Some more words from Nisio.
|We’re a couple weeks removed from the finale of Nisemonogatari now. To be honest, I was on the edge for a while about translating this, because I don’t think it provides the same sort of insight that the comments in Karen Bee did. But hey, why not be a completionist and do the 2nd half as well, right? So, without further ado, I turn you over to Nisio.|
It’s so trivial that it’s not even worth pointing out, but there are real things and fake things in this world. Thinking about it step by step, the two concepts are in opposition, and yet I get the feeling that without the real, there can be no fake, and if something isn’t worth faking, you couldn’t call it real.
I feel that if a hero of justice appears in a work, then so should the fake of that hero; the fake hero, so to speak. If we take it a step further, I think it’s important to recognize that a fake must exist, but there’s no need for the real thing to exist.
If what we call “real” is an ideal, an ideal that what we call “fake” tries to surpass, then maybe it’d be better for there not to be the “real.”
Well no, maybe that’s an exaggeration; what I mean is, if the “real” is an ideal, then maybe, in the end, it’s only a fantasy.
Maybe this is obvious, but even something that people worship as “real” was at some point something striving to reach an ideal, so it wasn’t something “real” from the start.
But if we really ask how much humans are influenced by the “real,” is it that something “real” must be born from something also “real?” If we think like that, maybe we reach the conclusion that “real” and “fake” aren’t so much in opposition as they are two sides of the same coin.
Like the 1st volume, this book was something I wrote to fit my tastes 200%… but maybe this volume is actually the symmetrical opposite of the 1st, because I think it ended up feeling completely different. This is the scary part of writing a novel.
Well, these 2 volumes in whole act as the epilogue to Bakemonogatari, so it couldn’t be helped that Bakemonogatari was a prerequisite for this. But at the same time, if you asked me if you couldn’t understand this work without having read Bakemonogatari, I would answer that’s not quite the case.
There were times when I didn’t think this would work as a novel, but the Araragi sisters were such fun characters to write that my pen just wouldn’t stop moving on its own.
To VOFAN who provided the cover illustration, as well as to you the readers, I apologize for making you read things of my own personal tastes. The members of the Araragi harem have experienced a variety of different things, but they’re enjoying their lives, and so this epilogue has a happy end.
It was with that feeling that I presented you Nisemonogatari Volume 2, Tsukihi Phoenix.
Oh, and I apologize again. I apologize for telling you that this novel was the epilogue, because I decided just now to write at least 2 more novels in this series.
Those of you who are curious about Hachikuji Mayoi or Hanekawa Tsubasa, please stay tuned.
So yeah, more of Nisio going on about “fake” and “real,” and the relative value of each. Of more interest when the novel was actually released was his announcement of plans for sequels.
In Big Brother’s Shadow
By big brother, I mean Nisemonogatari‘s predecessor Bakemonogatari, of course, one of the most popular late night TV anime ever. Fair or unfair, there’s no getting around the fact that there were great expectations of this sequel to live up to what came before. So, did it?
It’s a hard question for me to answer, especially when I’m not even sure what it means “to live up to” Bakemonogatari. In the first impressions post, I commented that Bakemonogatari was a show that I had a hard time figuring out. In some ways, Bakemonogatari was the right show at the right time. It took advantage of the (still on-going) moe boom to tell unusually cynical stories, and it did it with a unique style and direction that stood out in front of the sea of generic looking anime. It’s always difficult to one-up or even properly follow up what was not just a TV show but a legit phenomenon such as this. Shaft clearly took great effort to do so, with both the visuals and music taking a noticeable step up. There was no more missing artwork, and no corners were cut in the action scenes (though episode 11 stands out as an exception to both).
The one major piece that was significantly worse was the pacing, owing in part to the source. Then there’s the elephant in the room: the increased sexual content. To be quite honest, I feel that I’ve long outgrown the childish impulse to push away a piece of work for being sexually titillating, so I’ll leave the bellyaching to the trolls. As a general rule I don’t let fanservice bother me, and in the case of Nisemonogatari, the way it was used was a joy to see. I’ll note that the hygiene-related scenes in episodes 4, 5, and 8 weren’t nearly as spectacular in the novel as they were in the anime.
