Monogatari Series: Second Season, Ep 23: They really are just children

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Having a story arc narrated by an adult is really something. Every previous story arc has been presented from the perspective of the teenage cast, mostly Araragi, and done so in a way which presents the other teenage characters as equals, while the adults have a clear higher stance in power. By seeing the story through Kaiki’s perspective, it shifts that whole power dynamic so that the characters which we usually see as equals are now seem more like, well, children.

Just look at how Senjougahara has acted. In past story arcs as seen through the eyes of Araragi and Hanekawa, Senjougahara always has this facade around her which makes her intimidating, and makes it really ambiguous about what she’s thinking. Similar to how Meme and his old old gang are presented, but minus the higher stance in power (I’m trying to avoid calling them the “elite four ghostbusters” now.) Probably part of the reason this facade works so well on Araragi and Hanekawa is because they’re equals with Senjougahara. But now that we’re seeing the story through the eyes of Kaiki, Senjougahara’s mystique is lost a bit and she starts to act more like her age.

Like in this episode,  notice how she tries to act adultish and rejects Kaiki’s offer to buy her food, only for Kaiki to remind her that she still needs to pay him back for the flight and cafe drinks—in other words, rubbing it in that she doesn’t have any money. And then later Senjougahara refuses to take her hat off because of the off-chance that someone she know’s sees her, which is a result of her not being straight with Araragi and telling him about her and Kaiki’s deal. Throughout her conversation with Kaiki, she’s clearly the child of the two.

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To give a real life analogy, it’s like how when you’re a teenager all your dumb teenager friends seem like they’re wiser and know way more than any of those oppressive grown-ups who constantly try to cramp your style, but then once you actually become an adult yourself you realize your teenager friends weren’t actually that mature, and you begin to treat other teenagers in the same condescending manner that you used to despise. I think that shift from teenager to adult-levels of maturity is sort of what Monogatari is trying to convey here, at least to some extent. That’s not to say that Senjougahara and her gang are just a bunch of dumb teenagers; on the contrary, it just that they’re closer to “normal” teenager then how past story-arcs would have us believe.

More notably is when Senjougahara thanks Kaiki after clearly crying her eyes out off-screen. This in particular could be more chalked up to being due to the immense stress and pressure of having both her and her lover’s lives at risk, but the facade she usually puts up still continues to crumble, and she acts more like how you would expect a normal teenager to act. The story-arc is humanizing her more, so to speak. Gosh, I wish more visual media would play around with perspectives like Monogatari does. Change in perspective is more difficult to convey in visual media, sure, but it’s not as exclusive to literature as most people would think.

This story arc is also humanizes Kaiki quite a bit, and not just because it shows that he cares about more than just money. Back when we saw him through the eyes of Araragi, Kaiki just like all the other of his club members always seem to know just about everything about the situation, and seems to know exactly what they’re doing. But here Kaiki make quite a few mistakes, such as  accidentally telling Nadeko his real name; he knows how to work around his mistakes though and still make it work in his favor. In other words, it’s a subtle way to show that Kaiki doesn’t have quite as much control over the situation as past arcs would have us believe. Plus it’d be boring if he we had a Gary Sue as the protagonist.

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In the first half of the episode Kaiki asserts that deceiving Nadeko will be easy in and of itself, but of course stories can’t be resolved that easily so there’s got to be something else to complicate things. As Monogatari would have it, this episode introduces three variables which could potentially make Kaiki’s task more difficult: First is the matter of Araragi’s savior complex, as he might not swallow so easily the idea that they should just trick Nadeko instead of doing anything to save her from insanity (and he might not like the idea of working with Kaiki.) Second is Gaen and her conviction to halt Kaiki’s plan due the catastrophic consequences that could result from his slim chance of failure. And lastly the third potential variable is whatever happens to be within Nadeko’s closet—which is clearly shocking to Kaiki.

The 80s throwback OP was hilarious. I love how it shifts between cliche 80s anime visuals of Kaiki and Senjougahara cruising around a beach, and the typical Monogatari visuals with a bunch symbolism and minimalistic backgrounds. (Notice how the snakes wrap around the crabs.) It’s funny how deliberately lazy and poor Kaiki’s singing was, and the romantic overtones are even funnier once we learn later about how Araragi suspects Kaiki of being Senjougahara’s first crush—which is just a misunderstanding.

I liked how playful Ononoki acts is with Kaiki in their dialogue, showing off her latest bit of obnoxious chuunibyouism (“Peace! Peace!”) The scene feels like seeing a child or teenager talking ecstatically with their uncle, except the uncle and child both talk in the most monotone and uninterested tone ever. Actually, maybe a more appropriate analogy would be a manzai exchange between a typical light novel protagonist and a loli, but monotone and uninterested toned—especially after Kaiki states “say that again and I’ll punch you away.”

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Interesting that Shinobu was originally part of Gaen’s plan to straighten out the town and become it’s god; but then Araragi interfered with that, and eventually Nadeko served that purpose and became the town’s god. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gaen was connected to Oshino too and had a part in nudging Nadeko towards godhood. Haha, and it took Kaiki 30 minutes to refuse Gaen’s three million yen offer to cease his attempts to deceive Nadeko.

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