NOTICE: This review covers both the Nisemonogatari sequel, as well as the upcoming Kizumonogatari movie, since there is no difference amongst them to deserve separate analysis.
Bakemonogatari (directly translated to English as Monstory) is a combination of so many themes and genres that individually it seems to be pure win. Yet eventually is just a big mess of good ideas without much effort to tell a story as much as pandering the audience (ie making money). So if you want to fully enjoy it, see it as fan service with artsy touches and not as an amazing concept with fan service for garnish. At best it can be seen as an interesting series of smart gags and wordplays in a psychedelic setting of artistic expression. At worse it can be seen as a big pile of weirdness that never seems to get anywhere other than throwing excuses for erotic foreplay.
But let’s not stick to this sort of dried up explaination so I’m just going to say it with a straight face. Most viewers will easily be mesmerized by Nishio Ishin’s playful writing and Shimbo Akiyuki’s artistic directing to the point they won’t even notice or care about the lack of plot. SHAFT comedies are always about style over substence but it’s not like they lack the later. It’s just that they go very easy with importan issues to the point the themes become background noise and you end up watching this for the wacky visuals and the funny dialogues.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 2/2: Artistic as hell. Every second of it is a blend of real life images, pasted cardboards, 3D images, walls of Kataganas, plain character designs, major deformities, parody references to other anime and lots of high quality fan service. The designers gave their best to create a series that is making your mind think like it’s on LSD. A wonderful work of fiction that is set apart by the rest just by looking at it.
Sure, it ain’t unique if you have watched other comedies by the same studio, such as Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei and Maria: Holic. Still, it is a style you will love at first sight no matter if you have seen it before… or at least hate for being so damn multilayered. Every scene is a symbolism to something around Japanese tradition or way of life or a cultural reference in general. And it even makes fun of this by presenting clichés in a way they look funny for being like that. For example, every few episodes, the intro changes to something that has nothing to do with the series. It just presents the current girl in the show in slice of life situations, as if the series is some moe school romance or comedy. It is just a joke as you never get to see all that. It is just an intro to the character’s supposed normal life. Playing around with such things creates a mindstorm of emotions and thoughts. And it works.
Character Figures 2/2: The characters are generally drawn simple and most of the time they get deformed or turn to weird references to some other anime or cultural symbol. Yet, there is also high budget in between but it is all reserved for fan service. For you see, the only moments it looks highly detailed is when some girl undresses or shows off her underwear or the camera zooms to her moe face. Thus it combines the abstract with the mainstream; it aims to make you feel weird but still does not forget to offer you the stuff you find in run of the mill ecchi shows. Although I always found fan service to be distracting you from the real quality of the series and generally lowering its credibility, over here it is just some extra before the next joke jumps in. So, I didn’t found all this simplicity or focused erotism as bad or unneeded. It’s just that as the episodes go by the plot becomes slower and the fan service increases tenfold in Nisemonogatari, to the point you stop watching it for the context and just have fun with the high quality sofporn. This tends to make it seem silly after awhile.
Backgrounds and Visual Effects 4/4: It is almost impossible to separate backgrounds from visual effects as they both serve as symbolisms and cinematics at the same time. They are used intellectually to transmit ideas and emotions to the viewer so I consider them far more successful than just dry pictures that just fill the background with colors. Of course, there are so many references and Japanese texts flashing by that you will miss most of the meanings if you are not very well informed of Japanese tradition and the history of animation in general. Still, they are both marvelous to stare just for their weirdness alone.
Motion Fluidity 1/2: Well, if I can detract points, this is the place to do so. Motion is rather scarse in this series as the characters mostly stand still and flap their mouths allowing the backgrounds to transmit the rest. Although that does not seem as a bad thing, they still feel like everything is rolling or sliding and not walking with 18 frames per second. It kinda gets to your nerves after awhile. Even the few action scenes in this series appear as random attacks and throws thus they have little to none realism. Not that this series is realistic but it feels way too much like a picture book story. Also, the general quality drops a lot in the final episodes (budget ran out and screwed the series again) so even that leaves you with the impression that everything in this series is cartons and Playmobils sliding by without joint movements. Of course it is not awful and it does have smooth motions when fan service in involved. It’s just that it doesn’t happen very often.
