I really, really meant to review Bakemonogatari way back when it aired, since the show seemed to captivate the anisphere. Here’s the thing: I was never quite sure what I watched. To me, the show was overly complex when it didn’t need to be, a continual tease, and only “intelligent” in the way two teenagers up late talking about life can be. But I held my tongue. I could never form a set of arguments that satisfied me. Nisemonogatari, on the other hand, I understand and was prepared for. This time, I get it, because if the prequel was everything people said of it, the Spring 2012 show is definitely worse.
Nisemonogatari’s TV run picks up shortly after the end of its prequel series and sees Koyomi Araragi spending time shirking his studies and visiting his various friends. While the anime starts off touching base with its characters and serving up the meandering conversations for which Bakemonogatari gets so much praise, eventually a pair of incidents surrounding Araragi’s “Fire Sisters” become the show a semblance of a plot.
Sadly, Shinbo gets in the way more in this season than the last. He turns the fanservice meter up to to eleven, exchanging the clever banter for lovingly crafted shots of his underage beauties. Sure, the first season had its awkward moments of lingering on jailbait, but this time, we spend significant portions of the plot watching Araragi oggle, fondle, and play twister with teenage girls with very little story-related payoff. The infamous toothbrush scene--during which Koyomi and Karen play a punishment game in pretty explicit imitation of a sex act--in particular drags on for an uncomfortable amount of time and doesn’t do much more than provide cognitive dissonance with Araragi’s later explanations of filial relationships.
In contrast to the scattered storytelling bringing down the anime, the visuals deliver precisely what the audience has come to expect from Shinbo at the top of his game. While the direction remains avant garde at times, the animations ensure that the characters and settings appear as lovingly rendered as possible, and the juxtaposition works. The constant cuts work better in the more intimate setting of this series and either work to intensify the action (the few times when it does come up) or create an almost tactile understanding of a scene in his viewers (see: the pencil or toothbrush scenes).
The character designs help Shinbo in his quest to provide the best visual experience. Each character can flow between eerie, moe, and attractive almost at will without damaging the coherence of a scene, and again the disjointed direction helps ease the transition between the silly and the serious. The mercurial and flexible portrayals work best with Koyomi, Kanbaru, and Kagenui who work hard at hiding multiple sides to their personalities and identities. But it also helps to add surprising depth to Hachikuji whom the script treats strangely.
For all that Renai Circulation should still be banging around in some of your heads, Platinum Disco manages to raise the bar. Its combination of traditional sounds, upbeat vocals, and a pop baseline makes it one of the best offerings of the year.
Once again, Hiroshi Kamiya gives us a super-plastic Araragi who really saves the show. Since he’s in just about every scene and spends a good portion of the time wandering all over the emotional spectrum, this performance determines whether the narrative holds together at all. That he succeeds frees the rest of the cast to stick to caricature. Of these, my personal favorites are Maaya Sakamoto’s Shinobu, Emiri Katou as Hachikuji, and the delightfully petulant Tsuhiki played by Yuka Iguchi, although my preference for those characters clouds my judgement. Fans of aloof tsundere should still find Chiwa Saito’s Senjogahara easy on the ears and the newcomers playing Kagenui and her familiar provide excellent ‘otherness’ so needed for the roles.
Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari play with the shifting space between characters as tropes or ideas and characters as interesting, layered personalities. The earlier show’s meatier conversations create a wide-open space for exploring each characters’ quirks as he or she (mostly she) banters with Araragi. Here, however, something seems off. Araragi spends too much of his time alone in the first half of the show or beating around the bush as the first conflict winds up. Moreover, Suruga and Nadeko, who had displayed their personal conflicts and quirks prominently before, flatten into their single defining traits for their brief appearances which feels disappointing after their humorous arcs in the first season.
Even so, some characters shine through the odd direction choices. First and foremost, Hitagi’s moments near the end of the Karen Bee arc show a vulnerability and depth of emotion to her that works well at complementing the sensitivity shown near the end of the first season. Retreading her weakness provides some much-needed cracks in her cool tsundere. Shinobu gets a similar treatment that has her bounding between violent legendary vampire and lonely little girl. Isin binds the two personalities together using her condescension as glue, which allows her to be aloof, ironic, and earnestly concerned about Araragi without stretching the limits of her characterization.
Its prequel straddles the line between self-importance and brilliance. Nisemonogatari, however, distorts the formula sufficiently to lose some of its shine. The top-notch visuals and exceptional sound direction don’t entirely excuse Shinbo’s explosions of fanservice and stuttering plotting, but fans of the first series should still find lines of character development worth following and many of the same themes on display. If you liked Nisio Isin’s first installment, you should take this second bite, just don’t expect it to blow your mind.
