OP: 「terminal terminal」 by 加藤英美里 (Katou Emiri)
「まよいヘル」 (Mayoi Heru)
It’s official: Shaft hates me. On a deep and personal level. As you may be able to tell, here on RandomC, we take on anime on a weekly basis, and follow neat schedules. Shaft, on the other hand, has taken to sporadically dumping all their Monogatari on us by the truckload. Yeah, they tried the TV series thing again for the first half of Owarimonogatari, but apparently that’s ceased to be viable model for the second. So now we have 140 minutes of Monogatari all of a sudden, which is a joy for everybody except bloggers with limited time and sanity (those two are the same thing, really). Let’s compromise: we’ll bravely hack our way through the last of the End Story here, but we’ll split it up. Don’t think of it as, ‘everything is late!’, think of it as a three day extravaganza! Doesn’t that sound exciting?
Reason two why Shaft hates me: why has it been so long since Koyomimonogatari? What happened last time? If only there was a website that did episodic coverage of anime with plenty of screenshots. Well, we’ll make do. Let’s see… oh right. Our protagonist died. Seems like I really should have remembered that, shouldn’t I? In my defence, I haven’t exactly been waiting around gripped by worry for Araragi’s wellbeing, because we’ve seen the future and know that he gets better. The question is: ‘how?’. Or perhaps the better question is: ‘why?’, because in a world rich with the supernatural it’s not unbelievable that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can put Araragi back together again. But why slice him up in the first place? What purpose does his death serve? And, really, what purposes does his life serve? He’s such a pawn that he has little control over even his own life and death, and yet a lot of effort is being spent on his behalf. To what end?
That’s a question that will be answered later, but for now Owarimonogatari needs to make something out of Araragi’s death, or else killing him will just feel like a cheap cliffhanger only good for temporary and insulting shock value. I expect better from Monogatari than a second-rate soap opera, and thankfully it turns death into a character building moment for Araragi by dropping him straight into hell. And it’s also a good opportunity to write Mayoi, our original deceased character who was dead before it was cool, back into the plot. I don’t know if it’s because we haven’t seen her for a long time, or if it’s because of the huge amounts of exposition Owarimonogatari had to claw through, but everyone seemed even more hyper than usual, despite being dead. Araragi’s first first response upon seeing a little girl is to assault her; no wonder he goes to hell.
Speaking of, interesting note about Buddhist hell. I’m no Buddhist myself, but from what I know their underworld it’s perhaps closer to Dante’s Purgatorio than his Inferno. Souls would descend to whatever level was befitting their karma, work it off, then be reincarnated. All except the bottom layer, ‘Avici’, which is like the oubliette of hell. There the most depraved (i.e. Araragi, I guess) are left and forgotten, languishing for aeons without reprieve. And so Araragi falling there, and then actually climbing out of it. There is a lot to unpack there, and I must admit that my paltry Japanese was little help deciphering all the wordplay and innuendo that accompanies any Monogatari script. I’ll see what I can do based just on subs and fascinating imagery.
The way I see it, there were two questions for Araragi in hell. The first is simply a matter of reflection? Yeah, sure, there’s the thing about him being a vampire and helping a vampire, but the usual Buddhist hell package—karma, reincarnation, leading a better life than your previous one—applies here as well, I think. Araragi revisits all the times in his life when he may have chosen poorly, that eventually lead to his current sorry state, and decides that even if given the chance he would have chosen the same path. He’s convinced that even if they were mistakes, it was still the right thing to do. Yeah, he’s often kinda dumb about his decisions. And even more often he’s unaware of the greater consequences of his actions, and his good intentions were just playing into the hands of greater powers. It’s instructive, I think, that Araragi meets Tadatsuru. It’s not just to have somebody explain the convoluted scheme hatched for the purposes of de-vamping Araragi, the details of which I found little interest in as complications for the sake of complications. It is because Tadatsuru is a willing puppet—literally—and Araragi has to be as well. Yes, he may feel bound to his role, and not know why, but he will find something greater truth beyond it.
The second question is whether he deserves to escape hell, and that one is a gimme. The imagery of the white thread descending from heaven may remind some of you of a Japanese short story about the Buddha lowering a thread of spider silk to help a criminal in hell. It goes that this criminal had once spared the life of a spider, so the Buddha decided to offer him this chance. As the criminal climbed up the thread, though, so too did others behind him. Fearing that the thread would snap under the weight, the criminal yells at the others to let go, and that the thread is for him and him alone. At that point the thread snaps, and all the sinners fall back into hell. Obviously, Araragi has read this story and even takes Mayoi along (because apparently it’s just that easy). I think the point is that Araragi’s innate altruism (even if just for women) is what ultimately redeems him. And it also helps that when he returns to life, there are people who are genuinely happy to see him. If there’s any question about Araragi being ‘deserving’, that should be enough.
That’s all a lot of introspection for a single character, but he literally went to hell so what can one expect? On that note, join me same time tomorrow for Senjougahara Rendezvous.
Full length images: 21