[12 Days] Day 7: Araragi’s point of no return–light novel vs film portrayal

I watched Kizumonogatari Part I this year, having read the light novel twice before. Several parts of the story are memorable to me, the earliest of which is Araragi surrendering himself to the vampire. The sequence goes like this: Araragi walks alone at night, sees the dismembered vampire, hears her plea for help, begins to run away, stops, and for some reason, runs back to the vampire offering his whole supply of blood for her survival. It’s effectively a suicide, and it continues to be an eery, horrific, yet fascinating moment. I think both the light novel and the film did the sequence justice, but they prioritized different things.

Light Novels

The Monogatari novels are famous for their first-person stream-of-consciousness narration, so we get a good look of what’s going on inside Araragi’s mind. He doesn’t give us his reasoning the moment he turns back, suggesting he doesn’t consciously know it himself, but we can infer from his thought process as he realizes the end of his life is near. The major themes of his thoughts are isolation and self-loathing. He has trouble making friends, having boasted to Hanekawa that he doesn’t need them (likely a defence mechanism to stop her from getting too close). He regrets at not having made any true connections of people who would miss him. He mentions a divide between him and his parents, which furthers his isolation. He does feel a hint of remorse toward his sisters, but it’s not enough to stop him. In his own words, he believes his life to be so worthless that the most meaningful thing he can do is offer it to a higher being. The only thing that might have stopped him, he realizes just before losing consciousness, is Hanekawa. Not her underwear (although in this unreliable narration, who knows if he’s telling the truth), but the fact that she was the only one who found him important enough to approach him.

In short, this is a distillation of Araragi’s self-loathing. The light novel pummels us relentlessly with these thoughts of inadequacy, of worthlessness, of being beyond help. And it can hit close to home for those of us struggling with ideas of self-worth.

Film

The film approaches this scene from a different perspective. It chooses to do away with monologuing, a seemingly deliberate break from the monologue-heavy TV series. Instead, the film plays up what its medium can do best: horror. Blood is splattered copiously on the floor, the vampire is drawn grotesquely, her voice screeching with frenzy. When Araragi initially runs away, the jumpy, shaking camera and the thick, uneven lines of his body convey utter terror. We don’t hear his inner thoughts, so we can only gawk in wonder as he turns around and dashes back to the vampire.

What makes him turn around? I don’t know what a first-time film watcher would think. However, I think the film presents us with two pieces of evidence. First, Araragi says he’ll do a better job as a person when he is reborn, which implies self-loathing (admittedly an interpretation I borrowed from the novel). Second, there’s a certain sexual tension in the encounter: Araragi speaks that line while putting his head into the vampire’s copious bosom, and the sequence of the vampire going for his blood looks eerily erotic (and there’s a long history in fiction of vampire bites as metaphors for sexual encounters). Therefore, you could argue Araragi had a strange attraction to the vampire, which, coupled with his devaluation of his own life, caused him to turn around.

Overall, the film conveyed this as a surreal, uncanny experience that leads to a major change in Araragi’s life.

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The frantic running emphasizes Araragi’s terror

In summary, the light novel and the film approached this fascinating scene from two different angles, each according to their medium’s strengths. The light novel, suited to free-flowing inner monologues, painted an oppressive mental landscape of self-loathing. The film, suited to tricks of cinematography and animation, portrayed a horrific yet surreal sequence. With the Monogatari series dealing with both ghost stories on the surface and characters’ emotional turmoil on the inside, both approaches worked.

You can read about the 12 Days challenge in the intro post here.

One thought on “[12 Days] Day 7: Araragi’s point of no return–light novel vs film portrayal

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