So I decided to take up another large anime project and have settled on the Monogatari series. Famous for its dialogue-driven stories full of supernatural phenomenon, I thought “hey, sounds like a blast.” What I got instead, sugar coating scraped off, was a hit-or-miss subtitle-heavy anime that, with all careful decision in mind, I might not explore to its fullest.
“Ghostory” centers on Koyomi Araragi, a high school boy who, after surviving a vampire attack, became half-vampire himself, giving him various powers such as regeneration and heightened vision. To the best of his abilities, Araragi lends a helping hand to five different girls who have also become entangled with ghosts and spirits. His first encounter with the sadist tsundere Ms. Senjougahara Hitagi, however, sets him down the path of frustration yet eventually love.
I came into this anime expecting dark, twisted stories about ghosts and the occult, but instead I got a romance harem. *sighs* The series is divided into five different arcs – one for each girl – and while each one is interesting and rounds out a particular character to a considerable degree, the lack of coherence to each story chops up Senjougahara and Araragi’s overarching relationship. In an anime filled with nothing but dialogue, each arc manages to keep the story fresh, but their relationship suffers heavily.
In terms of character dialogue, there is nothing wittier than this, well, besides Okabe and Makise from Steins;Gate. Crafty wordplay, playful teasing, and intense argumentative banter are so well presented in Bakemonogatari that often times than not, it’s even worth reading in subs. Sure, some of the comical value of the puns is lost, as I sadly do not know Japanese, but the interactions are still super entertaining. A downside to this factor is that these quirky conversations can last the span of half an episode, where the characters are just standing around or sitting on a park bench. AS SUCH, THE SHOW CAN BE EQUALLY BORING.
Another disappointing thing was that arcs would begin mysteriously and uber creepy (YESS!!), but then they sometimes build up to a lackluster finish. For instance, I really liked how “Nadeko Snake” started, but man, it was such a boring finish. This show was good, but not a masterpiece by any means, and I honestly don’t know if I want to watch the second season.
Each of the girls have been “cursed” so-to-speak by an apparition, and as a result carry some sort of deformation that affects their body: Hitagi’s physical weight was stolen from her, Mayoi can’t seem to return home, Suruga’s arm became that of a monkey’s, so on and so forth. In addition to their dilemmas, each girl is a personification of various anime girl stereotypes – but with a twist. Take Hanekawa: class rep, studious, kind, but has parental problems at home. Suruga is the loud athletic girl, but she’s extremely perverted as well as a hardcore lesbian! These additions not only help personalize characters, but they feel more realistic, too.
Watching all of the characters interact with each other is where this anime shines. Because the show has such a small cast, each of the characters are explored and developed quite thoroughly. Even Araragi is hilarious to watch, witnessing his switch from lolicon to pervert, serious man to joker! The comedic skits are fast-paced while the “return fire” in arguments are just as quick-witted! Great voice acting, especially for Araragi and Senjougahara, also helps to bring out the sass talk!
Animation studio Shaft brings it all together with its attractive presentation. Silhouettes, background shadows, geometric lining, extreme symbolism and color balance are all presented with such unity that it’s truly remarkable to watch! Not to mention, varying camera angles and flash frames attempt to keep those long conversation scenes as exhilarating as possible. Also, it’s hilarious to watch the characters anger Araragi; I love all of the cartoon faces that he makes!
About the flash frames, though – while some shows flash a couple of words that can easily be read, Bakemonogatari seizures us with occasionally paragraphs of plot-important text. I found myself slamming the pause button every five seconds during the episode openings where they are most abundant.
As for OST, the fight scenes are not necessarily well-supported, but the lengthy conversations have several strange and upbeat scores playing in the background. While the OST is not worth mentioning, the fourth opening “Ren’ai Circulation” by Kana Hanazawa and the fifth opening “Sugar Sweet Nightmare” by Yui Horie are both really catchy!
Bakemonogatari is a very surreal anime built around cursed characters that try to fight their own nightmares. They speak cleverly, some a bit smart-assy than most! I strongly recommend walking into this anime with an open mind, as lots of information are thrown at you – and you gotta read fast! Underneath all of the jokes is a memorable cast of colorful and deep characters, each complete with a story of their own no matter how grim, and it’s all about diving into their personal hell and finding the cure so that they can be at peace once again.
“If I kill you, that means I’ll be the one closest to you when you’re on your deathbed. Isn’t it romantic?” – Senjougahara to Araragi
+ Incredibly well-developed characters with entertaining dialogue
+ Sense of “something’s not quite right” establishes great tone
+ Shaft’s unique animation adds to the series quality
– Lots of subtitles to read
– Drastically boring during periods without suspense
Haha, Senjougahara, I’m not sure if that’s romantic, but it’s definitely true (and freakin’ weird)! If you want, you can watch the first 12 episodes of Bakemonogatari on Crunchyroll for free, and you’ll have to find the last three episodes somewhere . . . umm . . . on the web. What did you think of this anime? Does it get better after the first season? Staplers and head tilts!? Let me know in the comments, thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been
– Takuto, your host