「かれんビー 其ノ漆」 (Karen Bii Sono Nana)
“Karen Bee Part Seven”
This finale to Karen’s arc was filled with plenty of action, but instead of it being completely of the wordplay variety, there was actually a good old fashioned brawl too – just not between whom I expected it to be.
With all the teasing that Nisemonogatari has done so far in regards to Karen and Araragi’s relationship, I never thought that that we would actually be lucky enough to see the two siblings come to fisticuffs instead of merely sparring with words. This was a confrontation that has been alluded to since practically the beginning of this series, and with both sides boasting like prizefighters before their championship bout, the hype was palpable as well. We have already seen a brief glimpse of Araragi’s fighting prowess during his fight with Rainy Devil, but that was completely one-sided since he was on the defensive the entire time. During his fight with Karen, I fully expected more of the same since Araragi comes off as the heroic type who would never hit his sister, but a part of me still wanted to see some of his offensive repertoire as well. Guess we’ll have to wait until a sequel or Kizumonogatari for us to see him fight to the full extent of his abilities.
Even though Araragi basically served as a human punching bag for Karen, their fight still surpassed all my expectations mainly thanks to how ridiculously awesome she was. I have to admit, I think I’d also fall for a girl who claims she’s in the best of conditions while it’s painfully obvious that she’s suffering and about to pass out. Despite her disadvantages, Karen’s capoeira-like spinning handstand kicks and head scissor leg throws really had Araragi on the ropes too – and it wasn’t surprising to me that only Shinobu’s indecent “request” could get a perverted soul like him to stand up and endure more attacks. His “best offense is a good defense” strategy paid off as Karen could only pummel him so much before she began to tire and he could switch to a battle where he knew he could win – a battle of words.
Wordplay continues to be the defining aspect of this series, and while it might not be regarded as complex by those who merely see it as a shallow play on words, I consider wordplay to include verbal sparring as well. Watching the two siblings square off with their ideas of what it means to be an agent of justice was just as satisfying as the preceding physical altercation. Araragi’s speech to his sister was both pointed and heroic at the same time – only someone well versed in debate could win and end an argument with a tender, heartfelt hug and leave the loser in love with the victor. Their dialogue showed that although we may be familiar with seeing justice in action from reading about it or watching it, the motivations behind justice and what it takes to be an ally of justice are still complex ideas that merit more than a cursory glance – and this is where Nisemonogatari shines.
Another concept that this series has a thought-provoking take on is the idea of revenge. Senjougahara‘s quest to resolve her past was one that I fully expected to culminate in an epic physical showdown with Kaiki, but it turned out to be more anti-climactic than anything, with words exchanged rather than fists and pencils. For a man whose only motivation in life is for material riches, whose soul is as unforgiving as the coffee he drinks, it seemed only appropriate that she would exact her vengeance on him in the most violent of ways, so it was quite unexpected when Kaiki gave in so easily by offering reparations for all his misdeeds. I was left just as speechless as Araragi was, and it worried me because Kaiki is a con man, through and through. None of his words can ever be taken at face value, and his olive branch may come back to bite the protagonists later in the story. All of this does make some sense though. Kaiki is a practical man – if he believes the end result of a confrontation will prevent him from making more money, he will choose to resolve it in a way that allows him to continue with his ways. Cold-hearted would be too kind of a description for him, for he has no heart to speak of.
Another aspect that makes Kaiki a villain to be taken seriously is the idea that he is an impostor. Someone who lives his entire life in denial, in a state of inferiority, someone who possesses supernatural knowledge that surpasses even that of Oshino – Kaiki is even more dangerous than a real expert on the supernatural precisely because he does not bear full responsibility for his actions. He may know and understand the true extent and repercussions of the knowledge and powers that he wields, but as an impostor, he never owns up to his actions beyond what is convenient for him. There is no “title” to live up to, only an ideal that he denies having already reached. Araragi may not have a title, but everything he does, he accepts responsibility for, and that is why the two of them are so diametrically opposed that they cannot coexist peacefully.
Kaiki is spot on with his observation of Senjougahara, however. Somewhat ironically, the cold-hearted girl of the past had more charm to him than the girl she is today – one who’s in love and becomes submissive at the mere threat of losing her love. The old Senjougahara was easy to trick, to take advantage of. And the old one would have never responded to Kaiki’s concessions without making use of the deadly pencils she sharpened. She now realizes there is nothing left to be gained from revenge – her past no longer needs to be dealt with because she is proud of the person she is today, and she already has everything she wants in life: Araragi. The love for her knight on a white horse may be due partly to circumstance, but isn’t that always true to a certain extent?
Araragi was reduced to basically a passive bystander in the resolution to Karen’s arc, but if you think about it as being the final chapter to Senjougahara’s arc as well, it makes perfect sense. Like Oshino said before, Senjougahara saved herself, and I’m sure Araragi would extend this sentiment to Karen as well. It also doesn’t hurt that even though he basically did nothing, he was still was able to fulfill Senjougahara’s request. Who knew she could be so forgiving after he forgot to comfort her and even questioned her about her romantic history? I’d question my girlfriend’s past too, if it led to a reaction like Senjougahara’s and an outcome like theirs.
In the end, even if this was a bit of an anti-climactic finale to the arc, Nisemonogatari’s unconventional storytelling style still leaves me satisfied like few other shows do. Karen may have lost some of her bite and Senjougahara may be less charming now, but what matters to me is that they’ve both cleanly moved on from their past – no more baggage, only a finality that is satisfying in itself. So too, can the story move on now – allowing Araragi to continue carrying the banner of justice in a new battle. We have much to look forward to: he’s still a pervert, an “incestory” is beginning to brew (for those of you who are into that stuff), and the sisters have renewed their resolve to embody justice itself. What’s notable is that one sister has realized she’s an impostor while it still remains to be seen from the other sister. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait too long to find out because the lives and adventures of the Araragi family are too interesting for the story to end here – plus, Shaft’s budget isn’t gone yet and we still have that toothbrush scene that people have been hyping up since episode one…
I apologize for the wall of text, so here’s a Twitter style summary:
@verdantRC – TL;DR @nise Arc finale satisfies, finally action, wordplay’s slow but great chars make it up. Show more [insert preferred heroine] next arc.