Oh Nekomonogatari why do you piss me off so? But let's get back to the beginning. A few years back, my friend lent me his copy of Bakemonogatari singing all kinds of praise about the series. I have to admit I was kind of curious because it was made by studio Shaft and the main character was voiced by Kamiya Hiroshi who did so well in the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei series. I've watched the first 2 episodes and though "That was kind of cool, but pointlessly erotic.", but upon reaching the third episode I found myself bored with all the talking. After that I just skimmed through the rest of the episodes and confirmed that there is even more talking and questionable content there, so based on that I decided to drop the series. My anime tastes did change a bit over the time and I decided to give the Bakemonogatari series one more chance, though rather than starting with the first released series, I decided to go for the first series in chronological order that was released, namely Nekomonogatari.
Was it good? I guess it was in a way, because I did enjoy watching the thing, but at the same time the series made me feel annoyed. There are 3 main elements that I found annoying.
First of all are the dialogues. I know that clever dialogues are suppose to be the selling point of the series and the authors try really hard to make them clever, yet they don't feel clever to me. I enjoyed some dialogue driven series before like Spice and Wolf and The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi (though in case of that series it was more about the sarcastic monologues of the male lead), but the dialogues in the Bakemonogatari series don't seem to work (at least for me).
Another annoying element is the animation. I'm not saying it's bad, in fact it's very good, but the pseudo-artistic style cultivated by studio Shaft is starting to get on my nerves. When they introduced it in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei it was all the rage and it really fit the absurd and style of the series. However as the studio started producing more series, the style, which they felt the urge to incorporate in every single one of them, it simply started getting old. So what is wrong with that, you may ask? Anything and everything can happen on the screen at any given time. Characters may have the most boring conversation ever, but will be shown using bizarre camera angles, boards containing nonsense and non-nonsense text will appear for a fraction of a second and you won't be able to read them unless you pause the playback, drastic changes in animation style happen out of blue etc. Similar effects are also often applied to sound, for instance one of the characters will be filtered to sound low quality for no apparent reason while everyone else will sound normal. After a while it becomes tiresome to watch and distracts you from the supposedly clever dialogues. The worlds shown in Shaft anime can also be tiresome. We have some abstract location existing in an abstract space and there we have the characters talking with one another. The problem is, those locations are very empty, there is not another soul there and it feels very unnatural. It's really annoying if you are familiar with the source material, which most often doesn't resemble this style (though I'm not familiar with the Bakemonogatari source material).
The last annoying element is an easy one to figure out. As I mentioned before, the Bakemonogatari series (at least in the anime version) is pointlessly erotic. If all the random stuff happening on the screen didn't distract you from the dialogues, the fanservice might do the job. As weird as it may sound, I wouldn't really associate the word "erotic" with fanservice and ecchi, yet it's the word that describes very well what Bakemonogatari (or in this particualr case Nekomonogatari) has to offer in that department.
End of rant.
Nekomonogatari, as its name suggest, is a story... about a cat. Very much like the rest of the monogatari series, we find ourselves in a place where the supernatural, simple comedy, beautiful grafics, original story and [delicious] well versed prose, collide in a breathtaking production.
As we are used to in NisiOisin's work, the narrative of the plot is mainly brought to us in conversations and dialogs between the characters; (Don't go away yet!), and the astounding mind of Akiyuki SHINBO brings it to life in an unusual experience. There's action and gore, ecchi and fun, sure, but the true value of this anime is in the mood and the characters; letting yourself be astonished by the visuals; reading between the lines for a message that isn't there; falling in love with the characters and following a story you will never hear anywhere, told as no story has ever been told.
The story centers in Araragi Koyomi, an average highschool student that disregards friendship and love as weaknesses, and goes through life without much interest or aspirations... Oh, and he once met a vampire and became half-vampire himself. (With that simplicity Nekomonogatari presents us the supernatural, and therein lies its beauty.)
After said encounter, Araragi's life changes notably, in particular because he becomes close to a certain classmate that (he believes) saved his life. She's Hanekawa Tsubasa, model student, paragon of virtue, and the shiny new (and only at this point) friend of Araragi.
Nekomonogatari guides us through the discovery of Hanekawa's secrets and feelings; and details the first encounter of Araragi with the 'oddities' of this world (supernatural beings that exist among humans), through a deep exploration of the human nature and feelings. And... yeah, gore and ecchi.
(From here on, I'm assuming you saw Bakemonogatari, because it's crucial to understand the story in this anime)
As you may have heard, Nekomonogatarí is a prequel to Bakemonogatari, detailing the events of the Golden Week (mentioned during Bakemonogatari's last arc) after Kisumonogatari (Koyomi's Vamp). And one may think that after all the flashbacks we got (almost a full episode), we might find us with a mildly developed version of what we already saw... Wrong! Nekomonogatari brings missing links to a story we know how it started and how it ended. The relation between the Araragi siblings is explored a little further, and so is the relation between Koyomi and Oshino. But most importantly, Hanekawa's mind and past.
