Not So Mean Girls: On Hanekawa, Senjougahara, and the Shower Scene

senjougahara and tsubasa together, hanekawa tsubasa and hitagi senjougahara, senjougahara and tsubasa nekomonogatari, nekomonogatari: shiro tsubasa and hanekawa, hitagi senjougahara, tsubasa hanekawa, bakemonogatari senjougahara and tsubasa together friends

Relatively early in the movie Mean Girls, Regina George claims that she will help the then-hapless Cady Heron snag her dream date: Regina’s former boyfriend Aaron Samuels. At a Halloween party, Cady watches as Aaron and Regina talk, eagerly trusting her new friend Regina.

“How could Janis hate Regina? She was such a good– SLUT!?”

Cady’s inner monologue devolves into a screeched slur as the friend whom she had trusted leans in to kiss the object of her affection. For Cady, this is a major step in her transformation from unsocialized homeschooled child to manipulative school idol. Mean Girls rings true in a myriad of ways. The manner in which girls are taught to both preen and fight for male attention is only one of the movie’s focal points, but it’s an important one.

Keeping this in mind, let’s turn our attention to the world of Bakemonogatari. More specifically, Nekomonogatari: Shiro.

senjougahara and tsubasa together, senjougahara crying when she finds tsubasa in the school, nekomonogatari shiro senjougahara and tsubasa, senjougahara hits tsubasa, senjougahara crying nekomonogatari

Tsubasa Hanekawa and Hitagi Senjougahara love the same person: Koyomi Araragi. Naturally, this pits them against one another, both within the series and in the keen eyes of viewers looking pair Araragi off with their favorite girl. Much of Sengoku Nadeko’s narrative is focused on the similar societal trappings of her feelings towards Araragi, but in Nekomonogatari: Shiro – which wraps up a large piece of Hanekawa’s story – the audience observes a genuine attempt at friendship between Hanekawa and Senjougahara.

While one could make the case that all Monogatari women are vying for Araragi’s affection, Hanekawa’s case is unique in that – prior to his meeting and subsequent romantic relationship with Senjougahara – Araragi was attracted to Hanekawa at one time. This makes Hanekawa a far more dangerous, for lack of a better word, threat to Senjougahara and her relationship with Araragi.

Yet, in Nekomonogatari: Shiro, Hanekawa serves as a vessel for Senjougahara to fill with the latter’s newly-discovered feelings. While Senjougahara had shown emotional development at Araragi’s side in both Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari, her treatment of Hanekawa in Nekomonogatari: Shiro does far more in proving how much she has matured.

nekomonogatari shiro, nekomonogatari shower scene, monogatari shower scene tsubasa and senjougahara, senjougahara and hanekawa shower together, bakemonogatari shower scene, hanekawa and senjougahara shower

Fanservice is abundant throughout Monogatari, and Nekomonogatari: Shiro is no exception. In fact, it contains – depending on how one personally feels about oral hygiene – the most sensual scene in the franchise to date: a romp in the shower between Hanekawa and Senjougahara.

When naked women start feeling each other up in anime’s endless parade of bath, beach, pool, and hot springs episodes they inevitably begin to compare their assets to one another, always finding themselves lacking.

There is a scene in Mean Girls where the school’s popular trio look in a mirror together and each find a pointed insult aimed at a personal physical feature. When they turn to Cady, expecting her to follow their lead, the confused girl responds that she has really bad breath in the morning. It’s an insult that doesn’t fit the mold for a few reasons – it’s universal and not specific to Cady, and it’s not an outward physical attribute on which she will be judged.

Mean Girls is meant for a North American female audience and as such creates a scene that, when removed from the context of one’s self – the target viewing audience watching the characters do something that they do themselves on a daily basis – looks very silly. These are four beautiful young women who shouldn’t be spending their free time denigrating their respective appearances.

Anime, overwhelmingly aimed at the Japanese male viewer, is far more concerned with girls comparing themselves to each other for that specific audience.

tsubasa hanekawa showers with hitagi senjougahara, nekomonogatari hanekawa shower, naked hanekawa tsubasa nekomonogatari, hanekawa shower in nekomonogatari, nekomonogatari: shiro, monogatari second season

“Thinking of the sheer weight of everything she’s overcome recently, I feel miserable about myself because, in the end, I haven’t overcome a thing despite having a similar experiences. That’s right, I have not overcome one thing. Despite the commotion during Golden Week and the day before the arts festival, I have not matured. I have not changed. That’s why I envied Senjougahara so, and loved her so. I couldn’t bring myself to hate her. I honestly thought that.”

– Tsubasa Hanekawa on Hitagi Senjougahara, Nekomonogatari: Shiro, Episode 2

Where Hanekawa finds herself lacking is not in bust size, nor hips, waist size, or any physical attribute. The scene is not accompanied by the traditional lack of consent and forced sizing up, so to speak. As the two young women explore each other for their own – and obviously the viewing audience’s – arousal, Hanekawa finds herself lacking is in maturity or temperament. Recognizing that Senjougahara cares about her as a friend, Hanekawa acknowledges how difficult it must have been for Senjougahara to trust other people, especially when Hanekawa herself trusts no one.

