Travelling back in time always has unforeseen consequences – as third-year high school student Koyomi Araragi (Hiroshi Kamiya) should realize. But when he asks vampire girl Shinobu Oshino (Maaya Sakamoto) to help him go back a little while so that he can complete his holiday assignments before the summer break ends, they find themselves eleven years in the past, on the very day before Mayoi Hachikuji, the little girl they know as a wandering spirit, was killed in a road accident. (Mayoi is ‘the snail’ and her huge backpack is a little like a snail’s shell.) In attempting to alter the past and prevent her death, Koyomi changes the course of history. The ‘present’ he and Shinobu return to is a desolation in which – it seems – nothing stirs except a terrifying mob of zombie/vampires created by their interfering with time. Until they meet a young woman with a backpack… Is it too late to put things right? Is it too late to even try?
The latest four episodes of the ongoing Monogatari anime series (based on NisiOisiN’s light novels) is not one of the more risqué outings, earning itself a 12 rating for region 2. It’s as exquisitely drawn, animated and coloured as the previous episodes and is a pleasure to watch. The main story that evolves – Koyomi’s sincere desire to give Mayoi another chance at life – is a touching one, and anyone who’s watched or read about the perils of dabbling in altering time will find themselves in very familiar territory. NisiOisiN’s take on this perpetually fascinating theme is as quirky as we have come to expect – and, unfortunately, as talky. His characters spend much of the episodes discussing the pros and cons of their actions and their possible outcomes. And the way Koyomi’s thoughts and reactions are flashed up on screen during these conversations is either irritating (you can’t read them properly in real time) or a stroke of genius (‘You read that subliminally, didn’t you! Didn’t you?’)
So, ultimately, what you have in Kabukimonogatari is the equivalent of a manga one-shot – and one chock-full of conversation – that you will either adore for its talky quirkiness and the gorgeousness of its artwork, or that you’ll drift away from, because it doesn’t sufficiently engage your attention. And even though the series has (very good) Japanese voice actors, the non-Japanese speaking viewer is condemned to subtitles that are not always colloquially translated.
And what of the lolicon aspects of this show? Many of the female characters are presented as young girls (even if they’re really much older supernatural beings, like Shinobu, who appear much younger than they really are). Are they NisiOisin’s way of portraying deep discussions about the nature of life, death and reincarnation in a more accessible form (with Koyomi as ‘everyman’)?
I honestly have no idea.
There are only four episodes to this single disc (DVD reviewed here) and the extras include clean Opening and Closing songs, Omnibus 2, TV spots and four trailers.