Sunday, January 31, 2010

Final Impressions (Pretty Much): Bakemonogatari

I really wanted to like Bakemonogatari.

This past year, it was SHAFT's most popular new offering (holy crap, have you seen the DVD sales?) and the buzz surrounding it was generally positive. The art looked fabulous and the story sounded good enough prior to watching it.

But while I can understand why many people enjoyed it, I couldn't really get into it, for the most part- even during the Suruga Monkey arc (a.k.a. "the yuri arc"). It just wasn't my cup of tea.

Bakemonogatari is about Araragi Koyomi, a third-year high school student who, prior to the series, was attacked by a vampire but (mostly) cured of his vampirism by an exorcist named Oshino Meme. The only lingering side effect is that any injury he sustains heals quickly. He meets another third-year student named Senjougahara Hitagi, who weighs almost nothing. She lost her weight after coming into contact with a crab god, and Araragi takes her to Oshino so she can regain her lost weight. The rest of the series is broken up into two to three episode chunks, each focusing on a different girl with a supernatural problem who Araragi helps out.

The first episode was interesting, and the second, which concluded the Hitagi Crab arc, was quite good. Depressing, but good. (I really felt for Senjougahara.)

The third episode (part 1 of the Mayoi Snail arc) was horribly boring, and I put the series on hiatus for a while as a result. Over the course of a few months, I got around to finishing the Mayoi Snail arc and watching the first episode of the Suruga Monkey arc. Edit on 02/01/2009: Even though it started off at a snail's pace (bad pun intended), the Mayoi Snail arc did have a satisfying (but again, kind of sad) ending and it marked some significant progress in Senjougahara and Araragi's relationship.

The entire point of this review Suruga Monkey arc was okay. In it, Araragi learns about Senjougahara's former-kouhai from middle school, Kanbaru Suruga, who has a demonic arm fused onto her own that will grant her any three wishes she wants in exchange for her soul. (Suruga doesn't learn about that one little drawback until Araragi takes her to see Oshino.) She's had a crush on Senjougahara since middle school,

and now she resents Araragi for being Senjougahara's boyfriend- causing her demonic arm to attack Araragi. Araragi still helps her even though Oshino advises him against it. This storyline ends surprisingly well. Senjougahara solves Suruga's problem, and while she isn't able to reciprocate Suruga's feelings, she tells her that she wants her to "stay by her side" and they remain friends. Senjougahara threatens that if Suruga kills Araragi, she'll kill Suruga,

and if Araragi behaves poorly towards Suruga, Suruga can choose one of two methods for Senjougahara to kill Araragi. A win-win deal all-around, no?

The Nadeko Snake arc was terrible. Sengoku Nadeko, who Araragi and Suruga help in breaking a curse placed on her by a classmate, has the least interesting personality in the entire series. Worse, she's used for some fan service. (She's 12.) This arc didn't simply bore me- it pissed me off.

The Tsubasa Cat arc has mostly been okay so far. The second episode of it (episode 12) was actually pretty nice. In it, Senjougahara takes Araragi out on a date to a spot where she and her parents used to go star-gazing before her family broke up. Araragi's conversation with Senjougahara's father, and later with Senjougahara, has a sincerity to it that most of the series lacks. Episode 13 marks a return to the "proper" Tsubasa Cat storyline. It has potential to be affecting, in a metaphorical, Buffy the Vampire Slayer kind of way (it's about a friend of Araragi's who vents the stress caused by her home situation by changing into a cat demon at night), but it isn't really.

Some of Bakemonogatari's dialogue is amusing (in a "wtf, did s/he really just say that?" way)- especially when it doesn't take itself too seriously.

But the primary attraction is SHAFT's art. There isn't much actual animation (although the quirky editing doesn't make it as noticeable as it might be), but what does get animated looks good- sometimes incredibly good. (Like Araragi and Suruga's one-on-one fight in episode 8.) The series also introduces a new OP in each story arc, sung by the seiyuu of whichever girl is being focused on. I especially liked Suruga's OP, sung by Sawashiro Miyuki. Wonder why.

Story: Eps 1-2 = B+, Ep 3 = D, Eps 4-5 = C, eps 6-8 = C+, eps 9-10 = D-, ep 11 = C-, ep 12 = B, ep 13 = C, with more to come. (I'll only post an update if there's anything else worth mentioning, yuri-wise.)
Art: A
Overall: C-

My opinion of any given anime/manga/manhwa title isn't normally substantively influenced by the title's artwork- unless the art is exceptionally poor. Another good example is Yun Mi-Kyung's Bride of the Water God- luscious art, but the story didn't do much for me.

BGM- "Koibito" by Kishidan

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