Contemplating Nisemonogatari: the good…
April 1, 2012 2 Comments
Back in 2008, Bakemonogatari captured the attention of many fans, probably for a number of reasons. However, the reason you hear bandied about most seems to be the crisp and refreshing dialogue, which has the characters flirting, trading jokes, sprouting their idiosyncratic verbal trademarks, and the occasional thought-provoking way of thinking. Most people who did not spoil themselves with the novels were expecting the same out of Nisemonogatari, its chronological sequel.
Whilst that expectation wasn’t, IMHO, the smartest thing to take into this series (as I will attempt to discuss over a few more posts), I contend that Nisemonogatari actually one-upped its predecessor in one particular area. By this, of course, I’m referring to the battle of words between Kagenui and Araragi about the value of a fake.
Which of these is more valuable: a genuine article, or a fake trying its best to be real? What was your initial reaction? I’ll admit that I knew exactly where this would go once they started that discussion. If we simplify it, as Kagenui and her peers – Oshino and Kaiki – did during their university days, there are three answers one can give.
(1) Of course, the genuine article is more valuable (Kagenui – the self-righteous)
(2) Both have equal value (Oshino – the balancer)
(3) The fake trying to be real (Kaiki – the con-artist).
|And of course, another amusing feature of this battle of words is…
…the various shots that SHAFT chose to frame their conversation.
When we’re talking about commercial goods, I think most people would answer (1) without any hesitation – though perhaps some might say that (2) is possible as well, as long as the fake is just about as good as the real thing. I seriously doubt, however, that anyone would answer as Kaiki did.
Personally, I’m highly inclined to agree with Kaiki. Why? Well, a genuine article does not need to put in any effort into being what it is, whereas a fake is always doing its utmost. The value of the fake lies in the effort it makes, in the fact that it is consciously trying to be real, for that makes it, in a way, even more real than something that does not need to try. To give a more concrete example, it’s like asking whether someone who is always truthful is more valuable than a habitual liar who’s trying to be truthful. A truthful person telling the truth – that doesn’t change anything. But a liar who tries to tell the truth and succeeds to some extent – it’s arguably cause for celebration.
|Must say, gotta give them marks for creativity.|
On the other hand, I find myself wanting to distance myself from this argument when I consider real life. The reason being that there is someone, someone whom I know well and from whom I cannot possibly detach myself, who behaves as the fake does. That is, that person tries, tries so very very hard, to be a generous person. It feels incredibly fake to me – it feels like that person is buying favours, for they sometimes turn around and consciously use that generosity to get what they want. But perhaps that person is really trying to be unconditionally generous, and succeeds most of the time. Do I want to concede that there is value in that? At this point in time, I really don’t know…but kudos to Nishio Ishin for highlighting that particular philosophical debate.