[Infinite Themes] Bakemonogatari: Crabs and Snails

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[Infinite Themes dissects a series' seemingly endless amount of thematic elements]

Nisemonogatari is out and it has people talking. Shall we talk about its predecessor Bakemonogatari and what makes it so successful?

More than anything Bakemonogatari wants to be deep. It wants to be kno as a thought provoking anime that reinvents the tired old tropes of the past. It tries so hard that some people say that it’s bloated with philosophical nonsense and the show wears these desires on its sleeves.

But just because it tries so much harder doesn’t mean the show doesn’t succeed does it? Yes the characters all monologue topics on fear, loneliness, trauma, and isolation incessantly just to drive home the fact that the writers soapbox these ideals with a megaphone. I don’t however, want to argue on whether it weakens or strengthens the show’s message and instead I just want to focus on what the show so desperately wants to convey to us beneath all of its style and fanservice.

To keep things simple I’ll do as the show does and divide up the message into arcs starting with Hitagi Crab.

Oh and spoilers.

So we’re all weighted down by our emotions, memories, and traumas correct?

Yes.

And this “weight” is a burden?

Possibly.

But this burden of ours is also our substance, our basis and foundation as individuals and to live without them is to lose our very individuality?

….Yes.

This is the central theme of the arc titled Hitagi Crab. And when Senjogahara is tearfully begging her manifested emotional crab to return to her this “weight” that she gave up to escape the pain that bearing the yoke of emotions have caused her it’s spelled out quite clearly what exactly is tormenting our heroine.

But we’ve all figured that out yes?

The show practically spells it out at the end but that doesn’t make anything it said not true. There’s a weight that every individual carries and it builds over time the more we experience life. Your first kiss, your first breakup, your first death, birth, finding a 20 on the ground. All of it builds up and though some memories fade, the experiences never truly go away. Sometimes it drives people to their deaths, and sometimes it makes them stronger, but to everyone it’s a constant reminder that they have lived a life they can call their own.

First Lesson: The Individual Carries His Own Individuality on His Back.

Bearing the past on your back transitions quite nicely to our next heroine though.

Mayoi’s story was actually a lot more painful to watch than Senjogahara’s. It plays on a parent’s worst fear of losing their child and a child’s worst fear of being separated from their parents.

There’s a connection held most sacred and that is the relationship between parent and child. My psychology teacher (Yeah I was one of those guys who took psychology and thought he understood the entire human condition…A prick basically) had an idea that in order to be a parent one needs a parenting license which involved tests and background checks and though I didn’t necessarily agree it clued me in on just how important people took this parenting idea.

You’re a small child and you’re lost?

Yes.

Are you lost physically or emotionally?

Both.

You’re lost because you don’t understand why your parents, who are supposed to love each other, fight all the time?

Yes.

You’re lost because you know about the idea of a “family” how it’s a mother, father, and children yet you only have one of those?

Yes.

And now you’re scared because you’re so young and you can’t yet rely on yourself to find your way out?

…Yes.

If there is a primal fear for adults (or parents rather) it’s losing their child. At the same time there is a primal fear for children which is to lose their parents. Modern rules have changed these centuries held instincts though. With divorce rates rising and more common it’s normal for children so young to experience this sort of confusion. The confusion of living with both parents for eight years then never seeing one of them again. The family dynamic has changed and I don’t know whether or not the show was making commentary on it but one thing is for certain: Children are meant to be taken care of.

When they’re left alone and confused and unaided they become lost. Emotionally or physically do you remember ever getting lost as a child? We see the large figures around you seemingly have become more giant and more faceless, the buildings becoming more monolithic and monotone, identical in nearly every way. Panic sets in and we cry louder than ever until our parents see us and call our names and afterwards, no other face in that crowd matters to you but theirs. Our crying stops almost immediately and we run towards the single familiar element in the sea of unknown.

Now imagine if you were to be lost forever.

But Mayoi finds her way home in the end and the singular moment when she returns to her mother speaks for itself.

But who’s to say anything about anything. Here I am typing away at a laptop trying to write about a weird little show that tries really hard to be really edgy and succeeds for some people and fails for others. With its fourth wall smashing, fanservice, and disorienting speech patterns I’ve been imitating while typing this. Who knows? I could be completely wrong. By the way do you like Nisemonogatari so far?

Share.

About Author

(Reviews Editor)

Part-time writer, full-time hero in training. Enjoys all manner of games that thrill, stress, and terrify. Love also includes anime with varying degrees of questionable nature. Find me on any social media and maybe we can bond over common interests? (woundupbird.tumblr.com)

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