Bakemonogatari is the kind of show that makes me liveblog. Instead of spamming melative and twitter, I went directly to my draft of this post. I went to this method because there’s so much going on — an illusion of subtlety ensues. What I mean is that I don’t think this show is subtle. There’s just so much information that it’s very easy to miss things.
It does give you a feeling of depth and more nuance than there really is, but this is not really a bad thing. I had a very good time with this episode. I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It seems that eight episodes of the three shows I watched this season (yes, even Canaan so Crusader and digiboy can stop harassing me) are high points. This episode isn’t the highest peak in Bakemonogatari, but I think it ends up being my favorite, recency bias be damned.
What I take away from it is that the problems with these oddities, and of these characters who bear them, is rooted in inauthenticity; lies and truth. It takes characters being honest to themselves and each other, to break free from the affliction of a monster, and to break through the limitations of adolescence. In each arc, the afflicted resolves an inauthenticity within herself (yes, this show is harem that way), which leads to a breakthrough in Senjougahara and Araragi’s relationship (the issue always about authenticity, being straight with each other).
First let us look at the nature of Suruga’s oddity. We see that at the core of it is indeed an inauthenticity with regards to her own wishes and desires, as well as in acknowledging and taking responsibility for her behavior and its outcomes:
The Rainy Devil seems to be a violent devil. –More than anything, it enjoys the feelings of malice and hostility, grudges and remorse, envy and jealousy; put as a whole, negativity.
It sees, causes, draws out, completes people’s dark sides. It hears people’s wishes malevolently, and fulfills them malevolently. The contract itself is, as a contract–
In exchange for ones’ soul, it grants three wishes. When the three wishes are granted– it seems that it will take that human’s life and body. Meaning, in the end, that human becomes a devil.
That’s how it works.
I wonder if there’s a face that I can attach to the narrator of the text throughout the show. I want to put Oshino Meme’s face onto it. I think it works: he has a reasonable intimacy with all the characters, and the events are all given him by Araragi and by the girls themselves. So if these text narrations are delivered in past tense, he could be the second narrator (with Arararagi being the primary, voiced-over one).
If Kanbaru had wished to solve Senjougahara’s problem a year ago when she first learned of it that wish probably wouldn’t have been granted. Because the only wishes that a Rainy Devil can grant are wishes that are violent and negative. Devils read the hidden side of wishes. If there’s a side you show, there’s a hidden side too.
She wanted to run fast because she hated her classmates. She wanted to be with Senjougahara because she hated Araragi Koyomi. Tes, it read the hidden side. Yes, it sees the hidden side. It sees her subconscious wish. I see it–the devil.
Even if I’m wrong and he isn’t really playing this role in the narrative, Oshino Meme is awesome. He doesn’t let Suruga play victim to be saved; holding her responsible for her own outcomes. Second, he does the same for Araragi. This is important since the narrative has established how Araragi tries to save everyone. Senjougahara pointed it out clearly, when she confessed to him.
Oshino tells Araragi.
First of all, there are two ways to handle this phenomenon. One is to let the Rainy Devil kill you, Araragi-kun. The other way is… The second is to lop off that beastly left arm.
He doesn’t mince words, this guy; telling the facts in a amused way without being particularly cruel. It’s a rather delicate, and I imagine difficult feat. I like it a lot. He casually quotes the price of survival: “Paying just an arm to settle this is a very cheap price.”
Araragi: “Killing someone isn’t what Kanbaru wants. She just wants to be with Senjougahara.”
Oshino won’t have this inauthenticity. Authenticity and the lack of it is the business of the Rainy Devil. As mentioned, there is a side people show the world, and there is a hidden side. The fact that there is a hidden side makes for the inauthenticity.
The inauthenticity of people is how they say they value authenticty. There’s a value judgment attached to the tag ‘inauthentic,’ and it’s a negative one. But inauthenticity, is intrinsic to human behavior. LMAO.
He calls Araragi ‘being too kind,’ but the kind that makes him sick. And then Oshino shows the compassion, asking Araragi the workings of the monkey’s paw based on Suruga’s history — without spoonfeeding him the explanation (he only provides the distinction that the paw is really a lesser devil known as a Rainy Devil). This is good stuff.
