Bakemonogatari might be the best anime of 2009, but I'm not sure. There's no doubt that the thing is beautiful. The character designs are brilliant, the colors striking, the scenery (what little there is of it) beautifully rendered. But I think this show suffers heavily from a bad case of "Not What's on the Tin" and knowing just how clever it is.
Bakemonogatari masquerades as a series Japanese horror tales, but actually tells a series of moral proverbs about teenage problems in modern Japan and therein lies the problem. Each episode compares the protagonist, Araragi, to the current arc's foil through a series of clever conversations designed to drive the similarity between the two.
Clearly, the each arc's new character exhibits monstrous characteristics in order to elevate her (of course, they're all girls) personal problems to a degree where the audience can get engaged in what are major but fairly standard teenage issues. The vibrant characters and witty conversations certainly keep me entertained and Senjongahara's jumped to the top of my favorite tsundere list (a feat, considering that I'm a huge Rie Kugimiya fan); however I can't escape the feeling that SHAFT is pulling a fast one on its audence.
Due to the constant jump-cuts and the odd inter-arc pacing, I can't tell whether this anime is truly brilliant or too-clever-by-half. The creative shot choices and focus on witty dialogue scream "good" in the art-house sense, but the major bait-and-switch the series pulled with its content and focus and its tendency to really hammer home its true theme through interminable conversations make the whole thing seem like a set up.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy this show. But I have the sense that it's carefully-constructed to garner critical acclaim for what's essentially a new spin on the age-old problems of teenage girls.