An Ode to Kaiki

Title CardStay classy, Kaiki Deishuu. (source: pixivid 971852)

Back in my post about Hanamonogatari on Random Curiosity I joked that I could just have written the entire post on Kaiki. Only half-joked, apparently, because right here is a post devoted solely to one of the best characters in anime in recent memory. No, it’s not 1500 words–we’re not trying to dissect his character, just appreciate it.

Spoilers for everything in the Monogatari series regarding Kaiki. So basically Nisemonogatari, the last arc of Monogatari: Second Season, and Hanamonogatari.

Kaiki is one of those character types that is often attempted but not always successful: both anti-villain and anti-hero, without never really completely renouncing either role. He fits perfectly into the amoral world of Monogatari; in his own words what exactly Kaiki is depends on how you see him. This makes him a very versatile character who works in various contexts and also a very useful one; the ambiguously aligned Kaiki is allowed to make big speeches without the scene looking too much like an author soapbox. And that’s what he does: makes big speeches, and you’re allowed to take it as you will. He’s also the token adult; while the pubescent main cast is always characterised by conflict Kaiki is never fazed. As a ‘bad guy’, he’s feels subtly dangerous. As a ‘good guy’ he’s a stabilising factor.

InterludeLook at me! I’m multifaceted! (source: pixivid 1540359)

Kaiki as a villain

Looking back at Nisemonogatari, it’s funny that despite Kaiki being such a prominent antagonist he doesn’t actually do much. When confronted by the protagonist he instantly gives up and sounds the retreat. Yet Kaiki is still despicable. It helps that he’s a self-professed liar, because we’re invited to believe that his harmlessness is also a bluff. The fact that he’s the established antagonist but shows little resistance simply makes us more wary. Of course, the lens through which we view him is also not supposed to do him any favours. If you had any empathy for Senjougahara before then you would have definitely felt her hatred for Kaiki. But society has also conditioned us to feel antipathy for Kaiki. Malicious liars have historically been universally been condemned. There is measure of trust required in both personal and business relationships. And if not trust, then at least consistency, which is all we ask.


Kaiki as anti-hero

The thing is, though, once we dig a bit we find out that, in a way, Kaiki really is a very consistent character. At the very least, he’s consistently a liar. Like an onion Kaiki has many layers, but when you peel them back you find that he’s actually lies all the way through. So deep are his fabrications that they start to loop back on themselves. Kaiki is a liar even about being a liar. As for as being a ‘ghost buster’ goes he’s actually the real deal, but he chooses instead to operate like a con artist. He’s neck deep in the supernatural but still does not believe in any of it.

So, is Kaiki also just pretending to be a villain?

It’s easy to reflexively answer yes, but it doesn’t give Kaiki enough credit to say that he’s ‘just’ pretending. Yes, Kaiki’s not exactly a ‘real’ villain but that doesn’t matter. Remember that Kaiki’s philosophy is that those who are faking it are much more real than the real, if only for the effort. Consider how much work Kaiki puts into maintaining his amoral egocentricity. In Koimonogatari he does not even entertain the idea of helping Senjougahara out of the goodness of his heart. Altruistic outcomes are purely incidental, perhaps because the other time he tried to actively do good for Senjougahara it backfired. Kaiki doesn’t do anything different compared to Nisemonogatari. He’s still makes his living as a con, only that only that for a while he’s been our con and that makes it better. Just goes to show: it’s all a matter of perspective.



To tie it all together: why does Kaiki love money? It’s a very fitting character trait for Kaiki. Money is intrinsically fake. Currency is no more than an abstraction–albeit a powerful one. It’s just a representation of value. Those bits of paper and plastic and metal are just something humans have collectively decided has worth. But it’s this very nature that allows one to turn it into anything. Sure, a barter system involves more substance. But the fake–money–is much more useful in practice.

That said, it may be a bit much calling money ‘fake’. Even if the entire financial market is just an idea, ideas that people believe in have power. All Kaiki has are words, and words are no more than a human construct too, but while sticks and stones may break my bones the pen is mightier than the sword. The wreath-fire bee, the slug tofu–all that may just be mind tricks. But Monogatari is a series that values intellectualism. Mind over matter is real. And that goes with Kaiki too. What is he, really? Whatever you believe he is.

End Card(source: pixivid 1337257)

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