This has been on my to watch list for quite awhile but I never got around to it. Now I’m obligated to watch it through work I really wish I had gotten on to this sooner. Bakemonogatari is the first of the Monogatari series, released a few years ago in 2009, although chronologically taking place after the more recently released Nekomonogatari. The series is produced by studio Shaft and series director Akiyuki Shinbo, who you may remember from every other Monogatari anime.
Koyomi Araragi is a high school student and former vampire, trying to live a normal life after returning to being a human, but that’s just not happening. He still has some holdovers from when he was a vampire like a sped up Wolverine kind of ability to heal wounds, and he keeps getting into weird situations with supernatural forces. The first of these weird situations he gets into during this show is when he meets Hitagi Senjougahara, who quite literally falls into his arms. Araragi catches Senjougahara as she’s falling from over the edge of the top of a staircase and discovers that she is practically weightless.
This series has a cast full of interesting and well rounded characters, they all have backstories and they all seem very human, despite how much non human stuff they have going on. Previously mentioned former vampire Araragi who despite wanting to have a regular life keeps getting involved with the supernatural in order to help others, and Senjougahara whose weight was taken by a god in the form of a crab, causing her to be cold and distant before meeting and opening up to others. Also supporting characters Mayoi Hachikuji, an energetic young girl lost and trying to find her way home. Suruga Kanbaru, a playfully feisty short haired girl who had a thing for Senjougahara and used a monkey’s paw to wish they could be together; she’s my favourite. Shinobu and Meme Oshino, a powerless vampire and expert on oddities, respectively. And Tsubasa Hanekawa, a seemingly easy going classmate and friend of Araragi who becomes real important at the end of the series. I’m not going to go into much more detail than that; not because there a lot of characters but because those characters speak for themselves when you watch the show.
The show does a great job of balancing the supernatural with the commonplace. All the characters just want normal lives and they do for the most part. Araragi has to cope with problems common for people his age like studying, deciding his future as a responsible adult, and continuing his and Senjougaharas relationship. Dealing with spirits, entities, and curses isn’t his job, just something that keeps happening.
The show looks great, not only is the animation terrific but the actual visuals themselves are wonderful. Coloured outlines, backgrounds that can be prominent parts of the scene or less detailed backdrops for the action, and colours that match the mood and tone of what’s going on with bright colours, dark colours, pastels, high contrast, and stylized alternate colours. This is the only show where I’ve seen someone get a hole kicked through their torso then swung around by their intestines and said to myself “Well that’s really pretty.” the show switches visual and animation styles throughout, it’s visually diverse while still using it’s normal art style most of the time. Also, there are like 6 openings and they’re all pretty good.
There’s no dub available. There’s a bunch of stuff story wise about how parts of Japanese works sounding like other Japanese words and how Japanese characters are written that it’s practically untranslatable. If you don’t like reading then tough son, ‘cause subtitles are the only option you’ve got.
Something I found off putting was how Araragi is around underage girls. They’re treaded and sexualised in a quasi romantic harem way like the other females in the show, and other character other characters tease Araragi saying he’s into that that. When Araragi first meets Mayoi he grabs her breasts accidently during a fight then mocks her about it, and later on purpose, he does this in a playful teasing way but c’mon. Ignoring the intended humour behind these scenes, the main character is abusing a child, and seeing a serious issue played for laughs by the character we’re meant to relate to the most is awkward at best and offensive at worst. This isn’t too much of a big deal, you can ignore it but when it does come up it’s a little off putting.
And some criticisms about non creepy, story based things. Senjougahara seems a little bland as a character after her story arc is done and her romance with Araragi is pretty flat. She starts off great, she’s mysterious, opposed to letting people help her, and she pulls stationary out of nowhere to use as weapons. After that she has a big characterisation moment where she takes her weight back and it’s shown it’s negative emotions and memories about her mother and events surrounding her that was what weighed Senjougahara down. We learn her backstory, she takes on memories of her past as part of her, and she starts to see Araragi in a romantic way; then after that she doesn’t have too much story involvement. She’s mostly just the love interest after that, and this love isn’t very interesting.
Senjougahara still does do some things, she and Araragi go on a date late into the series that progresses their relationship, and she plays a big part in Kanbaru’s backstory; but for the most part she just has brief moments with Araragi that don’t seem all too romantic and deals with how many other women he’s hanging out with. This is a problem with a couple of characters; a lack of story presents after their story arc is complete. Mayoi is hardly seen after episode 5, appearing only a handful of times, and that snake thing girl hardly has any impact to the overall story at all.
Bakemonogatari is wonderful and entertaining show, and the beginning of an even larger series. It’s a great looking anime filed with relatable characters. I guess I’m putting the rest of the Monogatari series on my to watch list.
Bakemonogatari is released by Hanabee here in Australia. You can purchase the complete series in DVD and Blu-ray from their Online Store for ~$80, or in half parts for ~$50 each. And they’re in fancy cases that are really little hardcover books.