The recent Monogatari franchise has become insanely popular amongst its core fan base with the coming of Bakemonogatari a few years ago. It introduced a fascinating, if a little disorienting, way of storytelling through clever conversations and haphazard camera and art techniques that proved entertaining enough for the series to grow.
Essentially a sequel-but-not-quite, Nisemonogatari is the next installment. While Bakemonogatari explored multiple character arcs over the course of the series, Nisemonogatari is just one story focusing on two, previously-minor characters.
The story continues on from Bakemonogatari, where Koyomi Araragi helped five girls be rid of their supernatural illnesses. This time however, they all seem to be doing fine as the plot of Nisemonogatari focuses on his sisters, 15-year old Karen who is a fiery tomboy in a tracksuit and 14-year old Tsukihi, a quiet girl dressed in a kimono who is capable of going hysterical. Known as the Fire Sisters at their school, the duo are essentially wannabe super heroes that look for trouble (particularly Karen).
A mysterious swindler, Kaiki Deishu, has returned to town. He was the one who originally tricked Hitagi before Bakemonogatari story and the curse that had befallen Nadeko Sengoku before is spreading throughout their city. Naturally the Fire Sisters try to put a stop to him, only to find it isn’t as easy as they think.
It may come down to personal preference, but I find the story developing tighter and more cohesive than in Bakemonogatari due to its single narrative and fewer episodes. The talking may seem drawn out and overly edgy at times, but unlike Bakemonogatari I felt that it wasn’t as obscure but rather more down to Earth.
Every interaction is genuinely entertaining though, with Koyomi’s encounters with his sisters and familiar characters like Mayoi Hachikuji always a whole heap of fun. The vampire girl Shinobu now has a voice, much to the delight of fans, along with plenty of fan-service despite the 300-year old being in an underdeveloped body.
She acts as an adviser to Koyomi, and seems to always be the one in control of the conversation. Nisemonogatari goes all out with the fan-service during conversations, but it’s done in such a matter-of-fact way you’re hardly surprised anymore.
Fans of Senjougahara will be disappointed though, as she hardly plays a significant role in the first half of the series. The other girls do show up despite the focus on the Fire Sisters, and are accompanied with the obligatory fan-service.
Action does happen occasionally, and it always surprises you how sudden and over-the-top it can be. The fight scene between Karen and Koyomi in episode seven, for instance, was absolutely insane.
To sum up the direction of the story in Nisemonogatari so far: less serious, more mischief and more fan-service while keeping the essence of its predecessor. Which, for me, is perfect for a side-sequel like this.
SHAFT continue to use their trademark art here. Quick cuts, bizarre backgrounds and head tilts. I can see why some people would find it irritating to watch, but it’s beautiful in its own way.
The colours are vivid, the scenery has incredible detail and they’ve certainly mastered the art of making a conversation somehow fascinating. When action does happen, it’s surprisingly over-the-top and violent, making you want to rewind those scenes and wonder how the heck SHAFT pulled it off.
What makes the show interesting to look at it is how they made ordinary places like a bathroom, for instance, feel almost alien. You sometimes have to pause at a new location to orientate yourself and to familiarise with the setting.
All this comes together into a package that isn’t pretentious or flashy in a high-budget way. I see it as pure fun and it really works your imagination.
The sound work here is just as you’d expect from Bakemonogatari, where character voice is dominant. 95% of what you will hear is someone talking. Now that’s fine when the voice acting is skilled and you’ll be glad to hear it’s expertly handled in Nisemonogatari.
I have unfathomable respect to these voice actors, as the script seem ridiculously demanding. This release is Japanese only with English subtitles, so be prepared to challenge your reading skill to its limit.
The music works really well to complement the constant talking as in order to hold your attention in an anime like this, the visuals and music must work together. It’s funny that you’d be hard pressed to remember the sound track, because it almost becomes ambiance while you’re watching. The music is essential to the experience, but it never particularly stands out. The opening and ending themes are nicely composed too.
The real highlight of Hanabee’s release is the packaging. Not to be overshadowed by the fancy yet expensive Blu-ray import over in North America, Hanabee have designed an original hardcover book case much like their Bakemonogatari release. This doubles as a collector’s item and I can only hope they extend this design to their other releases.
I’m a big fan of Blu-ray discs, but this design makes getting the DVD version preferable to a standard box, regardless of format. Inside are pages of stills, character designs and art from Nisemonogatari and two discs with 7 episodes spread across them. There aren’t any on-disc extras though, unfortunately, aside from a few trailers for Hanabee’s other anime releases on disc two.
Firstly, anyone curious would have to have seen Bakemonogatari as this launches straight in assuming you know all the characters. As someone who enjoyed Bakemonogatari but found some of the story arcs drawn out due to personal preference, Nisemonogatari so far is a delight to watch.
Nisemonogatari panders to what fans loved about the original, whether it’s fan-service or the molestation of Mayoi, and injects a whole load of fun in the mix. The plot never seems as serious as Bakemonogatari’s, even if there is a threat to Karen and Tsukihi regarding the dark swindler, but we’ll see how far the story goes in part two.
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