I’ve been meaning to get into the Monogatari franchise for years, but the sheer volume of seasons and interconnected storylines between each of them had often left me overwhelmed and struggling to decide whether or not to watch the whole thing in chronological order or airing order.
After consulting with a lot of fans, I discovered that air date for each season was the recommended order to watch the series in, which should be obvious, but whatever.
Fast forward to present day, and you guys decided to select the first show in the franchise, Bakemonogatari, as the next Readers Recommendation series, and I have to say it was a darn good time.
Interestingly enough, I had no idea what to expect from this show at all. Despite all the hype and discussion surrounding it, I never actually knew anything about it. I had no clue what it was about or even much of an idea of what genre it fell under, which made this whole viewing experience pretty unique for me, since I tend to know at least a few things about every show before I watch it.
So I went in completely blind, and by the end of the first episode, I thought it was okay. It was entertaining enough, it had some pretty decent ideas going on, and the visual style and its direction were absolutely incredible. I’ve seen some impressive stuff from Studio Shaft before, but damn, this is by far their finest looking work. Even more impressive than the currently airing Shaft show: March Comes in Like a Lion.
However, I wasn’t completely hooked in the beginning. The first episode was good, but the presentation felt rather confusing, and the dialogue, while quirky and entertaining, didn’t help matters. I can say with certainty that in the beginning, there were a lot of things happening that made no sense to me at all. In hindsight, I can admit that was most likely due to my slow and lacking mental capacity than the show itself.
Episode 2 however, had me a lot more engaged, and presented a lot more context into what this show was really going to be about and what was actually going on. It was here that the series really began to suck me in to its narrative and its characters, and the visual style just kept improving throughout the episode. Narratively, it wasn’t mindblowing, but it was enough to make me care about what was going on.
But by the time I reached the end of the fifth episode, I was hooked and it was then that I knew this show was something special. Bakemonogatari was no longer just an average show that I was having a good time with, it was a great one that I was really enjoying.
The story revolves around a high school student, Koyomi Araragi, who was once a vampire but was cured of his vampirism by a man named Meme Oshino. He retains some of his vampire powers, but is more or less a normal human in every other way. The series then follows Koyomi and his interactions with various girls who have been negatively affected by other supernatural creatures, in a way similar to how he was, and his efforts to try and save them.
On the surface level, Bakemonogatari’s narrative appears to be that of your typical supernatural harem Anime, but it’s actually a lot more deep and complex than that.
Yes, there are harem elements to the story. Yes, most of the girls want to get as close to him as possible. But the primary focus of the series is actually on Koyomi himself and one of the girls, Hitagi, and the interactions between the two of them as they deal with these other girls supernatural problems.
And that was the shows biggest strength. The narrative is fairly simplistic and not all that groundbreaking in terms of the things that are actually happening, but the meaning behind it, the development of its two primary characters as a result of the shows main events is something that makes Bakemonogatari truly special. By the end of it, I grew to really adore and care about both of them, as well as the supporting cast who also all get their fair share of emotional drama and development as well.
As mentioned before, the shows dialogue was also super quirky and entertaining. It would often go a little over the top in its puns and its style of delivery to the point of confusion, but most of the time I had a great time with it. This series has some of the wittiest, yet realistically handled character dialogue I’ve ever seen from the medium, and I really do have to commend the writers for doing such a fantastic job of it. More Anime needs dialogue this good!
And of course, how could I not talk more about the amazing visuals delivered by studio Shaft and the incredible directing of Akiyuki Shinbo. I was already a huge fan of Shinbo’s work, but I appreciate and admire his talent as a director even more after watching this series. Every shot is beautiful. Every event, no matter how small, is conveyed in as dramatic a fashion as possible with gorgeous animation. Yet, despite that, the biggest and most important scenes in the narrative still remain highlights by being even more beautifully animated and presented. It’s all just positively gorgeous to look at. My eyes honestly felt spoiled the whole time I was watching it.
Of course, I had some issues with the show as well. While I didn’t mind the fan-service for most of the time due to how tastefully and maturely it was handled, there were a few fan-service scenes that just felt… Really off… There’s a scene where a freaking elementary school girl practically gets naked in what is clearly meant to be an erotic scene. Sure, you could argue that there was a necessary reason for it due to the story events at that point in the series, but it was presented in a very sexualised fashion that made me uncomfortable. Even more so when my girlfriend was next me and wondering what the heck I was watching… That was a fun explanation!
I get that the representation of weird and taboo subjects and themes is one of the biggest draws of the franchise though, so I can appreciate these scenes despite my issues with them. In the end, they did very little to detract from my overall enjoyment of the series.
Overall though, Bakemonogatari was a great show. It was really enjoyable and I’m glad I was convinced to give it a go. I can safely say that I’m really interested in this franchise now, and I’ll be watching the remainder of its entries throughout the year. In fact, I’ve already started Nisemonogatari.
If you’re skeptical like I was, I’d recommend giving it a shot. It’s not for everyone, but if it turns out to be your cup of tea, you’ll have a great time with it. It’s a deconstruction of Harem Anime if there ever was one, and it really stands out from the crowd.
Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on this one.
Well, the next Readers Recommendation has yet to be decided, so get voting while you can.
The shows that are in the running for the next pick are:
- Shinsekai Yori
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
I’d really appreciate it if you head over to my Twitter page and cast a vote for the one you’d like me to watch next. You can so here.
Thank you all. See you next time!