Posted on 14 August 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Monogatari Series

Well done Monogatari for building up a final showdown that is tense, not by the climatic battle but by the amount of information release, how the pieces of the puzzle finally get into place. An ending that tied up everything the show has paintakingly constructed from previous dozen arcs; an ending that emotional satisfied and an ending that unlike any other ending. Usually for the climax this crucial, all the important players will be in place to play their roles; here in Monogatari, it’s an one-on-one confrontation, mostly through talking, and concluding with a single line of acknowledgement on top of it. Monogatari series has always been a show about growth, about characters who learn about themselves and embrace their dark side. Thus, isn’t it fitting that after saving all the girls, it’s time for Araragi to face his darkness and save himself? Growth, after all, is about acknowledgement. It’s until Araragi acknowledges his dark side that he’s truly become more mature. How NisiOisin make an ending that perfect and conclusive really prove me again how I fall for his style in the first place. The following paragraphs will content huge spoilers of the whole Monogatari series, so if you don’t want to spoil yourself, I guess I will see you out there in the chatbox.

Gaen makes herself very clear to Araragi by her two “minimum requirements” in order to reach everyone’s objectives: assign a new Deity for the North Shirahebi Shrine; and exterminate Ougi Oshino (one of them ultimately failed by the way). Since Araragi unexpectedly bring Mayoi up from hell, she becomes a perfect candidate as a new God for the shrine. And to think that the catch phrase that I always overlooked “Kami Kashita” is a forshadowing all along – from back to episode 3 in 2009. My hat off to you NisiOisin. If you really notice, despite having a large cast, Monogatari never had more than 4 characters in the same sequence (something I’d love to write more about, another time), up until this episode. Here, basically Gaen’s monologuing and info-dumping us much needed expositions about the history of the Shrine, and how everything came to the way it is now. The exposition is long and demanding, so Shaft again uses their old tricks to engage our attention: having Mayoi and Ononogi playing around, and then emphasis on irrelevant topics like playing baseball and cricket (something I’d love to write more in deep some time, again. I regard this technique as “the art of distraction” to keep our attention). Originally Gaen intended to put Shinobu as a Deity, but it’s rather fitting, and surprisingly make so much sense to enshrine Mayoi as a new Deity. The snail that defeat the snake part is a bit of a stretch to be frank, but all those info had been planted well before in previous arcs (notably, Shinobu Time and Hitagi End) that it just comes all together in a neat package.

The second minimum requirement is to exterminate Ougi. But what makes Ougi dangerous is that her true identity is a total mystery. In fact, she has only two purposes: to eject those broken the rules, and to point out how imperfect Araragi’s approach is. The one thing left she knows she has to do is to exterminate the biggest “fake” of all: Tsuhiki the Phoenix. Tsuhiki, stays true of being one of my favorite (but under-developed) characters, and stay true to herself, doesn’t care about the future and just simply enjoys the present. That what her character always is: embracing the present, having fun while supporting what other people do, especially Karen and her brother. “I’m pretty good at living.” That is indeed a marvelous thing that she can say confidently. In that moments alone, Ougi feels compassionate towards Tsuhiki’s “fake” nature. Coming to face Araragi, I sense something about Ougi I had never felt before. A hint of sadness. She comes to the fight knowing that she’d get suck by the Darkness, but it’s the fight she has to fight. Kudos to the seiyuu of Ougi who give such a demanding performance that make her sound emotional towards this final climax, a feat that isn’t easy to pull consider her spooky emotionless role.

And here, all the concepts the show has built throughout its near-decade long all surface: The act of selfless sacrifice for the sake of others. The concept of rightness. Justice. We know before that Araragi keeps pushing himself over his limit results in him slowly losing his humanity. But he also forms a guilt towards those girls that he had helped: regrets that he could do it better, feelings that he cheated because of his vampiric immortal ability, blame himself for the unfortunates of others. All those negative feelings, plus the strange occurrences of the town (most notably during the First Minion’s period) that create Ougi – or Koyomi Darkness. Ougi is an appariation that has all the special abilities of those girls he helped, specifically assigned to attack Araragi, form a justice that oppose to his very ideal and has a dark intent to crush all the girls and his ideal down. Araragi just does what he thinks is right, and Ougi does what “right” by eliminating the “wrong”. In the end, no one is truly right and wrong. And Araragi just doesn’t give a damn about what is right anymore and come saving her instead, if it means that he would be exterminated too. That act, that Araragi finally saves himself, is the biggest personal grown for him. Bye bye adolescent. Araragi now becomes a full-fledge adult and Ougi the Koyomi Darkness now becomes Ougi the niece of Meme Oshino.

