The Inauthenticity of Senjougahara (Bakemonogatari 03)

bakemonogatari 03 araragi right eye senjougahara's outfit

This post is less about episode 02 than the first part of the episode, where I was rather arrested by the whole sequence between Senjougahara and Araragi in the playground. A lot of other things happen (or get talked about), but I don’t feel I can discuss all of them here.

Instead, I will focus on a particular consequence of Senjougahara gaining weight. She gained her weight back, which I postulated in my previous post on this show, is tantamount to ‘meaning.’ And indeed, she put a lot of meaning in Araragi being instrumental in her gaining it all back.bakemonogatari 03 araragi ahoge

So much stuff was going on in this episode! Araragi’s ahoge could have had its own show.

So I bring your attention to this particular exchange near the beginning of the episode. Araragi was moping around in this rather awesome playground and Senjougahara found him, and ‘allowed’ him to see her.

S: I wanted you to see these clothes first if possible, Araragi-kun.

A: Hey, if you wanted to show them to me first…

Well, uh, that makes it sound like a stroke of luck or an honor.

S: I didn’t want to show you them, Araragi-kun.

I wanted you to see them.

The nuance is completely different.

Is it really? Perhaps we can say that Senjougahara ‘allowed’ Araragi to see her new clothes, as opposed to ‘show’ them.

The proposed probable nuance lies in the power relations. For Senjougahara to show (off) her new outfit, it speaks of an intention to please, to seek approval. Araragi would then have a power to deny Senjougahara some satisfaction.

To ‘allow’ him to see the outfit suggests an indifference to his approval (whether or not this indifference is true). The power is entirely with Senjougahara. She’s the one calling the shots, she decides what Araragi is fit to see.

The question is why this power play? Why the lengths to demonstrate nuance and show Araragi that he’s doing it wrong?

bakemonogatari 03 senjougahara cleavage

The inauthenticity that I suspect ties in with the titillation of the thing. I am being flirted with, through the idea that Senjougahara actually likes Araragi and wants his approval, and that this very exchange is flirtatious (look at all the fanservice, not only for our benefit but think of what Araragi is seeing up close).

This is happening in a playground, a supremely entertaining sequence that to me confirms the power relationship. Senjougahara feels that she owes Araragi a favor. After all, in getting her weight back, he’s not the one who had to be paid for services. Araragi’s apparent lack of self-interest in making things right for Senjougahara is treated as a significant act of generosity. The park suggests play, innocence. The actual dialogue is very raunchy, in that Senjougahara is offering her favors to Araragi, appealing to fetishes that to me clearly break through the fourth wall.

bakemonogatari 03 senjougahara araragi steak bicycle playgroundThe steak cycles (yes, they are steaks) on the circular playground track rivals Senjougahara with nothing but an apron as ideas of superlative awesomeness.

There’s this moment where they talk about virginity. I could go on about the politics of sexual dominance here but for now I’ll let this underscore the jarring juxtaposition of innocence and all this dirty talk.

The whole objective of Senjougahara here is to “become friends on equal footing.” She cannot do so without returning Araragi a favor. She guesses that he with his rather weak personality would not ask for something sexual, and she intended to do something personal that would make a difference.

bakemonogatari 03 senjougahara araragi sexual dominance

But, but, but, she does all sorts of violence on him with all this flirtation and titillation. He’s quite powerless, as he’s obviously attracted to her and he’s already at the threshold of gratification. But alas, he sees himself wanting something more of Senjougahara. I won’t be able to tell if there’s something really there as far as she’s concerned — especially as the new character is introduced (which creates ambiguity and even a harem tangent of a rather disturbing turn), but she cares enough to restore the balance of power to begin an authentic friendship.

While such authenticity won’t be available until after repayment. She dominates him mercilessly. That is the inauthenticity of Senjougahara.

A parting shot from our fetching heroine,

No matter how small a human being you are, I’m never gonna desert you.

A final note: Identifying the inauthenticity of Senjougahara is not a value-judgment on my part (read: I’m not hating on her); also, I chose not to discuss the glaring inauthenticity of our Araragi-kun, he who says he really doesn’t want a girlfriend. Who’s the more inauthentic character at this point?

Further Reading

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (a Monster in Bakemonogatari) [->]

More images from the wonderful playground of titillation [1] [2] [3]

A whole lot of Senjougahara from Panther — I mean there are other posts on BakemonogatariSenjougahara but this one has the most images and content (Panther 2009/07/20)

I’m new to ‘The Shinbo Experience,’ but I discovered this shameful otaku secret as a good introduction (otou-san 2009/07/20)

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, showing a bit of character and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to The Inauthenticity of Senjougahara (Bakemonogatari 03)

  1. schneider says:

    Hitagi is too unreal for me, but therein lies her charm (HNGH).

