Various collected clippings from Ghostlightning’s episodic coverage of Bakemonogatari. To be cleaned up and made presentable in a future post. I present them here in mostly raw format, just cut and pasted so I won’t have to go digging later. Eventually I’d like to compile a sort of viewer’s guide for the show.

From “Hitagi Crab”:

Part 1 and 2

I could very well compare this to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya.Araragi is like SHAFT’s (Shinbo’s? The writer’s?) take on a Kyon, while Senjougahara is the SHAFT Haruhi, that queen tundra. Or tsundere, even – that fickle madam who, as you note, twists her wording and invitations in such a way that the protagonist really only can choose between “Yes” and “Yes” (or “No”, and “No”, as the case may be).

And in a similar way to The Melancholy, Bakemonogatari provides us with a protagonist that invites self-identification. Araragi certainly doesn’t do as many monologues or self-narrations as Kyon, but he does provide a fair number of asides in a similar way.

Until this point, I think the only show that I could compare Bakemonogatari to was J.C. Staff’s To Aru Majutsu No Index, which also features a smart-mouthed high school student who’s for the most part normal having to deal with a rather fickle (and sorcerous) female lead as well. Which now makes me think, perhaps we are seeing the rise (or perhaps resurgence) of a “Kyon archetype”?

Finally, far be it from me to be a combo breaker, so I shall add my hearty “HNNNNNNGH” to the choir.

From “Mayoi Snail”:

Part 1 and 2

SHAFT certainly has a penchant for picking up on animal motifs or using other symbolic stand-ins for characters; a long time back Cuchlann over at SuperFanicom put up a post on signifiers in Hidamari Sketch:

The same sort of character abbreviation is also present in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei – it’s not quite as “totemic” in the sense of using animal stand-ins, but “signifiers” as Cuchlann references them, are still present – for example, the prim and proper Chiri is often represented by a close cut to her perfectly-parted hair.

And yes, you need to be very fast to catch on to SHAFT shows. Either a working knowledge of Japanese, or a very good ear, or a finger on the pause button (with reflexes honed by watching through every season of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei) also helps… things like the “street clothes –> moment of bliss” pun and the “Crab –> Touch” pun in episode 3 are very easy to miss.

The heavy dependency on Japanese really makes me wonder if any publisher would even attempt a localization, even; there’s just so many nuances that probably only a fluent speaker might get, and not all of them are completely outright puns either.

As another example, in episode 3 Senjougahara notes that the collective nickname for Araragi’s sisters are the “Tsuganoki Second Junior High Fire Sisters”: in the abstracted diagram that follows to show Araragi’s argument with his sister before riding off on his bike, the Japanese character representing his sister Karen is also the character for “Fire”. It’s enough to fill you with despair.

From “Suruga Monkey”:

Part 1

Perhaps it’s simply a contextual thing, seeing as CLANNAD ended rather recently but in a lot of ways this series makes me think of it as an “anti-CLANNAD” (well, at least the first high school season). At heart it’s still a sort of love story about two lonely people who find companionship in each other, with some competition (yet there seems very little doubt about the final pairing); yet Senjougahara is everything that Nagisa is not. Hachikuji is like a mirrorverse Fuko,a ghost who haunts us with comedic interlude brought out by razor-wit and spunk, and provides a foil for Aryagi to bounce his internal monologue off of. It’s a vibe I’m finding hard to shake. Rararagi-san is not quite Okazaki but certainly shares a similar grueling physical endurance.
This might be simply chalked up to the fact that Bakemonogatari does seem a little tongue-in-cheek: as you note, it’s quite possible it’s a commentary on the target audience and a play on common stereotypes.

Took me a bit to catch it also, but the text that Senjougahara and Araragi are studying is the Gettysburg Address. Also, been trying to figure out the random cuts to “Black” are for the longest time; realized I’ve been overthinking it – the text “Black” is shown to denote that literally, you are seeing a “fade to black” segment.
Finally, if you recall, the reason Senjougahara’s house is such a piecemeal affair is apparently due to financial difficulty resulting from the fallout with her family situation: this cropped up back in Hitagi Crab.