This season continues on during the summer we left off at. The main focus this time is on the Araragi family. The first 2/3 focus heavily on Karen, the last 1/3 emphasizes Tsukihi. We are given a pretty in depth look at both sisters (both figuratively and literally, as the ecchi this season is a lot stronger). Karen's is quite interesting and focuses on a somewhat dark story that also involves Hitagi as fates intertwine. Tsukihi's however, it was far less interesting really. It feels more or less tacked on. You learn what you need to about her, but it was not very interesting, although fitting if you think back to S1.
There is far less emphasis on those "spirit animals" this season, as it is more story based and focused. The result is also far less time with the original cast such as Suruga and Mayoi, which is a bit of a disappointment. On the bright side, we see much more of Shinobu!
Unlike the first season, the themes of Ecchi and comedy are quite strong. You could call it light Hentai & partial incest. However, the body-type used is the Barbie doll model, so you don't actually see anything.
Many of the scenes still take place in a single setting far too long though, the main issue I've had since the first season
Overall, a good season though. It gets directly to its goal this time. If you aren't into Ecchi though, this season might not be for you.
Since in my opinion some of the other reviews are just a tad too positive, here is my two cents:
I did like Bakemonogatari (the prequel which you HAVE TO watch first if you're even considering watching this) quite a bit, since it finds itself pretty close to my favourite spot (which I call "interesting") between nonsense and something along the lines of "serious" content. As often with sequels for whatever reason (maybe the need to "evolve") the creators now get to pick one. Little did you know, the decision was that nonsense is the way to go. I know that's not how it works: the light novels, which I admit not to have read, dictate most of the content. However, this kind of anime is all about presentation and if Nisemonogatari can be considered "close to the book" I will for the first time in my life judge a novel without having read 40 pages of it (in that case the book would have to be worse than anything I've ever read). Don't get me wrong, the series can be (as it apparently has been) considered decent on its own terms, I just really wish it wasn't the sequel to Bakemonogatari.
Most other reviewers liked Nisemonogatari at least more than I did, so before claiming you won't let me start by explaining why exactly I liked Bakemonogatari. The animation is not only really good but has some original ideas (one of them being stealing styles from other anime and combining them, which works remarkably well). That way the artwork manages to be interesting without "trying to be avant-garde" becoming an end in itself, which is a difficult balance to achieve. Bakemonogatari had good and interesting music, huge amounts of decent puns, snippets of text being thrown at you in different scripts... Also huge amounts of dialogue mostly intended to sound sophisticated, which it mostly isn't but hey: in my opinion all that created an interesting atmosphere. Bakemonogatari also had some content: In my opinion the supernatural stories were among the more interesting and I found the relationship between Araragi and Senjogahara had lots of potential for interesting developments.
With Nisemonogatari the animation and sound are still pretty good. Some argue animation is better, the soundtrack is if not worse at least less interesting. What happens to style, structure, content, things like character development? The last one is easiest: Senjogahara is basically gone in Nisemonogatari and the relationship does neither develop (as usual in sequels) nor exist for that matter. I would go as far as to say that Nisemonogatari is entirely devoid of character development while giving them credit for at least trying to make it seem otherwise. The supernatural elements are mostly gone as well (by which I mean no more "solving supernatural problems"); Oshino (the only adult who I didn't like too much, but he made for content) is gone. All in all: if you happen to like Nisemonogatari, it won't be because of the story. That takes care of content and structure: both removed. What happened to the style is probably most difficult to answer. Nisemonogatari sometimes has a similar feel to it, some new ideas too, all in all I found that very difficult to appreciate though.
So what does that leave us with? I didn't really think of Bakemonogatari an "Ecchi-show" and didn't like the couple of moments when it was trying to be. Nisemonogatari has roughly the same amount of "explicit" content, which is basically none, but is a different matter entirely. With most content gone what's left seems to be those moments of masochism, paedophilia and the main character fondling his sisters that were scarce enaugh to forgive Bakemonogatari and that I can't forgive Nisemonogatari, since there is little else of significance. On the other hand if you like that sort of stuff go for it.
I hope the points I mentioned are enaugh for you to make up your own mind. I watched all of it but didn't really enjoy the experience. Others did. If you liked Bakemonogatari this very well might be worth your time, just don't expect too much.
So yea, that was weird. The prequel was definitely better imho. Animation and sound were still solid so I'm just going over story and characters. Beware, possible spoilers ahead but I will try to keep it to a minimum.
Story wasn't much at all. The first arc with Karen as the main focus was terribly slow and the conclusion with kaiki left much to be desired. I'm not sure how they even dragged it out that long. Any that toothbrush scene was not necessary. Tsukihi was really only the last 3 episodes I believe and the right at the end was just araragi getting beat up. Lots of ecchi throught but I wouldn't say it went overboard. I just don't like how it was all loli and middle schoolers.
