How to Get Involved with the Monogatari Series - The Writing

"I don't know everything, I just know what I know."

For all intents and purposes, Monogatari opens up with that line. Not to say that the anime starts off with that line. But that the series foreshadows itself with the introduction of that line. That line, "I don't know everything, I just know what I know."

Monogatari is built on the foundation of dialogue and monologue. Both terms are used to describe composition, specifically, conversational composition. The former happens between two people while the latter is handled by a sole person. In essence, these two terms describe everything about our interactions; with others and with ourselves.

Araragi tends to have a unique pattern of back-and-forth with every character in the series. While some appear more ordinary than others, the unique ones remain unique, for all intents and purposes. Like that line, "I don't know everything, I just know what I know."

You can call it a tic but it's incredibly rare and coincidental for the majority of the characters to have their own tic. This is, however, a fictional story but these aren't tics for the sake of being tics. These are in the writing because of Nisio Isin's unique style. The tics aren't there to flesh out the characters or make the reader aware of them, they're there because of his unique style.

This is why I've mentioned before that the books are superior to the anime. Nisio Isin writes in a way I've never seen before. He builds large sentences and paragraphs with a few 'key', descriptive words or phrases. These keys are essential to starting the topic as the reader is introduced to the problem or idea. He fixates them at the start of a paragraph. These keys are then used to end the topic, to seal the deal, if you will or as Araragi says, the punchline of the story. The paragraphs end the same way it starts.

Sometimes, he'll use phrases and the words end up getting flipped by the end. The meat of the paragraph is given in enough detail for the reader to understand the change reflected at the end. This time the key is introduced, but changes at the end to describe a growing emotion or sudden revelation.

You can't get this from the anime because, while Araragi has a lot of monologues, it pales in comparison to the books. He narrates to no end. He reciprocates everything which, understandably, the anime can't cover.

What I described is ever-present and only ever used by Araragi as he monologues. The book is told in a first-person perspective and therefore, other than dialogue, has only monologue. This means that Nisio Isin can't actually use the same narrating style when engaging in dialogue. It makes sense if Araragi himself monologues the same way all the time. He is, after all, himself. But it would definitely not make sense if every other women out there speaks, and completes, the dialogue in the same way.

This is where the tics come in. Unlike the monologue, which has to self-describe to solve a particular issue, dialogues can solve the issue by simply allowing any particular character (in this case, the person who isn't Araragi) to introduce the solution. This gets rid of the 'key', if you will. The key doesn't need to be explained or justified as they are presented that way by the other characters. Sometimes, Araragi may ask for an explanation or go through the monologue process, but often times, the punchline is enough to seal the deal.

"You sure do know everything."
"I don't know everything, I just know what I know."

Hanekawa explains her solutions away by claiming irrefutable knowledge over very specific problems.

Of course, this isn't to say that every character gives a solution. Most characters provide punchlines to seal jokes or set the conversation. "I'm sorry, I stuttered.", is but one of the examples.

There is one last thing I want to bring up. Spoilers incoming, if you haven't finished up till the end of Owarimonogatari.

Tsubasa Hanekawa, Izuko Gaen and Ougi Oshino are three completely different but very similar characters. In fact, they each share similar catchphrases. Similar in structure to spot the similarities, but different enough in nuance to see the differences.

"I don't know everything, I just know what I know."
"There is nothing I don't know. I know everything."
"I don't know anything, Araragi-senpai. It's you who knows."

(Admittedly, I remembered a slightly different form of the other two phrases but I'm basing the exact words on the Wiki page)

Hanekawa knows very specific details about very specific problems, Gaen knows everything and nothing escapes her, Ougi claims to know nothing as Araragi is the one who should know the answer.

These three possibly represent the ultimate punchlines of the entire series. Hanekawa gives an answer one can't claim to not be true, Gaen gives an answer that you know is true, and Ougi gives an answer to reinforce what Araragi thinks is true. They are driving forces, whether you like it or not. If their answers cannot be refuted by the logic of Nisio Isin's linguistics, then wherever they are, they will be the driving force for the truth.

I mentioned before that dialogue represents the 'others' while monologue represents 'self' and these two are the essence of interaction. There is one more, depending on your world view. God, the creation. If 'others' and 'self' cannot be trusted, only God is left to be irrefutable.

If Ougi comes into the picture, Araragi can always solve the issue. If Hanekawa comes into the picture, whatever Araragi can't solve, she can. If Gaen comes into the picture, the problem solves itself.

Of course, this is all just breaking down the characters' catchphrases and distilling them. The three are not always in the picture and the story still presents itself very well. Even if they are in the picture, it's not always the case where the story is structured such that they're needed at all. It's just an impressive coincidence is all, for all intents and purposes.


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