Just like with Tsubasa Tiger, we’re jumping into an arc that is not from Koyomi Araragi’s perspective. The narrator and protagonist this time around, as can be gleaned from the arc’s name, is Sengoku Nadeko.
We’re in for an interesting arc here!
We open up with Sengoku telling us a little about herself, while we see her curled up, pale, and with white hair. Afterwards, we see that she is hiding in the North Shirahebi Shrine, and she’s not alone – she’s communicating with a snake. The shrine is then destroyed, and Koyomi is standing in the distance, bloodied and prepared to kill her, Shinobu Oshino at his side. Sengoku is able to beat Shinobu back and stab Koyomi in the heart using her hair, which is actually many long white snakes.
We then jump back in time, to before Sengoku met the snake. She has a run-in with Ougi Oshino, Afterwards, at school, we learn about the situation of her class – the aftermath of Kaiki’s con artistry which tore the class apart. While at school, Sengoku sees a white snake briefly twice – once at her shoe cubby, and once again at her desk. This causes her to call Koyomi on one of the school phones later on.
They talk for a bit, and agree to talk again that night. After she hangs up, the snake communicates with her, telling her to come to the North Shirahebi Shrine.
At the shrine, she sees all of the dead snakes still pinned to the tree, something she had done back in Nadeko Snake when she was afflicted with the constrictor snake oddity. The snake insinuates that Sengoku has to atone for her sins of killing so many snakes. It appears before her, a giant white snake that spans around the entire area, and asks her for a favour. And she agrees.
A Little Intro
The arc this time around is Otorimonogatari – Otori meaning “decoy”. So let’s just keep that in mind as we move through, and see just what or who is the decoy, because the name wasn’t chosen at random of course!
We learn some basic info about Sengoku, and it’s not really that important. Her name, age, school, and such. The only really dramatic effect is when she says that she loves Koyomi, which we already knew. But I will point out that her school, Nanahyakuichi Middle School, literally translates to “Seven hundred and one” Middle School, which I thought was an interesting name.
I also wanted to point out the lyrics to this arc’s opening, Mousou (“Delusion”) Express, because they give a pretty good summary of Sengoku’s character and the line along which we can expect her to act in this arc.
My delusions make me want to escape
And suddenly jump
To go see you
Excuses and reasons
I can’t be bothered
It’s because it’s fate
there is nothing to do about it
If it is possible, from this love
I don’t want to wake up
Without knowing anything, closing my eyes
To be always cute is what I asked the stars
Nothing goes the way I want
I don’t need anything from the world
There’s only one thing I want from the stars and that is:
Everything Everything Everything Everything
Nothing goes the way I want
It’s impossible for this world
There’s only one thing I want from the stars and that is:
Everything Everything Everything Everything
I’ll let you think about the meaning behind the lyrics, although I think one common theme is that they seem a little childish. Which I think is one way to describe Sengoku, anyways. The important part is keeping in mind what she wants.
An Encounter with Ougi
Once again we see Ougi make an appearance. And she’s as condescending as ever. After trying to convince Sengoku to trust her, as she knew Sengoku’s name but Sengoku didn’t know her, Ougi begins to talk about victims. The lead-in being that Sengoku and her classmates were victims of Kaiki. Here are the main parts of what she says:
“…it’s quite rare to see a genuine victim when it comes to oddities.
But you know what, Sengoku?
People can’t always be the victim.
It’s just that sometimes they’re the victim,
and sometimes they’re the aggressor.
Or do you still consider yourself the victim?
Maybe you could actually stay the victim if
you keep your head down and say nothing,
but I don’t know if that’s gonna work this time…
There are also cases where people blame the victim,
but they’re basically saying that aggressors are victims too.
Or maybe, and I believe my uncle hated this mindset,
there are only victims in this world.
And if you turn that on it’s head,
maybe you weren’t a genuine victim either.
The story this time might make that clear.”
I think the general takeaway from this dialogue from Ougi is that sometimes, victims aren’t completely innocent. It’s not black and white, victim and aggressor. Often, there’s a mix of aggression from both sides. Or, perhaps, something else at play. And we’ll come to learn soon enough through Sengoku’s class what Ougi is getting at in regards to picking apart the idea of genuine victims.