Character development I gave an average score of 5. Shinobu went from empty and ignore her to actually getting a personality. And senjogohara further improved hers through the kaiki incident. However the araragi siblings went downhill. Koyomi has a girl but he outright does all these lewd things with his sisters. For example straight up undressing the younger one under an unnecessary need to see some scars that have vanished and then groping cause he can. Maybe after the revealed story plot would have been a better time for that. And Karen doesn't portray any of those types of feelings toward him till after the kiss. Granted the kiss may have started it.
Normally I'm all whatever floats your boat on kinks but it felt forced in here. Maybe I'm just comparing too much to the prequel.
***This is a spoiler free review***
Oh boy reviewing Nisemonogatari is a difficult task because it varies so far away in tone and execution compared to the first season Bakemonogatari. What this season lacks (IMHO the sense of tension and excitement) compared to Bakemonogatari, it makes up for in visuals and overall casual enjoyment.
Now re-read my last sentence up there ^^^^. Note that I stated "casual" enjoyment; this refers to how drastically different this show feels compared to Bakemonogatari. While Bakemonogatari was witty, full of tension, and loaded with brilliant character development, Nisemonogatari takes an entire 180 degree turn. Nisemonogatari comes off as a bunch of comedic and ecchi scenes that while executed very well will disappoint most people who enjoyed Bakemonogatari. The easiest way to understand the differences is to think of Bakemonogatari as a $500 bottle of wine and Nisemonogatari a can of your favorite beer. There is nothing wrong with beer (actually not my fav) but its target audience is much different than those who enjoy wine. This is why most of the episodes in this season feel very fillerish. The overall seriousness of the first season is replaced by laidback and comedic scenes with a fairly large emphasis of ecchi content (episode 8....). The recurring themes that seem present are Koyomi’s bonding with his sisters (who we did not get to know very well in the first season) and his will to remain loyal to his girlfriend. Koyomi’s sisters are for the most part the main focus of this entire season. As for the other characters, they are introduced every now and then but overall their screen time is very limited. The whole season is spilt into two main arcs, each focusing on one of his sisters. While they do a pretty good job diving into each sister, I felt as if they dragged too much on Karen's arc (especially since she was even the main focus of the other sister's first episode arc). Overall the story was very enjoyable but unlike in Bakemonogatari, I felt like this season was mostly a filler and not completely necessary.
I didn’t think I would ever consider something “perfect”, that was until I saw the animation in this show. The animation in this anime is very well done. It’s not only the quality of each scene but also the angle of the shots, the transitions between text to shot, the lighting, everything is just so well done it’s very hard to understand how well the animation studio did. Each scene is drawn and produced so well that if seen from across the room you might think it was on par with a budget of a movie rather than an ongoing show. Each character is very appealing to watch and even the very action orientated scenes flow smoothly. This is by far one of the best looking anime’s I have ever experienced.
This anime is about talking (some of the conversations literally last 15 minutes) so you're going to want to enjoy what you are listening to right? Good thing Nisemonogatari has your back. The opening and closing themes are all very enjoyable to listen to as it ranges from j-pop to jazzy songs (I especially liked Tsukihi's opening). The voice acting is also very well done as all the characters had corresponding voices that seemed to fit correctly with the main star being Koyomi's voice actor. He once again brings out Koyomi's every emotion flawlessly without it coming off as fake or forced. For a show that relies so much on just character interaction, the voice acting really helped these long conversations shine. Overall the sound for this anime was well above par.
The recurring characters personalities are just as enjoyable as they were in the previous season. In this season, we are introduced to Koyomi’s sisters and get to know the vampire Shinobu much more in-deph. Koyomi’s sisters range from an athletic tomboy who fights for what’s right to a very clever and masochist girl. I especially loved Karen as the minute we were introduced to her I knew I was going to love her character. Each gets a plethora amount of character development time to fully develop. The vampire Shinobu plays a much bigger role in this season. She also has a masochist like personality that likes to play tricks on Koyomi. The new characters introduced this season are very well written and a joy to watch interact with Koyomi. If only the returning characters played a bigger roll in the plot; oh well hopefully in the upcoming movie we can get the best of both worlds.
While Bakemonogatari will remain one of my all-time favorites, Nisemonogatari will remind me that something so different can be just as good. It just goes to show that even if the plot is dragging the show down, great characters, amazing sound, and beautiful animation can help it shine. The easy going nature and almost harem storytelling of this season to some may seem unnecessary and unwanted but to me was very enjoyable and a blast to watch. Unlike the previoius season where you watched the show for the tension and well written dialogue, this season is just a kick back and relax kind of watch. With the characters written so well, animation being perfect, and voice acting exceeding my expectations, this is an anime you do not want to miss out on. I do however strongly encourage watching Bakemonogatari first as you might be very lost not doing so when starting Nisemonogatari.
Thanks for reading my review! If you liked my writing style, would like to see some other reviews, or just want to talk, please stop by my page!