We head back into the past with the prequel to Bakemonogatari, the 4-episode OVA Nekomonogatari Black. Given the slight disappointment of Nisemonogatari, will this show deliver more of what makes the Monogatari series great?
As mentioned, Nekomonogatari Black takes place before the events of Bakemonogatari. It is currently the Golden Week holiday, so Araragi’s school is closed and the episode opens with him discussing love with his sister Tsubaki. After a bunch of witty dialogue, we learn that he has some feelings of sexual frustration toward his classmate Tsubasa Hanekawa and that is why he has brought up this romance topic.
After this discussion, Araragi decides to head outside, only to bump into Hanekawa. We see her with a bandage on her cheek and while she refuses to tell him at first, she later reveals in confidence that her father hit her. This leads to some revelations throughout the series and we learn how Hanekawa got her cat apparition.
While I liked the Tsubasa arc in Bakemonogatari, the problem with it is that it never makes Hanekawa’s character interesting; she always seem to be a big know-it-all that occasionally helps out at times, but Nekomonogatari Black brings some much needed depth to her character. The Sawari Neko apparition that takes her over gets more screentime compared to Bakemonogatari, and it allows us to discover her motivations and the reasons why she is causing harm to random people.
Again, dialogue takes centre stage throughout these episodes; during the first two it’s more light-hearted with the usual witty humour which works most of the time but can get a bit boring. However, by the end of Episode 2, things start to pick up as it deals with Hanekawa’s current situation with her parents. I can easily recommend this box-set if you care about her character.
The SHAFT studio production is solid as before, using a wide range of animation styles and backgrounds which once again make the show stand out compared to other anime series; the music is well done, especially in the last episode climax, and the voice acting is fantastic.
I should point out again that the series is only four episode long, so length might be an issue for some, but what is available here is worth it.
Extras include textless Openings and Endings plus some trailers.
While not the best release of the franchise, these episodes focus on one of the least interesting characters in Bakemonogatari and turn it the other way around. If you don’t mind the total episodes you’re getting – four – then I recommend it.