Today is July the 7th. Not a special day by any means, to some, it might be considered quite an unremarkable day. However, to me, it’s a day that I hold close in my heart. July 7th is the day when my favourite, fictional anime character happens to have her birthday. And I thought I would do something a little special for the occasion.
Hitagi Senjougahara is a teenager. She is a broken, flawed and insecure teenager, and she uses all the tools of our trade.
Her introduction plays at extreme odds with the outward portrayal of her we are privy to for most of the ensuing story, it gives us a small glimpse at her vulnerability, to contrast with her seemingly confident, abrasive and pragmatic nature.
Just like the Crab Oddity that once took away her weight, her personality and behaviours can be described as resemblant of the same animal that cursed her. She’ll bare her claws, lashing out against those around her, not just physically with those stationery weapons, but with her indomitable and domineering presence and sexuality. She won’t appear phased by any retort or challenge, what with her thick shell, instead hiding her sensitivity within.
The thorny personality of Senjougahara that’s akin to a cactus— that explosive personality of hers is not something that she can just change out of and revert to her old self. Moreover, it has already become the real her.
Araragi’s entranced perception of Hitagi paints her as both terrifying and beautiful. The onscreen presence she possesses in both Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari is overwhelming, and she manages to also capture the audience with her piercing gaze and mesmerising voice.
Senjougahara was someone whose personality was incredibly bad — she cared not about what others thought, was violent, oppressive and self-centered. I guess everyone already knew about her personality, which should be something that doesn’t exist in this world. There’s no point for me to go in depth about it, but she wasn’t born to be that unreasonable and vicious. There is a definite cause to her malicious personality.
It’s only later on, from the perspective of other characters, where we can see her other sides more tangibly. Hanekawa might see her in a more amicable way than Araragi, but what I really want to talk about is how Kaiki perceives her.
Hitagi’s portrayal in Koimonogatari takes what we have seen of her, mostly from Araragi’s perspective, tosses it out and exposes what’s underneath her façade. The oppressive atmosphere is gone. Her verbal abuse and attempts at intimidation come off as nothing more than silly games.
Her appearance and mannerisms take on a cuter, almost Nadeko-esque childlike air, because surely, to a grown-up like Kaiki, the age difference between Nadeko and Hitagi is meaningless. They’re all just kids to him. We learn that despite Hitagi’s projected aura of maturity and superiority, its only a defence mechanism she employs to keep others at bay to protect herself, because in reality she’s just like any other teenager. She will lie to both herself and others to keep an idealized self-image intact. She will avoid honest connection with others in fear of exposing her inner feelings and getting hurt.
It is only after learning to trust and falling in love that she can reveal all that she is, in that one beautifully genuine, triumphant and defining moment. “These stars are all that I have, all that I can give you.”
A moment that runs contrary to everything else we saw up till now of her, such that it must be reflective of the person she is working to become. In the end, whether its a façade or not is irrelevant.
The fake is of far greater value. In it’s deliberate attempt to become real, it is far more real than the real thing. — Kaiki Deishuu
Even if she had finally opened her heart to others.
Even if she had removed the barriers around her.
She still couldn’t mend her broken heart.
Even as time passed, her old wounds are still there.
Koyomi Araragi himself is always suspicious of whether or not Hitagi is tricking him, he is quite paranoid after all. The truth is that Hitagi remains possessive and dependent, she still has to work through her issues, these changes don’t come overnight, they’re going to be a lifetime struggle for her. There are still trials and aspects of her nature she must seek to overcome.
In fact, the next arc she features heavily in is the Karen Bee arc of Nisemonogatari, where the conflict arises between her and Araragi over her desire to protect and restrain him against his will. Over the course of this arc, her possessive nature is challenged, she had to be willing to make compromises with Araragi and trust him as a peer, rather than smothering him with her overbearing love.
Instead of keeping Araragi locked up and going out to murder Kaiki alone, they both go together, choosing to hold faith in one another and confront Kaiki without violence or bloodshed. This is the next stage of her development, if the first major development was coming to terms with the guilt of breaking apart her family and choosing to bear that weight, the second comes when she is willing to move on from her past trauma and grudge against Kaiki, the man who once betrayed her.
