I really, really liked Bakemonogatari; it was one of the first shows that I blogged episodically, and it was one of the shows that got me thinking about the concept of otaku that I am now familiar with. For better or worse, I enjoyed the uh, allegory it does in the representation of the viewer – or more precisely, the fanboy, or at least the “target” audience. I won’t really know how accurate it is as such, but I enjoyed the complexity and cleverness it has in doing so.
I think the show is like Senjougahara itself, contemptuous of the kind – or in part of the person Araragi is, but is dependent on him, in love with him, in awe of him. It trolls the viewer as Hitagi teases Koyomi, reminding him of every perversion he has. The beauty of this is how she really can’t. Only Koyomi himself can reveal the extent of his depravity. The show titillates with layers of fanservice.
It spits on the viewer, then licks all of it off, by portraying the viewer as Araragi, the monster pervert who has the biggest of hearts, and rewards him with his harem. Nisemonogatari’s first episode validates all this for me. The cleverness pleases me very much.
This whole thing plays out in the semantic game Hachikuji Mayoi plays with Araragi. Her claim is how she can make any statement of a contemptuous act sound awesome if she prefixes it with the word “courage.” The sentences themselves are delightful:
- The courage to keep your secret to yourself.
- The courage to lie to your lover.
- The courage to betray your comrades.
- The courage to be a lazy bum.
- The courage to admit defeat.
I admit defeat, to this fanservice extravaganza – of the kind I look down on other people for liking. Sure I try not to judge or look down on others, but who really is successful in doing so? Watching and coexisting without shame nor prejudice? Without self-righteousness but with full of compassion – and yet without compromising their principles? Are there really bodhisattvas watching and blogging anime every week? Would you take me by the hand, can you show me the shine of your Japan? Show me.
Then the show takes it up a notch, by talking about misdirection without talking about misdirection: The arc is called “Karen Bee” though Karen herself never appears, and this is brought into high relief in the wager of revealing Mayoi’s panties. We’re never sure if Araragi did see them, but we’re sure we don’t. It is as invisible to us as Karen is, and it is a juxtaposition of the two value propositions this show makes:
- Otaku getting fanservice
- Otaku giving service to others (albeit members of the harem)
It is overt, without giving up subtlety, nuance, or cleverness. I am quite harsh on shows the likes of Fractale, Guilty Crown, and Rinne no Lagrange. I feel that those shows are dirtier and more shameful than Nisemonogatari. It’s because those shows lack courage. Yes, the hypocrisy that can be found in the semantic game Mayoi plays isn’t entirely all-encompassing. This show has the courage to be authentically perverted and pandering, and somehow offers far more value than those three I mentioned.
Mayoi goes forward and plainly says it: Araragi has a harem (this is a harem show), and he deserves it. This is why she keeps staying around, despite how Araragi aggressively molests her. Since she is a fanservice loli (or attempts to be more than such), she validates how she can be relied on – she and Shinobu, as the only characters that Araragi reaches out to for help – validating how he still has trouble dealing with girls who are more like women, who are self-determined. He accepts their assistance (tutoring, etc.), but does not reach out to them.
The first episode of Nisemonogatari allowed me to remember love for its predecessor. I feel good in how I marathoned the first three arcs of Bakemonogatari to hype myself up for this show. This first episode validates much of what I enjoyed about the uh, franchise. It has the courage to be authentic: making it sound like it’s more than some fanservice show, but really it panders to the hilt. But yeah, somehow, it’s just better.