Ever since spring break, Koyomi Araragi has always admired Tsubasa Hanekawa. She is the class president among class presidents, the most gifted young lady in her generation, and an overall decent human being; but even the ideal model student has very sensitive issues of her own.
The conclusion of this ‘Monster Tale’ begins with the return of Tsubasa Hanekawa’s aberration, a dreaded nightmare for both Araragi and Hanekawa.
Even since the very beginning of Bakemonogatari, Araragi has always thought highly of Tsubasa Hanekawa. She was there during the worst experience of his life and he believes that he owes a tremendous amount of gratitude towards her. Unfortunately, his pure admiration has blinded him from Hanekawa’s hidden conflicts.
The final act of Bakemonogatari, Tsubasa Cat, is split into two act: a very warming heart-to-heart date between Araragi and Senjougahara, and Hanekawa’s predicament.
In a very surprising turn of events, Araragi is asked out on a date by Senjougahara. Given that this is Araragi’s first ever date, he’s pretty nervous about the whole situation. So when he suddenly realizes that Daddy Senjougahara is chaperoning the date, his uneasiness multiples. The date mostly consists of Araragi and Senjougahara’s journey to the destination and its shown very comedically. There’s one particular moment where Araragi has explicitly state Senjougahara’s first name in order to imply he’s talking to her and not her dad. And yet, the conversation expresses the subtle awkwardness between the both of them, like with any other teenage high school couple. It’s this odd car ride that shows the extent of Araragi’s and Senjougahara’s relationship.
Once at the destination, the awkwardness doesn’t stop there, as Araragi has to engage in a bit of small talk with Senjougahara’s father. But to his surprise, Senjougahara’s father is the one to initiate the conversation. His talk gives us a bit more of a personal perspective on Senjougahara’s family issues and ties a resounding point about one of Monogatari’s most recurring conflict. Considering that Senjougahara’s father is the first parental figure shown in the series, how the incident has affected his family and how he sees how his daughter has changed is really eye-opening to both the audience and Araragi.
“Parents might be responsible for what their children do, but children don’t bear any responsibility for what their children do.”
After Araragi and Senjougahara have their nice moment, we move into ‘Tsubasa Cat’s second arc. After receiving a message from the bespectacled class president, Araragi immediately goes to her, completely skipping school. Once he arrives, he sees Hanekawa, but appearing very different than before.
This isn’t the first time that Hanekawa has dealt with her own aberration. As referenced repeated in the past Bakemonogatari books, the period of Golden Week is when Araragi had to endure the nightmare that is Black Hanekawa. In ‘Tsubasa Cat’, we finally get to understand the core problem that caused that incident. The flashback goes to show that no one is a perfect person, not even Tsubasa Hanekawa, and it serves a cruel reminder to Araragi.
Revealing what happened during Araragi’s Golden Week is very effective at this point in the narrative. The flashback to Golden Week is essentially another instance of Araragi’s failings to perceive Hanekawa. While the causes are entirely different, the effect it has Hanekawa is dangerously on the same level. Additionally, the core problem of Hanekawa’s aberration ties itself into the discussion Araragi had with Senjougahara’s father about family issues, albeit more negative and pitiful.
Tsubasa Cat is also the first time Shinobu has a dramatic presence in an arc. In a series about human relationships, the topic of Shinobu, not only resurfaces Araragi and Shinobu’s current state of affairs, but further drives the point of boundaries in relationships, whether its between human and human, or human and aberration. Those who’ve read Kizumonogatari will understand what Araragi is infering about when he morosely brings her up in conversation.
After two books of slowly foreshadowing Hanekawa’s arc, Tsubasa Cat presents a fulfilling experience. After seeing the light-hearted yet subtly awkward data between Araragi and Senjougahara, we are able to see how far the level of the trust goes between these two teenagers. But following that, we dive into Hanekawa’s darker turmoils to discover just how wrong Araragi judged her, giving us a strong callback to previously established themes.
Rating: Highly Recommended
Translator: Ko Random