by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Messy breakups are never easy. At the best of times, you're likely left with two people who had very different expectations of a relationship, each of them harboring the loose ends of a previously shared existence. And in Shinobu and her first minion's case, four hundred years of longing and resentment haven't really simplified the situation.
This week's Owarimonogatari opened with Araragi meeting Shinobu's first minion, now revived enough to take a stubby human form. Assuring Araragi that Yotsugi's mark meant he couldn't actually harm the young vampire, Shinobu's samurai opened by saying he wished to “make amends” with Kiss-shot. He had said terrible things to her, and he regretted that, and wanted to once again fight apparitions by her side. This conversation signaled the end of this arc treating Shinobu's relationships as anything more nebulous than actual relationships - regardless of the specific terms used, the bonds between Araragi, Shinobu, and her old minion reflect the same conditions of trust and companionship associated with any romantic relationship.
That left the samurai essentially making his case for why he'd be a better suitor for Shinobu - a much more difficult threat than a simple apparition determined to kill her. He played to Araragi's obvious sources of insecurity, talking of how Araragi was replaceable, but he himself was the first and the most special. He mentioned the debt still owed to him, manifested in his lost sword and status. And he weaseled his way through an argument about “taking Araragi's responsibility,” a line unlikely to work on a teenager whose chief problem is his insistence on feeling responsible for everyone. Finally, the samurai attempted to poison Araragi, who was just barely rescued by Gaen and Episode. The samurai left promising a duel to the death, and then the episode shifted to its thunderous second scene.
Returning to the shrine, Araragi found himself dragged into the bushes by Yotsugi, and witnessing a heated confrontation between Kanbaru and Shinobu. With Shinobu's hand pressed against her skull, Kanbaru urged Shinobu to meet her first minion, yelling “don't deny someone's feelings of love for you!” Kanbaru's accusations directly challenged the ways Shinobu had been downplaying her feelings about this situation; while Gaen simply laughed at Shinobu's insecurity, Kanbaru confronted her like an equal, demanding better of her. Shinobu first directly threatened her, and then turned to her own likely rationalizations, saying that “the master-servant relationship isn't something you think of in terms of hate or love.” And Kanbaru challenged that as well, scornfully asking if Shinobu would be able to say that to Araragi's face.
Kanbaru has always been a very direct person, someone open about herself who directly confronts her problems almost to a fault. In comparison, while Shinobu often expresses great confidence, she's held down by clear insecurities, especially when it comes to her past and the nature of her bonds. But when Kanbaru learns the nature of Shinobu's relationships, it's easy to see why she wouldn't let this go. As a friend of Araragi, Kanbaru can see Shinobu's disrespect for the samurai, and unwillingness to acknowledge his four-hundred year return as valid, as a character failing she might apply to all of her relationships. Sure Araragi is her partner now, but if this is how she treats her first partner, who's to say it's not how she'll eventually treat the second, or third, or fifth? And even simply as an acquaintance of Shinobu's who hates seeing ugliness in her friends (vividly demonstrated through Hanamonogatari), Kanbaru can't be happy to watch someone rationalize the slow decline of all their relationships.
With both direct threats and her own inwardly-aimed rationalizations failing, Shinobu finally resorted to her last weapon - the truth. “Don't think that being sociable like you is a trait everyone has,” Shinobu said. “Isn't the feeling that you don't want to see anyone also natural?” Shinobu is terrified of being left alone, but she also fears the judgment of others. She doesn't want to be abandoned, and the easiest way to ensure that is to never give people the chance - to never meet them, and thus never disappoint them. But even this wasn't accepted by Kanbaru. “You want to be liked and on top of it be a good person?” she asked. “You want to end everything being loved?” Shinobu rejecting the samurai will undoubtedly hurt him, will undoubtedly be painful for both of them. But sometimes doing the right thing means accepting your actions will hurt others. Things might not turn out better because of this, but that doesn't change the fact that to Kanbaru, Shinobu closing this door herself is the right thing to do.
And so Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade suffers a direct defeat, at the hands of a perverted high school girl. The last portions of their conversation read almost as an exchange of terms, as Shinobu honestly related her fears about this coming confrontation. Won't this put more people in danger? That's fine. What if her feelings change when she meets the samurai? That's fine too. By pushing Shinobu past her brittle pride, Kanbaru was able to share an honesty with her that even Araragi has rarely seen. It was one of those moments hinted at in the finale of Koimonogatari - accepting your own feelings and the feelings of another, and thus making a true, earnest connection.
This argument was one of the crowning moments of Owarimonogatari, a staggering exchange that illustrated fundamental aspects of both these characters while also reflecting on the show's overall themes regarding responsibility and human relationships. Nearly every arc of Monogatari has at least one truly stunning episode, and Shinobu Mail just joined that company. I can't wait for the finale.
Owarimonogatari is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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