Hanamonogatari: revisiting the ‘show vs. tell’ debate

Hanamonogatari_00
It’s Kanbaru Suruga’s turn for her own crisis: but what lessons does it hold for us?

The core message of Hanamonogatari seems to be very straightforward: what’s the best way to solve the problems you face? Is the answer to run away, or to face the problem because running away means ‘losing’? Or is there some other approach that you can take? And what do you do when you come across someone who’s running away from a problem they face?

As always, this general philosophical theme is ‘introduced in the first episode, when Kanbaru first encounters her old basketball rival, Numachi Rouka, and developed through plot (however thin) and dialogue (however verbose) over the rest of the mini-arc. And as always—and to some people, irritatingly—Araragi is involved in shaping the answer that Kanbaru arrives at: if you’re bothered by it, then you should act; this being contrasted with another human tendency of turning a blind eye and hoping the problem goes away. Looking to the real world for examples of this tendency, I might say, is a rather sobering exercise that presents a clear answer: running away doesn’t work. If it’s big enough, you will one day have to deal with the consequences.

Hanamonogatari_01 Hanamonogatari_04
In life, you’ll always meet people with more experience than you…

At first glance, then, Hanamonogatari may appear to be the preachiest of all the Monogatari stories. More so than any of the other stories, the key question for debate is shoved in your face in every single episode. Or at least, that’s the impression I came away with — in actuality, you could probably argue that all Monogatari stories are constructed in this way. But what makes Hanamonogatari stand out even amongst Nishio Ishin’s verbiage, is arguably that it’s really difficult to care for the person whose problem has been manifested as an apparition. Numachi is not particularly likeable, at least to me, and thus I never worried about what would happen to her; I was only interested in the problem that this issue posed for Kanbaru. Thus, bereft of any ‘real’ events that could really change the life or existence of our protagonist, this seemingly ‘all tell’ method of delivery made it feel even more preachy.

Hanamonogatari_03 Hanamonogatari_02
…and you’ll hear their opinions before you form yours.
(Love the creative framing, by the way: Monogatari is never just about talking heads.)

But perhaps, in a roundabout way, this kind of presentation can also be considered part of the ‘show, don’t tell’ method of storytelling. Instead of that narrow question of how to deal with a problem we face, perhaps what we’re being shown is how people go about contemplating the issues that they are faced with. When someone first poses the question to us, we do not have our own thoughts on it, and thus just listen to what they present to us. We then encounter other people who present their own opinions and ways of thinking on the same issue. And after all of this input, we make our own decisions. They may have been heavily influenced by all of those external inputs, but if we’ve learned how to think for ourselves, then they’ll never be more than suggestions that we’ll use to guide our own thinking.

Hanamonogatari_06 Hanamonogatari_05
…but you should do what you want to do. As Gene Brown once said: “Accept good advice gracefully–as long as it doesn’t interfere with what you intended to do in the first place.”

Thus, the real message isn’t about what to do about problems or people who run away from their problems. Rather, it’s about whether or not you should take heed of the advice of others in making your decisions. You can heed the advice of others if you want, but ultimately, you should always do what you want to do. Araragi may be involved in shaping this answer too; however, by its very nature, it’s an approach that will always be unique to you, since it’s up to you to decide what you want to do.

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

3 Responses to Hanamonogatari: revisiting the ‘show vs. tell’ debate

  1. sikvod00 says:

    Is the name Nishio Ishin polarizing within the anime fandom? Another blogger I follow despises his works and calls it all pretentious. You’ve mentioned that’s how others refer to him too. Yet the Monogatari series is super popular so I have no clue of his status. Either way, it’s nice that you’re able to mine tidbits like these out of the show. ^_^

    Looking to the real world for examples of this tendency, I might say, is a rather sobering exercise that presents a clear answer: running away doesn’t work. If it’s big enough, you will one day have to deal with the consequences.

    Hmm. The first real world example that popped into my head was gun control in America. I don’t know how many more deaths it’s going to take for people to stop ignoring the elephant in the room, which is our unhealthy gun culture. What came to mind for you? 😮

    And after all of this input, we make our own decisions. They may have been heavily influenced by all of those external inputs, but if we’ve learned how to think for ourselves, then they’ll never be more than suggestions that we’ll use to guide our own thinking.

    You can heed the advice of others if you want, but ultimately, you should always do what you want to do

    All of these good comments regarding decision-making may be best suited for major life issues. But I’m over here thinking how well it applies to deciding what anime I should watch! 😀

    My problem has been balancing the feedback from others while not having it totally influence my decision. So I end up unsure if the choice I eventually make is really my own or someone else’s. Maybe it’s a confidence issue or my decision-making and critical thinking could be improved.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Sorry for the late reply! Have had lots of things on my plate these last couple of weeks, so the comment notification email got buried and forgotten under all the rest. Gomen m(_ _ )m

      Is the name Nishio Ishin polarizing within the anime fandom? Another blogger I follow despises his works and calls it all pretentious. You’ve mentioned that’s how others refer to him too. Yet the Monogatari series is super popular so I have no clue of his status.

      Hm…I think he is quite a polarising author. People either hate him or love him – I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have an opinion, at least, not someone who’s read one of his works, or seen an adaptation on them. Of course, some people also have mixed feelings about SHAFT…

      Hmm. The first real world example that popped into my head was gun control in America. I don’t know how many more deaths it’s going to take for people to stop ignoring the elephant in the room, which is our unhealthy gun culture. What came to mind for you? 😮

      Gun control wasn’t what came to my mind…and I’m not sure I’d say that people are running away from or turning a blind eye to that issue. Observing from here, it seems more like they’re just really stuck in particular beliefs that they keep reciting (“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” etc), and that they just interpret data to suit those beliefs. Though I guess you could say that such practices are a form of ignorance as well.

      The example that came to my mind was the refugee crisis in the Middle East, and now, in Europe. We in Australia don’t have a great record there either. Domestically, we’ve got some issues with domestic violence and mental illness in particular that have surfaced more in recent years because people are trying to raise awareness about them. And in Japan, I think there’s a lot of debate about bullying now, because of a spate of recent suicides. Of course, that seems to have been drowned out in the news by the protests over the security legislation, which involves a whole lot of other things that Japanese people have been ignoring…

      …I think I should stop there.

      All of these good comments regarding decision-making may be best suited for major life issues. But I’m over here thinking how well it applies to deciding what anime I should watch! 😀

      My problem has been balancing the feedback from others while not having it totally influence my decision. So I end up unsure if the choice I eventually make is really my own or someone else’s. Maybe it’s a confidence issue or my decision-making and critical thinking could be improved.

      LOL – as my friends and I like to say: first world problems!

      I can’t really help there, since my own reasons for watching particular shows and not others are quite eclectic… The one rule I try to obey is: if I’m simply not enjoying it, drop it. Other than that, it’s usually a matter of time and whether I think I’ll get anything out of the show.

      So, you’re on your own there! Must admit, though, this season’s pretty tough, because nothing is really standing out. The shows at the top of my own list are both sequels, and I haven’t even started watching one of them yet… (^^;;

      p.s. You’ve worked out the quoting tags!

      Like

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

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