Bakemonogatari – Review
Since Nisemonogatari will be airing in about a week, I figured that now would be as a good a time as any to talk about Bakemonogatari. I generally assume that everyone and their mother has seen this show, because of how ridiculously popular it was (and still is); just last week the blu-ray box for it was released in Japan and outsold pretty much every other show and movie, airing or otherwise. And of course Japan loves to milk anime franchises, so it’s no surprise that both the prequel and sequel novels have been adapted into anime as well. But if Shaft wants to animate the entire Monogatari series, I wouldn’t even dream about complaining.
Bakemonogatari is about Koyomi Araragi, a vampire, or rather, he was a vampire. One day at school he catches a girl falling from the sky and discovers that she weighs almost nothing. Later, the girl, Hitagi Senjougahara, confronts him about how he knows that she is weightless, and threatens him, telling him to remain silent about it and to never come near her. However, Araragi claims that he can help her and takes her to see Meme Oshino, the man who cured him of his vampirism. Together they cure Senjougahara of her condition; now wash, rinse, and repeat with four different people.
So in a sense, the show is basically the same as something like Mushishi, or even YuYu Hakusho; it’s just a string of episodic events dealing with a bunch of supernatural problems in the real world. In shows such as these, the story itself is never really the main focus of the show, but rather the individual arcs themselves. The entire Monogatari series is (for the most part) fashioned in this way, except for Kizumonogatari, which follows more of a linear plot. And Kizumonogatari is definitely superior to any of the other works, in my opinion, because it’s plot and characters are much more developed than in any of Monogatari novels. However, this show isn’t really about the “supernatural problem” aspect that lies at it’s core, but is definitely more about the characters and their interactions.
It’s been said by many people that reading anything by Nisio Isin is similar to “listening to people talk for hours, yet saying nothing”, and in a sense this is true. No one can overlook that a vast majority of his works are very heavy on dialogue, and even then a vast majority of that is kind of pointless, even in an action series like Katanagatari. While it is true a good portion of the dialogue in this show has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, the writing and dialogue are two of the best things about it. There are numerous scenes in the series where two characters talk for lengthy periods of time about things that aren’t really relevant to what’s going on in the story at the moment, yet these are what makes Bakemonogatati what it is. It’s really very similar to the dialogue and writing in Pulp Fiction or other films by Tarantino, in the way that so much of what is talked about has nothing to do with what little story there is. But this is why so many people love the movie; the dialogue between Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, and all of the cast is hilarious and actually makes them seem like real people. For example, what is the significance of Jackson and Travolta talking about how a foot massage either is or is not intimate, or Travolta and Thurman talking about the Fox Force Five pilot? Nothing- absolutely nothing. There isn’t a message behind any of it, there aren’t any plot points revealed, and there sure as hell isn’t any abstract meaning behind any of it; it’s just entertaining, plain and simple. The exact same thing can be said about this show. Why do we need to see Araragi and Senjougahara talking on and on about pointless things for such a huge portion of several of the episodes? You don’t, there is almost never any plot development in these types of scenes, but that’s because there aren’t meant to be, it’s there to make them interesting. This is what sets the show apart from any other similar in basic plot to this show; the fact that the writing is done so well.
Even with all of it’s great writing, the show wouldn’t be too much without it’s characters. Although most of the minor characters aren’t all that developed, it makes sense given the episodic nature of the show. However, each of the three minor girls (Hachikuji, Kanbaru, and Sengoku) are still entertaining, even if they don’t really matter all that much in the end. Each have their own quirks and personality different from the archetype that they loosely embody. They all somewhat tie in to the other arcs in the show, so they aren’t one time characters like you would expect from this type of show. Of course since Araragi and Senjougahara are the main characters, the most time is spent on their interactions and development than any other two people.
However, although it may not seem like it to most people, the two most important and realistic characters are Hanekawa and Shinobu, and if you say otherwise, it’s probably because you haven’t read Kizumonogatari. The only problem is that nothing really happens with these two until the last arc (the ONA segment). I don’t really want to say too much about it, but given that you have read the first novel, the entire last episode is one of the best scenes in the entire series. And yes, it’s all a single scene because literally eighty percent of it takes place in the same location with Araragi and Hanekawa barely moving at all. Now, I like Senjougahara and everything, but Hanekawa’s feeling are completely understandable, especially after all that shit that she went through with Araragi back when he had no friends at all; I actually felt kind of bad for her. Without a doubt, my favorite character in the whole series is Shinobu, or rather Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade. Once again, judging strictly from this series, saying that would just make me seem like a pederass, but really, she’s awesome; yet, explaining why has to be saved for Kizumonogatari. Even though she’s pissed off at Araragi throughout the entire show and never says a word to him, that twenty or so seconds where she actually does something is fuckin’ badass. And I really hope that it means that she’s actually somewhat forgiven him for what he did, because she obviously still cares about him. Of course it could be that she still hates Hanekawa for screwing up her plan in the first place, and would never turn down the opportunity to beat her ass. Still, I hope it’s the first one.
And obviously, no review of this show is complete without complementing on the artwork and how awesome Shaft is. If you’ve ever heard anything about this show before there’s damn good chance that it was about the art style of it. It’s kind of hard to categorize how this show looks other than “It’s Shaft”. The art style is surreal, yet realistic at the same time; you never see any other people besides the main characters, there’s odd lighting and coloring throughout the series, odd camera angles, and that’s not even half of the style this show. People often complain about the random text and other things that constantly flash onto the screen, claiming that it’s just an excuse to avoid animation in a show that is already pretty lax in that category. However, I don’t see it that way at all, it’s just a characteristic of the series; after all, it’s not as constant as everyone makes it out to be. I will concede that there isn’t really too much in terms of animation, but there can’t really be too much, with so much of the show being just people talking. That’s not to say that the majority of the animation is bad or anything, it’s just decent. But when Shaft actually decides to really animate a scene, it’s pretty amazing, especially during the fight in episode eight. It seems like more of the work was put into the overall style of the show than the animation itself, which is somewhat disappointing, but with how beautiful everything is and the constant dialogue, you never truly miss it. One thing to note, if you really want to get the most out of this series, download the episodes (720 or 1080, doesn’t really matter that much), don’t watch them on an anime site. Watching this series in anything below 720p simply does injustice to the show.
There really aren’t too many anime like Bakemonogatari. Not only does this series have amazing artwork, but the sheer amount of style that is has is almost impossible to describe. It also has what so many anime completely ignore: good writing and great dialogue. It’s truly an anime art house film, with thought put into every single random thing that’s put into it. And so, here’s hoping that Nisemonogatari will continue it’s predecessor’s tradition of awesomeness.