Owarimonogatari: SODACHI Riddle – Part One

Ougi Formula left us with Araragi’s sense of justice wounded, and a reunion with Oikura Sodachi imminent. Let’s see how things play out, I can tell you right away it’s not going to be a pleasant meeting…

00:00-00:50 — The Next Equation

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Araragi and Sodachi framed by the rising sun
“She hates me as though I’m her mortal enemy. What puzzles me in relation to this is that I don’t really hate Oikura Sodachi at all”

As Koyomi lays out the story that we will be told, we get the above striking shot of the city, the sky lit blood-red. Desks flying through the air, the class assembly and its toll on Oikura has not been forgotten one bit. My favourite thing about the above shot is how the sun used to centre us on Araragi and Sodachi is partially covered by clouds on Sodachi’s side, whereas Koyomi’s side is searing bright. Perhaps to highlight that he does not reciprocate the hatred represented by the smoky clouds around him.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Sodachi Riddle
Framing this mystery as a mathematical proof Araragi must solve. The hate cannot be illogical, there must be a clear cut answer that can be deduced.

00:51-2:21 — OP – mathemagics – Marina Inoue

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - OP mathemagics

A spinning geometric shape with its perfect reflection on the other side, fading to Oikura’s face. No, it’s half of her face, reflected dead centre, as we see her move into the “centre”, her hair sweeping behind her to create a beautiful symmetrical effect.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - OP mathemagics

The thing that strikes me most about the OP isn’t the lyrics, as in the case of Ougi Formula, but how the reflection in the centre warps both Koyomi and Sodachi’s faces, making them look frightening and inhuman. Mathematics may be clean and pristine, right angles and reflections, created by humans, but there’s an ugliness to their precision.

2:22-3:48 — Retracing steps

Araragi and Ougi visiting his old middle school, a tale from the past, where Ougi Formula was the tale from 2 years ago, Sodachi Riddle will focus on the tale from 5 years ago, how Araragi met Oikura, where it all began. Never one for chronology, was Isin, so here we also begin first with where Araragi and Ougi have gone, and will later come back to where the prior episode left us, the inevitable, “coincidental” reunion.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Ougi trolling
Trolling Ougi will never get old.

As soon as Ougi shows Araragi the letters in his shoe locker, the memories are triggered, beginning first with the harsh summer, the loud cicadas blaring. It was a formative summer break indeed.

[Commie] Owarimonogatari - 02 [52E40D9E].mkv_snapshot_03.47_[2015.10.22_17.04.04]

3:49-10:59 — “There is no meaning!”

Back to where the previous episode ended, Hanekawa with Araragi outside the classroom. Naively, perhaps idiotically, Araragi thinks Sodachi’s grudge would have long passed, but his sweating face shows he isn’t fooling anyone, even himself.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Hanekawa's cat
Sodachi picked the right place to go for intel. Hanekawa’s got all the dirt on Araragi for sure!

Of course, the most vexing thing is that now Araragi has a girlfriend, and this looks like all sorts of an awful situation for our playboy of a protagonist. Araragi is still putting on a brave face as Hanekawa takes her leave, but his composure is immediately lost upon entering the classroom. The classroom which has taken on a sickly hue, Araragi makes a big show out of his “surprise” in seeing Oikura once again:

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Our hero
Our hero.

Oikura’s first words are absolutely terrifying. Spoken in the husky voice of one who hasn’t spoken in a long, long time (whose fault was that, eh), her broken voice causes Koyomi to gulp and tremble.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Classroom reunion
Neat little trick here, having the desks shuffle away from Sodachi, backing Araragi against a wall. The lighting from the window also accentuates her presence.

The next few minutes are a total verbal beatdown, get it all out Sodachi, it’ll be okay… maybe. The key point of this speech is that of exposing Araragi’s oblivious nature, Sodachi emphasises that he does not understand what his fortunes are founded upon, what has brought him thus far.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Araragi like a deer in headlights
Araragi caught like a deer in headlights.
Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Reality Marble
Her wrath breaks the foundation of existence, separating Araragi from his own outline.

“What has driven her to this? Was it the class meeting? Was it two years of despair?” – Araragi’s onscreen thoughts. As we’ll find out, he doesn’t have a clue, the hatred was born five years ago, not two.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Beautiful speech
“I hate people who think they can survive without help. Nobody can be happy without the help of others.” – Direct foil to the lesson Oshino Meme imparted upon Koyomi.

Sodachi catches herself after she goes a step too far in stabbing Araragi’s hand with her pen. Tension is temporarily dispelled, well that is, until Senjougahara makes her appearance, who has just been witness to Sodachi’s stationery-based mutilation of her boyfriend.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Senjougahara's appearance.
“Hanekawa apparently had told Senjougahara that Oikura had come to school. And she had rushed to the classroom like greased lightning.”

