Anime Review | Bakemonogatari

Aaaaah, the harem genre………………………

………………………………………………………………………sigh.  Soooo the harem genre, for those of you who don’t know, is an anime genre that is characterized by having the protagonist (usually male) surrounded by multiple love interests, usually the opposite sex.  Well-known harems include To Love-Ru, Negima, and Rosario+Vampire, while reverse-harems (female protagonist surrounded by males) include stuff like Ouran High School Host Club and Brother’s Conflict.  Most of the time, with a few exceptions, harems tend to be rather bland and stupid, with some harem anime having only the sole purpose of putting the male/female lead into a position where the love interest(s) can make hot monkey love with him/her and….well…to be quite honest….that entire concept is pretty stupid.It leads me into thinking why on earth would anyone actually green-light those kinds of shows; shows that have no substance in them whatsoever and most of the time completely substituting whatever plot they have for…well….”plot”.

Because it sells $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Now, I bring this up because the anime that I will be showcasing to you guys today is part of the harem genre, but at the same time, does not necessarily reflect the main aspect of the genre (which is a guy surrounded by hot females), but rather it breaks the mold by being intelligent, creative, and by actually having a plot.  Or rather, in this case, multiple plots.  And I don’t mean the fanservice-y kind of plot, although there is an abundant source of it in this show *wink wink*.

Today, from the animation company Shaft and director Akiyuki Shinbo; the supernatural fantasy harem fanservice-y hit from 2009:  Bakemonogatari.

The anime adaptation of Bakemonogatari aired between  and is based on a light novel series written by Nisio Isin.  Produced by Shaft and directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, who are famous for their work on Madoka Magica, it is 15 episodes long and aired from July 3 and September 25, 2009.  However, for some reason, only 12 made it to broadcasting, while the other 3 were streamed online after the fact. The music for the series was produced by Satoru Kousaki, who also was responsible for the music in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.  With such names in their repertoire, how does Bakemonogatari break the harem mold? Well, you’ll find out, I’M ABOUT TO REVIEW IT! (leave a comment below if you got that reference)

WARNING: If you are, in any way, shape, or form, easily irritated or annoyed by breasts, cat-girls, hawaiian shirts,  vampires, little children, pedophiles, purple hair, monkeys, crabs, snails, snakes, cats, sadists, staples, scissors, geometry kits, rulers, lead and/or mechanical pencils, and school-supply stores in general, then please move on to my other reviews or any other section of the website.

Okay, now that all the animal-hating, flat-chested, and out-of-school youth are out of the room, shall we begin?

Plot: 8.6/10

Bakemonogatari revolves around Koyomi Araragi, a third-year high school student, who’s almost human again after briefly becoming a vampire during his spring break, with repercussions such as night-vision and a healing factor (which, if you think about it, aren’t that horrible). One day, a classmate of his, the reclusive Hitagi Senjōgahara, falls down the stairs into Koyomi’s arms. He discovers that Hitagi weighs nothing, in defiance of physics. Despite being threatened by her to keep away, Koyomi offers his help and introduces her to Meme Oshino, a strange middle-aged man living in an abandoned building, who cured him of being a vampire. Once Koyomi helps solve Hitagi’s problem, she agrees to become his friend.

 

Pink+Meme Oshino = MANLY

As the story progresses, Koyomi finds himself involved with other girls, each afflicted by different “oddities”, which the series invests upon by dividing each individual story line into arcs, just like how Subway has a different deal every weekday, how Twitter has different “trends” almost every other day, or how Taylor Swift changes boyfriends from time to time (I’m not exactly sure about the specifications of that one). This style of storytelling is a double-edged sword.  On the one-side, the unique aspect of it makes for an interesting story-telling style that differs from the style we usually see come out from more recent anime, and since the arcs are short (spanning maybe 2-4 episodes at most), it  keeps you from being bored as a new arc is introduced (with a new story, new female protagonist, and a new opening theme).  On the other side, though, this can be a negative factor, as due to how the show sorta restarts itself after an arc, almost all sense of continuity is lost, leaving the viewer confused and wondering as to what happened after the events from the previous arc (although most harem anime are like this), even though they explain things later on. Despite the amount of action that this series has, I must tell you right now, since I’m a nice guy, that if you were expecting a high-octane and fast-paced action-y show, theeeeen you are gonna have a bad time.  Well, not REALLY a bad time, but still.  The story is driven by copious, AND I MEAN COPIOUS, amounts of dialogue between the characters, which could be a direct explanation of what is going on, an intense exchange of quips, or just a casual conversation. Again, this is both a good thing and a bad thing.  It is a unique concept, and with the extremely clever way the dialogues are written and executed (more on that later), it makes for a surprisingly amusing and interesting way to hand the viewers information.  However, doing so can also result in info-dumps, which can take away some of the unique factors of having information given to the viewer via dialogue as it is arguably one of the laziest ways to provide information.  Fortunately, Bakemonogatari doesn’t cram information down our throats too often, only requiring our attention at certain times, but this can still lead to immediate confusion and even boredom, though those moments are too far in between to actually bother you, or at least that’s how I feel.

