Nekomonogatari White: Hanekawa and me

Monogatari_SS_18

Monogatari is one of those series that I have a difficult time writing about. It might be because it’s a series that I love for a lot of different reasons. As someone striving to learn Japanese, the word play that drives a lot of people crazy is one of the reasons I enjoy it. And whilst some other ACG fans find the show pretentious and full of completely unrealistic teenagers, the philosophical questions that Nisioisin touches upon never fail to give me pause. Furthermore, unlike certain other series, these questions are addressed relatively quickly, allowing the show to move on even if the issues of the concerned party aren’t fully resolved at that point.

Hanekawa Tsubasa is one such character, and both Bakemonogatari and Nekomonogatari Black touched upon her issues without resolving them. As this arc of her story pointed out, they had merely been shelved, put aside to be dealt with at a later date. But those non-resolutions only added to the impact that Nekomonogatari White had on me…mainly because, out of all the characters in this series, Hanekawa is the one that I identify with most.

Monogatari_SS_03 Monogatari_SS_04
“Hanekawa-san, do you know about salad dressing?”

I should probably provide a bit of clarification. It’s not that I’m exactly like Hanekawa. I like my food to taste like something, even if I typically use less sauce and salt than others might. And I don’t try to be please everyone — if I clash with someone and do not think our differences will allow for a cordial, cooperative relationship, I will simply choose to reduce my interaction with that person. Admittedly, this might be because I’m not a teenager trying to figure out her place in the world anymore. I’m long past that stage in my life.

However, when it comes to some broader, more important, aspects of life, I see a lot of myself in Hanekawa. As someone who did very well at school and a number of extracurricular activities, I understand the pressure of having to live up to expectations. People—parents and teachers, friends and acquaintances—expect you to achieve certain results, and to pursue something that society deems is worth pursuing. Not knowing what you want to do with your life is unheard of; and taking a year off is out of the question. Looking back now, I genuinely wish I had taken a year off to figure myself out—I have a suspicion that I’d be in a very different place now if I had.

Monogatari_SS_14
And there is one other point of similarity that I shall not go into detail about here.

Admittedly, this situation for Hanekawa ultimately stems from the disfunction in her family: I’m not sure I can imagine how insecure and unloved she must have felt, being abandoned first by her biological father and then even my her biological mother. Becoming the perfect student—top of the class, a student leader, understanding and helpful towards everyone—may have been her response to those feelings of insecurity, a way of avoiding further rejection. She reminds me a little of a character from a manga I once read.

Due to this psychological connection that I have with Hanekawa, I’m glad that she has found herself…though it also leaves me a little melancholic. I’m happy because she provides hope and inspiration for someone like me; at the same time, I’m a little envious that she has come so far. But at times like this, I remind myself of another lesson that the Monogatari series has often touched upon: “people can only help themselves.” Only I can figure out what I want out of life, and what I need to do to get there.

Monogatari_SS_16 Monogatari_SS_17
“I’m home.”

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

5 Responses to Nekomonogatari White: Hanekawa and me

  1. sikvod00 says:

    Oh, nice! A more personal post. Now we get to learn the more juicy details of your life…

    And there is one other point of similarity that I shall not go into detail about here.

    … That’s cool too. :/ Such a tease. J/k

    I was really into Bakemonogatari. Great dialogue (the Japanese wordplay was obviously lost on me), great couple, interesting topics, and terrific VAs. But I slowly lost interest in the series after the first cour (?). Honestly, if it wasn’t for me being a fan of the VAs for the fire sisters, I would have dropped the later series much sooner. It’s weird: the complaints you mentioned are part of the reason I stopped watching Monogatari, but that wasn’t the case for Bakemonogatari.

    As someone who did very well at school and a number of extracurricular activities, I understand the pressure of having to live up to expectations.

    I’m generalizing here, but I think a lot of Asian-Americans could also relate to the pressure of being successful. Back in high-school I knew these Chinese sisters (twins) who basically scored straight As in every subject. Everyone was impressed but there was also the silly stereotype that since they were Asian, of course they would excel academically. They seemed to be really nice people, but I have no idea the stress they have may been under from their family.

    I believe there’s such a thing good as “good” stress, and kids should be pushed and challenged in school. I’d like to think my parents took a more balanced stance: “Don’t come home with Ds or Fs; Cs mean you better work harder next time; As and Bs meant your unreasonable requests would occasionally get approved” . But I never felt real pressure about grades. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of freshmen in universities like MIT committing suicide because they received their first failing grade ever I have to wonder what was going through their minds to think that was the end of the world for them…

    But at times like this, I remind myself of another lesson that the Monogatari series has often touched upon: “people can only help themselves.” Only I can figure out what I want out of life, and what I need to do to get there.

    Yeah. Even if you’re lucky enough (and it’s definitely luck to me) to have a good support system through family, friends, co-workers and etc., it’s ultimately up to the individual to make that decision.

    Like

    • karice says:

      ^^

      It’s weird: the complaints you mentioned are part of the reason I stopped watching Monogatari, but that wasn’t the case for Bakemonogatari.

      I definitely see where you are coming from. Back when it was announced that they’d animate everything, I lamented the amount of money that I would be spending on BDs; in the end, I’m actually still debating whether I want to continue buying them after Nisemonogatari. Especially if it means that I’ll have to put off or give up on other series that I really love. But rewatching Second Season now slowly, I can say that I’ve found loads to appreciate about the first two stories. Perhaps being able to watch all the episodes in an arc at one go (or rather, over two or three days) helps, because I remember not being all that enthused when the show was airing. I’m not sure why — it might have been because Araragi himself didn’t seem to be growing anymore, and it can be difficult to get into a series if you’re not all that interested in where the characters are going. On the other hand, now that I’m really trying to concentrate on all the philosophical stuff that Nisio touches on, I find myself getting a whole lot more out of it… But I highly doubt that it appeals to all that many people…

      Yeah, it is something of a stereotype that Asian kids do well, isn’t it? Quite a few factors are involved, I’m sure, one important one being that their parents really value education. I hadn’t heard of the MIT freshmen — the stories I’ve heard are generally along the lines of kids graduating and telling their parents ‘here’s your med degree. Now I’ll just go off and do what I want to do. It’s sad, but I guess I would have to say ‘I can see that happening…’

      In any case, I think my motto is going to have to be “Finish what you start.” That, at least, is something I work on.

      Like

  2. sikvod00 says:

    I destroyed that first quote, lol.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Monogatari Series: Kamimashita! | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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