Medaka Box follows the character formula that defines Nisioisin’s writing. There’s a girl who’s a genius-badass, and a guy who’s a badass-genius. The girl is aware of her own genius, while the guy is doubly aware of the girl’s genius. The guy is also aware of his own genius, but believes (and is usually right) that his is far lesser than hers. The guy is not unconfident: he knows that he’s a badass and somewhat of a genius, but he’s so sure that the girl is better than him that he understates his badassness. We only see his badassness in his interactions with anyone other than the girl, as he treats all others as equal to or lower than himself (unless they’re yet another incredible badass/genius).
Is this explanation confusing you? It should be. Nisioisin writes confusing stories. Usually, they’re full of constant, biased, loopy narration. Medaka Box doesn’t have this element—it’s more straightforward, not only because it’s based on a manga, but more importantly because that manga runs in Shounen Jump and not, say, Faust. (Nisioisin has written manga that are exactly as head-fucking as his prose.)
Regardless of narrative style, the point stands that Nisioisin’s main duo is very here. Medaka is a genius (I’m actually shocked that this exact word didn’t see any use in the episode) in just about any field, and has an overwhelming presence. (Well, she should have one, but it wasn’t portrayed as overwhelmingly as, say, Senjougahara is in Bakemonogatari.) The lead character is second only to her in genius and skill, yet he presents her as being a world apart from himself. And just like other Nisio leads who are “surrounded by geniuses,” the lead seems convinced that he’s only as good as he is because Medaka rubbed off on him. I’ll bet Medaka believes differently, and will reveal to him his personal badassery at some point.
Moving along, what is goddere? Hitoyoshi is tsundere, as he admits in the episode. Goddere is a term that, as far as I know, came from Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, wherein Kyouka claimed to be the most supreme kind of dere, “goddere,” and said, “it’s not like I’m being omnipotent and all-powerful for your sake!” To me, the idea of goddere, which Kyouka expressed to an extent, and which Medaka expresses to the fullest, is literally “the love of a God.” It’s when the character either is or sees herself as so powerful that her love is protection, like the love of God. Medaka seems to be preaching that she’ll protect everyone with her endless benevolence. Pray to Medaka and thou shalt be saved.
On a different note, Kamina is back from the dead!
I didn’t like this episode very much but I’m not ready to drop the show yet.
Am I exceptionally hard on shows like Katanagatari, or exceptionally easy on them? I’m leaning towards the later, because if Katanagatari wasn’t what it is, then I wouldn’t have picked it back up, having dropped it after the first episode. There were times during the series where I felt I might’ve been glad that I decided to finish it, but now that I’ve done so, there exists no such positive emotion. Very rarely do I finish a show with as much spite as I did this one.
No Name and I watched it together and found that a very difficult activity; but not, for the most part, an offensive one. Let it be known that while these days I give shows more of a chance than I used to, I still would never go on watching a show that I had no desire to watch. I’m not a masochist like ghostlightning, and I don’t feel like I owe it to myself or anyone to finish a show. No Name was pretty set on dropping the show after two episodes, but I talked him into a three-episode test, and both of us enjoyed the third episode enough to keep watching.
The fourth episode was less easy to finish, and No Name got particularly pissed at the troll fight (even though I’d warned him about it), but there was still enough good to persist. Episodes five and six were good enough. Episode seven was the high point of the show, and the point at which I thought “I’m glad we didn’t drop this.” Episode eight was less good. Nine and Ten were enough to restore my faith that the series could honestly end well. Eleven was lame, and twelve was complete and utter shit, leaving such a bad taste in both of our mouths that we were upset for some time afterwards. The first thing I said when the show was over was “well, that sucked.”
I’m breaking it down on this level for a reason. My disdain for this series is not a simple animal. I don’t always write posts about anime that I don’t like, and especially not serious ones, but the way in which I dislike Katanagatari is, I feel, important to my identity as a fan, especially because it’s so closely related to the stories I care about most (being based on the works of one of my favorite authors, NISIOISIN.)
In the wake of watching Bakemonogatari and To Aru Majutsu no Index, my love for them became superbly interconnected. To me, Bake and Index were two sides of the same coin, and I experienced fandom for both series very similarly in terms of the way I loved the characters and the way I loved certain aspects of the shows so deeply that they made me forget about the parts I didn’t care for; as well as in the way I went on obsessive doujin hunts for both. These were, I would say, the first two anime that came to be unmistakably favorites of mine for reasons that extended far beyond watching the actual anime.
My feelings toward Index became more mixed as the year progressed, mostly because of the disappointment of Railgun and being reminded of all the worst parts of the franchise in the first episodes of Index II. Meanwhile, Bakemonogatari finished its three extra episodes and they were so utterly amazing that all my wishy-washiness towards the series was blown out the window.
Having rewatched it for the sake of this post, I really think that episode 15 qualifies both as one of the best episodes of 2010 and as one of my favorite episodes of anime in general.
“Possibility, or what we refer to as Imagination, is 99% imitation. The real deal is only 1%”
-Kouhei Kadono, as translated by Andrew Cunningham, Boogiepop Returns VS Imaginator Part 1
A little while back, 2-D Teleidoscope read Zaregoto book 1 and brought up the interesting fact that as he read it, he imagined the world and characters as an anime. Light novels feature illustrations in definitive anime/manga style and often feature characters and situations that seem to be torn right out of those mediums, so it’s only natural that we would visualize them that way – however, when I thought back on the images in my head from reading Zaregoto, I noticed something odd. The characters looked like anime, and the situations played out in an anime-like way, but the world itself looked nothing like anything I’ve seen in anime.
Warning: this will probably the most confusing review ever >_<
Bakemonogatari for me is like an old friend that you’ve known for as long as you can remember. It’s the kind of a friend whom you love and can hang out with at any time, but you do KNOW him. It’s not like the two of you have to sit there and talk about yourselves and get all interested in one another, and it’s not like a cute girl who you’re flirting with for the first time. In many ways, I may want to hang out with this friend more than anyone else. Sometimes, meeting new people and making new impressions is stressful and difficult, so it’s always good to have friends you can fall back on and know they’ll be good to you. A lot of the times, that’s what you do when you are rewatching a show you love, but for me, Bakemonogatari was that all along.
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.
Sakae Esuno‘s Future Diary (or Mirai Nikki as it is known in Japan and still know by most fans) is a psychological thriller that might be one of the best entry points into modern Japenese young adult fiction around. The first volume, which has recently been published in the US by Tokyopop, moves at an insane, whiplash-inducing pace that burns through plot elements, action scenes, character interaction, and emotional development so fast you might not even realize at first that any of it happened. However, whether you have just finished your first blast-through or are turning the pages again for a closer look, there’s no doubt that you’ll find something enticing in the pages of the Future Diary.