“I felt that something might be there, that something might change.”
-Sodachi Oikura, Owarimonogatari, Episode 6
“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.
A tradition of detective fiction, the locked room mystery requires very little at its core. There are no exotic locales required, nor are many props or even people required. At its essence, a locked room mystery can thrive in simplicity– a standard crime scene, limited access, and an ultimately solvable situation for the detective, if not the audience as well.
This same simplicity is accompanied by many pitfalls. If the mystery is solvable for the audience, it cannot be too difficult or too easy, lest they come away disappointed. When the mystery revolves more around the characters themselves, said characters must be interesting or emotionally resonant. A simple setup makes both poor characterization or the lack of a compelling mystery all the more apparent.
In anime, the presentation of a locked room mystery is compounded by the difficulty of showing the mystery – often accompanied by large swaths of expository dialogue – visually, without giving too much away and all while captivating the viewer.
“When you think about what is scary in this world, those that despise you for some incomprehensible reason and attack you are the scariest. There’s no way to deal with it, because you don’t know the opponent’s objective.”
-Koyomi Araragi, Owarimonogatari, Episode 2
And so begins the search for Sodachi Oikura’s motive, along with the supposed “end” of Koyomi Araragi.
“Beautiful. So beautiful, it just makes me swoon. The most beautiful part about it is that the answer is zero. That said, someone like me thinks that if the answer is going to be zero, there’s really no need to go out of your way to make the calculation.”
-Ougi Oshino to Koyomi Araragi, Owarimonogatari, Episode 1
A locked room mystery plays on the idea of the impossible. The crime scene is isolated with a set amount of variables: a vanished culprit, and information given to both the detective and the reader of that respective work. In a way, a locked room mystery is an equation or a formula. After a while, the reader learns what to expect and when, eagerly anticipating the detective’s incoming speech. This subgenre of detective fiction is responsible for some of the most famous, influential, and bestselling works of all mystery novels, most notably John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
The insatiable appetite humanity seems to have for these types of mysteries is intrinsically tied to human nature itself. When presented with a seemingly insolvable situation, we crave rationality and an explanation.