A little background music, please……
To be totally honest with you, my feelings towards Bakemonogatari on a basic level are not very strong. It’s not a show I’d feel comfortable talking about like I would a normal show, because I don’t think Shinbo or Nisioisin would want it that way. I think if you made a statement like ‘Bakemonogatari is good’ for any reason, Nisioisin would look at you funny, and Shinbo might punch you in the face.
Nothing about Bakemonogatari should ever be called ‘good.’ Not the characters, not the plot, not the dialog, nothing. Because being ‘good’ is not what the story wants, and it’s not what the creators would have striven for. Bakemonogatari is just itself, and should be discussed as such. It’s a take it or leave it type of series that isn’t going to apologize or explain itself. So when I talk about the series, I am not going to talk abut what the series is in terms of comparison or quality or anything – I’m only going to tell you how I react to it.
And I like that about it. However, like I said before. My feelings aren’t THAT strong towards it – the simple reason being that I’ve seen a lot of stories like this, and I’ve seen them done better.
Nisioisin is a guy who’s style is all about subverting everything that’s popular. Generally, Bakemonogatari is a story that pretty much looks at all the light novels out there like Shana, Zero no Tsukaima, Haruhi, etc. and flips it on it’s head into something that blatantly tears through those things while simultaneously emulating them. All of the classic situations you expect from a rom-com light novel are hideously twisted into something monstrous and bloody.
Where have I seen this before recently? Ah, of course, Kouji Kumeta’s Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, a series that takes all of the tropes of the harem comedy genre and eviscerates them while systematically working it’s way through the blackened veins of Japanese society’s flaws. It’s only fitting that they’d have the same creative team work on the anime adaptions of both works.
So yeah, I’d say Bakemonogatari is to light novels what Zetsubou Sensei is to anything Ken Akamatsu has ever written. And since I love Zetsubou Sensei, it’s no surprise that I would also love Bakemonogatari.
However, love it as I may, I don’t love it in a special way. Bakemonogatari doesn’t necessarily stand out to me. It feels like it’s a subversion of light novels, which is fine, but it’s not really anything beyond that. It has nothing that makes it come into it’s own beyond the long-running joke that is it’s very nature. The characters, situations, and dialog are all such perfect and purposeful subversions that they cannot escape into being something real.
And as I said, it’s only because I’ve seen this done in better ways that I feel less strongly about it. Nisioisin’s Zaregoto is a very similar story to Bakemonogatari in some ways. It is mostly constructed of extremely long conversations with very strange people, and it does a lot of subversion of the mystery genre as well as the same otaku concepts deconstructed in Bakemonogatari. However, Zaregoto sets itself apart by really bringing the characters to life beyond their stand as parodies. The main characters are given enough personality and history beyond their mere subversiveness that I feel attached to them and, you know, kind of don’t want them to die.
And Zaregoto isn’t alone, pretty much any of the kind of stories you’d read in Faust or generally from authors like Nisioisin, Kouhei Kadono, OtsuIchi, or Maijou Otarou, will be subversive of otaku culture and concepts in their own way, so any of the stories with a life or standing on their own will be more effectual.
But once again, I’m not complaining about Bakemonogatari – I enjoy it enough. There’s nothing wrong with a brilliantly constructed and versed subversion of light novel concepts – it’s just not something I can feel close to. Much as I love Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei as a franchise, it’s never really been able to become one of my favorite shows because it is strictly a comedy and doesn’t appeal to me in the way other stories would, and while I think Bakemonogatari does some things to make itself and it’s characters memorable, it will still see a similar reaction from me.
Maybe I’m just desensitized after all, seeing as I’ve been seeking out stories like this for years, having read the novels like this and watched almost every Shinbo show – there’s just not anything new for me in Bakemonogatari. I wonder if those who really have their hair blown back by it will feel the same way when they encounter more of it’s ilk.
But anyway, I guess I should also talk about what I think of the things in the show, right? Well, for starters, I don’t feel the ‘Senjougahara fascination.’ I will say that she’s beautiful, her dialog is pretty fun, and I think that her moments of weakness sell her as a character. However, I don’t see anything that would drive me to devotion or fascination. Her playful nature is not unlike that of Horo of Spice and Wolf, Rahzel of Hatenkou Yuugi, or even the Haruhi-ster herself, and I like any of those three boatloads more than Senjougahara. I don’t think Mayoi or class rep-chan have really done enough to comment on them, but both are pretty fun.
Oddly enough, I’m enjoying the males in this show more, and the one I’m the most ‘fascinated’ with is Araragi. I do love how Nisioisin brilliantly subverts the classic light novel hero. You expect a guy who is supposed to have a personality that is relatable to otaku with an added dash of virtuosity and stupid luck, but Nisioisin tricks us by giving us that character with an added dash of ‘nutcase’ and the fact that he’s a recovering vampire. I’m really hoping we see more interesting things from Araragi (like how he repeatedly beat the shit out of and groped a grade-schooler then laughed about it victoriously) – Nisioisin did a very similar character in Zaregoto, and when that guy showed his stuff it was nothing short of amazing, so I want to see that in Araragi as well. I also want to see more of that new girl with the bandages – she’s hot.
Uh, final thoughts, the guy who Araragi comes to for help is cool, I want to see more of the little vampire girl, I thought is was totally fucking awesome how episode 3 and most of 4 and 5 all took place in exactly one location but I never got tired of it, Shinbo continues to be god, I think the ED for eps 4 and 6 was drawn by the author of Q-Ko-chan who is another Faust conspirator, love Staple Stable, but I liked the first op most, I will be somewhat disappointed if neither Araragi nor Senjougahara dies in a brutal way by the end, uh, yeah, that wraps it up.
Oh, and sorry for dragging you all the way out the The Shotgun Dance for this post, but I like the atmosphere here for this post. Here’s your transport vehicle back home.
Eastern Standard remains the place to learn about these kinds of authors, I suggest reading everything on his site, then heading over to the blog for actual updates. He has a review of the Bakemonogatari novel as well.
I did a brief ‘review’ of Zaregoto myself and I talk about light novels and Faust all the time on my blog (yes, the best search term to use there was ‘Andrew Cunningham’ lol)
Ghostlightning has been blogging Bakemonogatari episodically and he’s the one who issued this challenge to me of writing about it episodically, which I will be from now on.