I also like the part where she mentions that Meme Oshino hates the mindset that “there are only victims in this world.” Basically what she’s getting at here is this – if everyone is a victim, then no one is.
Of course, we’ll also see more of this through Sengoku herself, who as we know, acts shy and timid and likes to play the perfect victim. But is she really just a victim to the end that just ends up pushed to the edge, ultimately having to fight and potentially kill Koyomi?
701 Middle School’s Class 2-2
We will see and learn quite a bit about Sengoku’s class in this arc, which is interesting for me because I teach at a few middle schools here in Japan. That said, I haven’t encountered any oddities myself so we’ll see if any of my knowledge proves useful. I also have a lot of useless information which I’ll share at the end of these posts should anything come to mind.
Here’s some good internal dialogue from Sengoku about the class situation.
Kaiki’s style was all about focusing on quick, small profits.
Of course, some kids went too far,
which became an issue that called the Fire Sisters into action.
But looking back on it a few months later,
the real issue ended up being the stuff
dealing with mere pocket change.
The stuff no one viewed as a big deal,
the vast majority of the scams.
Basically, who in our class liked whom,
who hated whom,
how someone felt about someone else,
and what someone wanted to do with someone else…
The kind of stuff that was more than just personal information.
Every bit of “their feelings towards everyone else” had been exposed.
Well, you can pretty much figure out what happened afterwards, right?
In addition to this, there’s a nice message that flashes on the screen:
When I found out what they really thought of me even though I felt we were getting along…
For some reason Kaiki’s charms and curses were very popular in class 2-2. And the drama that followed as a result of the students all learning what they thought of one another ended up creating a tense atmosphere of silence. Where no one dares speak up. I imagine even students who didn’t get involved probably ended up the subject of discussion at some point, or basically can’t engage anymore out of fear of being exposed somehow.
How exactly it transpired I don’t know, and I don’t remember if we will learn those details. But you can imagine how it would have went. One kid buys a charm, say, to make another girl like him. One of his friends tells someone, and soon enough the girl finds out, and she shuts the kid down. Or a kid buys a curse, to curse someone, and again, someway or another, they find out, and realize that they are hated. If this sort of thing truly was popular, then likely you can imagine that at least half of the class was engaging in this sort of thing.
That’s about all we get in regards to Sengoku’s class for now. I will point out that this sort of class, where the students are all very quiet and reluctant to speak up / stand out in front of their peers, is quite common here in Japan. Even without the drama, although I can only imagine how exasperated the mood would get after such drama. Every class is different, but sometimes, a class just doesn’t really have any of those outgoing students that speak up and lighten the mood for everyone else.
A Chat with Koyomi Onii-chan
When she gets a chance, Sengoku calls Koyomi and tells him about the snakes she saw that morning – once at her shoe cubby, and once at her desk. Ultimately, he tells her that he will call her around 10pm, when Shinobu wakes up, as she may have some knowledge that can be of use. To this, Sengoku mentions that she is looking forward to his call. Koyomi then reacts, saying things like “Are you okay? Why would you look forward to that?” and causing Sengoku to awkwardly ending the call saying she’s running out of time on the phone.
Personally, I thought Koyomi’s reaction was the strange one.
I don’t see what’s wrong with Sengoku looking forward to learning more from Koyomi about what she was experiencing. It’d be like telling your doctor that you are looking forward to being diagnosed for an unknown issue you’ve been having. Couple in the fact that the doctor is a childhood friend, and it doesn’t seem strange at all to me.
But it’s fairly clear that the scene was trying to convey Sengoku’s naivety. It’s a potentially serious and dangerous situation that she may be in, but she was nonchalantly treating it like it was going to be a fun date or something. Which ultimately, we know is true. Sengoku is certainly the type who would leverage a personal affliction to spend time with Koyomi.
Meeting with a Serpent
Finally, after speaking with the snake “on the phone” (in reality it would have been in her head), Sengoku goes to the North Shirahebi Shrine.
One interesting point is that she didn’t call Koyomi back to tell him about this. I have to wonder if the reason she didn’t is because she had just embarrassed herself on the phone with him. Or perhaps the reason the snake communicated with her at all was because it knew that she wouldn’t contact Koyomi, and it was biding it’s time.
