“That is why this is the beginning of the end. About how a human named Koyomi Araragi. About how myself, Koyomi Araragi, is going to end and begin.”
-Koyomi Araragi, Tsukimonogatari
Koyomi Araragi says that Tsukimonogatari, the story of Yotsugi Ononoki, marks the beginning of his end. However, he only speaks of the end that he is aware of. There are a variety of ends for different facets of Koyomi. The most interesting end begins not with Ononoki, but with Nadeko Sengoku.
When Koyomi arrives at the shrine where Nadeko had made her lair following a magnificent transformation into a snake goddess, he is too late to save Nadeko. Instead, Deishu Kaiki has already pacified Nadeko, telling her that there will be many opportunities, many love interests, many possibilities waiting for her in the future. In Kaiki’s own words, he tells Nadeko what one would tell a child, because she is still a child. Not only is Koyomi too late, but his usefulness to Nadeko has also run its course. In spite Koyomi’s insistence that Nadeko’s current state is his fault, Kaiki stands his ground and tells Koyomi what he needs to hear: there is nothing that Koyomi can do to help Nadeko.
“Don’t you get it? There is nothing you can do for that girl. If you’re around, that girl will just be useless. Romance can strengthen people, but it can also make them useless. Because you were with her, Senjougahara was able to strengthen herself a bit, but Nadeko Sengoku will just be useless if you’re with her.”
– Deishu Kaiki to Koyomi Araragi, Koimonogatari
The difference in the way Koyomi affects both Senjougahara and Nadeko is tied to the manner in which he respectively treats them. He sees Senjougahara as a formidable opponent, an intelligent conversation partner, and most importantly, a lover. There is a mutual respect between the two, in addition to a shared romantic chemistry. However, Nadeko will forever be the friend of his sister, Tsukihi. Nadeko, in Koyomi’s eyes, is a cute younger sister stand-in. Regardless of how he toys with her, Nadeko will never be a love interest. The story arcs of Nadeko Medusa and Hitagi End show how Koyomi was complicit in actively compartmentalizing Nadeko, even when his intentions, in his mind, were good. While he thought he was protecting and helping her, he was actually furthering the false characterization that her classmates, teachers, and the Monogatari viewing audience, had already given her.
“I see. All I could say was, ‘I see.’ I had no qualifications to say anything else. But I’m glad if she was able to be released from the hospital. Though I’m too ashamed to see Sengoku ever again. But still, I can say that I’m glad.”
-Koyomi Araragi, upon hearing that Nadeko Sengoku was released from the hospital, Tsukimonogatari
When Tsukihi announces that Nadeko has been released from the hospital, she is less than enthused by her brother’s lackluster response. Koyomi’s monologue at that moment shows that he understands that he must stay away from Nadeko, but may still not fully grasp why. He mentions that he is too ashamed to see her, but if he is following Kaiki’s instructions, he would not see her regardless. It is unclear as to whether the shame he feels is because he could not save her himself, or because he is ashamed of his overall treatment of her.
Ononoki cuts a similar figure as Nadeko as a living doll in a far more literal sense. Tsukimonogatari sets up a rescue mission for Koyomi. This assignment comes on the heels of a promise to both Ononoki and her mistress, Yozuru Kagenui, that Koyomi will not become a vampire ever again.
This struggle between becoming a monster or being human, framed by Koyomi’s slow descent towards his more vampiric tendencies, is the overarching narrative of Tsukimonogatari. The showdown occurs at the same shrine that Nadeko had called home as a snake goddess against a throwaway character named Tadatsuru, who is more than well aware of his role in the story. However, running parallel to this is another end for Koyomi, an end in the way he treats certain others that he comes across.
Koyomi arrives at the shrine on schedule, unlike his attempt to save Nadeko. His plan progresses as scheduled until both Tadatsuru and Ononoki deviate from it. Going against Koyomi’s wishes, Ononoki kills Tadatsuru outright.
“You told me not to do it, but I went against your wishes and did it on my own. That’s not true, devilish big brother. I’m sure that there was a way to not kill him in an effort to protect or save. Yet the reason why I still killed him, was because I’m a monster.”
