the cat oddity kill him. This is interesting. This feeds directly into his nature to sacrifice himself. At this point it would be easy to let this happen. But see here, Araragi shows more than just a bit of character. He shows intelligence if not wisdom: If Hanekawa via the cat oddity kills Araragi, Senjougahara will kill her. Nobody wins.

But does this mean he goes out of character and doesn’t sacrifice something? No. What he gives up is his belief that people accept help out of selfishness. He gives up being righteous about this.

It’s quite a selfish thing for him to believe this. How so? It makes everyone he saves small, and doesn’t account for his own motivation. Why does he save people? Is it because they’re small, pathetic, and helpless (without him)? It doesn’t account for love going both ways. It doesn’t account for friendship.

So he took account of both, and called out for a friend. In all other cases, he ‘saved’ everyone when via friend ex machina. Senjougahara many times over shows up and finishes what he started (at the point when his own effort wasn’t enough and he himself was in danger).

The important thing to note here, is this time he acknowledged how much he needed help. He gave up the pretense that he believes people are utterly selfish.

And this time, all his friends did, in their own ways.

And Shinobu saved him and Hanekawa in spectacular fashion, just as Senjougahara would do.

There are dark places in the world, but we need not be so afraid if we are friends.

The story resolves, Oshino has his unorthodox send-off in the narrative, and nothing is left but Araragi and the girls, an alpha (and only) male in his house of ghosts.

A Personal Note

I felt completing Bakemonogatari, and now writing this post after almost a year since it started airing, is like getting to know a new friend all over again, and at last.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, Bakemonogatari and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to There are Dark Places in the World, a Home For Ghosts: Bakemonogatari Finally (Finale)

  1. Yumeka says:

    Very nice post. I’m glad I finally got to take Bakemonogatari off of my “Watching” list. The style of this show is simply extraordinary, but it’s not lacking in substance either. Though I didn’t become a huge fan of the series, I enjoyed it very much and will miss it!

    • Thank you. Bakemonogatari is only one of the two shows I blogged episodically to completion during their respective runs. It really expanded my range — both in post construction, and in anime watching in general.

      I’ll probably rewatch the whole thing soon, which should be lovely.

  2. Vendredi says:

    Bakemonogatari felt so long ago, been waiting for all the web-episodes to finish before I give it a whirl. Just looking at the title screencap makes me wonder if it’s even the same show.

    • It is very much the same show. The web episodes are finished, which is why I got to do this post.

      However, I do think that if I hadn’t had an archive of my own thoughts on the show (my blog posts) it will be a little difficult to form a complete opinion. Even if I rewatch the whole thing, I think the experience will be different.

  3. lvlln says:

    Your points about friendship and Koyomi’s nature seem spot on and are things that didn’t really occur to me before.

    My takeaway from the series was the cynicism and cruelty of people, and learning to accept that they exist. I felt that Koyomi’s final line about darkness and people living in it showed how he had learned a bit more about how people have some darkness in them, but that that was okay, because they were still people. They were still who they were.

    • Thank you, and yes, and that it was his own low opinion of himself that needed to go first. He had to get that he was worth saving, even if only because if he’s alive he could be someone who saves others…

      …but less like some kind of messiah, but more like a good friend.

  4. Kiri says:

    Very nice summary and analysis. It does feel a bit strange to have seen that ending after so long a break. I wonder if things might have felt a little different if Bakemonogatari had actually managed to finish airing weekly?

    • Thanks! I think it would have felt different in the sense of intensity. It would’ve felt more exciting and intense if everybody was still high from the week-to-week doses of Senjougahara, or Araragi reacting to the various titillations thrown his way.

      It would’ve felt far more intensely satisfying, in that for all the harem hijinks — which admittedly some people (including myself) aren’t interested in, there’s a powerful emotional core and a genuine love for the characters in the end.

  5. kadian1364 says:

    It’s interesting that the moments you focused on here you find philosophies about the value of friendship and relying on others, while Landon said here: http://mechaguignol.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/loose-ends/
    focused on how Araragi selfishly excluded himself from responsibility, essentially blaming Hanekawa for her own problems when he could have set things straight himself then and there. I was a little incredulous myself that Araragi is so inconsistent concerning his own insight in the situation: he wouldn’t accept the truth about Hanekawa’s feelings for him when the set-up is so obvious. His genre savvy leaves him in the climactic moments of every arc.

