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.
One of the Monogatari series favorite tricks is playing with chronology. Adapting from the original Nisio Isin light novels which are also technically out of order chronologically, the anime series similarly scrambles the chronological order of its narrative arcs. This refocuses the series on the emotional development of specific characters that would otherwise be lost if the story was told in chronological order.
Airing immediately after Nekomonogatari: Kuro, Nekomonogatari: Shiro is the shining example of the Monogatari series’ success. Placing the two side-by-side thoroughly explores Tsubasa Hanekawa’s character growth from a time before the first Bakemonogatari series — and immediately after Kizumonogatari, the first arc in the chronological timeline — to nearly four months later.
Koyomimonogatari is a series of short stories collected into one light novel that span a large amount of time across what viewers are already familiar with, including the recent Owarimonogatari arcs of Ougi Formula, Sodachi Riddle, Sodachi Lost, and Shinobu Mail along with the theatrical release of Kizumonogatari‘s first film.
“You’re not happy because you’re not trying to be happy. Nobody can make someone who isn’t trying to be happy into someone that’s happy.”
-Tsubasa Hanekawa to Sodachi Oikura, Owarimonogatari, Episode 5
Had this line been spoken by anyone but Tsubasa Hanekawa, it would have rightfully been dismissed as a treacly platitude, meant to prod the recipient into action. Instead, it acts as a powerful summation of all that Hanekawa has gone through in search of her own happiness and self-acceptance. Hanekawa was in Sodachi Oikura’s figurative shoes not long ago, and remembers all too well how she blocked out vital parts of herself in pursuit of perfection rather than addressing her innermost desires and seeking out personal contentment.
Owarimonogatari‘s Sodachi Oikura offers not only a reminder of the Hanekawa of Nekomonogataris past, but additionally provides a mystery on which the new, self-assured Hanekawa can cut her teeth.