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 3/3: Ah, great dialogues full of phrases that you will remember for a life time. The talking is sarcastic and highly symbolical, turning even the most mundane topic to a spiritual insight, a wordplay, an arousing erotic remark or a shout of human angst… Or plain trolling just for the lulz. You will love them even if you don’t get them.
Music Themes 2/4: Nothing memorable. Unlike the animation the music themes are either average silly pop songs or repetitive monotonic background music. Nothing to remember in the longrun.
Sound Effects 3/3: Just like the visuals, the sound effects are blending along with cinematics and backgrounds and timing with character reactions to something, thus becoming very pleasing to listen to.
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 1/2: Although it begins very mysteriously, it soon turns to some episodic formula of “help girl A and then head for girl B”. It is supposed to be about the lead being surrounded by pretty girls (token loli included) that have something supernatural about them and need his help to get rid of their curse. Think of Mushishi gone haywire to get the basic idea. Well, it is not that serious as down to it they just talk, make jokes, show bare skin for a couple of episodes and then get healed and leave from the center of the story. In fact, the story is closer to a run by the mill harem anime ala Air, where the lead helps one pretty girl at the time before moving to the next and practically never seeing the previous one again. Or even closer to xxxHolic for being too focused on aesthetics rather than plot or development. Nothing much but an excuse in all.
Complexity 0/2: Being episodic, means there is little to no relation of one arc to another. Some characters return as cameos but in all don’t aid in the plot in any serious way. Thus, it is a generally linear scenario made of stand alone arcs.
Pacing 0/2: The pace was ok in the first half. It was still weird and was giving off the idea of a solid plot. Sadly, towards the end it becomes very erratic, with events running in fast forward and missions feeling uninspired. Thus, it ends up being another series that went under the pressure of time and lack of money. Even when they made Nisemonogatari later on with even higher budget than the first series, the speed of progression was close to zero. There is in all very little plot in it.
Plausibility 1/2: Well, everything mentioned makes sense, no matter how much extreme it sounds. The plot is the thing that suffers as battles and looking for answers just doesn’t mean anything to the story other than making you laugh or arousing you with spicy talking.
Conclusion 1/2: Meh, there was never much of a story in it and the one that was there was left incomplete. The vampire girl was not even dealt with in the first season. They did make three extra episodes to wrap the story later on but the series itself has no ending at all. And even the one provided by the extras was again nothing you wouldn’t guess anyway. As for Nisemonogatari, they are fooling around until a stupid Phoenix thing happens in the end that is resolved in a boring way.
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Presence 2/2: Sure, they are all very attractive and funny and erotic and crazy enough to pay attention to them. By the way, the lead is voiced by the same person who voices Zetsubo Sensei, and the production team is the same so he will probably pass to you like a spin off from that cast. If not the show entirely that is.
Personality 2/2: Just like in Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei or Maria: Holic, the characters behave almost entirely as caricatures. Stereotypes being made fun of and plot elements to an otherwise simple story. SHAFT seems to make only such kinds of characters and they feel too similar in behaviors and too unrealistic as personalities to actually care about them as entities and not comic reliefs or ero archetypes. Still, as far as caricatures go, they offer the best of their archetypes through dialogues that practically troll the male lead into hilarious reactions. The verbal abuse everyone uses on him is more than enough to not ask for more.
Backdrop - Development - Catharsis 3/6: Eh, half their backdrop is presented in an ironic intro for each girl individually and the other half comes from monologues. Sure, it works. But not like they end up as different people. They hardly ever affect other arcs. And the fact that the series ends suddenly, leaving at least one girl overlooked hardly meant they ended their development. But even the later episodes had nothing to add to their personas so who cares. Nisemonogatari continues in the same way by adding the protagonist’s horny sisters to the lot but that is pretty much all of it.
