Bakemonogatari Episode 11 – Tsubasa Cat, Part One

With the aberrations that were afflicting Nadeko dealt with, it’s time to move onto the next issue at hand. While on the surface she seems perfect, underneath lies various layers of stress. Tsubasa Hanekawa is next on the list.

And she’s a repeat offender, with her own aberration – Black Hanekawa.

Synopsis

Koyomi leaves school to find Nadeko waiting at the gates. They chat for a bit. Koyomi also finds himself tempted to flip her skirt, touch her face… the usual from Koyomi, really. She then hands him the swimsuit that Suruga had lent her for when they dealt with the Jagirinawa. Tsubasa shows up, and Nadeko runs away, suddenly embarrassed.

Tsubasa and Koyomi then chat, with Tsubasa bringing up Hitagi once again. And once again, Tsubasa scolds Koyomi and tells him that he needs to do more to dispel rumours going around about how he is a bad influence on Hitagi. Tsubasa then has a headache, just like she had at the bookstore earlier.

The headache causes Koyomi to recant the events of Spring Break, where an aberration had found it’s way into Tsubasa’s mind via a dead cat. There it lay dormant, until Tsubasa’s inner turmoil / stress had gotten to a point where the aberration, called the “Meddlecat”, would take control of Tsubasa’s body at nighttime and attack people to alleviate stress. Eventually, a controntation between Koyomi and the Meddlecat ended with Shinobu draining it’s powers. A temporary fix.

Remembering this, Koyomi becomes very concerned that Tsubasa might be going through the same thing she went through back then, as she had headaches at that time as well. Tsubasa brushes Koyomi’s concern off, and once again switches the topic back to him and Hitagi…

This episode is a very slow start to the arc, easing us in. The biggest reason for this being that we simply don’t know about Spring Break, or we didn’t until now, thanks to Koyomi’s flashbacks. We will see more about that in the future, as there is an arc specifically for it, but until then we’ve just got whatever flashbacks Koyomi gives us.

But first, before Tsubasa..

Nadeko Sengoku

Koyomi chats a bit with Nadeko this episode, and it’s immediately noticeable that she has become extremely comfortable with him. In Nadeko Snake she was acting a little more reserved, but now that Koyomi is back in the picture for her and has saved her, her personality has changed a bit. She’s joking with Koyomi, even teasing him.

I’m not entirely sure what Koyomi’s actions towards Nadeko are supposed to mean.. aside from what we already knew with him being perverted. Something about younger girls seems to really test Koyomi. He has no self control when it comes to Mayoi, and here he almost flips Nadeko’s skirt, before putting his hand up to her face for some reason. But with Hitagi and Tsubasa, it’s different.

“I feel like my manhood is being measured when I’m around you.”
– Koyomi Araragi

Take it for what it is I suppose. There are some ideas I could throw out there about this hinting at something later on, but really it feels like a real stretch.

After that moment Koyomi asks Nadeko about Shinobu, whether Shinobu said anything to her the night prior. Once the Jagirinawa’s were dealt with, they went back to the abandoned cram school to see Oshino, and Koyomi left Nadeko alone with Shinobu for a moment. We get some very intriguing dialogue:

“She… was constantly glaring at me.
I feel like her eyes were different when she was looking at you and Oshino-san than when she was looking at me and Kanbaru-san.”
– Nadeko

“Are you saying that she looks at men and women differently?”
– Koyomi

“I’m really aware of people’s looks… so I can just tell.”
– Nadeko

What does this mean?
The first part in particular is what I find interesting.

Why would Shinobu be looking at Nadeko and Suruga differently?

I doubt it’s a random occurrence. Something like this isn’t mentioned for no reason. Which tells us that there’s something about Nadeko and Suruga that is off. Or perhaps, it’s just Nadeko. You see, there’s something about Nadeko’s character that I could mention here, that explains this. But technically, I don’t think we’ve really seen enough of Nadeko yet. So we’ll hold off on that, and instead just keep in mind that something is off about Nadeko.

I believe that’s what the intention of this scene is, to let us know just that.

