In the conclusion of Nadeko Snake, we learn more about Araragi than Nadeko herself. More and more Bakemonogatari shifts its narrative focus to tell the story of Araragi. Luckily for me, he is very interesting on a number of levels. In this post I’ll point out something interesting to me in a disturbing way, in light of my conjecture that Araragi is a commentary on the viewers of this show or perhaps the readers of the source text (light novel) who are, more likely than not to be an otaku to some degree.
What do we know about Araragi at this point? He is:
- Compelled to save others.
- ‘Others’ are always female; this is a conceit of Bakemonogatari itself. It takes a harem approach to tell it’s stories. We can also take for granted that the character designs for these female characters are attractive, or meant to be so. Also, if we accept that the ‘gaze’ or camera focus on the particular attractive body parts of these females are Araragi’s, he is attracted to them on an erotic level.
- Unafraid to face danger; vampire healing factor or no.
- Always fails to complete the saving act; the completion is performed by a third party, who almost always saves Araragi from danger.
- Gets credit for the saving act, or at least the sincerity of the intention.
Let’s look a bit further into this, by taking into account his relationships with the females and their oddities.
In the first episode, Hanekawa says this to Araragi:
Guys like weak girls, right? Ah, how disgraceful. It’s so unfair.
This came after Araragi was showing interest in Senjougahara by remarking about her absences which may be due to some illness. Hanekawa is, I believe referring to the ‘sick moe’ type of attraction. There’s more to this, especially if we look at the natures of Araragi’s relationships.
Consistently so, ever since the first episode, Hanekawa is ‘superior’ to Araragi in some way. She is “the class representative of class representatives”, as he notes, while he’s her assistant. He always remarks on how she knows everything, in an admiring and not teasing way. Also, she displays her superiority throughout the narrative so far by being the advisor to Araragi, particularly in matters relating to Senjougahara.
Notably, she’s the one who catches Araragi ‘in the act’ of doing something (perverted). More on this later.
Senjougahara Hitagi is superior to Araragi in almost every way: socially, academically, intellectually, economically, and aesthetically. She knew this and used it to pick on Araragi prior to their becoming a couple. Even after becoming a couple, she represents an imposing physical threat to Araragi, who must live on his toes.
Kanbaru Suruga is superior to Araragi socially (popularity), physically, and in terms of self-expression (that is, she is self-assured and confident in dealing with him, relaxed about herself and her sexuality). Similar to Senjougahara, she is aggressive in flirting with Araragi and teasing him with her sexuality.
Looking at these three, I note that their characters are strong in terms of personality. Hanekawa aside, they present themselves overtly as sexual objects to Araragi. They present as a tease, but aggressively so. Even Hanekawa does this, if tangentially. The whole business in the bookstore in Nadeko Snake 1 makes for the best example.
Now pause for a moment and think about how Araragi reacts to these. He shouts in his head in both mock and real outrage, Kyon style. Part of him resents this teasing. He is bereft of initiative. He can do nothing but endure the flirtation and teasing. He has no ability to respond. He is powerless.
Now take note of the other two females that Araragi assisted. First, Hachikuji Mayoi… an grade schooler, small; a child in almost every way. Next, we have Sengoku Nadeko who is in middle school, barely out of childhood, completely submissive, and even calls Araragi “onii-chan.”
How does Araragi behave? Frankly it’s rather outrageous. As cowed and emasculated he seems in the presence of Senjougahara, Kanbaru, and Hanekawa, he is outright aggressive towards the other two. He not only groped the grade schooler, he actually fought her like a bitch. And when he’d win, he raised his arms and acted like a champion!
This is pretty disturbing stuff if you ask me. It gets worse. In the case of Sengoku Nadeko, Araragi didn’t do much even if a good number of situations in Nadeko Snake appealed to his fetishes. He mostly jizzed in his head. However, when he found himself alone with Sengoku… he first tried to touch her… face, it seems. Then, suspensefully I watched in morbid fascination as he apparently tries to lift up this middle-schooler’s skirt, in public, in plain fucking sight.
This is when Hanekawa finds him, nearly red-handed; just like when she finds him in an almost post-coital breathlessness after having a scrap with Hachikuji, threatening to molest the grade schooler with impunity. Look at these little girls, played up for their moe. Araragi most certainly felt the need to protect them, to save them. He also felt the need to feel them up.
There is nothing, nothing appropriate about this.
Bakemonogatari is fascinating, isn’t it? We are presented with a character that is despicable, but is also made to be sympathetic — in that he is sincere about wanting to save anyone, and how powerless he is against females who are his social equals or betters. Why, what man wouldn’t be able to relate to having difficulty with women who are his, or more than his match?
Bakemonogatari is rather blunt with how it categorizes power and powerlessness in women. All we need to do is look at the two Shinobus (before and after the nerfing).
Powerlessness, or more specifically being harmless, is manifested in loli forms. Hachikuji and Sengoku are not coincidences. Through them we see what things Araragi can do, as opposed to what he can only fantasize about when he’s with either Hanekawa, Kanbaru, and of course Senjougahara.
But when he does have power over a female, what does he do with it? He is more than a match for Hachikuji’s feistiness — she’s just a kid after all; and Sengoku is the most harmless little thing we’ve met in this show. If indeed Araragi is commentary on the viewers and/or readers of Bakemonogatari (males who may think/want to be appreciated by a female by virtue of their ability to make anime references), how should we feel?
A Note Regarding the Oddities
Araragi is prey to:
- the Mayoi Snail (wanted to prevent him from going home).
- the Suruga Monkey (wanted to kill him to complete its contract).
- the Tsubasa Cat (wanted to suck his energy).
The Hitagi Crab isn’t interested in him, Senjougahara was. The Nadeko Snake is indifferent to him, until he intervened and tried to banish it. I can’t comment on Shinobu yet for lack of information at this point.
A fresh take on the idea of moeblobs and social impairment (2DT 2009/09/18)
I’m not dismissing this show due to the fanservice, only that it’s worth looking at ourselves as fans: what are we really enjoying here? Fanservice can blind us to what other fascinating things there are in the subject. (Owen 2009/02/18)
Beyond what I mentioned in this post, here’s what makes Bakemonogatari and 2D fascination interesting (Martin 2009/09/14)
Bakemonogatari is brilliant? Don’t fall asleep (Orion 2009/08/13)
The genesis of this post comes from a comment [->]