As a private place, Senjougahara’s shower sets a far more homey scene than the average bath or hot springs. It calls to mind her first shower within the scope of the viewing audience in Bakemonogatari‘s second episode. Then, Araragi is forced to wait for her. In Nekomonogatari: Shiro, Hanekawa is expressly invited to join Senjougahara in an intimate setting, another reflection of how far she has come since the days of Hitagi Crab. Conversely, Hanekawa has barely advanced emotionally, eschewing her internal stress, bitterness, and jealousy into two oddities: the cat and the tiger.

tsubasa hanekawa, hitagi senjougahara, senjougahara and hanekawa together, black hanekawa and senjougahara, nekomonogatari shiro, monogatari series, monogatari second season black hanekawa nekomonogatari

At the start of Nekomonogatari: Shiro, Hanekawa can’t be true friends with Senjougahara, regardless of how often the latter reaches out. It would be a false friendship built on their mutual love of Araragi – which naturally pits them against one another anyway – and proximity. When Senjougahara extends her hand to Black Hanekawa, accepting the consequences of the cat’s energy drain, she additionally acts as a catalyst for Hanekawa to acknowledge and understand herself.

“But I think something’s wrong with living like that, Hanekawa. It’s not something limited to your eating habits. You know, you always accept anything and everything as it comes your way. To have something you detest is about as important as having something you love. Yet you accept everything that comes your way, right? That may be the case with me, and that may also be the case with Araragi.”

– Hitagi Senjougahara to Tsubasa Hanekawa, Nekomonogatari: Shiro, Episode 2

This is furthered in a conversation sparked by the plain food that Hanekawa serves to Senjougahara. Senjougahara ends up challenging Hanekawa to truly examine her feelings. If all food is the same to Hanekawa, she may as well not have a sense of taste. Similarly, if all people are the same to Hanekawa – which they are for as long as she refuses to welcome the darker parts of herself – she may not love Araragi after all, and additionally, Hanekawa will remain unable to receive Senjougahara’s friendship. This angers Senjougahara, who cares for Hanekawa but knows that nothing will change until Hanekawa accepts all of herself.

hanekawa and araragi, hanekawa confesses to araragi, koyomi araragi and tsubasa hanekawa, nekomonogatari confession, nekomonogatari: shiro hanekawa says that she loves araragi

“Finally I get an answer, and finally I can be sad.”

– Tsubasa Hanekawa, Nekomonogatari: Shiro, Episode 5

Hanekawa eventually grows to accept herself by Nekomonogatari: Shiro‘s conclusion. This leads to her confession to and subsequent rejection from Araragi. At the time of airing, many took issue with Araragi’s sudden romance novel cover appearance to save the day. However, the first person that Hanekawa cries out to for help is not Araragi, nor is it Senjougahara. It’s Black Hanekawa, an embodiment of her own negative feelings and stress. Araragi appears almost as a stage prop so Hanekawa can admit her feelings and move forward.

A major catalyst for Hanekawa in her long journey of self discovery was the intimacy she experienced from Senjougahara. In a situation where the two would typically be pitted against each other, Senjougahara reaches out instead, gently pushing Hanekawa forward.

6 comments

  1. While one could make the case that all Monogatari women are vying for Araragi’s affection, Hanekawa’s case is unique in that – prior to his meeting and subsequent romantic relationship with Senjougahara – Araragi was attracted to Hanekawa at one time.

    Which doesn’t change the fact that all of them are indeed vying for his affection. Heck, in the case of Nadeko and Hanekawa, even their internal conflicts somehow revolve around him.

    Frankly, I’m not sure why a woman would even want to watch the Monogatari series (and I’m a guy). I think even the pile of fanservice that is Cross Ange treats women with a little more dignity (just a little though). At least in that show the girls’ inner conflicts don’t revolve around guys.

    1. Which doesn’t change the fact that all of them are indeed vying for his affection. Heck, in the case of Nadeko and Hanekawa, even their internal conflicts somehow revolve around him.

      Yes, this is exactly my point. In a world where all of these young women are naturally pitted against one another for liking the same guy, Hanekawa presents more of a legitimate threat to Senjougahara because of the fact that Araragi was sexually attracted to her. In my opinion, the setup – all women vying for Araragi’s attention/affection – is deliberate. It’s what Monogatari does with that setup that stands out.

      Traditionally, Senjougahara and Hanekawa would be at each other’s throats, or forming a false alliance in order to best each other. Instead, Senjougahara is shown to genuinely care about Hanekawa as a friend, while Hanekawa is too focused on her own personality flaws to consider a romantic relationship with Araragi, or even a friendship with Senjougahara until she sorts herself out.

