OP2: 「dark cherry mystery」 by 水橋かおり (Mizuhashi Kaori)
「おうぎダーク」 (Ougi Daaku)
I don’t really like it when anime spell things out. Most importantly, that’s my job. Less importantly, it doesn’t make for very interesting storytelling. For one, there’s the loss of the mystery element. Like Ougi herself, many stories are fueled by mystery, stripping it away with an infodump is like flooring the brakes of a speeding car. The other is that spelling things out directly is rarely the best way to get something into the heads of the audience. Humans have some pretty strong mental barriers against ideas from the outside, but from the inside we can convince ourselves of almost anything, so it’s much more effective to lay out the clues and let us draw our own conclusions. Subtlety is the key. But we’ve got Gaen around and she’s the plot sledgehammer, and I suppose this is the End Story (though of course there’s still Zokuowarimonogatari so whatever), and if there’s ever a time to spell things out it is now. So Monogatari says flat out: in a story firmly about Araragi Koyomi going through adolescence, Owari- is about that end of it.
Ougi has always been something of Koyomi’s foil, and now we know why: she was literally created to be his foil. She’s his shadow in a very Jungian sense, something that he does not want to accept but ultimately has to. This second half of Monogatari has spent some time discussing the difference between doing the right thing and fixing mistakes, and in hell Koyomi decided that he’s been doing the right thing, and if given the chance to redo his life will still make the same choices. Still, he admits that mistakes, he’s made a few, and perhaps one day they’ll catch up with him. But they never do. He thinks they should, hence Ougi. Ougi is a creature of rules. Of course, she’s not the rules, as we know that she’s been merely masquerading as the darkness. And that fundamental lie that underpins her existence is a clear breach of those unwritten rules. But that only highlights her respect for the order of things when comparing her to the specialists. They play fast and loose with the rules, and are adept at bending them for their own purposes. Enshrine a snail instead of a snake, because snail > snake? Yeah, sure, we’ll go with that. If she’s been pretending to be my niece, I’ll just say she’s my niece. Now we’re cool. It’s purely rhetorical, and feels like cheating, but it works. Ougi, though, doesn’t function like that. She doesn’t accept being able to linguistic-judo one’s way around strict consequences. She is either black or white. She cannot bend the rules. She can only break them.
Both Koyomi and his manufactured shadow, Ougi, represent a certain adolescent naiveté. Koyomi believes in helping people (‘people’ meaning ‘women’) without question, believes that everyone deserves a happy ending, and believes in doing the right thing is about intention rather than consequences. Ougi, on the other hand, believes in a world that has rules, a world that is orderly, and that there are natural consequences to actions regardless of intention. They are both ways we try to have the world make sense, the former morally, and the latter logically. If doing the right thing doesn’t lead to a happy ending, then the world doesn’t make sense morally. But if making a mistake doesn’t result in punishment, then the world doesn’t make sense logically. Of course, nothing is ever that simple, but we desire that everything was, and when one is young we can still be stubborn about how things should be simple. If you recall, Koyomi used to have a love for mathematics. Mathematics is logical. Mathematics is clean. Mathematics is elegant. With the right process one always ends up at the right solution. Even this whole Koyomi/Ougi split is born out of a search for elegance. When faced with two seemingly contradictory philosophies, the Koyomi’s subconscious evidently decided that one must be right, and one must be wrong. And thus Ougi is cast as a villain, and enemy that can be fought. If Koyomi defeats Ougi, he justifies himself. If Ougi defeats Koyomi, then his self-loathing is satisfied. It’s similar to how Kaiki plays the villain. Real evil has no form, and so Kaiki takes on the role of evil, because everything works out better when there is a villain. Indeed, Koyomi will always vilify Kaiki, and be happier for it.
But Koyomi was never one for looking at the big picture or deep philosophical musing. And so he saves Ougi because, hey, save the girl, save the world. In essence, he refuses to let go of his adolescence. To become an adult often requires killing that spark of idealism, but Koyomi can’t do it. The world should have an order. It should make sense. It’s only proper that once he’s able to reconcile with what Ougi stands for, Oshino Meme shows up and bends the rules for him once again so that everything works out. That spark of youthful idealism is worth protecting, and I think it’s only fair that it’s the adults’ role to protect it.
End Story or not, we know there’s more Monogatari out there, so this is not really the end. But it sure could be. Throughout the entire ordeal of Owarimonogatari we’ve beaten out our protagonist’s character, examined it for all its flaws, and eventually resolved his internal conflicts. We’ve reflected on his journey, and decided its worth. That’s basically as much as you can ask for in any story. We’ve had our epilogue in Hanamonogatari, we’ve even had Mullet!Araragi, so perhaps it’s now time to wrap things up for good.
Still, Monogatari is a story about Koyomi’s adolescence, and he’s decidedly hung on to that for now, so the end is, if anything, open. And part of me sort of wishes that we never have a decisive conclusion to that tale, because I think the inner child is worth preserving and Koyomi’s is positive enough now that he’s gotten over his martyr complex. His friends seem dedicated to helping him keep being the impulsive, idealistic, slightly chauvinist hero he’s always been, and who am I to say otherwise? I won’t go pretending any of my impressions are final.
I’ve also actually written a lot about the Monogatari Series, and I think you can tell by now what I think about it. It’s a good eight years old, it has stuck to its guns, and it has consistently delivered. To tell the truth, back when I first watched Bakemonogatari I wasn’t expecting that we’ll ever get this far. It was extraordinarily dialogue heavy, it looked very cheap at times, and it was plagued by production issues. Certainly niche fare, I would have thought. Now look at it. I have to give credit to the production team at Shaft for their success, and in particular for always improving on Monogatari. It’s certainly a unique kind of adaptation, and no doubt tricky, but I think they’ve experimented and iterated and have managed to wrangle it to their liking. Now I can confidently say that the Monogatari is now a full function of language and imagery, as opposed to just language and some distractions.
So, congratulations on seeing the End Story through to completion, Monogatari, and here’s to many more. Well, maybe not many more, but I wish Araragi Koyomi the best for the future, and he’s got a lot of future ahead of him.