Owarimonogatari Ep. 4 – Spooky Ougi
In the spirit of Halloween, I wanted to look into why Ougi is so spooky. Her overwhelming presence this season has threaded a constant discomfort through even the most mundane scenes. If we think about what has happened: Ougi and Araragi talked about the past, Araragi confronted Oikura (and Senjougahara punched her), then Ougi and Araragi talked about the past some more. The entirety of Episode 4 is spent deciding whether Ougi or Hanekawa will accompany Araragi to Oikura’s house and we know from the start that Hanekawa wins. Things have been plain.
Last episode, I briefly alluded to how, in addition to mystery, the characters and their interactions help keep us from snoring. This season, Ougi is certainly the MVP as far as characters go. I’d say she’s even more interesting than the brand new character of Oikura. Especially for anyone who hasn’t read the light novels, Ougi is her own mystery. She seems to want to force Araragi to face the past and interact with spirits, but viewers can only speculate as to whether her intentions are good or bad. Hidden motivations make her mysterious, but it’s the details that push her to be truly spooky.
As you were probably taught twice a year in school, you learn about characters through what others say about them, what the author says about them, and also what they themselves say/do. This will be a fine approach to discussing why Ougi is spooky. Since the first detail I listed was what others say about a character, let’s hear what Hanekawa has to say about Ougi.
To Hanekawa, Ougi is “dangerous”, particularly in terms of her control over Araragi. We as viewers already know that Ougi has been manipulating Araragi to some extent, but Hanekawa makes that manipulation sound ill-willed. Ougi is somehow luring the truth out of Araragi, and Hanekawa’s wording evokes an image of a succubus (though she also suggests Ougi is a detective rather than an assassin).
In the end, she lays it on thick by saying she can’t “protect [Araragi]” and that his “true suffering” may be yet to come. Hanekawa clearly perceives Ougi as a threat, but can’t pin down what is threatening about her in concrete terms. She says Ougi isn’t like an assassin (thus she won’t kill Araragi), but yet declares that Ougi will be the source of Araragi’s worst suffering yet. So just what is Ougi?
The ‘author’ reveals just enough about Ougi to make her spooky—not so much that she’s understandable and recognizable, and not so little that she’s entirely confusing. The author’s ‘prose’ in visual media is mostly just the way characters and settings are presented (think about all the surrealist details in Episodes 1+3), and that’s where we’ll laser our focus for Ougi.
There are some obviously off-putting details of Ougi’s character design, such as her black eyes and paper-tone face. There’s also some details we don’t usually get to see, like her black hands that are constantly hidden in her sleeves that are so long they don’t make any sense compared to how well-fitted the rest of the uniform is. I don’t think you can write those black hands off as gloves. Ougi’s legs are black, so are those just leggings/stockings? Ougi’s neck is black, so is that just a turtleneck? Everything but her head is black, and it looks like she’s just some undead head upon a ghostly body. Is her black tie even a tie?
Okay, maybe I’m over-emphasizing aspects of her design that just weird and not necessarily incredibly disturbing (I’d still say it’s terrifying. Why are her sleeves so long?), so let’s take something more objectively uncomfortable. Ougi is always breaking the balance of shot composition. Almost always.
Ougi is never in the same shot as another character, on the opposite side of the arch, balancing the shot. She’s forcing her way onto their side of the arch. She’s creeping up closer to the lines that divide a shot than other characters are.
Seriously, this is always happening.
Even her shadow does it.
It’s just uncomfortable. It’s like Oikura’s or Hachikuji’s twintails flailing up, it forces an instinctual reaction out of the viewer. We want that shot to be balanced, it makes our skin crawl to have Ougi encroaching upon all those nice, neat lines. We want order.
But if Ougi is just handing out daisies and singing Katy Perry, none of this would be enough to make her spooky. We’d think Hanekawa was crazy and chalk the framing up to bad directing. However, when she starts adding “you fool” to the end of her sentences and talking about meetings neither Araragi nor the viewer remember set for strangely specific times like 3:42, then she completes the spooky circle.
She also has a habit of touching Araragi extremely intimately. If we recall, Araragi was attracted to Senjougahara, and still leaned away when she pressed close to him at the park when he first met Hachikuji. Yet, as soon as Ougi runs her finger across Araragi’s lips, that seems to open the gate for unrestrained contact. Araragi seems to be under some kind of spell, and all this unjustified intimacy is disturbing to the viewer.
So, we’ve heard other characters discuss Ougi in the same tone they’d tell a grotesque rumor about some dead bodies hidden in the school basement; we’ve seen how the balance of the world is thrown off by Ougi’s presence; and we’ve witnessed Ougi’s almost predatory interactions with Araragi. Ougi is very much like a panther stalking behind the shadows of a treeline, only her emotionless eyes visible through the darkness. The combination of the mystery surrounding her and her ability to tilt order makes for a truly spooky character.
Good luck, Araragi.