My fascination is decidedly for Senjougahara. If there’s anything I feel about the Mayoi Snail arc is that I can’t feel invested in Hachikuji’s monster story. I felt that more than anything, it was a device by which the narrative of Senjougahara and Hitagi would move forward. In Mayoi Snail 1 (episode 03) half of the episode was spent on Senjougahara flirting with Araragi, this will also happen at the end of Mayoi Snail 3. Senjougahara’s courtship of Araragi form the rather powerful and impressive bookends to an arc that’s supposedly about a girl who met a snail monster.
Let me get this out of the way: I enjoyed this episode. I was moved to tears. To give some perspective: I’ve been in a Honey and Clover rewatch marathon all afternoon before I watched this. I didn’t think I was going to be emotionally invested in anything afterward. But man, I love how this episode, and by extension how the entire arc ended.
And I love how it started too! Now that I have a sense of the totality and the movement of the narrative (of the arc, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself), I can really appreciate the long drawn-out conversation in the playground by Senjougahara and Araragi in Mayoi Snail 1 that I had thought established little else but some characterization of the leads. I now see that it’s a rather interesting set-up for the romance.
As for Hachikuji, even while wearing my loli-goggles I found myself rather uncomfortable watching her [image ->] and Araragi. The violence, the groping, the sexually charged conversation, when run together with the mystery of her condition, obscured the progression. I literally had no idea where this was going until it was resolved. And the surprise was Mayoi wasn’t afflicted with a monster. She is the monster, and the afflicted is Araragi himself.
I’ve stated the inauthenticity of Senjougahara begins with the titillation that we are subjected to (the sparks between Senjougahara and Araragi). I’m given signals that Araragi is being flirted with, and I sense that he reads these signals the same way. This fanservice, or Araragi-service is done under the premise of wanting to “become friends on equal footing,” that Senjougahara cannot be with having to owe Araragi a favor; that the balance of power must be restored. She seems to claim that there is a power deficit in Araragi’s favor, and yet she exercises all the power here. She submits herself to his will, and yet leaves no doubt who the real dominatrix is.
And then her flirtation is interrupted by Araragi pointing at a mysterious grade school girl in the distance, where he could read the name tag. Senjougahara couldn’t, and Araragi reasoned to himself that it’s because she doesn’t have his Vampire Vision. He gets drawn into the story of Hachikuji, and Mayoi Snail 2 was entirely spent in wandering the urban (re) development to resolve Hachikuji’s monster (as Araragi suspected it as such).
Through the assistance of Oshino Meme, Senjougahara explains the nature of the affliction to Araragi. Mayoi is the snail. Araragi can see dead people, Mayoi has been dead for some time. She can’t process new information, and only has access to a dead person’s static memory. She’s lost because her house is no more, the world has moved on. Senjougahara also reports that a snail like Mayoi is easy to shake. Araragi need only leave her, he just needs to walk away.
But then Araragi starts showing a bit of character. He couldn’t possibly leave her lost like that. That’s just not okay with him, and with Senjougahara he leads the little snail back home (now an empty lot).
Senjougahara comes to a realization: She’s not that special, as to why Araragi saved her. Araragi would save anyone. She no longer needed to frame the relationship in terms of owing favors to be repaid. Perhaps she could even see that despite Araragi’s self-image, that he wasn’t really that small a human being. And she owns up to her inauthenticity:
All that business about granting Araragi a blank cheque favor was her manipulation to make him confess.
And so we have a formal beginning to a new romance. I really like it how Senjougahara is shown to demand a formalization of the relationship in words. Relationships are awkward that way, and this detail pleases me. Araragi also makes her promise to be always authentic, to tell him how it is (a reference to her withholding how she couldn’t see Hachikuji the whole time, and went along with him because she was concerned that it was herself who had the problem of not being able to see a visible Mayoi), “If our viewpoints are inconsistent, let’s talk it over.”
With the promise, the inauthenticity is over. It is important to note as well that Araragi’s own inauthenticity is overcome. He wants Senjougahara, how can he possibly go on not owning up to it?
The Inauthenticity of Senjougahara 1 [->]
A more comprehensive take on the episode and gratuitous fanboying on Senjougahara (Panther 2009/08/02)