All the girls all make an appearance in this last episode. It’s rather heartwarming to see how much Nadeko has grown since her last arc, and she’s cute now because she doesn’t try to be cute. Hanekawa’s still kicking ass, getting Meme back all the way from Anartica goddamnit (the only place where there is no oddity, thanks to the Lost Cow effect by Ougi) and Shinobu shines just by little things that she said. Brilliant. I would love to see more from Kanbaru but this ending just hit all the sweet spots in my body, so I’m done complaining. This is a conclusion that easily justify the insane amount of time I have been following this series. I’m not at all joking when I say I’ve grown along with Monogatari and at a specific time of my life few years back, this show, along with their characters who struggled for their own issues, connected deeply with me in a personal level. As for what my opinion is about the possibility of further adaptation of the Monogataries series. As much as I love the whole cast and its universe, I believe that the story (pun obviously intended) has run its course. Monogatari series had been blessed with too much efforts from Shaft and I would love to see the same kind of attention for some other materials out there that needed adapting. Not sure if I can be able to grade this Owarimonogatari, or the whole Monogatari objectively so I guess I will spare you guys on the full review. Monogatari is one of a kind series, there’s nothing like it, just like there’s no place like home.

Posted on 13 August 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Monogatari Series

This arc certainly is a calm before the big storm, in which instead of the final showdown promised at the end of Mayoi Hell, we have a date between Araragi and Hitagi, a day after his college exam and a day before the actual graduation. Their last date as a high schooler. Normally I would be in tears because seriously, a date when we’re nearly reaching the climax? But I’m totally at peace since it offers more Hitagi’s precious time. As much as most people regard her as the main heroine in Monogatari series, in truth she barely has any screentime at all. Her first own arc was right at the start of the whole franchise, and her second arc was a disguise of Kaiki’s arc. As such, her presence is always there but she has mostly relegated to scene-stealing moments from other arcs (most notably, in Sodaichi Riddle).

Well, as far as a date goes, Hitagi and Araragi spend some sweet times together, and I’m honestly quite surprised that their date is really a normal date. No battle between appapriation. No other characters interfere (actually, yes, but this girl Ougi hardly counts) and they enjoy their date like any normal couple would do: driving a car, going to the planetarium, playing bowling, drinking some tea and singing karaoke. It kinda funny to know that she intentionally put up a penalty: the promise of absolute obedience for loser but then keep losing the challenge to Araragi. Especially, in a karaoke turn when she sings her own song “Futakotome” and somehow still lost to Araragi when he sings Hanekawa’s song (guess what the karaoke’s comment was? “You have very high singing skills, but emotional expression seems slightly week” Great touch there Shaft. A true tsundere huh?). At first, I thought she goes easy on him in bowling but after learning about her request, this isn’t the case. For all her manipulatiion and emotional demanding, the request is as sweet and simple as ever: Hitagi wants Araragi calls her by her first name for the rest of their lives, meaning their relationship is taking more intimate step this time.

Ougi again appears like a shadow and she’s as spooky as ever. Well, her true nature is still a question mark (and finally we going to have a glimpse at it in final arc) but her intention is getting clearer this time. Her main role is to eject those that have broken the rules. In addition, she clearly states that she isn’t the Darkness, an entity that almost swept away Mayoi’s existence before. The long-winded presentation about the constellations from Dream Ougi might not make much sense, but I’m digging how she compares the Hydra with Shinobu. Now that the show mentions it, it was the same method they kill the Hydra that almost killed Kiss-Shot: cutting their heads/limbs apart and destroy those before they can regenerate. Apart from the nightmarish air she always manages to bring, this time around I can also sense the desperation from her. She knows that she’s in inferior position right now, she knows damn well that she’s about to step into the enemy’s trap, she knows that not only she has to face Gaen, she will face off invincible Kiss-Shot as well. But as a “principle of the universe” she won’t back down, knowing that her chance to get defeated is coming right near. She asks Araragi for his assistance and Araragi has a tendency to take on such request from any girl. The big battle is coming near and I’m sure heads will roll this time.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Monogatari Series

