I usually don’t wait for DVD-only or other kinds of extra episodes for writing a review, but for Bakemonogatari I made an exception because I thought that the final three episodes would air quite soon after the end of the TV-series. So I was wrong. My memory may be a bit fuzzy about the series right now, but I do want to talk a bit about why I didn’t like it.
But first, let me say the following: I’m usually a big fan of shows that feature lots of talking. Ergo Proxy, Mouryou no Hako, Amatsuki, I can’t get enough of them. I also like series that do something interesting with their art and visuals, to give us some kind of unconventional eye candy. I was set to like this series when I first started watching it… but the way it turned out just didn’t work for me.
Now, the reason I’m a fan of anime is the way that it combines storytelling, visuals and music into one. Even with series who have a ton of dialogue, they really focus on portraying these characters as they tell their stories. With Bakemonogatari however, this combination is completely gone. There are way too many scenes that don’t focus on the characters, but on some random eye, object in the background, or just a very far away shot of a bunch of people talking. The creators go out of their way to avoid animating the full faces of these characters. There are a number of episodes in which this gets carried way over the top: one episode has scenes of three minutes, at which it just does nothing but stare at the same landscape without any variation. Another episode consists for about thirty percent of just black and red screens with random text on it. The rest of the episodes are also riddled with these blank screens that don’t really do anything except break pace.
All of this results in the fact that this isn’t really an animation about a bunch of characters having conversations with each other. It feels more like an animated slide-show in which a bunch of voice actors read a story. If I wanted something like that, I’d go for drama CDs or something.
The way that the source material was adapted leaves also a lot to be desired. Scenes are dragged on for way too long with boring dialogues, while the dialogues that matter are rushed through. This series has this very annoying habit of hinting at back-story, while only devoting a few lines to what happened, if any. This is especially annoying considering that this is a harem, in which everyone and his dog just ends up falling in love with the lead character. Most of the motivations for these characters and their crushes turn out to be just superficial. For me the worst was the snake arc. It wasted so much time with pointless stuff and weird fanservice, while the real story was rushed, glossed over with hardly any attempt given to give the characters some depth.
Now, the series also likes to play around with poetry: there’s a ton of symbolism, and the original novel is full of wordplay, but in the end that doesn’t really amount to anything. Yeah, there are a bunch of word jokes, and when the characters talk about cats you see pictures of cat ears, those kinds of things. They will strengthen the experience if you did like the series, but for those who aren’t a fan like myself, they’re pretty much pointless.
Granted though, the budget and focus do get better near the end: the creators finally take their time to fully animate episodes, it wastes less time with pointless stuff and there are a number of scenes that have some really sweet animation. But even then, it’s not really worth it to sit through the rest of the series just to get there. This series advertises itself by fleshing out its characters through its dialogues, but to me, that’s rather failed. There are still too many characters who just have one side to them, and just feel like caricatures.
There really was a time at which I liked Shinbo. And I still consider him to be a good director. However I’d much rather see him put his full attention on just one series, instead of churning out a bunch of half-assed product that might or might not have their moments.
|Storytelling:||7/10 – Badly paced, and badly portrayed.|
|Characters:||7/10 – A lot of bark, but no bite. Most characters fail to impress.|
|Production-Values:||8/10 – I give this one the benefit of the doubt here. It cuts a ton of corners, but granted there are a number of scenes that are really well animated.|
|Setting:||7/10 – There is no explanation of the magic system here. Things just… are there, but I failed to see any cohesion or depth.|