Editor’s Note: While this episode is where both Crunchyroll‘s availability and the original TV broadcast of Bakemonogatari ends, we will cover episodes 13-15 of this first season in one writeup next week, which are available not only on Aniplex‘s blu-ray releases, but also streaming on Amazon’s Anime Strike!
Bakemonogatari‘s twelfth episode rudely interrupts Hanekawa’s arc, centering us back on the relationship between Senjougahara and Araragi. Taking place both before and after the after-school meeting from last episode, we finally get to see what the two of them are actually like as a couple, as they awkwardly shuffle through their first date. It’s a unique episode, possibly the best of Monogatari’s first season. For me personally, it’s one of the finest episodes of any show I’ve seen.
A great part of the joy in this episode is found in simply appreciating the charming dynamic between Senjougahara and Araragi. The episode opens with Senjougahara flat-out announcing “we’re going on a date,” before dialing back her order, attempting to rephrase, and ultimately just saying the same thing. For another character, this might seem too much like an affected, unreal series of choices, but Senjougahara’s conversational style is stilted even at the best of times. Attempting to push her relationship with Araragi further is a big step for her, so her tone is a mix of the blunt, confrontational honesty she uses as a shield and the self-doubt that’s always simmering under the surface.
For his part, Araragi is equally overwhelmed by Senjougahara. While Senjougahara’s awkward, nervous feelings are conveyed through dialogue and body language, Araragi’s feelings are reflected in the camera’s framing. Sharply angled shots reflect Araragi’s sense of unease, while extreme closeups emphasize his sexually charged feelings. Later, Araragi’s joy at going on his first date are made equally palpable in the framing, as a rush of shots cuts us from his watch to his grin to a laugh caught in silhouette as he bikes to his lover’s house.
Things only get more charged when Araragi arrives to learn that he’ll be sharing a car with Senjougahara and her father. Araragi is nervous enough already, but learning he’ll be supervised by his girlfriend’s dad only puts him even more on edge, and Senjougahara happily uses this opportunity to abuse his nerves even more. Well-aimed shots place us squarely in Araragi’s headspace, as he’s physically and verbally abused by Senjougahara in a conversation that consistently demonstrates their odd fascination with each other. Araragi and Senjougahara are extremely different people, but all their conversations reflect their ultimate compatibility.
Even the fact that Araragi is often ignorant of Senjougahara’s insecurities helps their relationship. It’s kinder to Senjougahara that she can get away with stuff like using her father’s presence to convince Araragi to call her by her first name, since Araragi will ultimately be too dazzled by her presence to call her on it. The car scene is also just really funny. Senjougahara is at her witty best here, the timing of physical motion and reaction is excellent, and Araragi’s emotive ahoge gets to be a real star. These two kids are clumsy and earnest and strange, so watching them clash is always fun.
The episode shifts in tone as the ride ends, and Araragi gets a moment alone with Senjougahara’s father. Though Araragi is obviously terrified of this conversation, Senjougahara Senior turns out to be incredibly understanding, actually thanking Araragi for helping his daughter. Mr. Senjougahara is the first non-Oshino adult we meet in Monogatari, and his compassion reflects Monogatari’s understanding that the perspective of its teenage characters is very limited. But more than that, this father’s words underline the series’ ultimate belief in the value of reaching out to others. There are some problems we have to face for ourselves, but the fact that Araragi was there for Senjougahara made facing her own demons that much easier. Even if we can’t vanquish each other’s fundamental fears, we can still reach out – and because Araragi reached out to Senjougahara, she was finally able to reach out to her father in turn.
The episode concludes with Senjougahara being as honest as humanly possible. Leading Araragi out into the woods, she forces him to physically confirm his trust in her along their march, before she places her trust in him as well. Laying him down on a blanket in the woods, she shares her entire world with Araragi. Even meeting with her father was an important part of this date – it was part of her vow to be honest with him. Her help, her home, and the beautiful stars – “This is all I have, and I all I can give to you. This, and everything.”
It’s a beautiful moment, both a summation of Monogatari’s faith in people and an articulation of the specific, powerful bond between Araragi and Senjougahara. In a series defined by the lies we tell ourselves and others, it’s a moment of perfect clarity and honesty, where Senjougahara lets go of all her defenses and pretensions to move just slightly closer to the boy she loves. Monogatari’s many circuitous stories are a testament to the difficulty of truly connecting with another, how hard it is to display emotional honesty even when that’s all we truly want. But even if our moments of connection are brief and far-between, even if we can hope to do no more than brush fingertips, the beauty of this moment says that all the hardship is worth it. There is nothing more difficult than truly baring your soul to another person. There is nothing more worth doing.
Bakemonogatari is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.