We’ve made it to the final episode of Karen Bee, and what an episode it is.
Lot to unpack! Too much, actually.
Koyomi Araragi locates Karen Araragi, and she proceeds to beat him up in order to prove her strength. However, Koyomi still doesn’t accept it, and eventually he is able to convince Karen to leave Kaiki Deishuu to him. Afterwards, Koyomi and Hitagi Senjougahara confront Kaiki. But the encounter isn’t as expected, as Kaiki immediately promises to leave town, and apologizes for his actions.
Some more conversation between the two parties occurs, and then Kaiki leaves.
What is Strength?
Koyomi had managed to take 50% of Karen’s sickness upon himself, and so Karen is still sick. But this didn’t stop her from bringing the pain. Still, in typical fashion, whenever he is knocked down, Koyomi gets right back up. Eventually, Karen lets her anger out about how Koyomi is always acting condescending towards her and Tsukihi.
“You always talk like you’re so much better than us!
So I tried to make it so I wouldn’t lose…”
“Oh, that? That’s correct.
You’re right. But you aren’t strong.”
“I am strong…
Stronger than you if anything else.”
“Physical strength means nothing.
To be the real thing, you need strong conviction.
When you say you can’t forgive Kaiki, where is your conviction?
You two are always trying to help others.
You’re always doing it for someone else.
There’s no conviction of your own there.”
“No! We’re doing what we think is right.
Everyone else is just the reason.”
“Don’t make me laugh!
How can someone who seeks a reason from another person be right?
While you’re forcing that reason on someone else,
how can you take responsibility?
You’re not justice, and you’re not allies of justice.
You’re just kids playing a game! Fakes.
You never go after evil people, just villains.
Am I wrong?”
A little later in the exchange…
“If you can’t give up the idea of self-sacrifice
and be content with self-satisfaction, you need to shut up.”
“What’s wrong with self-sacrifice?
Even if… Even if we’re fakes, what’s wrong with that?
Has it ever caused you trouble?”
“For a long time now.
But… I never said it was wrong.
If you’re prepared to live with a sense of inferiority for the rest of your life, then even if you’re a fake, isn’t that the same as being real?
Just so we’re clear, I hate you two.
But I’m always proud of you.
You said he made you angry, right?
I heard you…
But, I’m much angrier!
He hurt something I’m proud of, and he’ll pay.
Leave the rest to me!”
Attempting to Reconcile…
There’s a lot there, and it really feels like Koyomi is being a tad hypocritical here doesn’t it? It’s felt like that for a while, that Koyomi accuses his sisters of being fakes while he seemingly acts the exact same way.
First, Koyomi mentions that physical strength doesn’t make one strong. It’s an interesting pivot after he just previously told his sisters that it doesn’t matter if a hero is right or not, only that the hero is strong. It’s the first requirement. So he’s saying that strength doesn’t mean physical strength, but instead conviction.
Well, we know that Koyomi certainly has strong conviction. After all, he convicted himself to die in order to willingly donate all of his blood to a dying vampire. But, didn’t he do that for someone else? And he accuses his sisters of being weak because their reasons, their conviction, comes from other people and not themselves.
Self-sacrifice. But isn’t that what Koyomi does also? He sacrifices himself for others constantly. How is his conviction any different?
Well, I’m not very versed in Japanese but I believe the subbed line where Koyomi says “if you can’t be content with self-satisfaction, you need to shut up” is a little incorrect. I believe that what Koyomi is really saying here isn’t “shut up” but “shut up about justice” or something like this.
Koyomi, unlike his sisters, doesn’t proclaim himself as an ally of justice. Or as a just individual, or anything like this. So perhaps his angle here is simply that his sisters are fake precisely because they announce themselves as heroes, allies of justice. I think that this might be the case, to be honest.
They may enact some form of justice on villains, .. but they require a villain in the first place in order to enact their vigilante justice. As Koyomi says, they don’t go after evil people. Only villains.
The way I see this, someone can be evil, but if they do no evil, then they aren’t a villain. Meanwhile, a villain is someone who has already acted and done evil. That said, how would one even go about exacting justice on an evil person who hasn’t yet done anything wrong?
Does that really make them fakes though?
I guess in Koyomi’s eyes, it does.
Personally, this whole exchange feels a little overdone, because in reality, justice is not that cut and dry. Neither are the definitions of a hero, or strength. Koyomi sees his sisters as weak, fakes, and playing a game, because they sacrifice themselves and play upon other people’s victimhood in order to exact “justice” on villains.
Then Koyomi pivots by saying that he doesn’t think it’s wrong, and that being a fake is the same as being the real thing…
“If you’re prepared to live with a sense of inferiority for the rest of your life, then even if you’re a fake, isn’t that the same as being real?”
At first I thought that this was just a statement that tries to sound smarter than it is. But after thinking about it, I think I’ve actually figured out what Koyomi means by something fake being the same as the real thing.
For example, if I need a writing utensil, then I can use a pen, which is the real thing. But I could also use a stick dipped in maple syrup to write on paper too. Does that make the stick a writing utensil? Well, it accomplishes the goal of being able to write, but it’s not the real deal. It’s a fake that accomplishes the real thing.
The Fire Sisters are sort of like that stick dipped in maple syrup.
They can garner results, but they aren’t an authority figure, and they don’t really have any business doing what they do.
The line where he mentions a sense of inferiority makes more sense too. A stick dipped in maple syrup is certainly inferior to a pen, but if that stick is willing to put up with the sense of inferiority and continue to be a fake writing utensil that accomplishes the real job of a writing utensil, then so be it.
Kind of a funny analogy, but it actually fits quite well I think!
So for this post I wanted to try and examine Koyomi’s interaction with Karen more closely here. I didn’t really have a good idea of what he meant by what he said, and had the impression that he was being a bit hypocritical. But after writing it out and thinking about it I feel like I was able to clear that up a little.
I wasn’t able to figure everything out, like what Koyomi meant by going after villains vs. evil people, but being able to discern his overall position regarding his sisters being fakes is good enough I think.
Considering Koyomi’s relationship and thoughts regarding his sisters is a core theme of Karen Bee, I wanted to at least spend some time on this.
We’ll have to move onto the Kaiki portion of this episode in another post, because while I haven’t written anything for it yet I just know it’s going to be long as well. There’s a lot of things that happened there that I’d like to point out.
Thanks for reading.
- Episode 1 – Karen Bee, Part One
- Episode 2 – Karen Bee, Part Two
- Episode 3 – Karen Bee, Part Three
- Episode 4 – Karen Bee, Part Four
- Episode 5 – Karen Bee, Part Five
- Episode 6 – Karen Bee, Part Six
- Episode 7 – Karen Bee, Part Seven (Pt. 1)
- Episode 7 – Karen Bee, Part Seven (Pt. 2)
- Episode 7 – Karen Bee, Part Seven (Pt. 3)