      As for Hanekawa’s conflict revolving around Araragi, I disagree that it does. Instead, Hanekawa is more focused on her own shortcomings as well as her inability to communicate with her foster family. Her confession to Araragi is a symbol of her newfound maturity and understanding of herself. She does so knowing that she’ll be rejected so she can move forward. Again, the person that she cries out to for help is not Araragi or even Senjougahara, it’s herself.

      Additionally, Nekomonogatari: Shiro wraps up in the manner that it began, with Hanekawa in her house. In the first episode, she is sleeping on the floor in the hallway and woken up by a roomba. In the final episode, she demands, and is given, her own room. Her final words are “I’m home” something she claims to have never said in her entire life. Hanekawa’s story was far more about family than it was any romance with Araragi.

      In my opinion, Araragi acts as a very stereotypical way of viewing her: perfect, peerless, beautiful, and overwhelmingly intelligent. (This isn’t the first time he acts in this manner either) This is naturally far too flawless a version of anyone, something that Hanekawa reiterates over and over. However, the crux of her personal issues is that she puts on a mask of perfection to the public, and never shares her actual self. This is why she’s unable to have any kind of relationship, until she accepts the worst things about herself with the good.

      As for the treatment of women overall, there are definitely moments where the Monogatari series is having its cake and eating it too; however, I thoroughly enjoy the portrayal of most of its female characters because of what it chooses to do with them, especially in a deliberately stereotypical setup. This is but one way of looking at the series though. ^ ^

  2. I was gonna respond to this on Tumblr only, but I’ll leave the more exhaustive explanations for why I don’t entirely agree with this analysis. More and more I really feel like people should READ Tsubasa Tiger, along with watching it, because several points show and explain why Hanekawa is the way she is, and the anime skipped over several, which paints her in an entirely different color than the story was meant to represent.

    The reason why Senjougahara and Hanekawa reach out to one another is implied way back in Nise, where Kanbaru says the two have their own little world. They have base similarities of social fumbles despite seemingly being very estute, popular girls in their school. Senjougahara seemed more mature here, but she has had constant support from her father and Araragi to heal, whereas Hanekawa didn’t. Nor does she post arc to be frank. It isn’t like Tsubasa’s adopted parents accepted her when she asked for a room. This was whitewashed with the anime. In addition, Senjougahara still blames herself for her mother leaving the family and has self-conscious issues up the wazoo, both shown in Nise, Tiger, and Koi, but those problems are never fully acknowleged in the series ever. Unfortunately, it’s to keep her “strong” persona, but it often comes to the detriment of further developing her as a character.

    Whereas, Hanekawa berates herself because she has been doing that her whole. Also, the anime didn’t acknowledge Tsubasa Song, where she talked with Araragi about ways to manage her stress, that story takes place after the confrontation at the. Even further back, she tried to be better friends with Araragi and hung out with him to help relieve the pain of her household after the incident during Golden Week. So the analogy of her not growing is not entirely accurate, her growth is slower based on the fact that her situation can’t be fixed. She will never have the family she wants, and will have to accept her attempts to get along with parents who never wanted her was a complete waste of her childhood. This is the true, somber message that her story had. But it’s not like she won’t ever be happy, it’s just she has to swallow a lot of things, more than the anime showed. Plus, Black Hanekawa had a few good monologues showing how Tsubasa cast herself in too much of a negative light. Another good reason to read the novel.

    Also, in the novel for Tsubasa Tiger, it was revealed both that Hanekawa had confided in friends over her family issues, to which they shunned her when they found out how foul her family life really was. So this shows exactly why she doesn’t reach out.

    If people really want to learn the depths of why Senjougahara and Hanekawa respect and care for one another, I suggest they read Tsubasa Tiger. The anime was good, but missed way too much.

    1. First of all, thank you for this comment. I would have read the novel already; however, I know that Vertical is releasing an English-translated version at some point (provided that Kizumonogatari does well) so I’m waiting on the official release because I desperately want to support these novels’ English release.

      It’s true that the reason why I said that Hanekawa has not grown at all is because this is what she herself said in the dialogue. Additionally, your comment really makes me want to see/read the nuances in the way that she does attempt to reach out to others. As for Senjougahara, I didn’t mean to imply that she’s done growing, she obviously still has a lot of internal issues that she’s working through and I think the anime touches upon this, although unfortunately doesn’t go very far in explaining her healing process.

      I still like the fact that Senjougahara and Hanekawa do reach out to one another, because what you’ve said from the novels only makes it seem more likely that they wouldn’t (since they both still have a lot of personal baggage). Additionally, the idea that Hanekawa is sizing herself up to Senjougahara based on personality rather than superficial physical attributes is still very interesting to me.

      You’re not the first person who has told me that the anime left out a great deal with this specific arc. I’m really looking forward to reading Tsubasa Tiger when the time comes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s