    Her last quote in this post sounds like a Rick Astley lyric though. 😛

    • ghostlightning says:

      Hitagi is perhaps hyper-real. She entertains very real things in the audiences imaginations — the very litany of fetishes she sends over Araragi’s way, nonchalantly, as if not to tempt him with the fetishes per se, but never without an overt sexuality.

      Real people have real thoughts like this, only that they behave very inauthentically (un-real) by pretending not to have them: boys and girls alike.

  2. Panther says:

    I still believe that Hitagi was just doing it all to get Araragi’s attention and to bait him towards making her his girlfriend and making him do the asking. That would still be in line with your reasoning though.

    And I did not go as in-depth or think about as many undertones as you did. I must not be doing this right.

    HHHNNNGGGHH

    • ghostlightning says:

      She knows she can make him do anything. This bores her.

      I imagine that she wants to make a man out of him.

      This is the favor returned, though there is some sincerity when she says she’ll never abandon him.

      She won’t, it just won’t be the romance that both of them want, but simply aren’t ready yet.

      That’s what I think anyway.

  3. sadakups says:

    Araragi, you lucky son-of-a-bitch.

    That’s all people who aspire to be Senjougahara’s waifu would say to this episode. And yes, I just said it too.

  4. coburn says:

    “also, I chose not to discuss the glaring inauthenticity of our Araragi-kun, he who says he really doesn’t want a girlfriend. Who’s the more inauthentic character at this point?”

    Excellent! Of course, when tackling Senjougahra’s aggression as a supplicant, there’s the question of whether her idea of an authentic/equal friendship as a balance of favours is real in the first place. It’s that hidden motive which victimises our hero – as if he was worried that the emotional openness at the end of ep.2 was something he misread. But as you say, the inability to trick her doesn’t mean that Araragi can claim to be genuine.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Let’s take this further!

      Araragi is a commentary on the viewers.

      Inauthentic, delusional, socially impaired, vampiric (reformed or otherwise; in terms of public or family resources, friends if any, etc), lustful, victim-playing, and yet…

      indulgent of master fantasies.

      Obvious hasty generalization is obvious, but despite this, let us consider the reading. Instead of a viewer-proxy Araragi, which is the knee-jerk reading, he is instead a snarky annotation on the contemporary viewer.

      At least in the last two episodes.

      • coburn says:

        That is an interesting one, although I imagine Araragi will get a chance to drop the passivity in the future. My take up til now has been that he’s an upgrade on viewer-proxy leads, but that the criticism is aimed at male heroic archetypes, more than the viewers they stand in for.

        But the whole ‘victim-playing’ thing complicates that, since we’re clearly involved in his punishment and his reaction. Certainly the typical (Western?) reaction to the anime boy hero re. women (‘man up!’ etc.) doesn’t quite apply here (unless we were to be absurdly boorish). Not really knowing much firsthand about Japanese culture, I’m not sure exactly how boys think of the stereotypical anime male lead – but Araragi possibly could pass as a regular bloke raised on a diet of anodyne shonen heroes. He has this proper nervousness balanced with a more cynical tone (Kyon-ish perhaps?).

        On a side note, I find the idea of myself as a vampiric viewer pretty amusing: it’s a more glorious way to be parasitic.

        • ghostlightning says:

          Yes on all counts.

          I myself favor the shounen-ish ‘take it by your own hands’ (even romance) kind of character, but Araragi is interesting.

          As for us viewers, indeed why be a tapeworm when you can be a vampire?

      • otou-san says:

        Instead of a viewer-proxy Araragi, which is the knee-jerk reading, he is instead a snarky annotation on the contemporary viewer.

        Now this, I like. I don’t know how much that supports your “inauthentic Senjougahara” argument, but it doesn’t really refute it either. It does make the creators seem like vindictive Anno-like entities who hate us, though 😀

        • ghostlightning says:

          People are, in a word, inauthentic. They are authentic during moments of exception rather than the rule.

          This is not a value-judgment on people.

          How often do we censor our language (I’m talking outside the internets), and not say what we truly feel – to avoid looking bad, to avoid conflict (which can lead to looking bad)? This behavior alone compromises our authenticity.

          So in Senjougahara’s case, there may be one ‘true’ desire, which could either be domination of Araragi, or friendship of Araragi (perhaps among other things).

          But Araragi as representatives of us viewers is funny, even if only to speculate on how much contempt they have for us, perhaps in a tsundere context.

      • TheBigN says:

        Not to mention the joy of a hard-fought (dominating) victory over someone a little girl, who’s supposed to be “harmless” in the first place. 😛

        • ghostlightning says:

          I didn’t mention her because she’s a whole new game for this episode, but I suppose it’s consistent, how Araragi takes shameless pride in besting the child in a fight, using a judo move.