The other detail to note is that last line – “I’m really aware of people’s looks”. That sounds like the words of someone who has some insecurity, and when they go out in public, they become very aware of people’s gazes around them. We don’t really know much about Nadeko’s regular life, other than that she doesn’t have many friends and that a girl had cursed her before. So we’ll also just leave this at that.

There’s one last interesting Nadeko interaction: when she runs away from Tsubasa, embarrassed.

This one is fairly easily explained. Last episode, when walking to the shrine at night, Koyomi had asked Nadeko if there was anyone she liked. And her response was very vague, followed by a flashback of some interactions between her and Koyomi when they were younger. In other words, Nadeko had a crush on Koyomi, and likely still does.

So when she sees a beautiful girl that is Koyomi’s age approach them, she get’s embarrassed and runs away. Probably thinking thoughts about how she can’t compete with a girl like that, or something similar.

And that’s pretty much the gist of why Nadeko ran away, a scene that reinforces the idea that Nadeko likes Koyomi.

Memories of Spring Break

While we’ve been given hints about what happened during Spring Break earlier, we now get a good chunk of the episode dedicated to telling us that story.

Tsubasa is in a very awkward familial situation. Her “mother” is her mother’s husband’s second wife, and her “father” is her “mother’s” second husband. Basically, her parents are not her actual parents. Not only this, but apprently they wanted to put Tsubasa up for adoption but decided not to to save face.

And during Spring Break, Tsubasa got into an argument with her father, and he hit her. After that, Tsubasa and Koyomi found a dead cat on the road, so they buried it somewhere nearby. And then one day, Tsubasa had a real bad headache – and transformed into a white-haired cat-girl.

Oshino explained that it was the work of a Meddlecat. And he then gave a name to this phenomenon in regards to Tsubasa – Black Hanekawa. Because while the cat is white, it’s what is on the inside that matters here. Tsubasa’s stress and inner turmoil – which was due to her family situation.

Eventually Black Hanekawa was dealt with, thanks to Shinobu. But it was only temporary. If Tsubasa’s stress continues to buildup, Black Hanekawa will come back.

Almost as if one giant foreshadowing, we were given that flashback of Tsubasa and Black Hanekawa.

Stress & Inner Turmoil

Tsubasa is now experiencing headaches once again, and while she has perfected the art of looking perfect on the outside, it’s clear that something is up. Learning about Black Hanekawa tells us that Tsubasa is not alright inside, and learning that the “solution” to Black Hanekawa was a temporary measure further reinforces this idea.

So then the question of course becomes… what is the cause of Tsubasa’s stress? Is it her family once again? We did see Tsubasa avoiding her home on Mother’s Day, when she ran into Koyomi at the park. It’s definitely possible.

But there is one other interesting point to note, and that’s how Tsubasa constantly brings up Hitagi to Koyomi. Isn’t it a bit odd, how it’s like this is all she is capable of talking about with Koyomi?

What really gets me is the end of the episode. Koyomi shows genuine concern for her headaches, because they keep on happening and look visibly worse than a regular headache. And Tsubasa just brushes him off… to immediately go back to talking about Hitagi. The flow of the scene feels so awkward, like Tsubasa is forcing the topic.

Tsubasa actually brings up Koyomi’s relationship more than he does, and apparently has thought about it more than Koyomi has, based on these conversations.

Just some interesting food for thought there. I hadn’t really paid much attention to Tsubasa’s dialogue this way before, but it’s pretty clear she really wants to help Koyomi with his relationship… right?

Wrapping Up…

While this episode was 90% dialogue, 10% flashback, it was truly excellent. Not only does it do a great job in easing us into Tsubasa Hanekawa’s story, but it also gives us so many little details to look at and consider. Both Nadeko and Tsubasa giveaway details about themselves in the way they speak and act this episode, and this is the type of content that I absolutely love to pick apart.

So it may seem like a slow episode to some, and if you’re just sort of barreling through the series, I can see why it would feel that way. But slow episodes like this, where it doesn’t seem like much really is happening, are usually the ones that contain the most information when it comes to foreshadowing, or putting together an image of someone / something.

And that’s where we’ll end this one!

Until next time,
Thanks for reading.

Bakemonogatari

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