Part 2

This one was fairly mind-blowing; perhaps it’s the absence of the other characters to balance out Suruga’s lightning delivery… but surprisingly enough I recall the “Monkey Paw” story that Araragi initially attributes to Suruga’s strange condition.

Depending on the version of the story, it involves a group of people finding/buying a dessicated monkey paw talisman that is said to grant three wishes. The first wish is for money, but one of the group’s number is killed as a result (for example, collecting a life insurance payout). One member of the distraught group then tries to wish the other person to life – which has no immediate effect… until several days after the funeral, where an ominous banging is heard on the door. The more sensible minded members of the group then burn the third wish to ensure that the deceased person stays properly dead – as it has been several days since the burial and who knows what horror is now shambling about.

The exact gory details vary on the version – sometimes it’s a family that discovers the paw in the belongings of a long lost relative, or a group of teenagers that steal it from a curio shop; sometimes the paw has three outstretched fingers which curl down as wishes are granted; but the general pattern of the story remains the same. The ultimate theme in the end is that the supernatural power of the three wishes, rather than allowing the group to change fate, causes them to be locked in – their second and third wishes are used up in various states of agonized regret over the results of the first choice.

Meme does point out that Araragi’s story is incorrect: not a monkey but a devil, but still the fact that the story is brought up still raises some interesting ideas. Much as in the original story, Suruga’s wishes are unable to change her ultimate fate; her wishes are made of regrets. She originally wished to help Senjougahara and solve her weight problem, but in the end that only resulted in alienating their relationship. Suruga’s subsequent “omoi” (as noted before, implying feelings, wishes, and weight), is to undo the damage she caused with her first wish, to try and restore what was lost.

To uh, re-iterate in TL:DR fashion,

-The pattern of Suruga’s wishes follows the original “Monkey Paw” story.

-Her first wish is to solve Senjougahara’s weight problem, after discovering it. She approaches Senjougahara, but this results in their relationship becoming alienated. However Senjougahara is indeed cured – just not by Suruga, rather, by Araragi.

-Her second wish is then to restore her previous relationship with Senjougahara – much like the original story, the second wish is made to reverse the consequences of the first. This however results in the manifestation of the “monkey paw” we see in this episode.

-Her third wish now is what Seinime articulates: She wants the monkey paw off her. Her third wish, as in the original Monkey Paw story, is based on the regret felt for the consequences of her second wish.

-This sequence exactly mirrors the pattern of the original Monkey Paw tale: a wish is made, but results in consequences. Rather than live on with the consequences, the protagonists try to reverse them – essentially trying to go back to “how things were before”.

-I predict for the next episode that Meme will point to the root of Suruga’s problems as an inability to move beyond the past, and emphasize the fact that she must live with the consequences of her actions.

Part 3

I really feel for Araragi here. Having an assailant use your own entrails as a rope to slam you into a wall has really got to hurt. Also, nice to see SHAFT is continuing with the thematic (perhaps almost fetishtic) opening animations; much as Hachikuji’s theme panders to a particular anime stereotype, Suruga’s animation also references the whole shoujo-ai genre – what with the lilies and all (Lilies in Japanese being yuri, slang for lesbian relationships).

It appears the Monkey’s Paw/Rainy Devil dichotomy was more than just a passing mention – good to see it fully expounded in this episode; at first we are dragged back into the confusion, but Oshino thankfully cuts in through it as a “half-baked, comedic sort of authority”. My predictions were not quite a hundred percent – because, like Araragi, I was operating under the mistaken assumption that we were still dealing with a Monkey’s Paw – the overall message was more personal responsibility moreso than “living with the consequences”, although I suppose both are related. It’s a satisfying wrap up overall.

I am still unsure if I am missing some closer subtext with the choice of “Rainy Devil”. “Monkey’s Paw” is quite clearly said by the characters in Japanese, but “Rainey Devil” is what we see in the text screen in episode 7, and the Japanese characters are quite clearly using English words.