One morning, Suruga Kanbaru meets Ougi Oshino, who calls himself a nephew of Meme Oshino. He tells Suruga about a rumor of "the Lord Devil" that grants any wish. Suruga is worried that the identity of the Lord Devil is none other than herself because she made a wish on "the Monkey's Paw." The item was left behind by her mother, and turned Suruga into a Rainy Devil and made her try to kill Koyomi Araragi. In order to find out the identity of the Lord Devil, Suruga decides to meet the Lord Devil, but who she sees at the meeting spot is the most unexpected person - Rouka Numachi, Suruga's old archrival...
I watched this fresh off of watching Second Season, which I thought was great all around. Whenever this happens, I lower my standards for the sequel so I don't ruin it with high expectations. In this case, I still didn't like it. This whole series has a lot of dialogue, but it's actually interesting and develops the story somehow. Hanamonogatari has a lot of dialogue, but in this case I thought that they talked too much and I wanted them to just get on with the story. It seemed more like a side story than anything, with Suruga having a final character development at the end. I had a lot of questions after Second Season, and I was disappointed when Hanamonogatari gave me more questions. Mainly what's the deal with Ougi and Kaiki. I looked up the light novel series and found that there are a good amount of entries left to adapt, so many plot points aren't going to be resolved right away. Bakemonogatari was more self-contained, but these continuing seasons have a larger plot arc connecting them all. I don't like Koyomi with long hair. But that's just me. Hanamonogatari seems to serve the purpose of showing what finally happens with Suruga and her monkey paw, but the story that gets it there is not that interesting and stretched out too long. Ougi and Kaiki were interesting, but they didn't stay long. It's not really bad or anything, but if I'm looking at the series as a whole this would not be one of my favorite entries.
To watch this anime, someone has probably watched all the previous series and therefore already likes it, to have gone that far. It pretty much resembles the rest of the series in style and storyline. Story: This monogatari starts after Araragi has left for college and follows Kanbaru through a story of reunion with a former enemy. There are revelations about herself, as she goes through her choices and mindset. Once more, you get a thought provoking, moving and somehow twisted story. Animation: The animation is more symbolic rather than representative of the actual scenery, following the general style of the Monogatari series. It seems that it's a hate it or love it fairly modern way, which combines abstraction and excruciating detail. Sound: Some tracks are amazing and others just ok; in general the soundtrack is really fitting and catches the viewers' attention at the right times. Characters: There are only two main characters and only one whose point of view we assume, but their actions and ways are challenged in depth. Secondary characters mainly appear as means for the story to continue, but they are crucial and with little exception interesting in themselves.
I have started watching the Monogatari series with the most random title: Hanamonogatari. I don't remember what led me to choosing this as my start point for the franchise, but it was something related to Suruga's character design. I haven't even watched anything else in the Monogatari universe yet. And have still no idea what the other titles are about. Thus, this is an odd review from an unconventional viewer. Story and Characters: Blindly entering into the anime, I had no idea what to expect from the story. The first episode was a very weird experience to say the least. Never before have I heard so much dialogue in the first few minutes of an anime, let alone such a long monologue (Though there were small bits of Suruga's Mother's voice between Suruga's huge dialogue). I constantly had to pause the episode to catch up with the subtitles and this became a constant for all 5 episodes hehe! This story is completely dialogue driven. There is very less action, if at all, and you have to be very attentive towards the phrasing. Of course, it was a delight to see such a good writing being delivered with an equally good voice acting. The interaction between characters was smooth. This all adds up to a nice delivery of some philosophical bits, especially the entirety of Third Episode which was nothing but Suruga and Numachi having a conversation. Despite being such a slow burner, it was still very entertaining. Of course I had a lot of difficulty in understanding most of the references to other characters in the franchise that didn't appear in this show. There was also a huge part of story carrying over from other shows that went over my head. And I was also exposed to some spoilers about characters that were revealed in previous entries. And this is all my fault. However, I have to mention that Hanamonogatari still manages to be a good stand alone anime if you're okay with not "getting" a few things. Suruga and Numachi were both very interesting and they're already one of my favourite female characters in anime. I hope I find other characters to be just as appealing when I watch rest of the Monogatari shows. Animation: Along with the story, I had never seen such a different approach to animation before. Every episode was a feast for eyes. Detailing was huge and put me in awe all the time. Hanamonogatari easily has some of the best aesthetics in an anime I've come across. It's lovely! I doubt it's for everyone with how abstract and thoughtful it tries to be though. Sound: I think even if the background music would've been missing, the voice acting alone could've made up for it. But the background music here is a cherry on top for the overall experience. It matched very well with the type of scenes and dialogues without drawing much attention to itself. It was like salt in food: with the right amount, it makes the food taste perfect without giving out its own presence. Maybe I liked Hanamonogatari so much because it's my first show in the Monogatari universe but it has done a damn well job of piquing my interest into other shows. I'm looking forward to enjoy them all just as much as this one, if not more.
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