Perhaps most significant in its improvement from Bakemonogatari to Nisemonogatari was thematic cohesion (forgive me for the awkward phrase, for I can’t think of a better term). Bakemonogatari was a bit more clumsy in this aspect, perhaps due to having 5 arcs instead of just 2. The arcs were tied together by exploring cynicism in some way, but, let’s be honest here, cynicism is a very broad subject to explore, and one that’s been done to death. Nisemonogatari continued to explore it, but it also focused on just one angle: family.
What happened at the climax of Nisemonogatari was the fruition of an underlying theme from the seeds that had been planted constantly throughout the show. If you’ll excuse my choice of words, I think Nisio’s title Fake Story, as well as the constant beating of the word “impostor” into our heads was just a head fake, designed to distract us from the central theme. All the other themes explored – secrets, intimacy, justice, strength – they were all in the context of and in support of (the crazy messy stupid nature of) family.
Of course, you’ve got the heroines Karen and Tsukihi right there, our protagonist’s little sisters. They tested the limits of how far familial love could go, from their willingness to die for each other to the awkward mutual attraction to a new pleasurable game that they instinctively know is wrong. But because they were family, their relationships transcended whatever morals or concepts of justice we could try to apply to them. As long as they were supporting and fighting for each other and occasionally fighting with and hurting each other, everything else fell to the wayside, because they were family (this is why I think Scamp’s comment, “You’ve can’t have it both ways, that’s not how family works” is misguided – the whole point was that, because it’s family, you do have it both ways, even if it’s really screwed up).
One of the major plot lines of Nisemonogatari was Shinobu’s coming to terms with becoming a part of Koyomi’s family, kicked off by the events of Kizumonogatari that bound them together. In the end she gladly stepped up to the plate to support our hero and his sister, even if she still couldn’t forgive him. Just like Koyomi who could take beating after beating but keep standing up and fight, for the sake of either of his sisters. These characters don’t necessarily like each other, but they’re willing to go through hell for each other – and put each other through hell – because they’re family. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just family. That’s screwed up in kind of a beautiful way.
Maybe it’s not so much that strength is justice as Koyomi keeps saying, but rather that family is strength. Or, as Mayoi might say, maybe it’s courage.
Looking at the Monogatari series as a whole, there’s a bit of a contradiction here: familial relationships have primarily been antagonistic up to now. All the arcs of Bakemonogatari except Nadeko’s had some sort of abuse or mistreatment by parents as the source of trouble – Hitagi’s mother, Mayoi’s parents, Suruga’s inheritance, Tsubasa’s step-(step-step-)parents. But maybe that’s the point, that because we’re family, we damage and deceive one another. We get hurt, but we somehow find strength to heal from the wounds and to move forward – “You know this already, Araragi-kun, but my life hasn’t been all that happy up till now… but if that’s how it lead me to meeting you, I think it was all worthwhile.” (said by Senjougahara Hitagi in Bakemonogatari 5th Story “Tsubasa Cat,” chapter 3). It’s not that it’s right or wrong, it’s just how it is. I suppose it dovetails nicely with that broad theme of finding hope in cynicism that is central to this series.
But, as indicated in the author’s comments, Nisio has his tongue firmly planted in cheek. These themes make for fun stories, but they’re not novel and they break down under closer scrutiny. For example, Akira’s analysis on Xun Zi in the final episode. So maybe I’m putting more thought into this than it’s worth, and I should just go listen to Eri Kitamura moaning with a toothbrush in her mouth.
Reading Bakemonogatari after having watched the anime gave me a new appreciation for Shaft – and I was already a big fan of them already. I firmly believe that Bakemonogatari owed its success far more to Shaft than it did to Nisio, and I believe this to be the case with Nisemonogatari as well. There was so much that Shaft did to enhance the source material – the visual direction, Akio Watanabe’s character designs, the excellent music from start to finish, the glorious aside of episode 8 – that the core story and writing that Nisio provided almost felt like an afterthought. In fact, the show suffered most when it stuck too close to the original novel. It was at its best when depicting things in its trademark over-the-top fashion, challenging us with its overwhelming but lovingly crafted audiovisual stimuli. In that sense, Shaft kept Nisemonogatari true to its predecessor both as a show and as an adaptation and gave us a worthy sequel.
Well, I think I’ve rambled long enough. Let me just close by saying, if Bakemonogatari was about ourselves and Nisemonogatari was about family, then I think Kizumonogatari was about friendship. An aside: I think the story structure of Kizumonogatari would’ve worked better as a TV series than as a movie. But maybe I’m way off and Shaft will do something with the adaptation that makes me completely rethink the nature of the Wound Story.