11:00-13:08 — The Cat does not approve of this catfight.

“The only one who’s allowed to stab Araragi with stationery is me. The character trait was discontinued, but I reserve rights to it” – Glad to see Araragi’s cold-blooded Senjougahara back, at direct contrast to the girl we saw back in Koimonogatari.

The next scene is quite comedic despite all concerned parties being deathly serious. From Hanekawa being dragged along the ground trying to hold back Senjougahara, to the chibi-faces and slapstick effects.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime ReviewOwarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review

The main piece of loaded dialogue is the contrast between Sodachi and Hitagi’s world-view, particularly in regards to helping people, and what they want in return. Hitagi says Sodachi likes to help people beneath her, and in retort to Sodachi claiming that the thankless Araragi will not offer recompense for her help, she states that she is helping him voluntarily, in order to achieve the outcome (Araragi studying in the same University as her) for her own benefit. Sodachi demands compensation, she thinks the act of helping someone, saving someone, is something special, an act that puts the other party in debt to her.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Araragi Disappointed
Poor Araragi expected more of a moral defence of character from his beloved.

13:09-16:18 — The Monty Hall Problem

[Commie] Owarimonogatari - 02 [52E40D9E].mkv_snapshot_13.33_[2015.10.22_17.51.40]

[Commie] Owarimonogatari - 02 [52E40D9E].mkv_snapshot_13.44_[2015.10.22_17.52.09]
And with the return back to the present, some more manipulation by Ougi. Araragi is slowly catching on, though.
Araragi explains how Sodachi had “lured” him with the envelope in his shoelocker and the Monty Hall problem. The Young Araragi who hated math had changed his answer to find the map in envelope c, but there was no logic behind him taking that decision, he didn’t know the mathematics behind it. Before Araragi and Ougi leave the middle school, we see Nadeko’s shoe locker, a “foreshadowing” of sorts for the Nadeko Medusa arc, which we’ve seen, though it takes place chronologically after this one.

16:19-22:40 — Cracked Mirrors

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review
The creepy atmosphere that characterised the locked classroom in Ougi Formula returns once more, as Araragi visits the ruined house of his past.

Once again, the solution to the riddle is lampshaded right away by the author, through Ougi (as I’ve commented on before, Ougi is the closest thing Monogatari has to an author self-insert) – She comments on the house having a nameplate, pondering about who might have lived here in the past. Araragi simply replies that he wouldn’t know, and that his middle school self did not pay attention to it. To that line, the crows squawk, can’t get more blatant than that, eh?

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Sodachi's house

Ougi nonchalantly breaks down the locked door. Not allowing anything to get in the way of her poking and prodding of the mind of her prey. Another key point is brought up very early on, as Araragi comments that breaking into the house would be “going off the straight path”, Ougi immediately jumps on it, getting Araragi to “reveal” to her that his parents are both cops.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Prodding the truth Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Manipulated

As we learn from Ougi’s deduction, Sodachi knew who the culprit of the class assembly two years ago was, coming back to school as soon as the teacher left. Therefore the source of her hatred must be different. As the audience, we already know that the story from five years ago is linked to Sodachi, but Araragi does not. Ougi already knows the answer too, so this is a forgone conclusion. What is happening here is digging up a grave, exposing the ugly secrets, it is Koyomi Araragi’s past, the one he must make peace with, and understand, to square his self-image against it in the path to adulthood.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Sodachi's hatred origin

The mirror imagery is used multiple times, each for different purposes:

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Cracked self-image
Araragi staring in the cracked mirror, trying to understand what causes Sodachi’s hatred for him. Why is his image cracked for her?
Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Smashed mirror
The mirror broken on the ground is Araragi’s fragmented memory. Ougi explains what Sodachi meant by the metaphors in her earlier rant: “water thinks it’s boiling without assistance”, “sun thinks it rises of its own accord” etc.
Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Ougi's nature
And lastly, Ougi’s own nature lampshaded. The cracked mirror steeped half in shadow behind her. Her existence is an anomaly, I’m not even sure whether she’s real or a fragment of our protagonists minds and insecurities. This is Monogatari’s subjective reality, however, so the specifics matter not.
Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review - Past selves
Looking back at infinite and ephemeral past selves. Trying to understand how and why you acted in the past.

The next loaded line of dialogue: “To fight, one must understand the enemy’s sense of justice” – A very Araragi line, the emotions must be justified, rationalised, exist under a coherent line of thinking. This is the kind of naive belief system he must learn to grow out of.

Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review
“Why, I have to wonder, do I become so talkative in her company? Even when I could lie or dodge the question, I answer truthfully” – More fuel to fire my theory that Ougi embodies the character’s own insecurities, and can cut through their inhibitions as easily as the author who writes them.
Owarimonogatari Episode 2 Anime Review
And so the story finally begins, to uncover a riddle that has already been solved…
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