Tsukimonogatari: Ononoki Yotsugi and the shoe analogy
November 21, 2015 1 Comment
|Tsukimonogatari’s opening, “Orange Mint,” is probably my second favourite
Monogatari Series opening. Care to guess what my favourite is?
It’s been two weeks since I finished Tsukimonogatari, and I’m dying to start Owari, which is currently airing. I never expected this story, one that focuses on the poker-faced shikigami, Ononoki Yotsugi, to be even more difficult to write about than Otori was. Unlike Nadeko’s final chapter, however, Tsuki was problematic in a good way: there isn’t just one, or even two, but rather, no less than three different ideas that I wanted to muse about. The obvious one is Araragi’s dilemma; like all the other characters in the Second Season, our protagonist has been ‘lying’ to himself, with some unforeseen consequences that are undoubtedly a key part of Owari. Similarly, the idea of ‘dancing to someone else’s tune’ and the potential futility of our inclination to struggle against such a fate can only be fully explored once we know the extent to which Gaen and Kagenui’s machinations have been able to counter it. Hence, I’ll focus most of my attention here on the third theme, which is centered around Yotsugi and her own little ‘lie’. Of the lies I’ve mused about in relation to the ‘second season’ of this series, I’d argue that this one is the most interesting.
|“To be continued…”|
The very first episode of Tsukimonogatari brought up the question of how one might define Yotsugi’s behaviour. Has she, too, been lying to herself, so that she can regain some sense of the humanity that she once had? No, Yotsugi is trying to think and behave as people would so that she can interact with them. In other words, she is imitating humans, just as the other apparitions have imitated all manner of animals from bees to snakes. For none of them actually have a form, at least, not one that we humans can comprehend. Apparitions take on forms that are familiar to us, because they cannot communicate with us otherwise. This can be seen as an extension of what Onimonogatari revealed to us about the nature of apparitions: they are what we perceive them to be. Taken to its logical end, the conclusion one arrives at is that ‘things exist because other things perceive them’. There is no meaning in being unless one is perceived, whether it be in a physical sense or through thought alone.
|Imitating us at both work and play…|
How is this relevant to us today? You might expect me to start pondering about the supernatural, musing that ghosts and spirits are perceived only by people who believe in their existence. Or ponder how it might actually be impossible for us to communicate with extraterrestrials, because they might have technology so advanced or different from ours that they cannot even receive the messages that we have been broadcasting into space, much less decode them. However, the notion that it is difficult—if not impossible—for us to perceive something if it lies outside of our conceptions of reality has significant implications for our everyday interactions. And I’m not talking just about trying to communicate with someone who does not speak your language, but perhaps even the person next door. Comprehending the words that come out of each others’ mouths does not necessarily mean that we will understand each other: if the way we think about reality is different enough, then we may not ‘really get’ what they are talking about. Someone who prioritises their so-called ‘freedoms’ may never understand why another person may be willing to give them up for order and stability. An ordinary person who wants to be famous may never understand the stress and strain that real celebrities often find themselves under. A privileged white male in Australia may not ever sense the unconscious discrimination that the rest of us feel in our supposedly equal society. The list goes on.
This is important because it goes against our expectations. We expect that people who live in the same societies, who speak the same language, should be able to understand each other well enough, such that hurt and pain come not from misunderstanding, but from a deliberate choice to deny or oppose a different point of view. The truth is, however, that we often do not try hard enough to see the world from that different point of view. Consider for example, China: how does the world look like from the middle kingdom? An island chain of military facilities that can be used to cut it off from the energy and trade that it needs. Or take that high achieving student on a straight track to law school and a high-flying career: perhaps he or she really wants to become a travel photographer instead, unstable though that life may be. Because we assume that they see the world in the same way that we do, we are stunned when they do not act in the way that we would ‘if we were in their shoes’. But what that means is that we haven’t actually put ourselves in their shoes; instead, we are thinking about what we would do if we—with our ways of thinking, our experiences, and the way that we view the world—were put into the situation they are in. Perhaps we need to move past this shoe analogy, and focus on putting ourselves into their heads instead. In other words, we need to think about imitating them, just as Ononoki Yotsugi imitates us.