    I’m still wary about Bakemonogatari. I really liked the first two character arcs and the date episode, but would I recommend the whole series to a friend knowing how transparent the stock harem-building elements are and that the stylistic flair of SHAFT is an acquired taste? Maybe not.

    • I obviously don’t agree with his reading.

      I am not a fan of the harem genre and like Bakemonogatari a lot. I don’t think I can recommend it easily as well, as part of why I like is how challenged I felt given how easy I found it to dismiss.

      I’m glad I didn’t write it off, because I feel very fulfilled having expanded my tastes through this show.

      • Jack says:

        I’m currently in the process of reading through your earlier posts on the show, so what I say hear may have already been covered, never the less…

        I’ve really enjoyed Bakemonogatari, which is interesting, because if I travelled back in time to an earlier version of myself, and attempted to explained explain the basic premise of the show to him, I feel that it would be quite a tough sell.

        I mean : vampires, harems, underage-girls, staplers etc. Clearly the beauty of the show isn’t in the concept, but the writing and the execution.

        As soon as they make it clear who the “main couple is”, and they explain that before the end of the show , then you know that you have something unusual on your hands.

        I also agree that the impact of the finale has been lessened by this long time delay and irregular release schedule. The ‘earlier’ finale feels pretty damn strong in comparison.

        • I too credit the writing and execution for my enjoyment. I feel that I was surprised when (in hindsight) I felt I needed to be.

          Every time I felt like dismissing the show for what could have been cheap fanservice, I felt I wasn’t giving it enough of a look, and true enough the challenge rewarded me.

          And for all the titillation, the narrative itself is remarkably chaste, and not in a way that doesn’t ring true.

          If you do read the archive, you can tell that I’ve been thoroughly harsh with Ararararagi, which is probably why I’m championing him as much as I am now.

          Mayoi, Suruga, and Nadeko’s attraction to him may be as contrived as the harem genre itself but I’m glad they were there to be friends in the end — which is another level of fantasy, that of having genuine single female friends while you’re single yourself.

          The attractions with substance are at the forefront of the story in the end. And what’s wonderful too, is that Araragi didn’t have to be bailed out by Senjougahara in this one.

      • Suiman says:

        I share Landon’s point here. Considering Araragi was indeed inconsistent with his treatment to Hanekawa compared with the other girls, what makes her case different then? Landon commented on this: http://mechaguignol.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/loose-ends/#comment-917, which what I was thinking as well.

        Though there are some differences with Hanekawa’s dilemma. Before, Araragi was only instrumental in the solution. This was the first time that he can solely solve the problem without any assistance from anyone, rather, he himself was the solution/problem- love Hanekawa and all will be well. Unfortunately his relationship with Hitagi denies him and Hanekawa of this fix. If this was the case, this makes Arararagi a whole lot more despicable, with his inability to help, he blames Hanekawa’s weakness to cover his own helplessness in the situation.

        Still, perhaps this angle could put Araragi in a better light. Another difference was unlike Hanekawa, all of the previous girls were able to consciously face and solve their problems. Still, Araragi went through extraordinary lengths to initiate and/or facilitate the removal of their oddities. I have yet to see this effort in his part to help Hanekawa. Unlike the other girls, She is still haunted by her oddity and still suffering from her real world dilemmas. I have yet to see this set to straight by Araragi with Hanekawa as he has done with his other “harem” members. For someone who was so important to Araragi, Hanekawa received the least from him.

        Then again, since this problem deals with unrequited love wherein Ararragi cannot give what Hanekawa really wants, perhaps he was sincerely incapable to help her. Despite being the answer, his rejection of the given solution can be seen as a sign of strength instead. He accepted that he could not save anyone he wishes, there are those that could only be saved by no one but themselves. In addition, his harsh comments on Hanekawa might not be solely directed at her. He might as well be scolding the cat for her “obedience” to her master opening a way for Hanekawa to help herself. Perhaps this was the best thing he could do.

        I’m still very much conflicted whether to praise or berate Araragi for his comments on Hanekawa.

        • Well, I suppose the questions for you as a viewer are:

          1. How important is Hanekawa to you? Do you favor her in some way over the other characters?
          1.1 Would you have the same concerns if Araragi behaved this way to Suruga or Nadeko?

