Bakemonogatari
Episode 7

by Nick Creamer,

Araragi begins this episode by breaking the cardinal rule of his new relationship. Last episode concluded with Hanekawa scolding him for meddling in Senjougahara's private affairs, correctly identifying his interest in Kanbaru as prying where he didn't really belong. Araragi wants to help everyone, but when that means actively meddling in the lives of others, it's not necessarily a virtue. This episode opens with Araragi lying about how he received his injuries, stating he'd run into a pole and thereby breaking the rule he set for his relationship with Senjougahara - that from now on, there'd be real honesty and no more deceitful games. Araragi doesn't care about his own well-being, but when that disregard breaks the trust and ignores the concern others have for him, it's most definitely a vice.

But most of this episode isn't specifically about Araragi's personal failings. Instead, we get a more thorough introduction to Kanbaru, as Araragi hunts down the most likely culprit behind his night attack. Kanbaru admits to the crime immediately, so without any mystery there, the rest of this episode is dedicated to both establishing Kanbaru's full character and building up her rapport with Araragi.

The two have a different relationship than the one Araragi shares with Senjougahara, Mayoi, or Hanekawa. That shouldn't be surprising at this point - Monogatari is about both human interiority and human relations, so the diversity of bonds shared by its characters is part of its thematic purpose. After a goofy, charming sequence of Araragi and Kanbaru tossing her mountain of books at each other, the show sets to work elaborating Kanbaru's history in a way that also establishes her unique relationship with Araragi.

The truth behind Kanbaru's attack is the secret of her left arm - bandaged to the elbow, her wrappings hide a monkey's forearm. Kanbaru describes it specifically as a “monkey's paw,” referencing the story where a monkey's paw grants wishes, but never in the way the wielder desired. In the actual story The Monkey's Paw, two parents and their son receive the paw and wish for a minor fortune. That fortune is paid out in compensation for the son's life, insurance collected when his body is crushed by heavy machinery. In her grief, the mother wishes for her son returned - only at the last moment, with the fruit of her wish banging ominously on the door, does the father wish their ruined son away. Monkey's paws are not to be trifled with.

As Kanbaru lightly admits, she was actually in love with Senjougahara and felt betrayed by Senjougahara's relationship with Araragi. The familiar staplers tied to Senjougahara are repurposed here to echo Kanbaru's frustration, the feverish chattering of their teeth mirroring her anger as she relates her feelings. Kanbaru wished to be by Senjougahara's side, and now the monkey's paw is working to grant that wish.

Kanbaru's situation is more urgent than the prior arcs, but in retrospect, every arc so far has been something of a monkey's paw situation. Senjougahara wished her emotional weight away and had that wish granted in a manner that made things even worse. Araragi didn't want to go home, so Mayoi arrived to keep him lost forever. The consequences of wishing for divine intervention seem to reflect a line Oshino has already used - that in the end, we can only really help ourselves.

While Kanbaru's dilemma is serious, her attitude is decidedly not. Like with Mayoi, Kanbaru's conversations with Araragi are full of goofy banter. Unlike with Mayoi, this banter is almost entirely one-sided. While Mayoi makes jokes that Araragi can follow up on (wordplay, references, “I flubbed it,” etc), Kanbaru makes constant sexual gags that often just stop Araragi flat, forcing him to either change the subject, protest too much, or fall over entirely.

Kanbaru out-hornies Araragi by a mile, but the fact that she's a lesbian means she has basically all the control in the situation, while Araragi is constantly caught off-guard by her forthright lines. Her way of playfully abusing his discomfort makes it clear that she hasn't actually forgiven him for stealing Senjougahara, as she jumps between ostensible politeness (“I beg your pardon, but if I can be so forward…”) and crass banter. It's hard to feel sympathy for the guy who spent the last arc groping a primary schooler, but the man is so outgunned by Kanbaru that I almost feel sorry for him.

The episode concludes with the two arriving at Oshino's lair, once again seeking a solution for a problem beyond their imagining. Though Kanbaru's problem is serious, I have even more apprehension regarding Araragi's future with Senjougahara. It's hard enough for these characters to help each other when they're being totally honest with each other - if Araragi can't respect Senjougahara's faith in him, his spirit of self-sacrifice will mean less than nothing.

Overall: B+

Bakemonogatari is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.


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