Since the release of Nekomonogatari (White), it was revealed that the series would be undergoing a change in translator for the latest Monogatari entry, Kabukimonogatari. The last time this happened was with Nisemonogatari, which resulted in a lacklustre and problematic version. With this in mind, I was incredibly worried about the fate of Kabukimonogatari, but thankfully my fears we unfounded! Let’s take a look at what this volume brings to the series.
This entry sees the story told once more from Araragi’s perspective, after an enjoyable tale from Hanekawa’s perspective previously. We join our hero on the last day of his summer break which he’s spent studying diligently for his college entrance exams. Unfortunately, during all of this studying, Araragi completely neglected to deal with his summer homework! Thankfully Araragi is in luck when vampire Shinobu (also known as Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under Blade) proclaims that she might be able to teleport them back in time so he can complete it.
As readers of Monogatari might expect, this time leap goes terribly wrong. Instead of going back a single day, Shinobu and Araragi find themselves eleven years in the past. Wondering if it’s fate that the two have ended up arriving on the day Mayoi Hachikuji is fated to die and become an aberration, could fate be altered when she’s destined to die? And if they succeed, what happens to the future? These are the questions our heroes must answer in order to take control of the future…
One of my favourite things about this particular volume of Monogatari is that there aren’t any lulls in the story. Normally when I review this series I go on about how nothing happens until the end of the book, but this time the plot is consistently moving along – and that’s really refreshing. Isolating Shinobu and Araragi from the other characters we’ve met across the course of nine books also brings it back to basics. In a way, this volume feels closest to the Bakemonogatari prequel story Kizumonogatari. This is both thanks to being focused on Shinobu and Araragi, but also because it gets on with things and works as a fantastical drama rather than just a conversational one.
The other thing that really shines through in this volume is just how well NISIOISIN knows his stuff when it comes to time travel. Our heroes spend quite a while debating the concept: if it’s possible, what would the impact on the future be if they met someone they know (or perhaps even themselves) and, of course, how doing something as drastic as saving Mayoi would change the world. This results in the information feeling well explained for time travel newcomers, who might not be familiar with the usual tropes, but also a natural conversation for the two characters to be having.
Having said all that, as I was reading Kabukimonogatari I was actually surprised that it played with the concept of time travel at all. While these books have by no means been your everyday slice of life stories until now, I feel like this entry is perhaps the first (except for maybe Kizumonogatari) to really embrace the fantasy theme and run with it. Not only was this a good way to keep the series from feeling stale, it also kept me on my toes, wondering what was going to happen next. I really enjoyed it.
If you’ve read my previous reviews for entries in the Monogatari series then you’ll be aware how fond I am of translator Ko Ransom, who has handled the majority of the series. As I mentioned earlier, this volume comes with a change in translator from Ransom (who handled the previous book) to Daniel Joseph. Thankfully the translation on offer is in line with what we’ve come to expect from Ransom and conveys NISIOISIN’s witty humour well. Having feared the worst, I’m really relieved by how high quality the work is and if Joseph continues to translate the series, then I’ll certainly be happy. Illustrator VOFAN has also done some great work this volume, with beautiful artwork of Mayoi on the front cover and the inside colour illustration.
Overall Kabukimonogatari was a real delight. While the series continues to be consistently interesting from volume to volume, this one tries to do something a little bit different – and succeeds. It’s certainly become a firm favourite with me and I highly recommend it to other fans of the series.