It’s not unusual for a popular light novel series to be adapted into a manga, but where the Monogatari franchise is concerned, it took twelve years before any of it received an adaptation. Today I’m here to review the first volume of Bakemonogatari’s manga to find out if it’s possible to capture NISIOISIN’s beloved series successfully in this medium.
The story follows Araragi Koyomi, a third-year high-school student who is part-vampire thanks to an unfortunate incident over his spring break. Perhaps because of his not-quite human status, he is attracted to others in a similar situation and this leads him to meet Hitagi Senjougahara. She just happens to tumble down a flight of stairs and be saved by Araragi who is shocked to find that she weighs almost nothing at all.
Senjougahara is less than pleased to have someone find out her secret and quickly warns Araragi to forget everything. She wields items of ordinary stationery as if they’re the most dangerous weapons in the world and while Araragi fears for his life, he also refuses to leave her alone. Araragi’s persistence pays off and Senjougahara eventually begins to open up about why she’s so light, revealing that she is possessed by a mysterious crab – otherwise known as an ‘aberration’.
If you’re familiar with my work then you’ll know that I review the Monogatari light novels and we’ve come a long way since the release of Bakemonogatari, so this offered a nice opportunity to go back to where the story begins. Mangaka Oh!Great (Air Gear) has managed to perfectly capture what makes Monogatari so much fun in this instalment, making for an enjoyable experience if you’re revisiting this tale.
The Monogatari franchise is inherently a comedy, built around its dialogue and character interactions. There’s plenty of fantasy elements as well (with some action here and there), but everything lives and dies by the witty back and forth among our cast. To begin with, I was doubtful that any mangaka would be able to capture this without making it boring, but Oh!Great blew all those concerns away.
The artwork spends most of its time focused on the cast with often empty backgrounds. Because of being so focused on Araragi and co, it details their every move and emotion delightfully. Character designs are somewhat odd as they look more like real people than manga characters, but they are at least in keeping with the basic designs we’re familiar with. Both they and the backgrounds (when there are some) look like they were 3D models drawn over, in the same way, that Flying Witch and Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World often look. This isn’t a style that I’m particularly fond of usually, but I think it works out well here. Monogatari doesn’t have a set style and both the light novel artwork and the anime are very different, so the manga being different yet again is in keeping with the trend.
What I especially liked about this adaption is that Oh!Great wasn’t afraid to dedicate large panels to dialogue, so it never felt that there was a great deal missing, compared to the light novels. Some of Araragi’s inner monologues were even kept! It means that this release is easy to recommend to those who prefer manga to anime or light novels and that’s always what an adaption of a popular series should offer.
This release comes to the West thanks to publisher Vertical Comics (who also publish the original light novels) and has been translated by Ko Ransom. The translation reads well and because Ransom also translates the novels, the dialogue is very in keeping with what we’re used to. Bakemonogatari is on-going in Japan at six volumes and Vertical currently have Volumes 2-4 scheduled for release between January and May 2020. This release also includes some beautiful colour pages at the beginning of the book.
Overall Bakemonogatari Volume 1 proves a successful adaptation of a beloved franchise. Newcomers and existing fans alike will enjoy diving into the world of Monogatari and meeting the delightful cast of characters. If you’re yet to experience this series in any form then this is the perfect time to climb aboard!
Read an extract from Bakemonogatari Volume 1 at the publisher’s website.