Bakemonogatari – Episodes 9 and 10

Nadeko’s OP is my clear favorite of the season (though the Fire Sisters both kill it dead).

So, as I mentioned in the last discussion, I wasn’t actually planning on rewatching this after having watched the whole series so recently. But as SohumB pointed out in the last thread[1] , these Nadeko episodes play in a really weird sexual space that has definite relevance to my thoughts on Nise – so I’m watching that pair specifically to see what I think.

And my first impression, only a few minutes in, is that the cinematography in this show is much more often interested in pacing than Nise’s constant emotional inference – though obviously both are still in effect, many of the shots seem designed more to keep the visual narrative constantly flowing than to impart a great deal of context.

“Being kind to everybody is irresponsible, after all” – now I actually do want to watch the whole series again, in search of all the ways they articulate variations on this theme. Making one of the core narrative issues of the harem genre a core, overt characteristic of this very self-aware show’s protagonist is one of the greatest successes of this series.

Alright, here’s the scene, Nadeko in the bedroom.

Hm. It’s tricky to say exactly how this scene is supposed to be played – there are a lot of variables involved. Yeah, it’s partially Araragi’s perspective. Yeah, it’s partially also just this season’s more jumpy and propulsive style of visual storytelling. And importantly, this scene also serves a lot of narrative purpose that needs to be conveyed visually – the actualnarrative plot of this scene is her revealing the curse on her body, so a great deal of the visual storytelling is dedicated to clarifying what’s actually happening in the story. Most of what I was discussing in Nise basically contrasted the visual storytelling against the narrative storytelling – here, they’re kind of too muddled together to be playing off each other.

In the next episode, it seems more overtly clear that Araragi’s deeply uncomfortable with this situation, but is maintaining the banter of 9 and the exposition of 10 to keep it from getting any weirder than it has to be.

Hm… that WIDESCREEN scene where she’s getting dressed is questionable. The argument could be made that it’s designed to reflect Nadeko’s sense of vulnerability – but if that’s true, I don’t think it did a great job of it. The fact that they’re lampshading it with the “Widescreen” breaks in the first place leads me to think it’s just pointing out fanservice while unabashedly presenting it.

Maybe this whole arc is supposed to be uncomfortably voyeuristic – it definitely comes across that way to me. The way they emphasize Nadeko’s clear discomfort in 9 supports that interpretation, too.

I wasn’t sure before, but it seems like Nadeko’s “attempting to remove the curse only made things worse” might intentionally reflect Hanekawa’s “trying to help everybody will come back to haunt you.” This idea is also pretty ridiculously overt during Nise’s Karen Bee. And Araragi’s barely-remembered interactions with young Nadeko causing long-lasting unintended emotional consequences is yet another reflection of it.

Araragi drawing attention to the pain of her scales causing her even more discomfort – another scene playing with her unwilling vulnerability during this arc.

And now, with the school swimsuit (can’t believe I didn’t remember that), I’m even more confident this arc is definitely playing with the expectations of this kind of show, and how the kind of voyeurism they normally represent would actually relate to characters who you’re supposed to treat as human beings. In fact, this seems like a more blunt reaction to standard fanservice than most of Nise does – while that goes beyond mere criticism and begins to address positive ways cinematography can address sexuality, these episodes are basically saying, “here’s one of those young girls you like seeing dressed up and stripped down so much. Look how much she’s enjoying what you’re doing to her”

Hah, I really like the use of a music-box rearrangement of Nadeko’s theme for this climactic scene.

It’s interesting that the kind of affection she has for Araragi isn’t just standard romance – in the scene she reminisces about, she is fawning over the ways he’s taken care of her. Remind anybody of anything? Yeah, she’s positioning herself as a moe object.

“And now we’re torturing her. You like that? This still getting you off?”

This episode’s brutal.

Ironically enough, this theme of Araragi’s helpful nature being an obsessive and unhealthy thing was something I was always hoping Clannad would actually bring up – hell, that show even had plenty of already-existing motivation for a complex like that, in the presence of Tomoya’s father as an example he’d be rebelling against.

Okay, those two episodes were really interesting. I think the ways it worked as a meta-commentary on sexuality and storytelling in anime wasn’t as tightly woven into the actual emotional/narrative story of the show as it is throughout Nisemonogatari, but it definitely wasn’t as interested in subtlety in general – these episodes came across as legitimately angry, and creator passion is pretty much as satisfying to me as character passion.

These episodes seem, in a wide variety of very overt ways, to be about the kind of voyeurism that’s often taken for granted in anime, and how that informs the viewer’s “relationship” with characters, and what that actually means in a human sense. The “widescreen” scene that begins episode 10 is the only one that resembles the traditional voyeurism of fanservice – in episode 9, she’s aware she’s being watched, and is deeply uncomfortable and ashamed because of it. In episode 10, they frame her exorcism in one of the most classically anime-fanservice tropes there is (the school swimsuit), and then take it a step too far, and then take it ten steps too far, seemingly all to make the viewer aware of their own reactions to this kind of material. It’s crazy stuff, and I don’t think it comes across as entirely natural (thus my recollection of these episodes as playing in weird sexual space that seemed somewhat unrelated to the narrative/emotional goals of the characters), but it’s certainly a strong and fiercely articulated argument.

3 thoughts on “Bakemonogatari – Episodes 9 and 10

  1. Pingback: Summer 2013 – Week 11 in Review | Wrong Every Time

  2. Pingback: Monogatari S2 – Episode 12 | Wrong Every Time

  3. Pingback: Monogatari S2 – Episode 21 | Wrong Every Time

Comments are closed.