Kaiki Deishu. […]
The main reason for Senjougahara’s change was because she got to meet him once more.
Or rather, it’s only because of that.
The only reason.
Though this is unnecessary, but I think I’ll just stress this: it’s not thanks to Kaiki — there is no need to be grateful to him at all.
That guy did nothing.
To put it in Oshino’s words — “The person who saved Senjougahara is none other than herself”.
Her dependence and her nature to fall in love with her entire being, almost violently so is actually something that Kaiki does note of her. He doesn’t see all sides of her though, because it’s important to note: Kaiki’s perception of Senjougahara isn’t any more or less a “valuable” depiction of her than anyone else’s portrayal of her, whether it be Araragi or Hanekawa, they simply see what they want to see and avoid recognising what they don’t. While in Kaiki’s case this allows him to see beyond her outwardly abrasive façade, it doesn’t show him everything.
This leaves the next struggle Hitagi has yet to overcome in her story, one that has been an issue for her since the very beginning. She is prone to falling in love, she often becomes dependent on it, and this fickle mindset is both dangerous to herself and others, because of her violent and self-sacrificial nature. She was even planning to let herself be killed by Nadeko in order to save Araragi, and that if Koyomi himself was killed, she would kill everyone!
And of course, it’s not thanks to Araragi Koyomi either, nor is it Hanekawa Tsubasa — Senjougahara Hitagi had obtained victory from that detestable conman with her own strength and willpower. And she has thus proudly changed herself totally.
And that’s it.
That’s how it is.
To put it simply, Senjougahara Hitagi has turned dere.
She outwardly states in Nisemonogatari that simply being helped and reached out to by Araragi was enough to make her fall in love with him, along with the fact that if situations were different, Kaiki could have been the one she might have fallen in love with. This is a worrisome aspect of her personality that I really do hope Nisio Isin will explore in a later arc, it could even result in Senjougahara growing past Araragi and breaking up with him, it would be an interesting idea, possibly damaging too, albeit one that does not negate the validity of her past developments…
She has changed into a girl who puts on a happy smile for most of the time.
In other words — she has became an ordinary girl.
She could not have swapped the soul of hers with someone’s else— the change in her personality was enough for me to think that.
It’s not a facade.
She’s not putting on an act of being all sweet and nice.
She has really changed into a cute and ordinary high-school girl that’s befitting of her age.
This is all basically what makes Hitagi one of my favourite characters, she isn’t perfect, she isn’t respectable, in fact she could be seen as quite despicable. She reminds me of myself. Monogatari’s portrayal of her speaks to me on a personal level, the greatest appeal of this series to me is how it depicts the irreplaceable elements of human experience and intimately relatable truths of personality and perspective with each of the stories and struggles of its characters, Hitagi Senjougahara’s tale is no exception. Her struggle is one that resonates with me to the highest degree, one that conveys something I could never truly, articulately express, and that is why… she is my most beloved character.
Happy Birthday, Hitagi.
She had resolved herself to do it.
Made an appointment with a hairstylist.
Senjougahara paid the relevant amount of cash — and had her hair cut short.
And she no longer keeps her straight bangs as well.
That last quote will likely bear no meaning to anyone other than myself, but I am leaving it in regardless.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post! It’s actually something I originally wrote almost exactly this time one year ago. I wrote it on the last night before my graduation.
Not a literal graduation, a personal one. I released that post on the day before I turned twenty, the last night before I stopped being nineteen, those are the words of my teenage self. Words I have mostly left unchanged, only to touch them up, and to add the fitting pictures and quotes to.
Speaking of quotes, you can find the relevant snippet of the LN I have taken them from here. An interesting thing to keep in mind when reading this piece (which I recommend), is that it is written from Koyomi’s perspective, and is thus subject to all the elements of his unreliable narration that we are used to seeing through. Only this time, you must read through it to divine the true statement.
Likewise, for me, coming back to this piece and reading it again after such a long time, I found myself also reading between my own lines, trying to triangulate the message my younger self was trying to convey. I hope you, the reader, will be able to see that message, however murky or clear it may be…