“I had believed that not taking care of myself was the act of loving others. The days of kind deception, filled with thin, weak euphoria have now come to an end.”
-Koyomi Araragi, Owarimonogatari Season 2, Episode 7
The Monogatari franchise is often incorrectly labeled as another harem where the male lead (Koyomi Araragi) saves a bevy of cute girls. Bakemonogatari starts this way, Nisemonogatari meanders, and it’s not until Monogatari Second Season that the series really begins unravel preconceived notions of the audience and in-universe characters. At the end of the long, emotionally-exhausting, and verbose journey, the series lays everything bare. Monogatari is not about saving others. It’s about saving yourself.
And only you can save yourself.
Monogatari begins with Koyomi Araragi sacrificing himself to save the vampire Kiss-shot Acerola-Orion Heart-under-blade in Kizumonogatari, and effectively ends with Araragi saving himself in the form of Ougi Oshino.
The final episode of Ougi Dark reveals what many suspected since Ougi’s first chronological interactions with Araragi in the first season of Owarimonogatari: Ougi is an apparition created by Araragi. When faced with feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, guilt, and inferiority after helping the various young women of his so-called harem, Araragi created Ougi to question his motives and force him to face his own past.
“Aren’t I the worst kind of human imaginable?” Izuko Gaen says mockingly, mirroring Araragi’s innermost thoughts when he created Ougi.
This revelation comes after Second Season, when Araragi first learns that he can’t be the hero — the aforementioned unraveling of the tropes that Kizumonogatari, Bakemonogatari, and Nisemonogatari establish for Araragi’s inevitable demise. It begins with Tsubasa Tiger. The moment that Hanekawa calls out to Dark Hanekawa, and asks for help is a triumphant one because she finally examines her own feelings and realizes that only she can save herself. This is reiterated again in Koimonogatari, when Deishu Kaiki tells Araragi that he cannot help Sengoku Nadeko, and further driven home by Yotsugi Ononoki‘s actions in Tsukimonogatari.
The message is clear. Araragi cannot save them, they have to save themselves.
Before he fully confronts his own feelings (Ougi) Araragi takes a short field trip to hell, where he’s confronted by the fact that he will never truly be able to understand another human being. This is even mirrored by Ougi’s awe of Hanekawa’s timely arrival with Meme Oshino (and a clever name reveal). She doesn’t understand Hanekawa’s actions and neither does Araragi. They never will.
Ultimately, he decides that it’s still worth growing close to others anyway. He’s almost there. The final step is accepting himself. As Gaen tells him before he goes to face Ougi, still in a mocking tone, “Go be victorious in the battle against yourself.”
The moment Araragi accepts Ougi as a part of himself and saves her, he saves himself.
It’s almost anti-climatic for the Monogatari franchise to end with this sentiment — all the seasons, years, and words end in a simple lesson — but accepting yourself and loving yourself requires effort. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t struggle with this personally. I wake up, hate myself, make mistakes, and have to get over them in order to move forward. It’s a long journey with no end in sight, but one worth fighting.
When I finished reading this article, I saw, below it, “[Nine] Tsubasa Hanekawa’s Vacation — Koyomimonogatari”. I hadn’t really noticed, until then, that I’d been reading your blog for at least a year. Upwards of two, at this point, I think; it’s at that point, timestamps before about December 2015, that I can’t remember whether I read the posts as they were posted or after.
Your posts on the monogatari series are some of my favorites. The show presents itself so strongly as a member of a category that it’s easy not to notice the things that make it unique. I’m not sure I ever would have watched it if I didn’t read your blog. It’s now one of my favorite shows, although I sometimes wonder whether I give it more credit than I ought to because of the impact it had on my life. Your posts on the series, especially the ones about Tsubasa Hanekawa, were useful to me at a time when I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be, or whether I could be that person. The narrative of learning to accept one’s imperfections isn’t an uncommon one, but I’ve found Hanekawa’s much more relatable to me than most. I think perhaps it’s because it depicts attempting to be perfect as self-destructive, and harmful in non-obvious ways, rather than simply doomed to failure. Your analysis of Hanekawa’s character growth painted her narrative as one of learning to accept that she could value herself, and of trying to become someone who could be happy, instead of someone who could meet the expectations of others and of herself. I’m not sure, if I hadn’t seen it articulated so clearly, that I ever would have figured out for myself to do that.
This seems melodramatic, reading back on it, and mostly unrelated to the post it’s supposed to be commenting on. It just seems sad, sometimes, that people so rarely get to know what impact they have on the lives of others. Give the opportunity, then, at no cost to yourself, isn’t it wrong not to let them know? I think perhaps I would have felt obliged to, two years ago, if it had seemed like the sort of thing that mattered. Now I don’t, and it does, even if it’s somewhat embarrassing to go ahead and type it all out.
Thank you for writing.
This is the best comment I’ve ever received on this blog, so thank you.
“It’s now one of my favorite shows, although I sometimes wonder whether I give it more credit than I ought to because of the impact it had on my life.”
As an aside, I’ve found that all of my favorite shows are ones that affected me personally. They may not be *objectively* best in terms of story structure or animation, but favorite =/= best and vice versa.