          • TheBigN says:

            I should have phrased that better as not someone who’s “harmless”, but someone who at initial appearances looks like someone who needs to be protected. Yay moe?

          • ghostlightning says:

            Araragi’s judo move can be read as an insinuated rejection of moe. After all, Araragi wants Hitagi whether he can deal with it or not.

            Then again there’s probably an appropriate moe mode for her, but I find this idea intriguing nonetheless.

  5. tskiller says:

    She is just being a tease. Most girls are, but not to her level. Thats how they “wrap guys around their little finger” so to speak.

    And you are thinking too hard about the clothing. When someone asks “How do I look?” they ALWAYS get a positive answer, and are forcing them to notice their outfit. That would be Hitagi “showing” the outfit to Araragi.

    If Araragi comes out and says “hey is that outfit new? It looks great on you.”, that would have a lot more meaning than her pointing it out to him that its new. She just wanted him to notice on his own.

    “I chose not to discuss the glaring inauthenticity of our Araragi-kun, he who says he really doesn’t want a girlfriend.”
    Again, you are thinking too hard. He just wants to avoid rejection. Like most guys do. Its pretty clear that he just isn’t outgoing enough or has a big enough ego to ask someone out without already knowing the outcome. The context should have been obvious…

    Just seems like you are kind of trying to find reasons to dislike this show.

    • ghostlightning says:

      LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL.

      No, not at all. Try again, or lurk moar.

      Seriously, no I’m not trying to find reasons to dislike the show. I invite you to exert more effort in reading the post and perhaps the other comments. I explicitly mentioned that I’m not making value judgments re the characters. And if I’m reading into the subject this much, it really means that I’m having a lot of fun with this show. Your own conclusions I find rather hasty (your reading about the tease, the clothing, Araragi), very consistent with your impression that I’m finding reasons to dislike the show. Read more into the show, it’s a big part of the fun.

      But if you just like fangasming about Hitagi (or the grade-schooler, if that’s your thing) by all means go ahead. That is fun too!

    • otou-san says:

      while I’m learning a lot about the Shinbo dynamic in my own comments section, and about the author of Bakemonogatari as well, one thing I do know is that I’m not going to underestimate either of them when it comes to implications and hidden meanings.

      There was obviously weight (if you’ll pardon me using that term here lulz…) in the “showing him the clothes” statement — although I feel like in this show especially we’re at the mercy of the translators when it comes to getting the gist of the Nisiosin wordplay, so I had some doubts about my own interpretation of it.

  6. tskiller says:

    Occam’s razor…

    But hey if you want to overanalyze everything, be my guest. Next time, try rebutting my arguments instead of assuming things and insinuating that I’m a pedophile. If you just attack my credibility, nobody will take you seriously, and it makes you look like a dick.

    • ghostlightning says:

      No insinuation, no attack! You’re reading too much into my response. Seriously lurk moar.

      I invite you to reconsider your opinion. I make no value judgments re people fangasming re 2D teenagers or younger. Maybe you think otherwise, but that’s your business. I’ve no interest in rebutting your arguments. I’d rather you have fun here and have fun with the show.

      If you read through my archives, you’ll find out that the style here is not ‘being right’ about interpretations of the subject, but rather exploration and speculation in the spirit of fun. You’ll see that I’m all for plurality of meaning and this post is just one reading of it.

      Your invoking Occam’s razor frames the discussion in a “you’re right, I’m wrong” paradigm which simply does not interest me. Your reading of the show isn’t invalid if that’s as far as you want to take it. That however, doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s.

    • Comment re: Occam’s razor here, which is far too often misunderstood.

      Occam’s razor is not about the “easiest” solution, it is about assuming the minimal amount of entities while still making the explanation work. Applying Occam might very well make an explanation far more complex than not – if you felt like it, you could just make up an ad hoc explanation for each and every thing occuring because it’s easy to do that, which would be far more easy than most minimalistic-Occamist tactics.

      gl does good there, since he reduces a lot of seemingly disparate elements into a single one (the play of power). While yours is face-simple, but relies on a few more underlying premises (the politics of teasing/the frequencity of positrive answers/avoidance of rejection). Not that it makes either necessarily wrong or uninteresting. it’s just my moe for correct appliance of Occam.

      Not that it MATTERS. One does as one wishes. And pardon over-analyzing your call for under-analyzing.

      Also lolicon != paedophile :V

  7. In other news, Senjougahara is freakin’ hot.

    You forgot to mention that ghostie.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I had thought the images would speak for themselves, but yes she’s f r e a k i n g hot. I thought I established that in the last post, but I suppose one can’t say it enough. Senjougahara Hitagi is freaking hot. Her very name reads and sounds like sex, even in roman letters (because I sure hell can’t read moon runes).

