What is justice? During the seventh episode of Nisemonogatari, Karen and Koyomi both explained their ideals of justice and what it meant to the situation at hand. The way the story progressed, though, Koyomi’s version of justice disproved Karen’s more simplistic and romantic view of justice and the two came to understand each other in a wonderful scene of forgiveness and familial love. But is Koyomi’s definition of justice really acceptable or was his definition only suitable for the present story?
It’s first worth noting what Koyomi’s definition of justice is before exploring the subject. Koyomi believes justice is more than being right and more than being strong. Rather, justice includes these concepts but also requires a mental component, too, along with determination. It means to do the right thing but to do it in the right way and for the right reasons, to do it for one’s self and one’s own reasons rather than passing judgment on an unrelated issue. By possessing all these notions, being right, having physical and mental strength, and owning willpower, Koyomi believes only then you one is just and those who are just always win.
For completion’s sake, let’s also toss in Karen’s version of justice so we can understand what her ideas were and perhaps better understand where Koyomi is coming from with his theory. Karen’s view of justice is that justice is strength in doing what’s right which is why justice always wins. That is if you’re just or fair, you’re strong and you need strength to triumph. Or perhaps more logically, if you’re just, then you are strong and if you are strong, then you win. The reasons for being just do not matter so long as your morals are correct and you fight for fairness and equity, even if it means justifying your actions indirectly through others.
Though Karen’s theory was superseded by Koyomi’s, her version is not incorrect but rather incomplete. Koyomi’s theory of justice really builds off the foundation established with Karen’s theory but adds in logic and intelligence which creates direction and guidance for justice to be executed. Perhaps the similarity of these philosophies is why Koyomi was able to persuade Karen under his vision and why she was able to reject her own version and accept his so hastily. But really, both versions are correct, it’s just one is more acceptable than the other, much like those tricky multiple choice questions you know you got the right answer on. But are these versions of justice correct enough? That is, are these the best theories of justice for Nisemonogatari?
The author of Nisemonogatari, Isin Nisio, wrote these dialogues to present this argument of justice and to structure it in a way to depict this version as the best one. But couldn’t there be better ones than what Karen and Koyomi believe? The central and most significant aspect of justice is being fair. And that’s it, that’s all there is. Being fair to everyone means having equal justice for all. Now, figuring out what’s fair is the difficult part and why there are so many varying theories of justice out there. Because of this ambiguity, there’s a good chunk of an episode of an anime about justice and a whole post about it on this very subject. Quite frightening to think about it, really.
But the idea that justice is fairness produces a problem for the theories that the Araragis believe. It is never states who decides what is fair and what isn’t. This is what led to the argument, fight, escape, and brawl throughout the Karen Bee arc, both Koyomi and Karen saw what they were doing was justice despite going about it in conflicting ways. Yes, they had very similar ideas of justice and both realized that Kaiki needed to be punished but they could not agree on to what degree. Karen believed that her taking the place of everyone who was conned by Kaiki would be justice whereas Koyomi stood up to Kaiki for his own personal reasons. True that his own personal reasons basically included Karen and Senjougahara but he shares stronger bonds with his family and his lover than Karen does with ‘middle school girls who bought charms through Kaiki’. Karen saw that any injustice in the world was room for her justice to take place whereas Koyomi saw that any injustice in his world was room for his justice to take place. And it might be fun to see if Koyomi’s idea of justice is consistent throughout Bakemonogatari, too, or if there are variations within this concept. It might be confusing since it is a hard topic to describe but the scope of justice is not defined within the Araragi theory of justice.
Additionally, Karen and Koyomi had dissimilar ideas on how to execute justice despite having similar ideas initially. Karen’s version of justice would end with a bruised and unhappy Kaiki leaving down after Karen would use her superhuman strength to beat him to the point where he would learn his lesson. Koyomi, however, saw that forcing Kaiki to leave, without as much as any physical contact, would be a suitable outcome. Had either character witnessed the other’s version of justice, they would not be able to recognize it due to the varying degree of fairness within their versions of justice. They would claim that the other was not executing justice properly. This minor discrepancy between the two could be expanded to the rest of the cast, as far as Senjougahara who wanted to see Kaiki dead and to whoever would give Kaiki the least amount of punishment. This openness in the Araragi version of justice is only one of the few areas where there is room for improvement.
Still, despite these few areas where there are ambiguities, the Araragi idea of justice is quite strong and equally admirable. What they are doing is taking care of these problems in the way they believe is for the best with ethics and moral to back them up. And to execute this correction in the world, it requires both mental and physical strength along with determination to see things through to the end. It’s a romantic idea of justice that was presented in wonderful, meaningful, and an entertaining fashion and really completed the story of Karen Bee. It will be interesting to see how Karen and Tsukihi change following this story and if their occupation as the Fire Sisters will be affected as well. I suppose we might see something along these lines when Tsukihi’s story begins shortly.
I sincerely hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Kaiki. Though a disgraceful and loathsome villain, his conversation skills and outlook on life are truly amazing and I’m incredibly happy we saw that conversation between him and Senjougahara and Koyomi at the end of this episode. His personal philosophies and the way he words his questions and responses came together to construct one of the best discourses I have seen in an anime. Not only that but trying to decipher his lies from his truths made the conversation that much more engaging and intriguing. I hope he isn’t gone for good since it feels like he servers more retribution for what he did to the town but I can’t help but feel he’s off free since Senjougahara was able to move on from her past (her desire from confronting him) and Araragi saw the man ‘leave’ town (his desire from confronting him). But that doesn’t mean he’s out of the story, does it? I hope to see him return again soon and perhaps interact with some of the other characters although I doubt he’d be able to do so without facing repercussions from the familiar cast of characters.