The Monogatari-fest is reaching near its end. For those of you who are slightly off about the current events; here’s a brief break down. Araragi wakes up in Hell and learns from Mayoi that he had been killed – chopped off by the kokorowatari – by Gaen, just so that he will be resurrected back again. Sound like a meaningless roundabout course of actions, but in truth, there are some subtractions and additions involved. The “subtractions” part: his vampiric ability is fully gone and thus, restore Shinobu into a full-fledge sparkling eye-winked vampire lord Heart-under-Blade (such heartwarming to realize that even now when their bond is broken and Araragi is no longer her “master”, she’d go such length – threatening to rip Gaen apart – to bring him back). The “additions” part: Araragi also grabs Mayoi back up, the decision that wasn’t initially planned by Gaen, but something she did expect from him; and a neccesary time to reassert his actions and learn more about his role in this masterplan.

I must say that the cast of Monogatari is one of the rare cases that I have personal attachment to almost all of the characters; and I like Mayoi well enough (her matter-of-factness regarding her staying in hell to pile stones up everyday like it’s a part of mundane daily life totally won me over). But the chatter banner between Araragi and Mayoi has always been one of its weaker, more questionable part that does more harm than good in my opinion. Even at large, the introduction part when characters get together has never been Monogatari’s strong forte as they usually rely too much on established gags and wordplays that really hard for us, foreigners to comprehend. Here, Araragi apparently is all over the moon and can’t keep his desire to “touch” her. Bleh. Apart from that though, even with her role this time as an assistant for Araragi to lead him back to surface, Mayoi more than hold her own. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that his help meant the most to Mayoi more than any other harem character. Others still have their lives beyond their apparition nature, her life was an endless cycle of wandering alone – the lost snail. Thus, more than anyone, she understands about how all his efforts really worth, as a result she won’t accept the low-esteem, woe-is-me Araragi. That’s why when she’s furious and hits Araragi for his insecure rubbish, it holds so much weight. For all of its “heavy-dialogue nonsense” and “irrelevant visual style” and “weird characters’ poses”, the series’s heart is always in the right place because the show understands the characters’ struggles and sympathy with them.

As Mayoi leads him to meet Teoru, they pass through all the girls he had “saved” with a “what-if” scenario. What if he didn’t save Hitagi back then? What about Hanekawa? Interestingly, he always regrets about saving KissShot because obviously his life would take a very different turn had he walked away from her. Even in Nadeko’s case it’s a sense of regret that he failed to help her, or to be more exact, he failed by helping her. But make no mistake, although he’s at his lowest confidence, if he had a second chance to redo everything, he’d still help those girls out. This episode also raises another interesting theme: the difference between doing the right thing and correcting mistakes. I believe this will tie up to Ougi’s arc as she always believes that she does the right thing by erasing the part that don’t function like it’s supposed to. I highly believe that she was the person behind the darkness entity that threaten to erase Mayoi in “Mayoi Jiangshi” for example and I think the reason she said she’d come into the trap that Guen prepared is to exterminate Kiss-Shot for good.

I didn’t expect to see this guy Teoru back, and he has one or two intesting expositions to spare. First, all his kipnapping, his supposed “death” in Yotsugi Doll was all scams to deceive Ougi. In reality, since he failed in his own experiment, he became an entity himself: half human – half monster, wandering the boundaries of material world and the afterlife. Meme got him into the plan and he was put in hell to prepare for this moment: bringing Araragi back to life. Second, he also reveals the person who ordered him to exterminate Araragi and Shinobu: none other than Ougi. Really love the fact that this episode set in Hell (that made it the third Hell episode I’ve seen this year, all of them were fantastic), so that Shaft even has more opportunity to go wild on the visual; and the visuals were spot on for most part. The OP is good though a fair bit forgettable. Now that all the pieces are fit into place, we’ll head to the next equally important part: Araragi and his college entrance exams plus his full date with Hitagi the next day. Unbelievable, right? That’s Monogatari series for you.

Posted on 2 August 2016 with categories: Anime Reviews, Monogatari Series, Reviews by SuperMario, World Animation

Just a quick note that I originally intended this week’s review to be about Miss Hokusai. But because of the DVD release of this Kizumonogatari (with good subtitle to boost), I decided to bump this up and review it instead. Monogatari series has been among one of my favorite series, and certainly the one that I spend time the most. Sorry Miss Hokusai but you will have to wait for few weeks later. When it comes to Monogatari series there’s simply no competition, okay? Now, let begin.

