Owarimonogatari Ep. 5 – Slanted Perspective
I’ve been claiming all season that Oikura is not in a healthy state of mind, and her actions and words so far have supported that claim substantially. However, we haven’t found out why she “despises” so many people (or why she’s so jaded about Araragi in particular). We know she comes from a split and abusive household, and was hoping Araragi would assist her in some way, but that doesn’t quite explain how intense her convictions are.
Episode 5 comes to fill in these gaps in knowledge, and it does so in the perfect, twisted, geometric environment: Oikura’s apartment. The math and geometry themes run thick through this season, particularly for Oikura. She wants to be called Euler, but is instead teased with “How much?” She would have the best math scores in her class, if not for Araragi. She teaches Araragi math. And just look at this opening! It stands to reason that the geometric figures in Oikura’s apartment (the result of her shattered past) should be related in some way to her state of mind.
Lucky for me, they are. Or, at least, I’m going to convince you that they are. Most obvious of all the figures is the large trapezoid window. The window slants at some absurd angle in towards Oikura, as does the red shelf behind her. Similar to how Ougi made certain shots uncomfortable by throwing off the compositional balance, these slants force a shift in the viewer’s focus. So much of the room leads us to Oikura at haphazard angles, signifying her slanted self-perception.
All the adults in Oikura’s life have had harmed in her some way: her father was abusive, her mother abandoned her, her teacher voted against her. She’s been treated horribly, and so she thinks she’s to blame for her suffering. She thinks she’s unfit for happiness. Though we may be able to understand why, and even sympathize with how, she views the world this way, that doesn’t make her perspective the truth.
Oikura’s perspective is slanted in towards herself. ‘Self-centered’ isn’t quite the right phrase, and ‘self-blaming’ over-simplifies her emotions. She feels unfit for the world—cursed—and longs for an object to project her frustration onto. Despite acknowledging that others have it worse than her, she still feels that nothing goes her way no matter how hard she tries. It’s a teenage affliction most people have either dealt with or encountered. Hanekawa and Araragi tell it how it is. No one can help you if you won’t help yourself. The world isn’t out to get you. Happiness is neither as great nor as terrible as you believe.
But Oikura’s altered perspective goes beyond believing she’s at the center of some tragic black hole. Her whole sense of ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ is twisted. She’s had nothing to ground herself to. The only home she knew growing up was that abusive one she was raised in. She says herself that she couldn’t believe such a “calm family” as Araragi’s existed. To make matters worse, she can’t even stay put in one type of unhappiness. She moves from an abusive home to a silent, dark home, and then again to a barren, lonesome apartment. These ephemeral residencies can hardly constitute homes.
Of course, the structure of her latest residence reflects that fact. I already mentioned the slanted furniture (there’s quite a few more angles on her chair, the rafters, the tables, etc., etc.), but some shots show the entire room is constructed on an angle like one of those funhouses at a carnival. Simply being in this lonely apartment is a discomfort, an off-angle lifestyle.
This goes beyond angles. Throughout the episode, the laws of both geometry and physics are forfeit. Objects in the apartment seem to shift size at will. The apartment itself changes shape and size continuously. Sometimes there are books on the shelf behind Oikura, other times there isn’t. Other times still, the shelf is pressed flat against the wall.
Characters and objects move through the room in impossible ways. Araragi takes half a step forward and yet clears several feet of distance in order to brush his blood on Oikura’s cheek. Then suddenly he’s back on the other side of the table. Or maybe by the door? Actually, I can’t even tell. Why is the door suddenly smaller?
Oikura throws the tea below—
—the table. And Hanekawa somehow catches it, hardly spilling a drop. Nothing makes any sense.
If you hadn’t noticed, I like to show how the visual statements of a show somehow enhance the experience of that show. As with the misbalanced shots of Ougi, as with the voyeuristic shots of Araragi, as with the numerous surrealist shots, the slanted-ness of Episode 5 contributes something. The angles and geometric impossibilities/inconsistencies mess with our footing. It throws off our center-of-gravity, so to speak. Like Oikura, we aren’t grounded in a stable environment. We get to experience her tumultuous life as she sees it.
Now we wait to see if she can stabilize her life, and return to the beautiful balance of Euler’s Identity.