Towards a New Life – Kizumonogatari Part III: Reiketsu and Cyclical Realities

When the dust settles, are you living a life you are happy with?

Kizumonogatari Reiketsu 12.jpg

While the first installment of the Kizumonogatari films is a visceral, largely linear (at least in an emotional sense) affair and the second is a trio of encounters that progress in inversions of each other, Kizumonogatari Part III: Reiketsu is a film made up of cycles. It’s an appropriate conceit for the genesis of this franchise to rely on, for Monogatari as a whole is made up of such things. Of course, this is not to say that by the end of Kizumonogatari we are back where we started. For all the chatter about Monogatari‘s talkative methods of storytelling, one of the story’s distinct characteristics is its commitment to its characters-in-motion. Although the cycles repeat, the exit point is always somewhere further along.

In Reiketsu, the act of moving forward is facilitated by both micro and macro uses of these cycles. While the dominant structural element of the film is the interplay between the grounded earthiness (I continue to fail to find a better word to describe the muted brown color palette that signals this) of reality and Araragi’s fantasized hyperrealities, on the overarching narrative level, we see the same actions repeated over and over again. Life, death, failure, hope, blood, fire, darkness, light… all of these recur in the imagery and stories that hold the film together. Fundamentally, this film is about the collapse of the illusion Araragi has built around and about himself, and Reiketsu‘s weapon of choice in tearing down that illusion is the repeated heightening of its depiction of reality into fantasy—and the subsequent reversion back to the uncomfortable truth of the situation.

KizumonogatariKizumonogatari

To speak of the immediate first, Araragi’s fantasies—or, perhaps to be more accurate and less generous, delusions—are the means by which Reiketsu progresses itself as a film. They serve as charged emotional bubbles, the popping of which (Kiss-Shot is no friend, Hanekawa is no angel) pushes the film forward into its successive scenes. As a methodology, I confess it’s one I found myself extremely fond of because of how the film’s cyclical treatment of Araragi’s dalliances into his personal hyperreality as things to be broken eventually crushed out of them the capacity to be cathartic.

Does that sound rather bleak? Despite the ending, this is not a happy film.

The delineation between the two versions of reality are frequently marked by the familiar transitional techniques the Monogatari series has become known for—intertitles, sound bridges, colored frames. However, the most powerful iteration of the cycle is different, with the elision of that familiarity replaced by a hauntingly smooth step from glowing daydream into bloody truth. Following their ebullient conversation on (which is itself cast quite literally in an idealized light that evokes the romantic nostalgia of black and white films), Araragi makes his way back to Kiss-shot with his convenience store drinks in hand, swept away by vision of his vampiric companion as a fair maiden in a field of flowers. But as he arrives, in lieu of the customary “noir” frame, he steps inadvertently over the threshold between realities and is greeted by the gruesome truth.

Even Araragi’s grande bataille with Kiss-Shot is eventually revealed to be sham, an illusion of hyperreality that inevitably fails to mask the ugly, dull, and painful truth it attempts to hide. It is not the glorious confrontation for the privilege of survival and protection that Araragi believes it to be, but rather a contest for the chance to die. The contrast between the fight itself—all lights and grandiose staging and wild animation and dramatic standoffs and vivid colors—and the true resolution of the situation is stark.

It is here that the true power of the cycle between fantasy and reality reveals itself, the catharsis-ridden fight tumbling down into a pathetic wreck of desperate, unhappy people. Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade reveals that she desires to do for Araragi what he had intended to do for her—die—and in so doing annihilates the romance their squabble, stripping it of all nobility and any pretense of glamour. All the color, all the elegance of the drawings, all the thumping music evaporates in the dim and muddy glare of their reality. At last, the cycles of the film have aligned with the cycles of Monogatari‘s stories.

Where have we seen this before? A boy meets a girl who is in trouble. He believes that he can help—or least desires to—and begins to act. By the time the tale has played out, the girl has, almost always of her own agency on the final stage, managed to overcome. But in this version of the Monogatari cycle, the choice at the end is given not to the person in need, but to Araragi. The choice will not always remain his to make as the cycles turn in the future, as they will in Owarimonogatari, but in this moment Araragi will fail to save Kiss-Shot just as she failed to save her first minion. Kiss-Shot takes on herself the role of the villain—a fanciful, false role that plays into the illusion of grandeur the final fight attempts to upload—so that Araragi can be the hero, but in the end, Araragi chooses to make everyone unhappy.

More importantly (and more to his condemnation), he makes the choice that will disempower Kiss-Shot, that will turn her into the husk of her former self known as Shinobu Oshino. In essence, he returns her to the state in which he found her—powerless and reliant on him to be her savior. Is it any wonder that the cycles of Araragi’s savior complex continue on and on after the events of Kizumonogatari? He has learned nothing. He has changed nothing. He has dragged the fantasy down to reality and mashed them together, for “a way everyone can be satisfied” is nothing more than a daydream.

But the story doesn’t end here. Perhaps the wounds in Araragi’s neck will someday be allowed to heal.

KizumonogatariKizumonogatari

3 thoughts on “Towards a New Life – Kizumonogatari Part III: Reiketsu and Cyclical Realities

  1. This post touches upon some nagging feelings I had with the movie (which are positive but not expressible), so it’s good to see all of it put into words. I appreciate and agree with the core message you’re getting across. Araragi always had a rather low opinion of himself and strives to help others to fulfill himself, but Kizumonogatari pretty much shows how deep that hole can go (perhaps it could to even farther) and how it ends up putting him in a perpetual loop between elation, despair, and numbness. In other words, as you say, a cycle. Kizu’s both entertaining and consistent with its themes, which are things I like about prequels, so tinkering with the inner workings of this film is made more fun because of it. Good post!

