That’s when I realized! That I had become a child who would be found. So I broke into tears of happiness. No matter how far we’re separated, you two would definitely find me. It’s nice knowing someone will find you. (Himari Takakura, Mawaru Penguindrum episode 24)
As a kid, I loved to explore. I was caught in the tides of my own imagination, swept along in the dreams of being a conqueror, a warrior, an adventurer, a lonely storyteller. Before I knew it, the waves crashed, and I was somewhere distant, far away from my mother’s hand. I often got yelled at for this, to the point where it almost became expected for me to wander off, whether it be in a museum, a movie theater, or even my father’s office. In my eyes, what were the bland confines of space and architecture were the beginnings of something grand, personal, and magical. Being lost wasn’t just a selfish desire for me to indulge myself in my own fantasies, but they were also the beginnings of my need to be independent. To stray from my parents, and become something of my own.
But as life has it, I grew up. We all do, at one point. It swells deep within our bodies, making us grow large and tall, changing our physical features, and giving us a torrent of new and strange experiences. And while puberty is a constant for any human being, maturity is different. It’s a personal, intimate understanding of what it means to grow up emotionally and mentally. For me, one of the most important steps in growing up was establishing trust. It meant making compromises – and one of those, was not wandering off anymore. I had come to realize the importance of family, despite seeking independence.
When we are first introduced to Hachikuji Mayoi, she is staring intently at a map. Our perception of her is bent through Araragi’s eyes: we see a naive girl, stubborn enough to face Araragi head on and wave off his help several times. Through repeated interactions however, we slowly come to understand that like Senjougahara, beneath the firm and confident personality is a desperate one, seeking family again. Mayoi doesn’t blame her parents’ divorce like Senjougahara does, but she does blame herself for forgetting, and seeks to redeem herself by finding her mother. It’s only at the end of Mayoi Snail that we realize that not only has she been wandering to see her mother for a very long time, but any trace of her actual house is gone, demolished and replaced by the foundations of another.
It doesn’t stop Mayoi from releasing her guilt, but it also doesn’t stop Mayoi from remaining lost. You can replace houses, but a home is something that stays with you. A parent’s love cannot be removed so easily. Mayoi may have been walking in circles for years, but at the heart of it all, she’s still a kid: desperately trying to find a permanent home. As lost as she may be however, her problems give Araragi an answer to his own and to go back to his family and cherish his own home a little more.
By the beginning of Nisemonogatari, most of the main characters’ arcs have been set up and major conflicts temporarily resolved. The only person who has yet to be free from their situation is Mayoi, who continues to wander, serving as a earpiece for Araragi when he’s doubtful as to where to tread in his relationships with family and (girl)friends. While she becomes less active in the stories of Nisemonogatari, her friendship with Araragi becomes emphasized as all the more special: one based on trust, assistance, and honesty. This is seen in the first episode of Nisemonogatari, where Mayoi not only advises Araragi on hiding his supernatural problems from his family to protect them, but also mentions that he is the only real person she has a relationship with.
In a way, I guess I was just walking around, saying “isn’t Araragi-san’s house here? I haven’t seen him in a while! Maybe I can see him again.” (Hachikuji Mayoi, Nisemonogatari Episode 1)
Mayoi may be lost, which gives her a sense of independence and insight that the other Monogatari girls may not have, being wrapped up in their personal problems. But it still makes her a lost child, despite her courage. And like any child, one always needs a home. Just as Araragi finds his answers in her wisdom and strength to wander, Mayoi finds her home and answer in Araragi. He brings her back with trust; they both are at their most mature when they need each other, and it makes their moments some of the most profound and emotionally sincere in the series.
I’m 23 years old now, planning to finally move in a direction away from my parents and establish a home and life of my own. I’m a grown up adult with the consciousness and maturity to make my own decisions. But even as I get ready to wander and take off, part of me will miss – and always miss – the comfort of my parents’ presence, and the ability to still be a kid. It’s nice knowing someone will be there to find you, after all.