Turns out reviewing the Monogatari series isn’t only about watching them, it’s also about making sure you’re watching them in the right order.
Monogatari was not released in chronological order and with each series having a different name, such as Neko, Bake and Otori, it took me a while to finally find out where to begin. Anyway, starting with the prequel series Black, consisting of only four episodes, I was thrust into what has to be one of the strangest anime openings I’ve seen to date. Koyomi Araragi has been awoken by his two sisters, Tsuhiki and Karen, but Tsuhiki begins trying to murder him as he wanted to fall back to sleep; I sure hope I don’t live with somebody who considers that a sin otherwise my murder is inevitable.
I chose to watch the series in chronological order rather than airing order, after talking to many fans who insisted that it should be one way or the other, but I managed fine with the former; it’s chronological, so it makes as much sense as it should do, despite how strange the show is and that you need to watch more than just the one season as they intertwine. It’s weirdness kept me interested, and the gorgeous animation definitely helps!
Black takes place over Golden Week and the first episode focuses on Koyomo as he deals with love and his sexual frustration, where he becomes friends with his crush, Tsubasa Hanekawa, who’s hiding a dangerous secret. Koyomo isn’t a stranger to danger though, as he regularly meets up with a vampire girl, Shinobu Oshino, and gives her his blood, and so whatever Hanekawa is hiding is unable to faze him too greatly; his friend Meme Oshino is an expert in the supernatural and helps Koyomo with his problems. Episode two ups the ante quickly, introducing new characters, action and plenty of complex plot points. Yeah, Nekomonogatari Black is weird, but there are cat girls and who doesn’t like those, right? Right? Honestly, the series is something that’s difficult to explain, but it’s also best experienced with your own eyes and ears.
I’m in the process of watching the other Monogatari series’, but there’s not a whole lot of character development in Black. I was mostly interested in Hanekawa who easily has the most mystery surrounding her, but I like seeing Koyomo’s reactions to her problems and how he slowly matures throughout Black; he clearly cares, just his interest in Hanekawa makes him panic and freak out, especially as he finds her attractive. Shinobu is also interesting, especially with how she’s first introduced and her mannerisms stand out amongst the other characters as she behaves like a child; with Black being only four episodes long, you’ll have to watch the other series’ to get the answers to the many questions that Black poses.
Shaft produce the animation for Black, and if you’ve seen one of their previous series’ then you’ll already be aware of their distinct and beautiful art style, and their clever use of camera angles. Whilst you may not like how the art style changes during some scenes for what seems to be comedic effect, there’s no denying that the art as a whole is eye-catching and I imagine, for many, it’s what brings people to the Monogatari series in the first place. I enjoyed character animations, the sometimes exaggerated body physics and the more gruesome moments, but there’s no gore that I found uncomfortable to witness due to its part in the story; if you’re squeamish, then you might want to steer clear as some scenes contain a lot of blood.
Despite being a hugely popular series, there’s no language available other than Japanese which is fortunately fantastic; my favourite female seiyuu Yui Horie voices Hanekawa. I assume this is due to the sheer amount of dialogue, but the subtitles are clear and well-translated; you need to pay attention or risk missing vital information, so reading subtitles might be its own benefit. The soundtrack is great, especially the OP and ED where the music perfectly blends with the stunning visuals, and I like how soft most of the tunes are with a focus on piano and string instruments.
It’s difficult for me to be able to recommend this to just anybody, especially as it’s brimming with fan-service, an abundance of detailed dialogue and (purposely) inconsistent art that might rub some the wrong way, but if you’ve ever been interested in Monogatari then I definitely recommend giving it a go. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to finally sit down and watch it, but I enjoyed it and look forward to watching the other seasons. It’s a huge series to undertake and whilst I still have a long way to go, I feel that it’ll be very rewarding.
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