    I have some criticisms in terms of execution. Bear in mind this is coming from someone who hasn’t written anything analytical for months, yes, but maybe it’s be better to call it advice? Maybe? Anyways.

    It would be helpful to use simpler words to get your point across. Unless you know for sure that your base viewership is a majority of college academics, I can’t imagine how anyone else feels having to stop and think about what you actually mean by elision, dalliances, and ebuillent.

    As for explaining concepts in a better manner I understand that the ones you mention for Kizu I and II already have their own post to read about, but here I’m talking about exactly what you mean when you say “cycles”, “hyperreality”, and others such. I had to look up the definition of hyperreality to make sure I actually understood why you used the word.

    A concrete example would be the end of paragraph 2:

    Fundamentally, this film is about the collapse of the illusion Araragi has built around and about himself, and so Reiketsu‘s weapon of choice is the repeated heightening of its depiction of reality into fantasy and subsequent reversion back to the far less glamorous truths of the situation.

    This is difficult to read, and unsatisfying as an ending sentence. I was expecting you to elaborate with much more understandable diction afterwards but instead the post keeps going and I’m still stuck on paragraph 2 unpacking this sentence as fast as possible before trying to catch up.

    Making the diction more sophisticated doesn’t lend well in conveying ideas to a layman as opposed to, say, an academic. An academic audience already knows the definitions firsthand. A layman does not. If your intent is to share this with people who don’t necessarily have a university quality education, this is far too complex. Split up and expand on the ideas a bit in order to more clearly convey their meaning/purpose.

    Also, the points you convey could possibly do well with fewer adjectives. Quite a few. I saw “pathetic wreck”, “grounded earthiness” (which can also be called down-to-earth), “fantasized hyperrealities”, “repeated highlighting”, “subsequent subversion”, and others such. Not that these adjectives aren’t important; they are. However, seeing so many of these bundles used in the same style turns stale quick.

    In fact, I was catching myself typing filler adjectives while I was writing this post, even. And there were a lot of them. I say this because it’s not just you. I do it too. A lot of people do it too.

    Again, I enjoyed reading your post and I’d read something like this again from you! I can see a lot of improvement, though, if the language is used in a more efficient manner.

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    • First off, thanks for reading! These films really were delightful as prequels to the rest of the series; I get the sense they will color the way I think of everything else when I get around to rewatching it.

      As for the critique, I appreciate that too! It’s been a while since someone actually gave me feedback on the quality of my writing here. A lot of what you said here—particularly about being inefficient generally—is something I know about my writing and am trying to work on. It just so happens that for writing on here I feel somewhat less like I need to tone it down because, although I like an audience, at the end of the day I try and write this stuff because I want to. It can be a bit of a difficult balance to strike. The other side of it is that the big words are sometimes the only way I feel I can get the idea I have in my head out. I spent at least a couple minutes just trying to remember the word “elision” alone because it was the only one that I really felt captured the essence of what I was trying to say. I also have a bad habit of trying to match my diction to the artistry of the stuff I’m writing about, and that’s why all those adjective pairs out.

      I don’t mean to make excuses; talking through all this helps me think more about it on my own terms so that I can improve in the future. I envy those people who can naturally write heady, intelligent stuff and still make their ideas easily accessible!

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  2. <

    blockquote>For all the chatter about Monogatari‘s talkative methods of storytelling, one of the story’s distinct characteristics is its commitment to its characters-in-motion. Although the cycles repeat, the exit point is always somewhere further along.

    <

    blockquote>

    I never actually thought of the series this way before, but it definitely captures why the Monogatari series has been able to work so well as a longform story. As you demonstrate, there’s clearly a lot of intentionality to portraying the current mindset of the characters (Araragi in particular) visually and thematically, but something else I just noticed after reading this post and listening to the soundtrack of the movie is how it even carries over into the music.

    There are lots of small instances of musical motifs from the previous two parts that are clearly iterating on and subverting those themes, but the most obvious example is the track “April 8th.” It that plays over the scene at the end where Hanekawa and Araragi have their final conversation, and it overtly quotes the main melody line from “Staple Stable” and “Senjougahara Tore,” but instead of doing the normal chord resolution it lingers on the line and resolves upwards to something far less satisfying (I don’t really have music theory background, so I’m not sure what that progression or cadence is).

    That musical cue seems like a pretty appropriate way to put a bow on a movie where the ending is everyone basically being stuck in an unsatisfied and wounded stasis, and with a prospective romantic pairing that isn’t really healthy for either party. Even in the scene where the original version of the song plays where Senjougahara is laying herself bare emotionally to Araragi and lavishing praise on him, his actions in the next three episodes prove he still hasn’t learned his lesson about trying to save people. I guess that’s a testament to how true the observation in the initial quote is.

    One additional observation on the original quote: Thinking about it more, the trait of continuous motion in character growth over an extended period is something that’s a common trait in a lot of my favorite anime (Sangatsu no lion was one that immediately came to mind). That seems to also be a common trait of good longform story telling (which anime does have a lot of). That isn’t to say how it’s executed in Monogatari isn’t one of the great points of the series, because I agree that it is, but I’m curious what makes it distinct to you.

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