Of unbearable unrequited loves: Tsubasa Cat – pt. 2
I wasn’t around when the hype machine for Bakemonogatari arrived, and I really just decided to watch the series out of admiration for Hitagi’s character design. Having said that, I do like it a lot, and am thinking more and more of it as belonging to my top ten series. The fourteenth episode just managed to corroborate that opinion.
Truth will out, as they say, and it finally did in this episode as regards to Hanekawa. I have always found it curious why she seemed so unaffected by the change in Araragi’s relationships, but it was all a mask: she just effectively hid her emotions. She tried to hide it so hard, she became extremely stressed by it and released the cat-monster in turn that comes up when she needs to blow her stress off. Some suggestions were offered to the viewer in episode 13: one of the most telling scenes is the conversation between Tsubasa and Koyomi during their bike-ride together. The voice does seem to be nonchalant, but the words themselves intend an internal struggle going on with one of our heroines.
‘You have to take care of many people,’ she says. ‘Like Senjougahara, Mayoi, Kanbaru, and Nadeko yesterday.’ As she continued she identifies their similarity: all of them were plagued by oddities. But it was something she said afterward that is only clarified from the context of episode 14 that really identifies the reality of her feelings:
‘There’s no way Senjougahara really recovered that quickly.’
I was personally so entrenched with the idea that Tsubasa was an altruistic and extremely kind person that the quote simply passed me by. That sentence alone was highly suggestive of a jealousy that she couldn’t put in more obvious terms, even despite the fact that she was relying on Hitagi for the cultural festival. She also continued on about the hypnotic gaze of the vampires, of which Araragi once was and which constituted his debt toward Tsubasa. He did something to Tsubasa that was unforgivable whilst he was a vampire, and he currently is helping her to atone.
It was also clarified in the earlier part of that same episode that while Tsubasa was ‘a better girl’ in terms of virtue and attitude, Araragi was simply attracted more to Hitagi. The debt in Araragi’s mind also obscures what he could have done with his feelings for her, channeling it only for his debt-repayment, something in the past that Tsubasa doesn’t even take against him. There is also an absence of attunement compared to her regular attitude: instead of replying that she knew what she did, she replied at the end that she knew nothing. More capable viewers may have been able to note of these subtle changes in her dialogue, but I was so sequestered with the idea of her being a benevolent friend that I overlooked it back then.
Everything comes out with the fourteenth episode: her words make more sense this time around especially if seated in the idea that she had also fallen in love with Araragi, just like the other girls with oddities had. Why wouldn’t she, really? I, as a viewer, was actually surprised that she seemed to be the only one who didn’t fall in love with Araragi. The rest of the girls fell to his charms in record time, but not Hanekawa.
It just seemed that way.
Even before the events of Bakemonogatari came to the surface, Tsubasa was already much involved with Araragi in Kisemonogatari. This was when Shinobu was still a voluptuous vampire named Kisshot, and this occurred directly before the events of Bakemonogatari. After their misadventures together, Araragi sought to repay what he did to Tsubasa by being a really good friend. Before Hitagi arrived, they spent much of their time together as he sought to do whatever she requested out of obeisance and deference towards her for the ‘crime’ he believed he committed.
It was also easy to see why people would like her: she was very intelligent, very diligent, and very kind as well as very beautiful. She had the four core attributes of an irreplaceable woman, and she had the time with Araragi. It probably was also easy for her to think that she had all the time in the world with Araragi. It was with Araragi that she escaped the pressures of her home life and the apathy of her ‘parents,’ and it was with his presence and friendship that somewhat re-established her in the world. It was also undoubtedly due to him that she was able to resolve her oddity the first time around, and her latent personality would probably not allow her to forget that. I was even surprised why she seemed so placid and so untouched by the forging of a romantic relation between Hitagi and Araragi, because I was certain that there were feelings in her towards him that were beyond mere friendship.
It just went to the fore in this current episode: the subliminal finally became palpable, and with her stress being unbearable she escaped to her avatar of emotional freedom, her bakeneko. Her alternate person noted of how powerful Araragi was with Tsubasa, giving her in nine days the stress the normally felt throughout the year: simply not showing any signs of jealousy was perhaps to her an eternal struggle. She was no longer the centerpiece of his collection, or even a friend he would often spend time with. Hitagi was already that person.
Of course, Araragi never ignored her and still went with her during some times of the day. But it was a drastic reduction from what she experienced before Hitagi arrived. She was also simply too rational to reveal to him any of her feelings, which became another problem as he simply thought about Tsubasa mostly in business terms (morally speaking) and as a friend. That caution and prudence that was representative of her became her Waterloo when it came to a relationship with Araragi because he thought, even at first, that he was and will perennially be in the friend zone. This was highly in contrast with Hitagi’s decisiveness and clarity: Hitagi teased Araragi at first, but he was not done in, as he was a nice guy. In the culmination of the fifth episode, she cleanly and unabashedly confessed to him.
He was, of course, wrong with Tsubasa. Truth will out. It just did.