Count ’em:  that’s 5 arcs (Araragi, you lucky bastard…)

Through its unique style of story-telling and its unique ability to wield the power of simple dialogue, Bakemonogatari succeeds in allowing the plot to flow at a very smooth pace while being smart and classy,interesting, and fun at the same time.

Characters: 9.1/10

Besides the story-telling style, another aspect of Bakemonogatari that sets it apart from other harems is its characters, who deliver the entire uniqueness of the show to us by being interesting and colorful.  We start off with our main man, Koyomi Araragi-

-AND NO!  I’M NOT MAKING THE “SORRY I FLUBBED IT” REFERENCE.  Like, seriously, you won’t believe how many times I had to sit through a f@#$-ing review that attempts to f@#$-ing replicate that f@#$-ing joke, and it’s kinda annoying now…

…I’m going waaay off topic here, aren’t I? //clears throat// ahem… Aaaaanywhooooooo…. We also have a slew of colorful female leads, such as the bitch with a heart, Senjougahara Hitagi; one of the sexiest cat-girls in existence, Tsubasa Hanekawa; the athletic lesbian, Suruga Kanbaru; the lovable loli, Mayoi Hachikuji; and, finally, everyone’s little sister, Sengoku Nadeko.  I won’t go into detail about the female protagonists, as describing them would involve indirectly mentioning their issues which would then subliminally expose the plot of the arc they are attributed to which would then result in a spoiler.  However, I will say that each of their arcs,with the different dilemmas and apparitions involved, do a great job in fleshing-out the characters’ traits and ideals, which not only makes them more well-rounded (no pun intended) and not one-dimensional, but also makes us, the viewer, care about and sympathize with them in some way or another.

well-rounded…………p-p-personalities! Yes, the females in Bakemonogatari all have well-rounded personalities! Pervs…..

This gives the females in Bakemonogatari depth, which is definitely a good thing, because harems are notorious for having female leads that are either one-dimensional, overly reliant on the main male protagonist, flat-out stupid with no reason to justify their advances other than I WANT THE “D”, or a combination of the three.  Through their respective stories, we see a different side to the female protagonists, effectively preventing them from falling into the pit of generic harem females and being legitimate stars of their own arcs. I will, however, take some time to talk about our post-vampiric, goody-two-shoes main protagonist.  Araragi is, well……..an basic example of how an interesting character should be.  Now, I’m not saying that he’s THE EPITOME OF ALL THAT IS UNIQUE AND INTERESTING, as I am sure that, given some thought, I can think up of an anime character that is just as interesting as Araragi is.  However, what makes him interesting is his meta personality combined, even contrasted, by his “negative” traits:  he is charming, responsible (REALLY responsible), helpful (REALLY helpfull), noble (REALLY noble), and an overall gentlemanly blocke (sounds familiar guys? Wink wink? Guys? *points at myself* Eh? Eeeh?); however, he is also eccentric, reckless, perverted, and a little too kind (he once risked his life to destroy an apparition that was returning to curse the one who summoned it).  These “negative” factors add flavor to Araragi’s personality, effectively preventing him from being a bland and meta protagonist.

Alright guys, if you wanna build your own harem, use this guy as your role model!  Other than me, of course.

And finally, the character interactions:  it is one of the best things about the character-aspects of the show.  In Bakemonogatari, you have Araragi trying to rescue the girls he gets involved with.  Naturally, you will need to have him connect to these females in some way, shape, or form in order to fully understand their situation and determine the best way to help them, and Bakemonogatari does a great job protraying that connection.  You get a sense that something is forged between Araragi and the female protagonists, that there is a reason that he’s doing this for them and that he is genuinely trying his best to help. In retrospect, the characters for Bakemonogatari, though not the most original, prove to be effective mediums for the show’s plot and were a definite thrill to watch.

Animation: 9.2/10

Presented to us by the wonderful animation company Shaft (responsible for the magical-girl wonder that is Madoka Magica), Bakemono’s animation is no less than brilliant.  Combined with Akiyuki Shinbo’s  rather unique style of direction, and you have a very well-defined and creative animation style for a similarly creative show.  The production team does an excellent job in using a wide range of styles for the animation.  Throughout the show, different color pallets (one scene can be an explosion of colors and the next can be gray-scaled) combined with superb direction (well-thought metaphors, references, and illustrations) allow for the dialogue-heavy scenes in the show to be very interesting and fun to watch, something that a majority of anime fail to do (or avoid in general).

The show also incorporates the use of live-action shots and pays homage to some of the more classic art styles (such as the art style for Doraemon), which is a nice little touch. The show does a great job and sprinkles in a little something extra, which is always appreciated.  Topped off with effective camera angling, wonderful lighting effects, and brilliant transitional elements, Bakemono’s animation is no less than eye-candy and definitely adds to the overall presentation of an equally unique show such as this.
Except for the slightly annoying wallpaper pop-ups, of course, but the use of fanservice totally makes up for it! *wink wink*

Sound: 8.0/10

First off, let’s talk about the show’s multiple opening themes.  Besides each of them being unique in terms of their style (and for being catchy in their own way), Bakemono’s OPs also convey a deeper relation to the female protagonists that each one specifically features.  Both the animation and the musical styles of the opening themes succeed in representing the major themes of their respective characters, which I won’t go into further detail as they could be spoilers. In retrospect, most of the opening themes grew on me over time, with a few exceptions, as most of the opening themes are fairly generic.  Most of them (I’m looking at you, Renai Circulation). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVuJiunPo4E

You’re welcome, you guys.

