Suruga Monkey’ begins, and like the previous episodes, Bakemonogatari starts with the familiar; in this case, Hachikuji Mayoi. This show eases me in by having the characters talk about seemingly random things, though most of the time the conversation is sexually charged nuance, or at least the politics of relationships. The technique seems to be for the purpose of accessibility. I get into the flow of the show by being entertained by the quirky conversation.
This works, because of the decidedly weird nature of the show itself, in terms of subject and the visual composition. Mayoi confirms the relationship between Araragi and Senjougahara, asking him how they’re doing “the man-woman thing,” and then astutely commenting on how the intention to study for the upcoming exams is set up to fail for Araragi. After all, he will end up doing nothing but flirting with his new lover.
But there was very little flirting that went on, unless I choose to be generous and contextualize Senjougahara’s violence as foreplay. Why the violence? It’s because Araragi mentioned the lampshaded ‘chance meeting’ between him and the new character: Suruga Kanbaru. Suruga, the ace of the girls’ basketball team makes nice with Araragi, overtly flirting with him, and subtly (or at least tries for it) identifies Senjougahara as Araragi’s tutor. Apart from this, she declares herself as his admirer.
I don’t think Araragi believed her, and neither did I want to as well.
The conversation during group study (a lover’s tutoring), while filled with the all-over-the-place banter about apparent trivialities that I’ve come to like about this show, centered on something pretty serious: ambition and the future. It’s one thing to have the character leads initiate their ‘formal’ relationship early on or in the middle of the narrative — this is already a very interesting thing. It’s another delightful thing altogether how something as grounded in reality as the life after high school and what it means to the young couple is taken seriously by the story.
Yes, it’s taken seriously in its clever, dark, and somehow lighthearted way. Senjougahara is a top-level student, and yet it doesn’t seem like college is a foregone conclusion with her. It seems like she still has to work for things, despite how the exams or at least studying seem effortless for her (depicted by constant illumination of Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ in her notebook).
She asks Araragi wants to do after high school. He really hasn’t thought it through, and Senjougahara seems to have a clearer grasp of what his options are (work immediately, trade school; or even to becoma a freeter, or a NEET as if they were equal and actual options!). What’s even more striking is how Senjougahara wants them to live together after graduation. She sees far enough to account for the greater net time available together in such a set up compared to the present.
Araragi, when he actually took initiative in the conversation mentioned Suruga Kanbara, and made the indiscretion of mentioning her by her first name, insinuating a level of intimacy that pushed the jealousy buttons of his girlfriend. This button activates a threat of violence not seen in Senjougahara since the ‘Hitagi Crab’ arc. She wasn’t carrying staplers lately, but she made a pen such a menacing weapon — pointed directly on Araragi’s quick-healing eyeball. It would seem that Araragi is just perfect for her, someone she can be her full violent self with. He’d heal so fast that there wouldn’t be any serious or long-term damage from her outbursts.
On his way to Oshino to deliver Senjougahara’s payment, Araragi makes a call to Hanekawa who’s a very convenient exposition device in the show. It’s lampshaded by Araragi remarking on how she knows everything, to which she replies “I don’t know everything, just the things I know.” She knows about Suruga Kanbaru and Senjougahara Hitagi’s past in middle school, where it is apparently common for a star like Senjougahara to be admired and gain yurilove from her female juniors. Their names form an interesting portmanteau: BaruHara, Baru from Kanbaru and Hara from Senjougahara.
Hasegawa then waxes on the Norse pun the portmanteau makes: Valhalla, the hall of the fallen heroes where they can enjoy battle for eternity. A series of interesting Norse mythological images punctuate this colorful exposition. But what makes Hanekawa’s exposition interesting is her color commentary and her unsolicited advice. Araragi shouldn’t dig too deep about his new lover’s past. It’s too soon for that, she says. I suppose it’s easy to lecture Araragi, because he knows too little and is so much of a n00b about things that his only conversational match is the grade schooler Hachikuji Mayoi.
At the end of the conversation, he realizes that he’s left the money for Oshino back at Senjougahara’s house, which is an inexplicably a half-built|half-destroyed affair. He turns around only to be very aggressively assaulted by a hooded assailant. My immediate thought is that this is Suruga the Monkey. Araragi heals fast enough to stay concsious long enough to conclude that his assailant is one of the oddities that he’s been coming accross in greater frequency. The beating is rather savage and brutal, and is presented quite powerfully and viscerally. When he comes to, it is to see Senjougahara standing over him; giving him the money he left behind, as if to remind him of his failure.
The back story that is Baruhara seems to be that of yurilove, an aborted relationship once Senjougahara graduated. It’s unclear to me how the valhalla image is apt – given that it was coined when they were in middle school. It’s a violent kind of paradise, which only makes sense to me in a future sense: a showdown between two monsters. I’m not sure how much power Senjougahara has given that her crab has been exorcised from her. If Araragi is any indication, she would still have some of it. The monkey seems to be very strong, and my appetite for girlfight is rather whetted by this possibility.