TV Series; 15 Episodes
Genre: Mystery, Romance,Supernatural
Produced: Aniplex, Shaft
I’ve always wanted to write about Bakemonogatari. I wanted to say something about Araragi’s and Senjougahara’s young love. I wanted to cry out for Kanbaru’s broken heart. I wanted to steer Hachikuji’s way home. I wanted to answer Hanekawa’s questions.
I just couldn’t find the words.
Bakemonogatari is story about adolescence seen through the eyes of an adolescent. When I watched the show I wasn’t too far removed from my teenage years. At the time, all Bakemonogatari was a glorified love story where the aberrations revealed the emotion’s darker machinations. Sure, it was a more involved interpretation than simply saying it was a tale of monsters, but nonetheless it was still naïve. Each act of the Anime can’t be pigeonholed so haphazardly. Considering the broader strokes of the show, you begin seeing the other motifs. Shades of identity crisis, personal advancement and interpersonal conflicts are painted against a canvas of childhood trauma and joy. Even though these threads are tied together tightly, it’s easy to peel away the stories that matter to you from the experience. There’s something that appeals to both our base senses and involved rationales. My first attempt at review failed to capture the true genius of this show. I still don’t think I can do justice to this meticulously crafted tale.
This is a story about monsters, whether they are under the bed or in the closet. This is a story about love returned or unrequited. This is a story about life, whether breathing or not. Most importantly, this is the story of Araragi and the girl he loves.
The fifteen episodes of this series are broken up into four smaller arcs. Each deals with a specific person and the spirit he or she is haunted by. Long strings of dialogue give the show its signature molasses drip pacing. Not much actually happens in each episode, the storytelling takes its time to pencil in the finer details of each characters backstory. For me this would have been a violation of the golden rule, “Show, don’t tell”. But for Bakemonogatari, it works. It gives us time for introspection for what the characters are saying, letting us mull over the reasons and consequences of their actions. Nothing is black or white so as viewers we need figure out what shades of grey our characters are dabbling in. Layers of plot are expertly structured atop of one another building depth. Even though from beginning to end you’ve felt like you only moved an inch, look down and you’ll see how far you’ve risen.
Stories don’t have try and move from point A to B linearly. Building tension and provoking emotions are important aspects as well. By the time Bakemonogatari is over, the cast feels like a group of old friends going away for the summer. Friends you have been to hell and back with.
Speaking of the story without putting a lens to the characters specifically wouldn’t do a review of this anime justice. Bakemonogatari is essentially a character drama. Each member of the eclectic cast takes traditional tropes and flips it on their head. They feel familiar yet foreign at the same time.
Araragi’s perverse nature hides his heart of gold. He can’t help but protect anyone he’s crossed paths with, regardless of the state of their humanity. Be a person or aberration, he sets no standards for extending out a helping hand. We’ve seen this tired archetype time and time again. His insecurities are what set him apart. He knows that he will always be there for other people, but he’s not sure when someone will be there for him. If they are, it is only out of an obligation they feel for being saved by him. Shadows of this conflict flicker throughout the course of the series, till he’s forced to come to terms with it in the final moments of the show.
Similarly Hitagi is type casted as the token tsundere. She sheds her shell quickly revealing her true personality to Araragi and the audience. Though the twisted webs of her of her life have left her broken, she’s a simple girl wanting nothing more than a night under the stars with her lover.
Hanekawa, Kanbaru, Hachikoji and Sengoku round out the cast. The series toys with our expectations of each sorting them into a specific trope at first blush. As each of their respective arcs unwrap, the intricacies their personalities begin to unfold. Hanekawa isn’t simply a star student. Kanbaru is more than just an athletic butch. Bakemonogatari smartly keeps the cast small to let the audience get intimate with its members.
The art style is an interesting mix of traditional animation and avant-garde flair. Character design is in the vein of the former, favoring thick lines and dark shadows, giving it a bit of a noir flavor. Settings and background are collaged together symmetrical polygons, patterned textures and straight lines. The style works to great effect creating a twisted storybook atmosphere
The sound production follows the visuals excellent standard. Hiroshi Kamiya as Araragi and Chiwa Saito as Hitagi give exceptional performances. Even with the seas of dialogue, they maintain their dynamic deliveries. A great soundtrack buoys their nuanced emotional inflections, using cold electronic sounds to build its brooding atmosphere.
It’s safe to say that Bakemonogatari was important to me both as a writer and a person. Any doubts I had about anime being art form were blown out of the water. While it should have been the first show I reviewed, I just wasn’t ready too. I would recommend this series to anyone that even has the slightest interest in Anime or visual media in general.
“I wanted to write about monsters and their stories. I know this is only the beginning.”Story: 10/10