As We Were Told

Owarimonogatari Ep. 11 – As We Were Told

The debate between Shinobu and Kanbaru this episode is interesting even by –monogatari standards. Their dialogue gives us a lot to think about, while simultaneously telling us exactly what to think. Yet, the telling in this scene isn’t the same as bad telling (i.e. ‘I was scared’), nor it is quite the same as good telling (i.e. Hibike Euphonium revealing Reina’s flaws by telling us “band isn’t an individual activity”). To figure out what exactly this new telling is, obviously we need to check out some dialogue.

Shinobu Mail is a story of Shinobu’s past with the Apparition Killer, and their eventual meeting and resolution of conflict. That’s how’d you summarize it, anyway. Throughout this arc are themes of repetition and the hope for an ending. We spent a lot of time looking into repetition two episodes ago, and Owarimonogatari essentially means ‘End Story’. How do these themes play into the conversation between Shinobu and Kanbaru, and what do the characters tell us about this story via those themes?

Kanbaru says that Shinobu ending her relationship with the Apparition Killer without meeting him wouldn’t be “the right thing to do”, that the Killer’s motivation as a character was to meet with Shinobu. Kanbaru is talking about story elements here—specifically plot and character. The natural progression of the plot based on the Killer’s motivations as a character would be that Shinobu and he meet. Shinobu refusing to meet with the Killer impedes the plot.

Kanbaru goes on to admit that she can’t truly understand Shinobu’s relationships with either the first minion or Araragi because she hasn’t been in that specific situation before. Yet, she claims she can relate based on similar experiences of her own. She’s found something to identify with within Shinobu’s story, exactly how we as an audience find ways to relate to these characters and their struggles. None of us have had to face apparitions, but we’re never alienated because we find characters with traits we can relate to, or we pick up on details of their feelings or circumstances that we can relate to. A connection is the basis for understanding any story (or any person, but more on that later).

Despite all the dangers involved in facing the Killer, Kanbaru still urges Shinobu to meet with him. The next two lines are probably the most important of the conversation: “Everything’s complete nonsense unless someone goes and meets someone else. You can’t make any stories that way.” Characters are the key to creating movement in a story. Either the characters themselves enact the movement, or the movement is enacted upon the characters and they become the lens through which that movement is revealed. In this particular case, two characters can never move their relationship along if they don’t meet. For Owarimonogatari to discuss Shinobu’s relationship with the first minion and then never have them meet would be complete nonsense. Kanbaru doesn’t care what the resolution is, but there needs to be one.

This is not what Shinobu wants to hear, as her hand blocking Kanbaru’s mouth shows us. She doesn’t want to move to the next stage of this story, even if that means repeating all the steps she’s taken so far. Kanbaru tells her she’ll be doomed to repeat the same story over and over if she doesn’t move forward in this one. She will never reach closure if she continues to run away. Just as in real life, you can’t come to closure in an argument or relationship if you never meet with the other person. It is Shinobu’s “job to hurt the man from [her] past.” It’s her role as a character in this story, but also as a ‘person’ who had a relationship with another ‘person’.

I mentioned when discussing an earlier episode that –monogatari is often an allegory for human emotions, struggles, and relationships. Particularly in the early seasons, apparitions are somewhat obvious representations of human emotions/struggles (I’m oversimplifying, but Kanbaru’s monkey represents her jealousy, for example). As such, the series has a lot to comment upon as far as how humans act, think, and interact. This conversation seems to suggest that if you don’t move forward in relationships, or break the habit of avoiding conflict, then you’ll remain stuck in a resolution-less cycle. As Kanbaru said, everything is nonsense until two people meet. Avoidance solves nothing.

I don’t mean to say that –monogatari is attempting to be a moral compass, and I don’t mean to suggest that real lives are mirror images of the lives of characters in stories. However, I am saying that this series often attempts to show us that real life sometimes abides by the same rules as storytelling. It is due to that necessity of relatability that we are able to learn about ourselves and the world through stories. All successful stories contain elements of truth, and –monogatari is just self-aware enough to occasionally point that out to us. It’s a chance for us to reflect on our own lives, and wonder whether we’re impeding our own plot—whether we’re subjecting ourselves to a cycle without resolution. It’s a chance for us to realize that we are our own characters, and can move our own stories.

And that is what Owarimonogatari tells us.

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