“Just as you fill your heart through good deeds, I fill my bank account with evil ones” – Kaiki
The next chapter in the Monogatari franchise, Nisemonogatari, attempts to build on the clever writing of Nisio Isin and impressive visuals from Studio SHAFT that has been the core of making the first series so entertaining and, while Part 1 hits most of the right notes, it’s not without some uncomfortable faults.
This sequel takes place during summer break. Our protagonist, Koyomi Araragi, has been chained up in a dark unknown location. We have no clue why this has happened, but it doesn’t take long to reveal that the person who did this was his girlfriend Hitagi Senjougahara. As expected, she never threatens Araragi but instead teases him for a while and the scene finishes with her telling him that the reason she’s done this is to protect him.
Suddenly, we go back to the day before that event, where Koyomi is wondering how to spend his day off from the heavy load of studying for college during the summer holiday. During the first three episodes he hangs around with Mayoi, Sengoku and Kanbaru to try and cure his boredom. It seems to be a regular day until Araragi bumps into the shady Kaiki Deishu outside Kanbaru’s house, however it is not until he mentions this to Senjougahara that Kaiki becomes an important character.
As with Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari is divided into arcs, but this time it‘s only two. The first arc is featured solely on this box set and is named ‘Karen Bee’, which implies that the arc is focused on Koyomi’s young sister Karen, but that is not the case throughout. The first few episodes seem like a long introduction to the previous cast of Bakemonogatari, then a few new characters are introduced until the arc starts to ramp up, so some might get a bit impatient with its slow start.
So, let’s get the best stuff out the way. Kaiki is a great antagonist in this arc; he may seem dull when he is first introduced, but when he is featured in a scene with Karen, his character is really intriguing. His methods are questionable but understandable and his theme is so haunting yet so memorable, which makes him very intimidating and sinister. Also we get a re-introduction on Shinobu Oshino, who is now full of confidence and speaks to Koyomi about the situation he’s in and about the small amount of vampirism he shares with her (something that does get mentioned in this arc) and, as expected Nisemonogatari does a good job in making Shinobu a really interesting and fun character.
It’s the clever writing that makes the arc so entertaining, especially where Tsubasa discusses with Koyomi about his future, or Kaiki talks to Karen about how he uses his methods to gain money, and this makes for some well done character study. The only problem I have is that Karen gets sidelined for most of the arc, only to make an important appearance at the end.
The presentation is better compared to its prequel. SHAFT’s visual flair for abstract backgrounds and playing around with various character designs in certain scenes is still there but it looks more fluid in its rare action scenes, and these continue to make it one of the most interesting visual shows in the anime market.
It has everything that made Bakemonogatari work but there is a big problem with Part 1 in terms of fan-service. I only gave slight warnings with regard to the previous series since it was pretty tame for the most part. However this takes it to a new level where it crosses the line a fair few times, including incest undertones and nudity; most of it is slightly censored, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it can be quite uncomfortable to watch certain scenes.
Another disappointing thing about Part 1 (at least in this DVD version) is the lack of extras, with no character commentary and no Textless OP and ED options (except for the usual trailers), the box set feels very lacklustre compared to the Bakemonogatari boxsets.
I can still strongly recommend Nisemonogatari Part 1 but some might find the fan-service a bit too much, so approach with caution.