It’s always a tricky line when you are making a TV movie when you think about it, because you have to please both the fans of the series, along with new audiences who never see the series before. In other words, you have to make a movie that maintains the elements, tone and themes that make the series famous, at the same time the movie has to have something that can stand on its own. In that regards I always consider that The Adolescent of Utena is the best TV movie adaptation ever in anime. The way it reimages the plot of the original show, updating the settings, altering some plot points, and then goes completely bananas with its theme. Kizumonogatari has a bit of advantage, since it is also based from the light novel as a prequel to Bakemonogatari. The film was originally announced to be adapted right after the first series, back in 2010. Six years past, with the presence of many following seasons, there were doubts whether or not Shaft going to adapt it at all. Then comes the announcement of not one film, but a trilogy. This movie is just the first part of the trilogy, and clocking at exactly 1 hour, the film doesn’t hide the fact that it’s not self-contained, instead the film pleases itself of placing a groundwork for more events to come in latter parts.

Kizumonogatari part 1 nails many of the show’s distinctive features. Audiences who already love the series will find a lot to enjoy here. There are long, snappy dialogues, the distinctive but messy style of visual, the sharp impressionist art backgrounds, the insert screen texts, the ecchi undertone and of course the head-tilts. They’re all here. Its quick styles of visual prove to be too much for some, but never fail to impress (there’s a reason that my avatar is from Monogatari). The color palate changes according to the mood the characters are in or the topics they conceive. Monogatari is one of the few examples on how a great adaptation should be, in the sense that they don’t need to adapt it faithfully, but take the tone, the theme of its source material and turn the show into a very distinct visual feast (The Tatami Galaxy is another example). After all, light novels and visual anime shows are two different mediums, there is something that work well in one medium but will not work in another, hence taking an artistic liberty to the source is a very necessary task. Many characters that we come to know and love has returned for the film, or to put it more correctly, appear for the first time together. It’s actually very nice to see those characters before everything happen, when they are still insecure and naïve.

Yet, this movie sets itself apart from the series for so many reasons, or I should say, this movie is an update version from the series. While usually I don’t like the use of narration, Monogatari series is one of the best example on how to use the voice-over right. Because every character in the show has their own distinctive voices, using narration to understand the way they think, the worldview they possess feels deeply personal. Yet in the movie, the inner voice is stripped down and what we have instead is the external experience. The film shows what the characters experience through pure visual storytelling instead of relying on what the character’s inner thought. The first sequence of the film is the perfect example of this approach to create a sense a paranoia we feel along with our main character Araragi. We literally follow our main character’s every footstep, see what he sees, hear what he hears. In the sequence, Araragi wanders around an abandoned building. He’s shaking and terrified, completely out of place. It is a nightmarish situation in which Araragi couldn’t get out of and we sense his uneasiness. All this were achieved without any spoken dialogue.

Moreover, if there is one element that truly stands out in the film, it is the sound designs. The film uses a more jazzy, popular melodic soundtrack that fits the scenes they play like a glove. My favorite piece of soundtrack happens when Hanekawa and Araragi meet up for the first time after the “incident”, the soundtrack goes Latino and sweet and upbeat, but later when Araragi encounters the vampire Kiss-Shot, the soundtrack goes dense and off-putting. The sound, or the lack thereof, complements the movie in so many way as well. I have to note that the sound designs, just like the visual presentation, are highly unconventional. The film use sounds like the tickling clock to represent the sexual tension of Araragi when he thinks back about Hanekawa’s underpants and big boobs, or use baby cries to substitute for the desperation of Kiss-shot when our main character refuse to help her, or the distorted sounds of people talking to illustrate the un-humanness Araragi is becoming. The more I think about those sound designs, the more I believe that the movie has outdone the series in so many level. The settings also get new designs: the old abandoned cram school, the high school and Araragi’s house have these new looks and it’s a joy to watch. As did with our characters. The characters have their own distinctive appearances and ask me which hairstyle fit Shinobu better, I would choose this one without hesitation. Unlike the series that I have mentioned earlier, the color palate in the film is dominated by the bright yellow and orange colors, which for me is very suitable, since Kiss-Shot has yellow hair (and she’s very important to this story), the yellow ray of the sun (which also very fitting with the theme) and most of all it makes the blood looks less terrified.