What made me fall in love on the spot though was the ONE AND ONLY ending theme, which is Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari, by supercell.  The fact that supercell did it should indicate how beautiful it is, and it definitely is a gorgeous musical piece.  It is arguably one of the best ED themes I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, with its beautiful vocals and a unique animation style that shifts every arc. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2TJ1qqeRD8

Again, you’re welcome, you guys.
As for the actual OST, it does an excellent job in setting up the tone and atmosphere of any given moment in the show.  From moments of mystery to heartwarming scenes to hilarious exchange of quips, the soundtrack succeeds in accompanying every part of Bakemono, all while being as fun and as unique as the show itself to the point where some tracks have left an imprint on my mind, which, I guess, proves that the soundtrack was memorable in some way.
Now, the dialogue. Now I don’t usually mention the writing of a specific show, but Bakemonogatari is an anime where the dialogue is essentially the lifeblood of the entire thing.  Well, not necessarily, but it is an important factor that plays into why Bakemono is sooooooo fun.  As far as Crunchyroll subs go, for an anime that develops its story and hands out information about the story to the viewer in the form of dialogue and seemingly random conversations, Bakemonogatari does an excellent job with its cleverly-written script.  The witty remarks, the puns, the references, the come-backs, and even the manner of how the characters speak all made the dialogue-heavy episodes enjoyable and, for the most part, interesting to watch.  Kudos to you, Nisio Isin.  Your wordplay-and-meta-humor prose was definitely a thrill to watch.

A little taste of what I’m talking about.

Enjoyment: 8.5/10

To say that Bakemonogatari was an enriching and captivating experience is a definite understatement.  There is just so many things to love about this anime:  the characters, while they could be meta at times, were charming and interesting to watch, the dialogue was hella entertaining, the animation was bloody creative and the attention to detail is astounding, and the opening themes and the ending theme were a thrill to listen to and greatly match their respective arcs and the show as a whole. Granted, the dialogue can be tedious to watch at times (some episodes consist of 90% conversations), which can be frustrating since important details about a certain plot-line are, more often than not, included in them somewhere, which means that you will have to stay focused on the conversations which could sometimes be just random exchanging of quips, therefore making you feel aggravated for having to go through the entire thing.

However, I digress; those moments are far too stretched out in between all the awesomeness, so I didn’t mind much.  Would definitely rewatch.

Afterword:

Despite the disputable reputation that harem anime have in our community at our present era, Bakemonogatari stands tall amongst all the rubble that were the countless casualties of failed attempts to procreate a distinctly flavoured style and class from the genre with a huge flag waving proudly in the wind, with “Akiyuki Shinbo” and “Shaft” imprinted on it in large bold letters. It has a unique storytelling concept, an equally unique animation style, masterfully-penned dialogue, a lovely soundtrack, well-developed and interesting characters that you actually want to care about (for the most part), and catchy OP themes and a goooorgeous ED theme that wraps everything up in a nice big red bowtie.  Throw all those concepts into a bubbling cauldron of harem-inspired hopes and dreams and add a good amount of Shaft-brand head tilts, and what do you get? …weeeeeell, I don’t know necessarily everything, I just know what I know (wink, wink), but I do know that Bakemonogatari has definitely proven itself to be a master of its genre, taking it by the hand and diving with it in a shining lake filled with head tilts, pop-ups, Hawaiian shirts, witty dialogue, breasts, crabs, sexy cat-girls, and all other sorts of beautiful things that make up the  hopes and dreams of every otaku male, while at the same time, being interesting and classy enough for anyone else to like.

I hereby award Bakemonogatari with an overall average score of 87 SHAFT head-tilts out of 100

 

If I have piqued your interest in this show, you can fortunately stream it on Crunchyroll.  Although, at the time of this review, you can stream all the episodes of Bakemonogatari without premium subscription, nevertheless, it still pays to visit the site, as they have a wide selection of anime, streamed legally for your viewing pleasure.

As per usual, leave a comment down below pertaining to your thoughts on this review, on the show itself, or if you would like me to review anything.  And, speaking of liking, give the review a thumbs-up if you enjoyed it. With that, I leave you, and until next time, ladies, gentlemen, and others, this has been Kenji for Prince Kouhii’s Anime Reviews, and I’ll see you guys in the future.

4 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this show. It’s witty and like you say the art direction keeps the dialogue exchanges lively. If handled by a weaker team this could easily have degenerated into a silly harem show with lots of supernatural action.

  2. Bakemonogatari was a lovely anime and I really enjoyed its style and execution. Episode 12 in particular was golden and I’m still hoping that another moment like that comes in future installments. The Monogatari series is quite an experience and while it is a harem of sorts, it definitely rises above the standard harem tier with interesting storytelling and fantastic characters.

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