"To be blunt, I just enjoy talking to you... so I want to talk with you some more." "If our opinions clash, let's talk it over."
'Bakemonogatari' is about five not-so-normal girls that Araragi Koyomi, a vampire himself, encounters and attempt to save them from abnormalities that's been troubling them.
The main characters of 'Bakemonogatari' are among the most unique and complex I have yet to encounter.
Heroine Senjougahara Hitagi is a tsundere like half of all modern heroines in anime, but she is also 「ドS」, a sadist to an extreme degree, which is more common for side characters and rare for heroines. Our protagonist, as expected, is rather on the masochist side who takes on constant verbal abuse from Senjougahara.
What makes the couple extraordinary, is that Senjougahara is often boke while Araragi is tsukkomi. Traditional Japanese stand-up comedy consists of a duo: One takes the boke role who says something stupid while the tsukommi role points out how boke is ridiculous, often with a violent slap in the head.
The leading couple in this series, on the other hand, take turns with roles. It is particularly interesting when the sadist and intelligent Senjougahara purposefully take on boke role and overwhelms the tsukkomi. Such as making insulting statements that sound flawed, but when Araragi tries to make a comeback, he realizes what she said was true. Or Senjougahara makes a blatantly flawed statement just to hurt Araragi. And of course, plenty of intentional boke or tease spoken with so much authority that Araragi just gives up and let it slide.
The unlikely toggling of comedy roles were executed extremely well, and this back and forth interaction between the leading couple is a key part of this show's appeal.
There are 6 main characters in this series, and total of only 5 side/peripheral characters (Meme, Shinobu, Sisters, and Senjougahara's father) in the whole series. The limited character headcount made thorough character development possible despite being an arc-based series.
Simply put, half the show is about the romantic relationship between the Senjougahara and Araragi. The other half is about a constant argument between two values: The rational vs the idealistic, with Araragi as Mr. Nice Guy seeking happy end for everyone. Solution of supernatural abnormalities as the topic of the argument.
While the pacing of the show is extremely fast with approximately 3 times as many dialogs per episode, they stick to one subject long enough for each argument to sink in.
Each arc is an incident focused on a different girl, but the five arcs combine to show a whole picture of Araragi and Senjougahara closing their personal distances. The TV broadcast ended abruptly, but the final three episodes over the web distribution were essential in developing their relationship. In the end, Araragi escaped the indecisive protagonist tendencies that many harem series are plagued with, through confrontation with Senjougahara's primary rival in romance.
"Bakemonogatari" is a verbal performance with visual support. Story is driven by back and forth debate on various issues.
With verbal performance playing such a big role in this show, voice acting is done on a whole new level in this series. Every characters' voices fit perfectly, and not only that, distinct tones and nuance of speech establishes the personal image for every single character. I don't think it's an exaggeration to describe voice acting in this series as epic.
Music scores in 'Bakemonogatari' have generally consistent ambient feel to it, and has a nice flow. Other than intense music for action scenes, they don't particularly set the mood or enhance drama as what I usually consider to be strong BGM for anime, BUT the usually upbeat sound in the background sets the quick pace for dialogs, and makes the conversations all the more engaging, which worked very well for a series like this.
OP song "Staple Stable" was possibly the best anime opening theme song by a seiyuu, ever. Really memorable tune accompanied by great vocal and lyric by meg rock was simply amazing.
Animation in 'Bakemonogatari' mainly serve as a visual aid to the verbal performance, and it was done extremely well.
Visuals for the anime got somewhat of an "art house film" treatment. There were many abstract and surreal scenes, unconventional cuts, and intriguing camera angles that made the viewing experience very pleasant.
Character design was attractive, the main characters showed a wide range of emotion that further portrays the character's state of mind.
The only complaint I have with the animation is the use of photographs/videos of real-life imagery. At the risk of sounding like a super-otaku, I would say 3D images do not belong in the world of 2D.
'Bakemonogatari' is a true masterpiece with experimental production that actually worked. Attention was paid to the tiniest details, and a story well-told through series of verbal performances. Wonderful direction by Shinbou Akiyuki left us with so many memorable scenes, and this will definitely be a series to be remembered.
Re-watch value is insanely high. In fact, I have watched the first 12 episodes at least 5 times while waiting for the web broadcasts. There's so much going on the screen during conversations, that you'll discover something new every single time.
The 8-month wait for the final three episodes was excruciating, but the ending wrapped everything up well enough that it was almost worth the absurd wait. Given the commercial success 'Bakemonogatari' has achieved, I will be hoping the remaining novels of the series to be animated. A prequel 'Kizumonogatari' OVA/film and possibly 'Nisemonogatari' as a sequel season would be great.
To be blunt, I just enjoyed listening to them... so I want to listen to them some more.
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