He then pulls the monkey out of the bag: Suruga really wanted to smack her rivals up. She was having a hard time just after her parents died, and the bullying and persecution — Ohino points out, makes it very plausible for Suruga to have thoughts of revenge. And thoughts are all that’s required for the Rainy Devil to act on, really.
Oshino uses a binary of surface|what lies beneath. I’m not as fond of it to represent the binary of presented|hidden. I would prefer something like front/behind… a vertical representation of thoughs/behavior/personality as opposed to a horizontal one like surface|beneath the surface, which suggests depth, without necessarily substantiating it.
But Bakemonogatari seems intent on pursuing the pop-psychology angle; Oshino frames the events to Suruga in terms of the conscious and subconscious. He tells her that her conscious self tried to look for an explanation for her beat-up classmates different from her wanting revenge on them. It manifested physically: the Monkey’s Paw itself. It’s the paw that twists the wish, Suruga never wanted to do those things. This is shifting the blame, avoiding responsibility, a rather gross act of inauthenticity.
Suruga treats the paw as a seperate entity from herself. She didn’t do those evil things. The paw did! It’s an ‘other’ being. In turn, it started growing on its own, and within the context of the contract mechanics — it was consuming more of what’s left of Suruga’s soul as it grew (in exchange for each wish).
The mechanics of the contract, as Oshino tells us, work out that if the Rainy Devil cannot complete a wish, in this case the third and last wish that is to kill Araragi, the contract is dissolved, and it disappears to where it came from. However, if this means that Suruga’s arm needn’t be cut off, the show just led me on with some manufactured drama. It would’ve given me a false dichotomy just for effect. Talk about inauthenticity.
Araragi buffs up by having Shinobu bite him in the neck in a ridiculously erotic (and disturbing) scene.
Hating is a part of life. I’ll pass on getting killed, but if looking up to Senjougahara is the reason Kanbaru hates me, it’s forgivable.
Is this the authentic Araragi? I don’t know, really, but it’s nice to believe and trust in, isn’t it? Only that I find it remarkable that he didn’t involve Senjougahara in his life or death decision. This tells me he doesn’t really love her yet. If he survives this, Senjougahara should dice him with boxcutters and staple his parts on a school of fish. That’s what I think my wife would do to me if I pulled something like this (over another girl too!).
And just as I think this up, Senjougahara arrives apparently informed by Oshino.
CAUGHT RED-HANDED YOU LIAR. Araragi requested only one thing from Senjougahara when they started dating: that was to be straight with each other. The hypocrisy is obvious. This is delicious stuff. The inauthenticity of Araragi is that he thinks by dying he makes everything ok. He forgets that Senjoughara already rejected Kanbaru even before she fell for him; and doesn’t realize that she will kill Kanbaru whatever it takes.
So up to this point, when Araragi has bee dealt a thousand, ten thousand deaths by Suruga, it’s revealed how one-sided the relationship is. Araragi is unthinking and undevoted. He does what his instincts and helpfulness tells him. He is inconsiderate of how Senjougahara feels. It really takes her to spell it out for him, how he’s behaving, how much it doesn’t work if he’s serious about her. All the while making it very clear that she loves him, that he’s the one she chose; and that she gets his being difficult, meddling too much, and performing unwelcome favors. And then Senjougahara does even something more awesome, which is to settle things with the Rainy Devil, which leads to a tearful Suruga declaring her love to Senjougahara once again, accepting Hitagi’s terms, finding whatever happiness she could find there.
It’s kind of weak, but in his battered state Araragi gets to tell us how awesome Senjougahara is, calling her understanding when he was taling about her perceptiveness (but yes, Senjougahara is understanding and more importantly, forgiving). Well Araragi, we don’t need to you to tell us that. You need to say it to tell us that you get it. That you know how good you’ve got it. Because frankly, you suck at it.
Just like Hachikuji Mayoi, Suruga Kanbaru attaches herself to Araragi after resolving her matter with her oddity. And I expect Araragi to keep floundering, letting his messianic tendencies teach him about life and love while literally wrestling with monsters. I’ll be watching!
Wikipedia entry on The Monkey’s Paw [->]
The Dark Party Review asks if it’s the scariest short story in the world (DP 2008/10/27)