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
Analysis: Historical Value 3/3, Rewatchability 2/3, Memorability 4/4
It is a very easy show to remember or rewatch as it has most of the things casual viewers love in anime.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
Nah, I half liked it. Unlike Zetsubo Sensei, Bekemonogatari (and any other similar series like Maria: Holic) have a very specific story and setting which end up outliving their interest from the viewer after awhile. They are supposed to head for something but end up being nothing other than trolling monologues just to make you laugh and fan service to make you horny. Stopping suddenly because the money ran out or having stupid resolutions to important issues also damaged its image. So, it is a good idea as far as presentation goes but in practice it fails to deliver any closure or even a believable plot that doesn’t repeat itself to the point of saturation. This drops the chance to watch it again or even finish it with good impressions. Personally, I think the chances to rewatch it are fifty-fifty as you will either don’t like the craziness; or will like and rewatch just to remember all those arrays of bullet trolling and smart dialogue.
Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei
So, I tried to watch Bakemonogatari.. but I couldn't get into it.
The first thing you see is a panty shot in the first 30 seconds of the first episode; as someone who does not like women like that, or female ecchi. That was a "Really?!" moment. I was going to be open minded and watch the rest of the episode regardless of the fact.
I got up to episode 3 and I just could not watch it anymore.. but not because of the ecchi or the fact that the main character is a heterosexual perverted creep like the rest of the characters in other anime.. but I just found the entire show incredibly boring.. sometimes the characters go on and on about nothing.. and I am completely daydreaming while watching the show.. it's just a snoozefest for me, so I gave it a 3 out of 10... I just don't get the hype at all and the only reason why I tried it out was because I read it was like Mekakucity Actors, which I had recently finished and thought it was amazing.
Bakemonogatari is one of the very first anime I've ever watched online in 2011, initially it didn't have a good impression on me because the many walls of text and the 3D'ish backgrounds were a bit annoying, but the dialogues are so funny and interesting that everything else doesn't really matter anymore, the first episode was enough to get me hooked in the whole series.
About the animation I like the details they put in faces/all characters in general, also there're different openings for each arc (I love Hachikuji's so much) and the ending changes slightly every time, not to mention the awesomeness of the theme songs (Supercell, nuff said).
Regarding the walls of text, I highly recommend to pause the video and take your time to read them because sometimes there're written important details. If you're new to this series, even though Bakemonogatari was the first anime adaption, I think would be better to start watching from the prequel (Nekomonogatari: Black - or Kuro), but this is just my personal preference for any anime series in general, I watched Bakemonogatari first and I don't regret it!
Just checked out Bakemonogatari 1-4. It definitely piqued my interest, though I'm not sure if its pros outweighed the cons.
Overall, Bakemonogatari is a bizarre yet solid watch for Summer 2009, but this is a rare instance where I'm recommending to watch it once a week as it airs, rather than trying to watch it all at once. Normally I do the latter because otherwise I can't remember enough to write a review with the piece meal method, but in Bakemonogatari's case, watching a few eps in a row are a quick path to a nap.
I came into this knowing the reputation of the Monogatari series. I.E. this is a bizarre series with an avant garde presentation. But by the end, I'm convinced Bakemonogatari is damn near perfect.
It's characters are charming, fun and lovable. The story paces itself very well and drew me the hell in. In addition, the main perspective character is funny, neurotic, and his subtle character arc through the series was masterfully done, with the events of the show subtly changing both his and his friends demeanors.
Not to mention, the animation quality is delicious and gorgeous, with my one complaint being still frames with too much text on screen. The Monogatari series is based on a series of light novels and Bakemono splices tons of the original text on screen, but for only a second or two at a time. So either be quick on the pause button or don't bother.
I know I bang on about spoilers and the avoiding thereof, but Bakemonogatari is a trip. It's fun, it's funny, and it has a lot of heart. And it all comes together to create something genuinely memorable. And its packed full of details within details that take multiple viewings to appreciate. Whether you are curious of this show because of it's odd reputation, visuals, or because you watched that toothbrush scene from Nisemonogatari (like I did), whatever drew your attention towards your series enough to read this sentence: Watch this show.
http://theangrybears.tumblr.com/ for more reviews. Like my review for the prequel to this series: Kizumonogatari.