bakemonogatari

Through the looking glass and what Koyomi Araragi found there

A few days before my high school graduation it struck me. I was staring out of our front bay window past the dying spider plant that hung on the right side looking towards the cloudy sky and thinking of nothing in particular.

It was the morning after a lock-in party that my school organized for the senior class as part of our senior week. I had been up all night. The day was empty with no classes, no senior activities, no preparation work, and no parties. My college had already been decided upon months ago and I had already attended pre-orientation where I had registered for classes in the coming fall.

I had nothing to do but catch up on sleep lost from staying up for over 24 hours, yet I had crossed a particular overtired threshold that looped back into being wide awake. In that moment, the day ahead seem to stretch out endlessly. School life, especially in junior high and high school, is regimented and organized. Without that order, I came to the realization that I would never have it again.

My high school life was over.

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Tracing influences: Boogiepop and Monogatari

Sometimes, you learn about things in the wrong (non-chronological) order. Something that came first naturally comes last to someone consuming a newer piece of media inspired by that very thing. Emotional resonance with the media that came later inspires research, a tracing of influences.

Due to gaps in my own anime-watching habits, I don’t have an emotional attachment to Takashi Watanabe’s 2000 anime adaptation Boogiepop Phantom, like many anime fans around my age. However, when I began to watch anime as it aired, one of the first series that resonated with me was Bakemonogatari in 2009. The Monogatari series light novels were penned by Nisio Isin, whose writing was inspired by Kouhei Kadono’s Boogiepop novel series.

All of this is a preface to my immediate reaction after watching the first two episodes of Boogiepop and Others.

It reminded me of Nadeko’s narrative in the Monogatari series.

(major spoilers for Nadeko Sengoku’s character arc in Monogatari)

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[Two] I am thou, thou art I: the end of Monogatari (Owarimonogatari Season 2)

“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.

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Here in Monogatari Hell

For high school me, Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit was a revelation. It still has a firm place in my heart — The Little Prince was the first book I learned to read in French, but No Exit marked when I really felt that I could actually read the language with any amount of competency — and every subsequent reading has been an experience. It makes me think, even if it also makes me wonder just how much of my own young pretentiousness I’ve dragged along behind me as I’ve grown older.

I’ve often thought about why I return to No Exit. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly a reflection of my own personal preferences. Then again, Mayoi Hell is specifically about hell, so perhaps this framework fits Owarimonogatari better than most series.

The moment Koyomi Araragi begun wailing to Mayoi Hachikuji about being in hell, I couldn’t help but recall Joseph Garcin’s arrival and introduction to hell in No Exit. There are no torture devices, only a room furnished in the style of the French Second Empire.

Hell is not at all what he expected.

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More on Bakemonogatari and Narration

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“At our three-year high school with two hundred students in each grade, you end up sharing a living space with about a thousand people in all during your stay if you include the graduating and incoming classes and the faculty. Start wondering how many of those people mean anything to you, and the answer is going to be bleak for just about anyone.”

-Koyomi Araragi, Bakemonogatari vol. 1

The Monogatari series — both in the light novels and the anime — is known for its verbosity. This is why the Kizumonogatari movies were so novel to me. Nearly all of their storytelling was done visually, removing the Koyomi Araragi monologues and narration that define the Monogatari series. Hiroshi Kamiya’s voice permeates the series, and even later installments of Monogatari Series: Second Season feature monologues from the series’ beloved heroines.

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