Story-wise, the film contains 3 parts: Araragi and Hanekawa meet for the first time; Araragi finds a limbless vampire Kiss-Shot on a verge of dying and decides to help her; Araragi on his mission to retrieve Kiss-Shot limbs in order to reverse back to human, with the help of Oshino Meme, a “negotiator”. Actually, for those of you who curious, the very first opening section of Bakemonogatari is basically a very quick overview of Kizumonogatari and contains the prequel’s most important scenes. Now I don’t encourage you to watch that to spoil yourself, but you might check it out to see the different in approach and design between that “preview” and the actual movie. That is for me what Kizumonogatari would look like if it were adapted 6 years ago. The second part of the film is easily the best part of the film, the way it mixes the natural world of the first part and the supernatural world of the last part, in addition with the visual and sound designs to create an eerie and quite disturbing atmosphere. Monogatari has tackled difficult and even depressing subjects before (the whole Sodachi’s acts), but this is the only time where they manage to put the viewers in and make sure us stay there with Araragi with an unflinching look.

So what’s to expect for the next two movies then? Oshino Meme mentioned that the whole thing now is too unbalanced that he can’t help but to step in; and he is the negotiator who bridges between here and there. Araragi thought that this is them (Araragi and Kiss-Shot – the Vampires) against human (the Vampire executors), but then Meme remarked again that Araragi and himself are human. If he can pick up something from that, he should have realized the reason Oshino Meme steps in is to help Araragi against Kiss-Shot. She’s hiding something and at this moment she just manipulates Araragi in order to get her full power back. Like the film states clearly in the beginning, “This story about a vampire has an unhappy ending – It concludes with everyone becoming miserable”. Don’t expect a joyous ending here, but that’s precisely the reason I look forward to the next movie.

Overall, Kizumonogatari part 1 is a worthy successor to the series, and a major step up in terms of production values and its visual storytelling, which is a feat itself consider that everyone have an extremely high expectation from it. Still, I have a hard time to score it alone as this one is clearly just a set up for more to come, but at least I could say that it succeeds in what it sets out to do. Lastly, to the question whether this movie would be a good place to start for newcomer. Well, I always prefer to go with the airing order, because they have been written that way (Kizumonogatari would be the third release in light novels). But I’d say the newcomer would welcome to watch this, because the movie both maintains many trademark elements from the series, and it’s chronically a beginning of its all. The only downside with this is you then have to wait for almost a year for the full trilogy to come out and it’s no fun waiting.

Next post, I will review one of my favorite film and personally the best animated film of this decade so fa… scratch that, this is one of the best film of this decade so far in any form, animated or not. Expect a high score here. Stay tune!


Posted on 17 March 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Monogatari Series

To start this review, here is where I was coming from when starting Nisemonogatari: I really did not like its predecessor, Bakemonogatari. I had a ton of problems with how Shaft executed that series; it was trying too hard, the tons of still frames, far-away shots and blank frames made it look more like a slide-show than an actual anime, the characters bored me, the subject material didn’t feel interesting. It was a chore to sit through. In the meantime though, Shaft changed a lot. It’s not like they stopped making boring shows (Arakawa’s second season was a pain to sit through…), but their successes have allowed them to get a budget to actually animate their series really well. Enter Nisemonogatari.

To my surprise, I actually liked this series. I have a ton of problems with it, don’t get me wrong. But they actually get less in the way compared to Bakemnonogatari, and I was actually able to enjoy the good stuff inbetween these flaws.

Now, by far the biggest improvement and the biggest reason to watch this series is the visual presentation. Unlike Shaft’s early work, the characters in this series are actually animated, and they’re animated really well. Heck, Nisemonogatari was by far the best animated series of this Winter Season, and that is with a season that has a Shoji Kawamori series and a Brains Base series. There is a ton of creativity in the images without looking like it’s trying too hard with pretentious references or unnecessary convoluted detail. This show is a visual feast.

Bakemonogatari also really got on my nerves with its really poor storytelling. It had a ton of dialogue and all, but in the end its arcs never really seemed to amount to anything. To my surprise however, I actually really liked the way in which the both arcs that comprises this series resolved themselves. The dialogue was actually used well, and the growth tat the different characters go through is much more interesting. So yeah, I liked this show. but it really made it hard at times.

You might notice that Bakemonogatari had 15 episodes which combined to five different arcs, and even then it was dragged out. Nisemonogatari has 11 episodes… and consists out of only two arcs. It takes forever to get anywhere, and especially its first half drags on horribly. And ti does so with an ungodly amount of fanservice.

