Nisemonogatari and Being a Phony

fake justice

I mentioned in my post before I traveled across half the country that I was watching Nisemonogatari, which might be translated as “Tale of the Fakes” or “Tale of the Phonies.”  Watching through episode seven made me ponder just what a phony was in Nisemonogatari’s book.  The ideas surrounding the issue reminded me of this great passage from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  Razumihin begins berating Raskolnikov by saying:

“Well, go to hell then,” he said gently and thoughtfully. “Stay,” he roared, as Raskolnikov was about to move. “Listen to me. Let me tell you, that you are all a set of babbling, posing idiots! If you’ve any little trouble you brood over it like a hen over an egg. And you are plagiarists even in that! There isn’t a sign of independent life in you! You are made of spermaceti ointment and you’ve lymph in your veins instead of blood. I don’t believe in anyone of you! In any circumstances the first thing for all of you is to be unlike a human being!…And if you weren’t a fool, a common fool, a perfect fool, if you were an original instead of a translation…”

Only Dostoyevsky could pose this problem so well: “If only you were an original instead of a translation…”  The reason Raskolnikov stopped being human is because he murdered an old woman for money and a sense of power.  His crime destroys his humanity.


One character in Nisemonogatari who fits the same description is Kaiki the con artist.  Sin detracts from our humanity and thus from our originality.  Of course, “errare est humanum,” but sins are sins because they make us less than who we were meant to be.  Our Lord came to deliver us from sin, and we slowly walk, slip, fall, and stand back up again on the way of perfection until we see the image and likeness of God made perfect in us in heaven.  In our perfection according to God’s image and likeness lies our originality.

kaiki wallet

But, I do think Nisemonogatari distinguishes between two kinds of fakes: the completely fake and the almost original.  Kaiki, because of his preference for money over the service of God and his fellow man, is a complete phony.  He introduces himself as Kaiki with the kai spelled as the clam/kai in “a mound of clams” and the ki as the ki/tree in “a dead tree.”  This brings to my mind Our Lord’s cursing of the fig tree.  The fig tree did not produce fruit when our Lord needed it, so it was cursed with barrenness.  Kaiki imitates the clam in its refusal to offer itself: Kaiki refuses to offer his talents for the good of his fellow man.  Also, like a dead tree, he bears no fruit.  A perfect name for a villain!


Yet, a different sort of fake is symbolized by Karen Araragi.  She is almost original in that we see her using her talents for the good of others.  Where she lacks originality, as her brother aptly notes, is that she has appropriated other people’s desires and does not know what she really wants.  She merely plays.  But, her play reveals that her talents are genuine, which indicates that her true calling is not far from her play.  One day, she shall discover the true purpose her martial talents and give up her play as a seigi no mikata–ally of justice.


And the majority of humanity undergoes the same struggle as Karen in finding their true purpose.  People try to advise us to take one path or another, but we can ever only truly find our path through looking at our own hearts and praying to the God who made us all originals.

12 comments on “Nisemonogatari and Being a Phony

  1. Ah, medieval, reading this reflection of yours has increased my interest in the Monogatari series. Looks I’m gonna have four SHAFT anime in my watchlist now (the other three are Madoka Magica, Hidamari Sketch, and Nisekoi)…Of course, I’ll also look at its source material. Freaking nuts! ^_^

    Also, I think we all have a desire for truth, and I think that we should do our best to seek and spread it while strengthening each other’s fortitude against the pains that come along with looking for the truth!


    • iblessall says:

      Of the three I’ve seen (Madoka, Nisekoi, and the Monogatari series), I would definitely say that Monogatari is the best of them all. And truly, anything that you may find offputting in Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari is paid up in full and more once you get to Monogatari Series: Second Season.


    • Exactly! Learning the truth is a hard journey, and the hardest part comes in trying to obey the truth without understanding it that well. But, we can hope that our understanding and obedience will increase over time.

      I’m glad to have increased your interest in SHAFT. I must confess that I haven’t seen the three anime you’ve mentioned. I’d recommend ef – A Tale of Memories and ef – A Tale of Melodies. One sees the beginnings of the crazy style of animation seen in Bakemonogatari and Mekaku City Actors in that series. And, amusingly, they targeted that show to Catholics. I’m not sure if they succeeded too well in that regard, but those are two great stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. […] This is probably gonna feel like the time when I read a text, which was for Art Studies 1 lesson, about the meaning of art, which happened yesterday. You’ll probably go “What?” at some times, and if you’re a practicing Roman Catholic like me, you’ll probably go “God, I’m confused, please help me” with a genuinely serious tone at some times as well. I do acknowledge the possibility of someone taking it calmly, though. Maybe medievalotaku can help me keep calm in this quest as well. Anyway… […]


  3. David A says:

    That’s the one with the infamous and incestuous styled toothbrush scene?


    • Yeah, in episode eight. I actually decided just to skip that episode after watching a few minutes of it and reading in the comments “Wow, they made a whole episode on that?” No thank you. 🙂

      I’m pretty sure many animators never grew up with little sisters. If they had, the idea of an incestuous episode would likely never cross their mind. Let’s hope and pray the Japanese birth rate increases.

      Nisemonogatari is pretty weird, but I find myself interested despite that. And, I heard the payoff in Monogatari is worth it.


      • David A says:

        Some people in another blog were debating about incestuous relationships in anime, and what is their appeal among some fans (and authors). One of the reasons they gave, was about how easy could look for the characters to have a romantic relationship with someone so close to them… but, that ignores how things work in real life… and if you couple that with the immorality of the concept…


  4. David A says:

    Now that someone mentioned Monogatari Series: Second Season, I remember checking blogs when it was airing, and some episodes contained various vulgar scenes.


  5. […] Medieval Otaku looks as the falsehoods shown in Nisemonogatari and what role sin and purpose can play in being phony (or genuine). [Medieval Otaku] […]


  6. japesland says:

    Great stuff! I love the Monogatari series for all that can be gleaned from it!


  7. […] Medieval Otaku looks as the falsehoods shown in Nisemonogatari and what role sin and purpose can play in being phony (or genuine). [Medieval Otaku] […]


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