「つきひフェニックス 其ノ參」 (Tsukihi Fenikkusu Sono San)
“Tsukihi Phoenix Part Three”
In this penultimate episode, we learn that just about everything in Araragi’s life has turned out to be a fake – even his own sister turns out to be an imposter. NisiOisiN wasn’t kidding around when he named this installment in the Monogatari series – there are falsehoods and fakes in every nook and cranny of the story. At least the donuts are still real!
With fake people and fake phrases everywhere, I should have learned by now not to trust everything that comes out of the characters’ mouths, or to take their words at anything more than face value. After all, with a con man running amok, supernatural creatures taking residence in practically every single character, and wordplay galore, nothing is ever as simple as it appears to be. I haven’t learned a single thing though, because I thought that Shinobu’s secret information had something to do with the two girls that Araragi ran into earlier, Kagenui Yozuru and Ononoki Yotsugi. Imagine my reaction when Shinobu’s inside scoop turns out to be the Mister Donut 100-yen sale, and she just wanted to go as soon as possible so they wouldn’t sell out. Shinobu, how can you be so unbelievably adorable when it comes to donuts?
The theme of imposters and fakes continues with Tsukihi, dressed revealingly in yet another new yukata, finally having her first real and meaningful appearance in her own story arc. As one half of the Fire Sisters, we already know Araragi’s opinion about the duo as being fake heroes of justice, but hearing Tsukihi herself admit the falsity of her motives and how vague of a concept justice is to her was even more effective than anything Araragi could have said. Her admission made me wonder how many of us are also swept into doing the right thing by the tide of popular opinion. Like Tsukihi latched onto Karen, we are also prone to following the lead of more willful people, but it takes a mindful person to realize that their motivations for their shared goal might not be one and the same. Tsukihi, surprisingly, is one of those people who largely on her own realized that unlike Karen, she doesn’t act for others, she acts because of them. Despite her noble goals, it’s this simple distinction that makes her concept of justice, as well as her heroic quest for it, nothing but a falsehood. I wish we could have heard Karen’s current views on justice and the retirement of the Fire Sisters, which, in keeping with the Monogatari tradition, would have made for great dialogue, but unfortunately she’s away from home, either occupied with her boyfriend Mizudori, with Kanbaru, or perhaps both. Three-way toothbrushing…?
Ahem. Sorry to interrupt your fantasies, but we’re going to have to ignore that particular temptation in order to move on. Ignoring temptations is something Araragi has never been good at either, but I swear he was never this bad before. Maybe that whole incident with Karen has really lowered his inhibitions while increasing his libido at the same time? It would explain why he brazenly stripped off Tsukihi’s yukata to investigate her lack of scars, and then, without any hesitation groped her just because it was right there and he wanted to know how it would feel. It is quite strange that scars which were never supposed to fade away have now completely disappeared, but did he really need to molest her to find out? In the end, the idea that Araragi is merely a helpful and reliable older brother is just like so many other ideas in this series: a pretense, a falsehood.
If there’s one thing I can count on not being a fake, it’s one of Mister Donut’s donuts. Good thing too, because they can really bring people together – even a con man who has already promised to stay away from town can’t resist the lure and temptation of 100-yen fried rings of dough. There was just something so absurd about seeing the return of an antagonist when he’s simply minding his own business and eating donuts, and not bilking anyone out of their money. An analogy would be like seeing Genghis Khan chilling on a park bench and eating a hot dog, instead of killing people like he’s known for. Kaiki probably would have preferred to keep to himself too, if it weren’t for Shinobu once again refusing to supply Araragi with crucial information about the two girls he ran into earlier. I thought it was amusing that Shinobu couldn’t be bought with donuts, while the normally greedy Kaiki was content with only a wallet as compensation. Kaiki, you’ve grown soft!
So what did Araragi learn for the price of a (hopefully not fake) leather wallet? For starters, they’re both ghost busters just like Kaiki, but while he’s an imposter, they’re the real deal. Given what we know about them already, like their supposed fighting strength, their inside knowledge of Araragi and company, and their intimate knowledge about Oshino, this came as no real surprise. Neither did the revelation that one of them is actually a fake of sorts – Ononoki Yotsugi, the shikigami bound to the Kagenui Yozuru. I always found the eyes on her hat a little unnerving, almost as much as her eyebrows; overall, her peculiar character design and pattern of speech was almost a dead giveaway that she wasn’t exactly a normal human. I can see now why the two girls work together though. The immortal creatures that they hunt require supernatural powers to deal with, and who better to wield these powers than a supernatural shikigami? Unfortunately, neither Araragi nor Shinobu were able piece together the clues fast enough to prevent the onmyouji and shikigami duo from attacking their real target: Tsukihi.
I find it remarkable that the most obvious usage of the imposter concept – namely, as a device for introducing unexpected twists, hasn’t really been employed in the story so far. All the fakes that we have encountered in Nisemonogatari so far have not been sudden revelations of any kind, mainly because either people have been already introduced upfront as being fakes, or it is merely an idea or an action that is deemed to be a fake. This makes it all the more surprising when it turns out that Tsukihi, someone we’ve known for a long time, in this case, stretching back to Bakemonogatari, turns out to be an imposter as well. Her halving (?) at the hands of Ononoki was a spectacular sight, even if it was a little overkill. I mean, why would you ruin such an amazing work of architecture, a house that Shinbou Akiyuki must have spent hours designing? If I were the architect of the Araragi abode, I would have reacted just like Araragi did when he saw his sister “killed” before his very eyes – just not as awesomely because I’m unfortunately not a vampire. Neither really, is Shinobu who valiantly tries to protect Tsukihi with a fake out, albeit one that Kagenui sees right through.
The revelation that Tsukihi is a fake sister comes with a lot of questions, many of which I can only hope will be answered in the final episode next week. One question that may have far reaching answers is whether or not Kagenui and Ononoki are currently working for someone. The mention of a ruling that deemed Araragi and Shinobu harmless along with Oshino’s involvement in that decision leads me to believe that there is an organization working behind the scenes – one whose motives we don’t yet know but could end up involving all of Araragi’s friends. Another question is that Kagenui never made it really clear how long Tsukihi has been possessed by the phoenix – was it since the day she was born or only recently? And if the phoenix has been there from birth, I’m not sure I understand why it is so evil for it to sneak into a human family, pretend to be a human, and deceive the family. Sure, we’ll never get to know the “true” Tsukihi, but all the memories that the family members have of her imposter are still real memories. Like we’ve learned in Usagi Drop and Papa Ki, family is more than sharing the same blood – shared experiences and most importantly love for one another is more than enough. I hope that Araragi again realizes that sometimes fakes are more real than the real thing, so that he is able to regroup and prepare for the two ghost hunters’ return, in what is assuredly a highly anticipated final showdown. I just hope that Nisemonogatari doesn’t fake us out again by skipping over the fight and going directly to its aftermath, but even if it did, I’ll just grab a donut and enjoy it nonetheless.
TL;DR: @verdantRC – Fakes everywhere. Shinobu + donuts = cute. Kaiki + donuts = chill. Tsukihi’s a fake too! Final showdown next episode! #nisemonogatari