「そだちリドル 其ノ貳」 (Sodachi Ridoru Sono Ni)
“Sodachi Riddle Part Two”
If you thought young Araragi was cute last week, it turns out that wasn’t even the half of it; he’s bloody adorable. How did such a good kid turn into this pervert? Oh testosterone, what hast thou wrought? That said, even with Araragi’s usual self-deprecation, I’m surprised that he still renders his younger self so relatively positively. What was I like in Year 7? I was… ugh, no. Young Passerby was some sort of psychopath. I refuse to have anything to do with that guy. No, I don’t think embarrassing childhoods are generally a popular topic to bare one’s chest about, at least not without overt manipulation.
Young Oikura Sodachi gives young Araragi a run for his money, though (and both Yotsugi and Shinobu seem to have noticed the competition and refuse to default the race). It may just be (actually, almost certainly) how Araragi remembers it, but it’s hard to tell that the Oikura of Christmas Past is a victim of domestic abuse. Not that signs are always obvious, but in Araragi’s memory Sodachi was cute but elusive, not tormented. Can we really attribute ‘fault’ to either side for the breakdown of the relationship? Was Araragi insensitive? Was Oikura unreasonable? In fact, we wouldn’t really have uncovered the darker edge of this story without Ougi’s uncanny omniscience. Hanekawa is right. Something is definitely incomplete here.
Perhaps that’s why the resolution of Sodachi Riddle—the resolution of this mystery—feels rather unsatisfying. It’s not a real resolution at all. The mystery is not so much solved as just explained by Ougi the plot device when Araragi fails to come up with anything. Even then, there are loose ends. Araragi set of on this trip down memory lane to try and figure out why Oikura bears such vehement hate for him, and nothing really heard really justifies it. Yeah, he forgot about her, but she didn’t even tell him her name. Yeah, he didn’t sic his police parents on Mr and Mrs Oikura, but could one really expect a 12-yr-old or whatever to do that considering what he was working with? I suppose Oikura could have been on edge already, and was simply pushed over the edge, but that wouldn’t be a very satisfying either. It’s more appropriate for the protagonist to have some agency in the story, i.e. it really should somehow be Araragi’s fault, because ‘Oikura’s had a hard life and I can’t do anything about it so meh’ isn’t really much of a tale.
And, of course, there’s the meta-questions that go unanswered. Yeah, one should wonder how Oikura somehow knows Mr and Mrs Araragi are with the police, but why doesn’t anyone ever wonder how Ougi knows everything? For that matter, why is Ougi even involved here? What, did she really just wanted to help Araragi make up with an old friend out of the goodness of her/his/its heart? Benevolent force, right? Considering this is Monogatari, it’s more likely that there’s a supernatural edge in this story somewhere. Doesn’t Oikura’s story remind you of Hanekawa’s? A girl whom Araragi owes from the past, who has an abusive family situation, whose emotions are probably manifesting in unhealthy ways. Hmm. It’s likely that all these questions are left hanging in the air to set up for the next arc, Sodachi Lost where we’re likely to get, er, more on Oikura Sodachi. She’s certainly a somewhat more sympathetic figure now, and I do wish to see more of her. If only for the possible chance to get more manga Oikura. She’s hilarious.