          2. How much of Araragi’s being consistently good(?) or heroic(?) factors in your appreciation of the show?

          My liking the show doesn’t hinge on Araragi redeeming himself in my eyes (I have been very harsh on him).

          http://ghostlightning.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/araragi-doesnt-deserve-your-thanks-bakemonogatari-10/

          http://ghostlightning.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/bakemonogatari-11-you-are-not-a-man/

          I mean my appreciation of the series doesn’t hinge on a moral righteousness. Also, I happen to like love triangles and part of what I like about this particular one is how Tsubasa is never rewarded for her self-sacrifice. There’s no special prize for her either from Araragi or anyone else, not that she gets liberated from her oddity twice isn’t worth anything.

          Is it fair to her in a “life’s not fair” kind of way? No, but I don’t think much of that. It’s not fair that all these attractive girls are attracted to Araragi in their particular fashion.

          • Suiman says:

            You caught me there. As the show continued, Senjougahara was derailed and I was overrun by Hanekawa Fascination (Most certainly a minority in the fan base). Still, my curiosity towards Araragi’s behavior stems from it being “different” towards Hanekawa, not just because I prefer her over the girls. If a different girl would be the recipient of his sermon, I would question it as well. Perhaps I’m asking the wrong question, it might as well be that Araragi was the one who was different not Hanekawa and her situation. Blaming the human and not the oddity could be a sign of his growth during the previous arcs. His higher sense of self worth during the final moments of the finale indeed shows that he is a different man. Whether Arararagi was good or bad in his treatment towards Hanekawa does not change how I loved the show. Either reading makes for a satisfying ending and an excellent show overall.

            I hope that Shaft would also animate the other light novels, especially those centering on his titillating antics with his sisters.

          • I rewatched the episode, and really started wondering what could anyone ‘moral’ really expect from Araragi there?

            Araragi wouldn’t be Hanekawa’s boyfriend in an inauthentic relationship. The truth will come out and the following can happen:

            1. The oddity manifests again because of the inauthenticity of their relationship.
            2. Senjougahara kills them both.

            This would be a wholly unproductive kind of sacrifice. You said some fine things too:

            Blaming the human and not the oddity could be a sign of his growth during the previous arcs. His higher sense of self worth during the final moments of the finale indeed shows that he is a different man.

            Yes, I think you nailed it. It’s because Araragi has a higher sense of self-worth that he can hold other people responsible. A person with no self worth will ultimately fault himself — but not without lashing out on others in some way.

            I too would like more animated adaptations of NisiOisiN’s works. I recommend Katanagatari. If you’ve seen some episodes, I’m blogging it as well.

            http://ghostlightning.wordpress.com/category/analysis/katanagatari-analysis/

  6. Pingback: Bakemonogatari 15 « hontou ni

  7. Well, I’ve finally joined the club. It’s well over due for me to finish my favorite series from last year, this year. But that couldn’t be helped could it? There was huge gaps in between my completions of episodes 12 and 13 and then 13, 14 and 15. So things felt a little disjointed towards the end. In a way, the characters had to reintroduce themselves to me. But what stood out to me was that scene where he’d been attacked the Cat and was willing to sacrifice himself. I said to myself, “if he doesn’t f*cking ask for some damn assistance I’m going to be pissed.”

    Araragi’s character (to me) boiled down to whether he learned to care about those he was trying to save. As he stated to Hanekawa a few episodes before, was his debt more important to the person, or the person? The sacrifice of Araragi’s life was not only unwise because it would lead to the unhappiness of Senjougahara and the eventual murder of Hanekawa, it just plain wouldn’t be what Hanekawa would have wanted. I think for a second, he was mistaking the apparition’s desires with Hanekawa’s. I’m getting long-winded, but all I’m trying to say is that it’s nice that Araragi learned something valuable about himself and matured. It’s not about dying for the people you care about, it’s about living for them.

    I’m a bit sad that this is over, but at least I have the mesmerizing soundtrack to keep me company.

    • Yes, it’s an issue between his own self-image and the actual people who influence his self-image. He chose right this time, and I’m glad because it’s a proper epiphany to close this part of their story. I had a blast watching and blogging this show, and thanks for keeping me company throughout.

  8. ayame says:

    I’ve read all your articles on Bakemonogatari this afternoon and it was more than a nice reading. I started feeling again very small in accord to my critical abilities of anime commenting. The whole (in)authenticity theme was ingenious. I’m also glad I’m not the only one that has love/hate feelings for Koyomi. Although I must indeed be alone in my dismay towards Senjougahara’s crazy behaviour (I’m really scared by this woman)…

    • Thank you very much.

      Don’t feel bad, what’s more important than a brilliant effect is the authenticity of your voice and opinion. Feel free to join the discussions in Nisemonogatari.

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