Bakemonogatari – 12
Man, I was all set for more Tsubasa, and instead Bakemonogatari throws a curveball with a fantastic episode revolving around Senjougahara and Araragi’s relationship. Welcome back to the show, Senjougahara! *waves*
The first half is a hell of a lot of fun. It is mainly Senjougahara doing her thing and making Araragi into an uncomfortable ball of fluff in her presence, but it also has the added wrinkle of the silent presence of Senjougahara’s father, who drives Senjougahara and Araragi to the spot of their first date. Within every high school relationship, there is a terrifying family moment waiting to happen. Araragi’s reactions to the stoniness of Senjougahara’s father as Senjougahara discusses whether Araragi loves her, how well Araragi did on his exams, how perverted Kanbaru is (and how perverted Senjougahara could be if she put her mind to it), and so on. She even playfully mocks Araragi for calling her “Senjougahara” in the presence of her father, and she also makes Araragi feel pretty great by the time they get to the forest, although he tries his best to suppress the feeling!
The severeness of Senjougahara’s father as he drives along while his daughter tortures her boyfriend makes this all a thousand times funnier. It is even better when he speaks for the first time — I immediately recognized the voice, although I didn’t know from where at first, until I looked it up: Fumihiko Tachiki, aka Gendo Ikari. How would you feel if your girlfriend left you all alone in her car with her father, and then Gendo freakin’ Ikari started speaking to you? I would probably shit my pants. But instead, Mr. Senjougahara already has a soft spot for Araragi because he has made Senjougahara happy. It’s a nice gesture, especially since Araragi feels kind of low because he does not believe he has actually saved Senjougahara in any meaningful way (i.e. he hasn’t been the Big Damn Hero). But Senjougahara’s father knows just being there as support is meaningful in and of itself; he has failed to do this often, and it is his biggest regret. I really felt for the guy there — he knows he has made mistakes in the way he has built his relationship with his daughter, but at that moment he is genuinely pleased that Senjougahara has found someone with whom to share her happiness.
Besides being funny as hell, Senjougahara busting Araragi’s balls in the presence of her father serves another purpose: It shows Senjougahara’s father how natural Senjougahara’s relationship with Araragi is, how happy she is with him and what kind of man he is. Senjougahara squeezes a confession out of Araragi, gets him to call her by her given name, gets him to admit he is doing better and school and admonishes him to study every day and so on. When the series begins, Senjougahara is a closed-off person. She threatens Araragi if he dares to butt in on her business, and her home life has fallen apart. Now she openly and comfortably flirts with her boyfriend in front of her father. In her own playful way, Senjougahara shows off Araragi and her happiness to her dad.
But, mostly, she is screwing with Araragi. Not that I would fare much better were she all over me like that.
One interesting moment that reminds the viewer that Hanekawa’s story floats in the background: Araragi brings up the subject of Hanekawa, and while Senjougahara engages him on the subject, she is back in her normal seated position, whereas a few seconds prior, she leaned next to Araragi and rubbed his leg vigorously. The looks on her face tell me Senjougahara does not want to discuss Hanekawa much, especially while she and Araragi are on a date. (lol @ Araragi’s lack of tact) Maybe she is also annoyed with Hanekawa for stealing some of her screen time away!
What I really like about second half is it is Senjougahara shedding (most of) the teasing and games and whatnot, and just being real with Araragi and how she sees her relationship with him. Senjougahara teases Araragi and his libido both literally and figuratively, but here she sets boundaries that are real and important to her, and she makes sure Araragi knows that. With the way Senjougahara has been treated in the past, I think it is essential to her to have a sense of control and power when it comes to her body. Senjougahara clearly wears the pants in this relationship, and it’s not just because she has a more naturally forceful personality than Araragi, but also because she needs to wear the pants. After losing control in such a frightening way, one definitely cannot blame her for wanting to keep things slow.
Yeah, she flirts with Araragi a hell of a lot, but I think that is also her way of keeping control. Senjougahara is not a passive person. She cannot just say she likes Araragi and be done with it; she has to show him, doing as much as she is comfortable doing. Araragi knows he likes the attention, anyway. Who wouldn’t? And after gestures like their special night, well, I would feel pretty damn loved, too. It’s a good, sweet moment on which to end the episode.
As subversive as Bakemonogatari is, it also does such a good job of portraying Senjougahara and Araragi’s relationship and their wonderful, charming dynamic. I really missed Senjougahara interacting with Araragi.