Nekomonogatari takes very seriously the voice acting, ambient sounds and music. Through out the story we find that the flawless voice acting of each of the characters brings them to life and pulls us into the plot without distraction. The music creates fitting scenes and complement the visuals with exceptional precision.
There's a new opening and closing themes here, that are quite nice, nothing too flashy.
And, on a side note, during the introduction, the closing of the last arc of Bakemonogatari (Supercell's 君の知らない物語) is used with great success to spark our memories and bring us back to Nisioisin universe. I really liked that.
I've been trying to moderate the use of passionate and subjective adjectives to this point, but in this section you'll excuse me...
DEAR ALL MIGHTY LORD! THIS IS (with teh rest of the 'monogatari series) THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING EVER COME UP FROM HUMAN HANDS!!
The art and animation of this anime is, without doubt, one of the best things that has happened to me, and I'll be forever thankful of being born in this era.
Honestly, if tomorrow an alien mothership or a celestial squad of angels came down from the heavens, informed the world that the purpose of the human kind has been met with this series and that's that, this is the pinnacle mankind and that there would be no more use for us in the universe... I would nod, smile and wholeheartedly agree.
Character development is one of the strongest points of Nisioisin storytelling, where we find ourselves getting engaged in the plot through the discovery of the motivations, past and secrets of the characters.
That said, Nekomonogatari steps out a bit from the usual 'monogatari line and introduce no new characters to the universe. Yep, we have Hanekawa Tsubasa, the Araragi siblings and Oshino. OH, and the cat.
I think that without watching Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari the viewer might be overwhelmed by the plot.Nekomonogatari isn't trynig to introduce the characters all over again, which is fine.
The characters develop consistent to themselves and in a way that they became what they are in the following seies.
Bonus Points: There are cameos of certain someone <3
It's no understatement that I'm a big fan of Nisioisin, Shinbo, Bake and Nisemonogatari. Which would suck because I would really have high expectations on anything related. AND they postponed Kisumonogari movie beacuse of Nekomonogatari, which was a letdown back in July.
But I do not lie when I tell you that Nekomonogatari exceded my expectations. It's a truly marvelous work, a worthy prequel and a must watch.
Nekomonogatari is a four episode arc focusing on the events leading up to Bakemonogatari. It follows Araragi’s search for the meaning of love and his quest to save his “love” interest, Hanekawa, from a cat spirit. This isn’t a particularly necessary arc to enjoy the first two seasons and I’m assuming that Monogatari: Season Two doesn’t reference the events of this arc too often, but it is still an entertaining piece that develops Hanekawa a little more and explains the weird relationship between Araragi and the class rep.
Neko is, of course, chock full of dialogue and comedy, though the focus on an inclusive few means character development is much better for those being focused on. Once again, it shoehorns Shinobu in for no apparent reason, not adding to her character so much as leaving her as a stagnant member of the cast. I want to like her, but she’s not presented well in the series. At the very end, I can understand her involvement but the donut scene was sort of pointless except for unneeded explanation.
Nonetheless, the script is still solid, the gore is great, and the ecchi is still there (though by no means on the level of Nisemonogatari).
Once again, the animation and style is where the series shines. Visual metaphors and sight gags abound. Cue cards are used much more here than they were in Nise.
A pretty good opening song, a decent ending song, and the great voice cast along with some hilarious sound effects makes for easy listening.
I’m not going to go out of my way to write a best girl for this measly season. Hanekawa is developed pretty well, giving us a better glimpse at her stress and how she’s dealing with it. The romance between her and Araragi is also developed enough to give us an idea of why he picked Senjougahara over a girl who’s obviously a lot easier to get along with. Meme makes a triumphant return, and, as usual, is brilliant and completely awesome. Shinobu is just...there, wishing to be a larger and less plot-device-y part of the series. And Araragi’s sisters are around, though don’t do too much. Character-wise, I felt it was lacking quite a bit of the charm of the other seasons, though this could come from the smaller cast rather than bad characters. I like Hanekawa and think she’s interesting to see develop, but she’s about the only one worth watching flower. Araragi's development is okay, but he's still really bland to me. And Meme doesn’t develop because he’s already a total badass.
It’s not at all a bad arc by any stretch; it’s just not at all one of the better arcs and doesn’t add much to the overall story that we didn’t already know. Despite that, Nekomonogatari is entertaining and does provide enough of what makes the Monogatari series great to keep fans sated for the short runtime.