It’s rare that you see a massive-selling title in the recent anime scene in Japan, unless it’s something like Haruhi or Gundam. However back in 2009, a little anime show called Bakemonogatari surprisingly became one of those huge, successful titles – and so four years later, this title comes to our shores and I’m here to discuss if Bakemonogatari is worth your time and money.
The show was adapted from one of -monogatari light novels, which was written by NisiOisin (Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, Zaregoto) who is known for his witty and pop-culture reference writing. It was animated by studio SHAFT and some of you may already remember that name from last year’s release of Puella Magi Madoka Magica whose director Akiyuki Shinbo also directs this series.
So, what is Bakemonogatari? To put it in simple terms, it’s a harem comedy but unlike most harem comedies in the current UK anime market, this show separates itself from those in its visuals, episode structures, and more. So it might be refreshing to some if they want something new in this somewhat tired genre.
Part One contains three arcs and is centred around our main protagonist, Araragi Koyomi, a third year student who has some vampiric qualities, so not only is he unaffected by sunlight, but he can also regenerate any part of his body if he gets injured. In each arc, Araragi meets a new female character who is suffering from a mysterious supernatural effect that involves an animal of some sort.
The female characters who suffer these effects possess a recurring characteristic that you normally see in other harem anime but Bakemonogatari takes this concept to the extreme. For example, in the first arc ‘Hitagi Crab’ Araragi meets Hitagi Senjougahara. She is a tsundere but shows extreme signs of it, such as stapling Araragi’s mouth in the first episode. This doesn’t make her an unlikable character, though, quite the opposite; she is extremely entertaining and fascinating to listen to throughout these episodes and starts to become friends with Araragi. The other arcs include the small child named Mayoi Hachikuji, the tomboy Suruga Kanbaru, and Araragi’s friend Tsubasa Hanekawa, although she helps by giving him helpful advice in certain situations.
In all these three arcs, we understand all the girls’ pasts and see what they have been through and it’s surprising the amount of mature subjects that are talked about. While I deem Bakemonogatari to be more of a comedy series with some really great comical writing, it does very well when it comes to the serious stuff, especially around the final episodes of each arc.
Speaking of ‘talk’, that’s what the majority of this show does, I would say all eight episodes in this first part consist of 80% talking and 20% action, and this is what makes this show unique and interesting. These characters not only talk about their problems but they also engage in entertaining, random small talk. This might lead to some viewers being bored or frustrated by this, if they were expecting more meat in the few action scenes that are in this volume, so a little warning there.
Now we come to one of the most important aspects of this anime: the presentation. Another aspect of Bakemonogatari that separates it from other anime series is the visuals and how the show is animated. Shaft uses strange styles of animation, whether it’s creative shots of the environments or coloured scenes with text written on to show character conversations or thoughts. To some viewers this might be a bit jarring and it doesn’t always help that the show is only subbed. There were times where even I had to pause the DVD to read some of the coloured ‘wall of text’ scenes that sometimes appear every two seconds. On the other hand, the environment scenes and the character designs are fantastic and are really eye-catching. Lastly, the Japanese voice cast is phenomenal – which leads me to what is possibly one of the best extras of the year.
I’ve never seen this extra before but basically you get a Japanese character commentary on every single episode, so various Japanese voice actors comment on an episode while remaining in character. I really like this feature because of all of the fascinating and really funny conversations that they bring up, even if they don’t comment on the episode 100% of the time.
Other Extras include a bunch of Textless OPs, EDs and trailers.
One of the most visually striking shows of the year and with entertaining dialogue and interesting characters, I have no problem recommending Part One of Bakemonogatari.