-Yotsugi Ononoki to Koyomi Araragi, Tsukimonogatari
There are many differences between Ononoki and Nadeko. Where Nadeko has an entire life ahead of her to make mistakes and reinvent herself, Ononoki does not have the same luxury. There’s a heavy-handedness to her words, admonishing Koyomi for not thinking more of his humanity.
Additionally, Ononoki’s refusal to listen to Koyomi’s plan marks another end of an arc where Koyomi is unable to be the hero. Where the series actively defies his wishes in one way or another, and prevents him from playing the role that he wants. The beginning of an end to Koyomi Araragi.
Another element to all of this is how much Araragi acts on the advice of others, rather than his own initiative. He’s no longer—whether through his own intelligence or the pressures of wiser people—running around as he pleases and doing what he feels like doing.
Ononoki showing up back at his house, I feel, is yet another reflection of how, as you say, he is being prevented from playing the role he wishes to play. Ononoki was a crutch for him this arc, but it almost feels as if she is a caretaker for him now—insurance that he won’t use his vampiric powers again.
(I also like that, in pieces, we finally got to see how the most important people in Araragi’s mind are: Senjougahara and then Hanekawa. They’re the two he thinks of first when considering whether he can keep his promise not to use his powers again. Of course, he dashes to save Kanbaru and his sisters during the arc, but that’s just reflective of how he is generally. Is he nearing a point where he can choose between these girls?)
Yeah, one of the more wonderful things about this arc is how Araragi believes himself to still be in control of the situation when Ononoki suddenly goes against his wishes regardless. It ties into what Tadatsuru speaks of, and additionally the visual imagery of the mountainscape unboxing itself with Araragi in the center. Everything, at this point, seems like a setup. However, unlike previous arcs, Araragi is not only not in control, but additionally seems to be going through the motions. As you said, he saves the girls because he “has” to; however, his thoughts immediately go to Hanekawa and Senjougahara.
As for who he will choose, I think the answer is already Senjougahara. They’re really good for each other in a relationship. I see Hanekawa going off and doing her own thing. Then again, I don’t really care who Araragi chooses, I just want Senjougahara et. al. to be happy. ^ ^
Yeah, I think Hanekawa has moved far, far beyond Araragi at this point.
I think he’ll ultimately have to choose between Shinobu and Senjougahara, but that choice is definitely still a little ways out in the future of the narrative.
Who’s in control?
Starting from Monogatari 2nd Series, Koyomi’s role as protagonist and primary change catalyst diminishes. Tadatsuru is right in noting that everyone’s just a pawn, but in who’s game?
Perhaps Tadatsuru’s ultimate goal was to be killed― a radical act of defiance against his ‘proper’ role.
For what it’s worth, I have a suspicion Ogi in control, based on the role she plays during the Nadeko incident. I look forward to hearing more about her story, as she’s the biggest question mark in the series. Incidentally, she is also incredibly unsettling to watch.
Tadatsuru certainly seemed to be done with everything. Presumably, he had already lost what was dear to him – Ononoki, of her own choosing no less – and therefore gladly accepted death at her hands.
Have you seen Hanamonogatari yet? I feel that Ougi is at their most unsettling in that arc, along with their role in Nadeko’s story.
@Akira: “For what it’s worth, I have a suspicion Ogi in control, based on the role she plays during the Nadeko incident.” -no, it’s not suspicion. It’s flat out stated she’s the final boss. I think it’s near the end before they go up the mountain and it’s reaffirmed when Tadatsuru says sth about doing things “proper” echoing Ogi.
@Emily: “It ties into what Tadatsuru speaks of, and additionally the visual imagery of the mountainscape unboxing itself with Araragi in the center. Everything, at this point, seems like a setup.”- Really liked your remark here. I had somehow missed it and didn’t process it probably because I got tad absorbed wondering if winter and the icicles were symbolisms for sth particular (Araragi’s emotional state?) or just SHAFT wanted to play with them due to airing time.