by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 6 of
The truth about Oikura's mother was revealed this week, in typical roundabout Monogatari fashion. After leaving Oikura's apartment, Araragi and Hanekawa sat down to go over what they knew, before trickster Ougi interrupted them with one more emotional attack. Since Oikura's problems weren't yet solved, Ougi framed Araragi's choice to go with Hanekawa as a failure on both their parts. In contrast to her at least slightly cordial barbs from two weeks ago, this was a direct, aggressive attack - mocking Hanekawa's figure, speaking of how surprised she was to learn Hanekawa was just a big a fool as Araragi, and loudly wondering whether Hanekawa had ever had any talents in the first place.
Hanekawa took these attacks stoically, but they weren't aimed at her; Hanekawa already knows Ougi is some kind of supernatural threat, but Araragi is unwilling to recognize that. Ougi's actions here, both mocking Hanekawa and demanding Araragi forsake her in order to learn the truth about Oikura's mother, were designed to break down Araragi. Ougi played off his need to help people in order to torture him, attempting to use his pathological need to sacrifice of himself to help others in order to drive a wedge between him and Hanekawa. Throughout this whole series, Ougi has consistently poked at the psychological weaknesses of Monogatari's protagonists, and beating Araragi seems to be her most sought-after prize.
Fortunately, Hanekawa is just way too awesome for Ougi's weapons to be particularly effective. Instead of rising to Ougi's bait or letting Araragi debase himself for the sake of Oikura, Hanekawa stated she'd prove Araragi had made the right choice in a mere ten seconds. And after spending seven of those seconds washing the dye out of her hair and embracing her final, self-actualized tiger form, Hanekawa took three seconds to find her answer, and solve the riddle of Oikura's mother. This sequence likely explained why Hanekawa was nearly bested by Oikura two weeks ago - not only does Nisio Isin tend to tie character evolution to important haircuts (see: Hanekawa, Senjougahara, Kanbaru, Nadeko, and even Togame from Katanagatari), that hair also seems to meaningfully dictate their in-universe powers or comfort level. Hanekawa limits herself to her original personality for the sake of propriety at school, but when she embraces her fully realized self, she's able to see things from other's perspectives in the way she effortlessly managed during Hitagi End.
Free from the strictures of oppressive hair dye, Hanekawa and Ougi proceeded to lay out the truth of Oikura's mother's fate. In truth, Oikura's mother never really “left” that locked room - she simply stopped eating and slowly died, huddled in the corner of an empty room. But Oikura refused to accept this, and so she took care of her mother's corpse for years, until eventually the body was so unrecognizable that Oikura assumed her mother had “left.”
Ougi delighted in the gruesomeness of this answer, but Hanekawa felt she must never let Oikura know the truth. Araragi, on the other hand, felt a responsibility to tell Oikura. He compared Oikura's blindness to the truth to his own unwillingness to recognize Oikura, and felt neither were acceptable. His decision didn't come down to a desire to protect Oikura - it was more to pay back a debt owed, a decision reached partially out of his own faith that Oikura would rise up from this truth stronger. And then Araragi articulated one of the finest and most crucial truths Monogatari has reached yet: “Even concerning happiness, after learning some tips, she's sure to pass me in no time. But happiness isn't a race. If she passes me, I just need to learn from her in return. That's how we learn, teach, and take each other to a higher place.”
Araragi is still growing, and some of the later lessons have yet to sink in, but this was easily one of the strongest moments for his character so far. Instead of embracing his own worthlessness or attempting to create happiness for others, his words here articulated a spirit of charity founded in actual faith in the strength of others. There's a crucial nuance to the ways Monogatari navigates the space of what we can do for each other versus what we must learn for ourselves; the difference between self-hatred and humility, between lack of trust and charity, or between blind courage and true emotional strength are consistently teased at in the ways its characters falter, learn, and grow. This episode represented a satisfying emotional rest stop on the endless road to becoming a better self.
The episode ended with a series of charged goodbyes. The first was between Ougi and Araragi, where Ougi admitted she'd lost this fight, but cautioned him to be careful about the next one. Given the context, her words were very appropriate - the two of them met in the same place Ougi and Nadeko would meet at the beginning of Nadeko Medusa, likely mere minutes before that meeting took place. The second goodbye was between Araragi and Hanekawa, where Hanekawa waved him off at an actual fork in the school before heading off to become her post-graduate self. And the final one was between Araragi and Oikura, as he received one more letter from the girl who'd gone on ahead.
This was a relatively understated Monogatari arc, and not as visually interesting as some of the previous ones, but it was a strong one nonetheless. As we move further into the final season, the show is making more and more explicit its core themes regarding human connections and identity, all while building Ougi into either the final external threat or a linked reflection of everything Araragi still has to overcome. However this show ends, it's been quite a journey.
Owarimonogatari is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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