As we’ve come to expect, our hopeless writer rikuo06 can’t even meet the deadlines he sets for himself. Not that he doesn’t have his excuses. I suppose consecutive all-nighters punctuated by 6-hour exam blocks can be rather detrimental to one’s creative output, after all. We’d decided to split the 12 Days posts by three-way rotation, but as the clock rolled past his deadline and then mine and then HH‘s and then back to his again, I decided we’d have to carry on, with or without him. Hopefully he’ll be back with us soon.
Speaking of absences, a certain character was distinctly missing from the first five or so episodes of Monogatari Series Second Season: that is, the main male character Araragi Koyomi. Being the hero to a harem-esque cast of heroines, Koyomi had been the narrator and lens through which we viewed and understood the rest of the characters in all of the previous installments (Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari Kuro). With the start of Second Season, with no warning given we are treated to an entire arc in which Koyomi is not only NOT the narrating protagonist, but he doesn’t even show up on screen until the last few minutes. Instead the story now followed the thoughts and experiences of one of the heroines, Hanekawa Tsubasa, and alternatively her aberration alter ego Black Hanekawa. And what an experience it was!
New angles from which to view everything! As the story continued from a new perspective, I came to realize how important a theme subjectivity was to the series. Or rather, I should have noticed that much earlier, but changing perspectives really drove home the point! The changes were not limited to hearing Hanekawa’s inner monologue instead of Koyomi’s. The arc showed different sides to other characters as well. After all, people behave and talk differently in front of different people. In particular, we got to see a slightly different Senjougahara, one that is friendlier and more open in showing her emotions. The tsun/kuu/yan/whatever-dere front is mainly something she puts up when talking to or about Koyomi and people she’s not familiar with and/or distrusts.
Additionally, various minor characters never seen before appeared briefly in this arc, including Senjougahara’s father and Koyomi’s mother. In all previous installments, people not directly relevant to the story were completely invisible, as if they didn’t exist. It turns out that they were there all along! It makes me wonder what else was missing from or warped by Koyomi’s worldview, or even by Hanekawa’s. The issue is even brought up in conversation with the Araragi sisters, Karen and Tsukihi.
With the next arc, Koyomi returned to his helm as the narrating character. However, the series wasn’t done with switching things up yet. The third and fifth arcs changed perspectives yet again to Sengoku Nadeko and Kaiki Deishuu. Nadeko’s arc especially made an impact, as she was the least developed of the main female characters up till then, hidden behind her bangs and her shy, kawaii façade. Seeing her true personality unravel as she descended into insanity and ascended to godhood was satisfying, as was the further use of unreliable narration.
However, the fifth and final arc was the most unexpected turn yet. The narrative is handed over not to another main heroine, but to a gloomy, middle-aged conman who kind of but not really played the villain role in Nisemonogatari. Yes, the main hero is once again out of the picture, and the final chapter of Araragi Koyomi and Senjougahara Hitagi’s love story (“Koimonogatari”) is being told by an outsider who is obsessed with lies. Kaiki goes as far as to directly warn viewers of the intertwining of truth and lies in his telling of the tale. Despite his warning though, I feel like his viewpoint has offered the clearest image of several characters and their situations thus far. Furthermore, his adult perspective cuts through the atmosphere of drama and intrigue that have surrounded the characters and reveals them to be children after all, dealing with love, loneliness, and insecurity, rather mundane problems after all. I look forward to seeing how this all concludes next week.
I wish more anime would play with subjectivity and perspectives like the Monogatari series does. Not necessarily in a way that prioritizes presentation over plot all the time; a balance would be preferable. The typical drama/romance series I’ve seen focuses above all else on what is happening between the main characters, basically the dramatic or romantic content. But taking a step away from all that—following a character spending a few days away from the main protagonist, or getting an outsider perspective—can be a revealing experience, for both the audience and the characters themselves.