Episode seven of Nisemonogatari saw the conclusion of the Karen Bee arc, which ended up introducing one of my absolute favorite anime villains and indulging the audience in more of the breathtaking animation that has so characterized the series before. While Karen and her illness played a smaller role than what was expected, seeing Kaiki wax philosophical with Koyomi and Senjougahara in their final confrontation was well worth the subdued role of the arc’s namesake. To be frank, no other show could get away with continuing to end confrontations with protracted conversation and debate, and that’s saying a lot for the overall quality of Nisemonogatari that it continues to do so without frustrating.
There were too many things that I liked about the episode, it’s too difficult to pick one to really go into detail about. The way that Koyomi physically fought Karen about her brazen, hard-headed personality in the beginning was a treat, as was the continued creepy cool presence of Daishu Kaiki. Hell, even Shinobu had her moments that ended up making me laugh. While it didn’t end with each of his sisters waking him up, the episode itself played into the formula laid out by the show’s predecessor without taxing on one’s nerves.
Though really, the character that really wowed me was one that hasn’t been given quite enough screen time since the series has began. Senjougahara carried this episode, even if the other players were quite strong by themselves and more than capable of keeping things entertaining; her cold, detached and ultimately self centered views on the world and on her past provided the series with the emotional punch that it had lacked in prior episodes, despite still providing an exemplary experience.
The final confrontation with Kaiki is the high point of the series, the venom from both sides dripping into their superficially civil words and responses. Senjougahara’s demeanor in particular was laced with enough cold hatred to chill even the most oblivious observer, Koyomi himself remaining passive for most of the ordeal, not willing to get in the way of her subdued wrath. Of course Kaiki was no slouch either. His disingenuous apologies to both Koyomi and Senjougahara had quite a potent sting, as did his resignation to inferiority to those who actually dealt in the supernatural. It gave our lovebirds a hollow victory, one that they didn’t have to win with much effort, and in the end Kaiki walked away without having his dubious occupation compromised by anything but a minor setback.
There’s a very real sense that it’s his victory, that Senjougahara learning of his total apathy and his actual powerlessness (He really is a conman in every sense of the word) hit her harder than she initially let on. After all, this was the man that she holds responsible for tearing apart her family, and he shows absolutely no sympathy nor any indication of stopping what he does. Hell, he even offers to reimburse her later on after fleecing more unsuspecting children. While Senjougahara doesn’t show any sign of objecting to this beyond telling him that the money wouldn’t help, it’s definitely an act that was intended to be hostile in Kaiki’s own underhanded way.
Back to talking about Senjougahara herself, we learned quite a lot about her personality in this episode. Despite continuing her aloof, sardonic, and aggressive demeanor, she’s a tortured individual out for some degree of closure regarding the dissolution of her family that Kaiki seems intent on making sure that she can’t reach through whatever means he can. She hides this behind terse one-liners and confessions that seem to be just as much reminders to herself as they are confirmations toward Koyomi and Kaiki that she knows the past is the past, and she has to accept how things transpired in order to move on in life. Contrary to Kaiki though, she definitely does believe what she says. And unlike him, she has somebody that she cares about to keep her emotions anchored to reality without becoming too detached.
It’s been said before elsewhere, but it must be confirmed that Senjougahara is probably the pinnacle of a realist character. She looks at things from every perspective no matter how inconvenient it is, and she never ceases to remind others, and herself, that she has weaknesses that she has to overcome. But it’s a testament to the strength of her relationship with Koyomi, and her own self-confidence, that she can tell him that she likely would’ve fallen for anybody who had taken up his position, but she’s happy that it was him. It wasn’t particularly evident in this episode, but the two play off each other well with legitimate care for each other—even if the words are disguised by faux-hostility.
When I first watched this episode, I didn’t think much of it. It entertained without a doubt, but I didn’t think I had quite the wealth of things to say about it that I did about a few of the previous episodes. But the more I looked back on it and wrote out this post, the more I realized that this episode will likely be one of the high points of anime of the year for me. It’s a fairly straightforward confrontation, but the subtleties at play are well worth writing a moderately lengthy 900+ words about, and each of the above points would make quite a post in and of themselves. In the end, whatever doubt I might have had about the quality of the series has been swept away. I do so love Nisemonogatari.