And so, Sengoku went to the shrine. Why did she go? She certainly didn’t have to. Immediately contacting Koyomi aside, she could have waited until 10pm, and told him then. But she didn’t, she went to the shrine, at the behest of the very thing she was worried about and had called Koyomi about in the first place.
It certainly seems strange that she would go, doesn’t it?
But then, we can catch a glimpse of Sengoku’s motives while she is at the shrine, mainly from the snake itself.
“You don’t act surprised, do you?
It’s like you’re fully aware.
Like you knew all along.
You don’t scream at all.
After all, the one who created this hellish nightmare
was none other than you, Nadeko.”
Now, the hellish nightmare the snake is referring to seems to be all of the dead snakes pinned to the tree. But it could also mean the situation itself of returning to this place at the behest of an oddity. Sengoku, while she seems uneasy, doesn’t act surprised or scared. Like she knew where this was headed. After all, the only interaction she had at the shrine prior was killing those snakes. What did she expect by returning to this place?
After that, the snake gives us some more to work with.
“You looked this way.
You saw this serpent.
That means you’re my comrade now.
You’re my partner.
You’re going to have to atone for your sins, Nadeko.”
Should I apologize?
Do you want me to apologize?
What do you mean by atone?
I… What should I do?”
“”What should I do,” huh?
This would normally be the time to beg for forgiveness.
Yet you didn’t once say “please forgive me.”
Once again, the snake is eluding to the fact that Sengoku’s frame of mind seems off. Here, she is faced by a giant snake, one whose body wraps around the entire shrine grounds. And while she’s uneasy, she should be terrified. It was one thing to hear the voice, but now, to see this right before her eyes? It really is amazing. Sengoku seems completely out of touch, but why?
Is it because she has plans of her own involving the snake? And how much of Sengoku does the snake know? Because I believe it’s no coincidence that it refers to her as its partner. Truthfully, this isn’t a one sided relationship, where Sengoku is the victim, and the snake the aggressor.
Both have something to gain from this strange relationship.
Remember, the initial glimpses gave Sengoku a reason to talk with Koyomi. And that turned into something for her to look forward to that night. Fact is, Sengoku has her own reasons for wanting to be involved with oddities. And in the end, she agrees to help the snake. Why? Because she has her own reasons.
But thinking back on it,
it was already clear by this time
how this story was going to end.
Because, even if I’d known what the
serpent was trying to make me do,
even if I’d known what he was trying to do to me,
and even if I’d known the truth and reality of it all,
I still would have agreed.
It certainly makes me wonder if the reason an oddity has shown up in Sengoku’s life is specifically because she desired for it to happen. After all, oddities are what tie her to Koyomi, and give her reason to talk with him. And we know that she’s pretty obsessed with Koyomi.
Even if that’s not the case, it’s clear that after encountering an oddity, that is her intention.
Some other minor (unimportant) points I’ll mention here:
Sengoku’s school is massive. Judging by the number of shoe cubbies and phones, her school could easily have 50 or more classes. Considering this is middle school, (grades 7, 8 and 9), that’s pretty crazy.
For perspective, the biggest school in my area only has 15 classes, and it’s a pretty big school. And Sengoku is in class 2-2, as opposed to 2-8 or 2-12, so that’s lucky she got one of the lower numbers as 2-18 doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily.
Also, Sengoku’s shoes seem out of place. I mean, her uniform in general is a bit off, because typically middle school uniforms for girls have the skirts extend down to their shins, but there may be exceptions. But the shoes definitely seem off, because at all of the middle schools I know of students all wear the same indoor shoes, which are running shoes, not the kind that Sengoku wears. But I guess maybe her school is different in that regard.
Finally, when she’s conversing with the snake, Sengoku refers to herself in the third person. While the subtitles use “I”, what she is really saying is “What should Nadeko do? Should Nadeko apologize?”. To my knowledge, this is kind of a childish way to refer to oneself. I’ve never heard it in person.
Anyways, that’s all for this episode.
This ended up being a long post, but it is the introduction to an interesting arc. I’ve laid most of the groundwork for what is to come I think, so from here it will be more along the lines of confirming the ideas introduced here than anything else. But we’ll see, I’m sure there will be more interesting points to note as we go.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading.
Monogatari Series: Second Season
- Nekomonogatari: Shiro