Ougi Formula: what is Araragi Koyomi to the Monogatari Series?

The ‘prologue’ to the third and final season: “Ougi Formula”

Araragi Koyomi is a rather controversial character. Many people who don’t like the Monogatari Series seem to hate him, the epitome of the pretentious brat who revels at being at the centre of a harem whilst pretending not to know why it exists—the nature of his relationships with Hachikuji Mayoi, Sengoku Nadeko and his own sisters, perhaps, would rankle the most. Even those that love the series would rather see less of him in it, so that they won’t have to listen to his self-righteous advice or see him save everyone, which goes against Oshino Meme’s constant refrain that “people have to save themselves.” Despite the enormous success that the Monogatari Series has seen, it would appear that its main character, the individual who should be holding it all together, is its greatest weakness.

Until then, I had believed in something called righteousness.

I find myself in a third area of the spectrum of Monogatari fans: those that find the series somewhat less interesting when Araragi is not around. In fact, I’m not even sure if there are others like me. And it’s not because he’s voiced by the most popular male seiyuu ever (my favourite Kamiya Hiroshi role remains Honey and Clover’s Takemoto). Rather, to me, Araragi is indeed the element that holds all the disparate Monogatari stories together. Bakemonogatari can be said to be about Araragi learning to rely on others; Nisemonogatari about him clarifying what family was all about; the Second Season about learning what his limits were. And so on and so forth. Barring one or two stories, I’d argue that every single arc of the Monogatari Series has been more important for Araragi’s development than for any other purpose.

Owari_03 Owari_04
Even if it was mistaken, cruel or stupid, as long as many people acknowledge it, it can become ‘right’.

So perhaps it is fitting that Owarimonogatari returns Araragi to centre-stage once again, for the first time, really, since Bakemonogatari. And by the end of the first episode—”Ougi Formula”—Monogatari had once again confirmed for me why I keep coming back, by explaining something that I’d wondered about every since I first encountered it. Back in 2011, translating Hyakumonogatari exposed me to Araragi’s infamous words: “I don’t need friends. If I make friends, my strength as a human will decrease.” This saying reeks of 8th grade syndrome, and my distaste for this trope is probably one of the reasons that Oregairu just doesn’t work for me. But the trigger for this saying—an incident where Araragi learned that ‘righteousness’ is less about being ‘right’ than about what the majority desire—takes it beyond the insularity I see in characters like Hachiman. Rather than focusing on the individual and his place in the world, it really gets to the heart of a societal malaise that I wish more people would seriously consider.

And that is why I chose solitude over establishment. For in order to protect my own righteousness, that was the only thing I could do.

This feature of the Monogatari Series represents one of the main reasons I find myself out-of-tune with a lot of the anime fandom these days. I see a lot of other viewers focusing the technical aspects of a story—whether its characters are well written, or whether its plot makes sense—whilst paying less attention to broader themes that deal with societal norms and the beliefs and values that lie behind them. It might be because they find such readings of the shows they watch elitist or pretentious. It might also be that they lack context that would enable them to delve into the themes and ideas in question, or that the number of series they cover each quarter leaves them little time to consider a particular show more deeply. Or it might simply be that watching anime is entertainment for them, not something they want to think about beyond the episode just watched. Of course, none of these approaches to the fandom are necessarily wrong. Personally, however, the stories I love most are those that really get me thinking critically about the society through the characters that they focus on. And that, to me, is ultimately what Araragi’s role in the Monogatari series is all about.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

2 Responses to Ougi Formula: what is Araragi Koyomi to the Monogatari Series?

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

  2. Korakys says:

    To me story is: plot, setting, characters, and themes. A story with no clear theme or a weak theme is much less interesting to me than otherwise. Ideally all four need to be done well for a good story to result. Monogatari seems particularly strong to me on the characters and themes front.

    I see the first season as introducing the girls, with Kizu- introducing Araragi. The second season as developing the secondary characters and giving them agency. The third season is all about exploring Araragi himself. Makes me interested to see what off season and monster season will be about.

    Araragi is a caricature of the typical shounen protagonist who is always helping others. It is taken to the extreme and the heart of Araragi’s character is sacrifice for others. Is he really doing it to help others or is just to satisfy himself though? I think the later, he is very unstable and needs his girls, especially the trifecta of Hanekawa, Senjougahara, and Shinobu (taking over from Oshino Meme) to keep him centred and moving forward.

    Hmmm, I seem to forgotten what point I was going for, anyway those are my thoughts.


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