Seriously, this show randomly brings in characters, giving them a rather shallow reason to appear again and then proceeds to have them walk around naked, bathe with the male lead and all kinds of other stuff. At best it’s creative and clever, but at worst it’s realy distasteful. You’d think that at least the dialogue would make up for it, but even that grinds to a halt when the characters end up talking about nothing else but fanservice, over and over and over again.

This really ends up eating away at the majority of the series. The entire female cast needs to have had a long dragged out fanservice scene with the male lead that doesn’t go anywhere. It’s just way too much. Just as you think you’re done with one girl, the male lead moves on to the next and it starts all over again. The important lines that are tacked onto it that actually develop the characters and add more to them feel tacked more than anything. This show even jumps the implied incest bandwagon without really contributing anything to it. I don’t mind fanservice if it’s used well and all, but this was just way too much.

Thankfully, the points where it gets down to business, it really becomes good, and this series does really give some good insights into its lead cast. The dialogue whenever the fanservice isn’t involved is actually dedicated to fleshing out the characters and the wordplay is more put to the side-lines. Watch this if you want to see an arthouse flick, because it definitely is a well directed visual feast.

Storytelling: 7/10 – Great dialogue, way TOO MUCH fanservice.
Characters: 8/10 – Good development, interesting cast, well fleshed out characters for once.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Gorgeous and fluid animation with very creative shots and images. The music is nothing special, though.
Setting: 8/10 – Even though nobody seems to live in the world of Nisemonogatari outside of the main characters, the underlying themes make up for itwith some neat ideas and backstories.

Dororon Enma-Kun Meerameera
High School of the Dead
Michiko e Hatchin

Posted on 25 February 2012 with categories: Monogatari Series, Winter 2012 Kaleidoscope

If I had to give this season a label, it’d be the Winter of WTF. Seriously, Nisemonogatari: you as well?

Anyway, for the reason of this post: there just wasn’t anything interesting this week. Danshi was more miss than hit this week, Ano Natsu continued with that boring beach arc (though admittedly it was much better than the week before), Inu X Boku was the same as what it’s always been and I don’t want to repeat myself on it yet again, Black Rock Shooter has completely descended into forced emo and Smile Precure still is in that boring introduction arc of its. Which brings me to Nisemonogatari.

To my complete surprise: I actually liked Nisemonogatari this month. Heck, for the past weeks, it did exactly what I hoped it would do. Something actually happened, and I actually really liked the way the Karen Bee arc was resolved. It was an anti-climax, but it worked well and was very well built up. Finally I actually got the chance to enjoy this series for what it was and marvel at its animation without being bothered by everything else.

However, the fact remains: this show is just way too long. The first episodes of Nisemonogatari were pretty much Araragi walking around until something happened, and passing the time with tons and tons of fanservice. And it lead to this episode. I have very mixed feelings for this episode. I really want to praise the creativity here. The toothbrush scene was just weird in every single way. The animation and direction were also excellent. At the very least: this was a great piece of animation. But this show has also just completely turned into a farce. Is this show too going for the incest? I thought we finally dropped that dead horse. If this was an attempt to be subtle and clever, that part of it at least failed, because it 1) has already been done by a ton of other shows and 2) exactly went back to the themes of the first few episodes in which hardly anything happens aside from tons and tons of fanservice.

I really consider Nisemonogatari better than Bakemonogatari at this point. Another great annoyance that’s gone now: the series no longer feels like watching a bunch of voice actors narrating over a slide-show. They actually animate the characters here. This episode had some of those “ahoge-shots”, but they were far more balanced than before.

I really noticed that after Bakemonogatari, the animation in the Shaft series improved significantly. They seemed to have especially invested a lot in inbetween animation, and the first series where this really stood out was with Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru. For once, this series actually doesn’t feel rushed. Now that they actually have a period of one year in which they release just one series, they can actually focus much more on making that show good. It’s just a shame that it wastes so much time on pointless fanservice over and over. If it was just some random fanservice I would not have minded, especially with the creativity that this show had been doing it. But there were just large parts of this show were nothing just happened aside from the characters talking about random smutty topics. It’s just too much. Still, this episode did show the most amusing ones, even though in the bigger picture it was just blah.
Rating: #%&! (???)

Posted on 26 June 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Monogatari Series

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.

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