  8. vendredi says:

    When you analyze both characters like this, it suddenly strikes me that I could very well compare this to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya.

    Araragi is like SHAFT’s (Shinbo’s? The writer’s?) take on a Kyon, while Senjougahara is the SHAFT Haruhi, that queen tundra. Or tsundere, even – that fickle madam who, as you note, twists her wording and invitations in such a way that the protagonist really only can choose between “Yes” and “Yes” (or “No”, and “No”, as the case may be).

    And in a similar way to The Melancholy, Bakemonogatari provides us with a protagonist that invites self-identification. Araragi certainly doesn’t do as many monologues or self-narrations as Kyon, but he does provide a fair number of asides in a similar way.

    Until this point, I think the only show that I could compare Bakemonogatari to was J.C. Staff’s To Aru Majutsu No Index, which also features a smart-mouthed high school student who’s for the most part normal having to deal with a rather fickle (and sorcerous) female lead as well. Which now makes me think, perhaps we are seeing the rise (or perhaps resurgence) of a “Kyon archetype”?

    Finally, far be it from me to be a combo breaker, so I shall add my hearty “HNNNNNNGH” to the choir.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I think it’s an interesting comparison. I’m not sure that Araragi and Kyon invite me to identify with them, but I can imagine others doing so.

      Rather, I think Araragi can be read as a snarky indictment of the viewer, or at least the fans — who may categoriaclly be attracted to a Senjougahara but are in no way capable of being in a relationship with her as equals, assuming Hitagi returns the attraction.

  9. X10A_Freedom says:

    Nothing analytical here but this was the very rare occassion that I actually enjoyed the fanservice! Aika Senjougahara’s voice perfomance is just perfect and this whole “weird” theme keeps me fixated. The script, as weird it can get is excellent and the unique animation style goes with it.

    • X10A_Freedom says:

      Argh, HTML doesn’t work! I meant to put a cross-out line on “Aika”, as it’s the same voice actress of course!

    • ghostlightning says:

      Yes, the performance(s) are quite excellent, and as you say, the fanservice is quite cleverly presented. The show takes advantage of this cleverness by being ridiculously indulgent with it. I can’t complain, I rather like excess and indulgence done well or with cleverness.

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  13. Zaruhan says:

    I won’t say more than this, but this is how I saw it:

    Hitagi wasn’t ‘showing’ him the clothes, she wanted Araragi to see her in them, just to look at her. Proven by the following episode(s). That is all.

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  16. b4k4 de arimasu says:

    As far as “gaining her weight back.” I liked the half-second cut where she almost clumsily plops on the bench with a thud. Yep, she has weight now.

    I enjoyed reading the comment discussion. It’s true that Senjougahara is very honest at one level, and very “inauthentic” on another level. But I think she is overall, “inauthentic”. She is playing the game, and working it hard, because Araragi is a tough cookie. Although he is clearly an imperfect protagonist, and has his moments of pettiness and smallness as a human being, and even perverseness, he is also morally higher than a lot of fanboys that would have jumped on any of Senjougahara’s offers.

    But those weren’t real offers, obviously. She’s crazy, but not stupid, and clearly wasn’t offering those favors seriously. It would be absurd and not in character for her to think that those kinds of repayments would allow for an equal-footed friendship. But more over, I don’t think she honestly wants a friendship with equal footing.

    Feeling indebted was clearly a false premise for testing Araragi with a battery of temptations. These came with increasing intensity until she straight up offers to be his girlfriend. This should be the opportunity of a lifetime… but getting a girlfriend out of debt is just not right. So he turns her down, proving he actually adheres to some kind of standard.

    What’s cool about this is that Senjougahara’s testing proves that Araragi is not as small of a human being as he thinks. He can think with his head instead of his nether regions and realize that a relationship out of debt is not a romance, even if it’s with the hottest girl around. Or perhaps, it proves that Araragi is at least man enough to resist being completely dominated by Senjougahara. She’s the aggressive one, trying to manipulate him into doing what she wants. He can either succumb to her dominance, resist it with equal aggressiveness, or do the passive aggressive thing and not do what she wants, no matter how hard she presses his weaknesses. He does the third, by rejecting her last offer.

    Araragi may be a pretty wimpy guy, always under Senjougahara’s thumb, but at least he isn’t totally whipped. I think that would be a boring relationship for Senjougahara, and for us viewers. It’s more fun for us (and them) to be constantly playing their verbal game, and feeling each other out.

    • Great observations, all of them. You may want to read the posts I made as the series went on. Both characters reveal themselves rather delightfully, and I’m glad to have written about them the way I did.

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