“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.
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.
“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.
One of the Monogatari series’ greatest strengths is its inadherence to chronology. It often eschews placing events in chronological order to focus on a particular emotional narrative or relationship. The anime adaptation plays with this visually, revealing tidbits in background details that further inform viewers upon rewatching the series as a whole.
Koyomimonogatari is a series of short, seemingly frivolous episodes tertiary to the main storyline. They’re short diversions that span the length of what Monogatari arcs have aired, plopping the viewer into the center of that specific timeframe before jumping ahead to the middle of the next narrative arc. Chronology is usually discarded by the Monogatari series, but it has a deliberate role in Koyomimonogatari.
This is the exact amount of time that the opening moments of the first episode of Bakemonogatari goes without lead Koyomi Araragi speaking a word.
“A better decision than dodging, wasn’t it?”
The first words out of Hiroshi Kamiya’s mouth as Araragi form this question, followed by an immediate and unsure retraction that devolves into a constant stream of Araragi’s innermost thoughts.
Upon revisiting the first episode of the series — going by initial airdate, not chronology or any other measurement — I was shocked to find that he went this long without speaking. Araragi’s voice is synonymous with the Monogatari franchise at this point. His monologues long-winded, his conversations unnaturally verbose — Kamiya’s specific Araragi tone is etched in every viewer’s mind who has watched Bakemonogatari or other parts of the series. When I picked up the Kizumonogatari novel, I somehow heard Kamiya’s voice in my head, despite reading it in English, not Japanese.