There’s really something special about Monogatari when it can make two hours of material cover two characters just talking and baring their souls to each other and still make it very rich and compelling. Of course, quite a bit of it has to do with the characters involved in conversation. It’s interesting how Hanamonogatari – compared to the rest of the series – feels more “normal” just by changing its viewpoint character. Kanbaru, compared to the viewpoint characters thus far (Araragi, Hanekawa, Nadeko, Kaiki), is very normal. She’s just your typical, jealous girl who got involved with something that she shouldn’t have meddled with.
On the other side of the coin, there’s Numachi. Unlike Kanbaru – whose problems were caused by her taking action – Numachi’s problems were caused by her inaction. Kanbaru and Numachi are pretty much complete opposites – offense and defense, action and inaction, fortunate and unfortunate, God (神原) and the Devil. Quite fitting for a pair known as archenemies on the basketball court.
Which is perhaps what makes Hanamonogatari so fascinating: it’s two hours of Kanbaru and Numachi baring their souls to each other. Two completely different characters trying to come to an understanding is a timeless form of conflict. Hanamonogatari is the Monogatari Series‘ spin on the oldest form of conflict known to storytelling.
Although I said that Hanamonogatari is two hours of Kanbaru and Numachi arguing and trying to understand each other, it’s Numachi who steals the show. Kanbaru is a normal girl through and through, and Hanamonogatari reinforces this fact with her return to normalcy and how Kanbaru tells Numachi’s story. And like all normal girls – normal people – she has her own scars to deal with, which this chapter of the series tries to resolve.
Speaking of scars, Hanamonogatari is all about them. To a degree, the whole of the Monogatari Series is about scars – Hanamonogatari is about the regret brought about by these scars, and how people deal with the pain caused by these scars.
As it turns out, Hanamonogatari is also about the happiness that the misfortune of others brings. 他人の不幸は蜜の味 – the misfortune of others tastes as sweet as honey – is the theme of Numachi’s character. Perhaps this is all the more true for the audience: the way Numachi speaks of her misfortune and how she dealt with it is the highlight of the show. To some degree, I feel that the point of Kanbaru being the viewpoint character of Hanamonogatari is to bring contrast to Numachi. In both personality and the way that they deal with misfortune, Kanbaru and Numachi are complete opposites. The contrast between their roles in the basketball court fits their way of solving problems very well – Kanbaru heads straight on while Numachi just waits for the right opportunity. When Kanbaru rushed to solve her problem, Numachi took it in stride and even took it as an opportunity to collect the misfortune of others in an attempt to heal her own scars.
Though perhaps it’s better to say that Numachi runs away from her problems, while Kanbaru runs straight at them. At no point does Hanamonogatari validate either of their views on problem-solving; up until the very end, Hanamonogatari is just the story of two girls telling each other about their problems and consoling each other, despite the differences between them. Or, actually, it’s because of the differences between them that they’re the most fit to console and heal each others’ wounds. They can do so because they know what the other is missing, and what the other wants from them.
All of this ties into another one of Monogatari‘s themes: there’s no such thing as absolutes. Just as Monogatari claims that there’s no such thing as absolute good and absolute evil, neither Kanbaru nor Numachi were absolutely fortunate or absolutely unfortunate. In their cases, they were either just too absorbed in their misfortune or blind to their fortune, which led to their problems. Neither of them truly hated each other; they were just jealous of what the other had. And although they were opposite in personality, Kanbaru and Numachi were just two sides of the same coin, opposite sides of the same scale. They only needed to come to an understanding to balance each other out.
Hanamonogatari – despite its difference in tone from the rest of the series – is still very much part of the Monogatari Series; neither Kanbaru nor Numachi are absolute. The Monogatari Series is, after all, a story (物語) about humans.