There’s always a special kind of feeling I get when I finish something. It’s a sort of deep, mournful sadness mixed with satisfaction. The story’s over. I won’t be seeing Araragi or his amusingly musical name again. No more Oshino, no more Hanekawa, no more anyone. So, yeah. I’ve finished Bakemonogatari. Was it worth putting up with SHAFT being SHAFT and drowning in a see of wordplay jokes? Let me answer that for you. Also, take note. After this point, I will be discussing spoilers for the whole Bakemonogatari series. So yeah, don’t read if you haven’t seen it yet.
I knew there was something special about Bakemono when I decided to watch it, was bored as tears through the first two or so episodes, but kept going. I don’t have enough time to play, read, and watch all of what I do want, so setting aside time to put up with this was just weird. I just thought it was some pretentious sort of show at first, a show that people latched onto in order to prove some kind of fake superiority to those who didn’t like it or haven’t seen it or whatever. Like I said, I enjoy being wrong.
Being a SHAFT series, I was going in expecting the same weird crap that Zetsubou-sensei had, along with some of the absolutely beautiful scenery porn from Madoka. Yeah, yeah, I know. Madoka came after this, but whatever. I wasn’t disappointed at all. Everything seemed to have some sort of purpose in the greater role of making an enchanting setpiece, and when the art did go derpy, it was either intentional derpiness or only on the screen for a second. I can safely say that Bakemonogatari is one of the most aesthetically pleasing series I’ve seen in a while. My biggest ‘oh my god this is beautiful and so well-done’ moment has to be in the final two episodes, where Araragi confronts Black Hanekawa in the street. The lighting was beyond fantastic and gave a sort of eerie whitewashing to the whole scene and was combined with excellent use of vibrant, powerful colors for emphasis.
Aside from that one scene, the entire anime is full of SHAFT being SHAFT brilliance. It’s one of those series that deserves a rewatch not only because it’s good, but also because there’s so many little things you won’t pick out on the first time around or some other sort of ‘Oh, so that’s why X is like that’ moment for the art.
Even with great art like that, we wouldn’t get the same feeling from it without music. Unfortunately, the opening and ending themes aren’t too much to write home about. I mean, Renai Circulation is pretty good both in terms of the song and video, but… Well, I just have a massive hate for Staple Stable. The less said about that thing, the better. Oh, and the ‘live action Hanekawa’ opening was pretty OK for the music. Not so much the video, it just looked weird even by SHAFT standards. But, the opening can only do so much. Let’s talk about the real music in Bakemono, the instrumental stuff.
Now, I was going to link you fine folks to Oshino’s theme (or what I’m considering his theme), but alas the internet has failed me miserably. If you’ve ever played Bastion or watched UN-GO, you know what I’m getting at when I describe it. It’s this… pseudo-western mixed with a bit of techno kind of song. It’s not as upbeat as UN-GO’s, but… I don’t know why, but it fits Oshino so perfectly. I would have to say that’s the crowning achievement of Bakemono, looking from a musical standpoint.
What about the characters, though? And the dialogue, too. Well, both are really good. Even seems realistic and well-developed enough that I was legitimately sad when it was over. Everyone has their own problems, desires, fears, all that stuff. Araragi’s just the guy who decides to try and fix everything. It’s interesting to think, as I read while doing research for this post, that when you boil it down, their supernatural problems aren’t really so supernatural. It helps you get a sense of things when you read that Senjougahara’s weightlessness could be literal starving from an eating disorder and that Kanbaru’s possession could be a metaphor for being overcome with extreme jealousy. I’d honestly like to see someone take a crack at rewriting Bakemono. Keep the overall themes the same, but remove the supernatural elements. If nothing else, it’d be a cool little experiment.
Oh, right. Supposed to be talking about the dialogue, aren’t I? Again, it’s quality stuff. The jokes come numerous and fast, the serious stuff slows it down a bit. The voice actors are also spot-on for their roles, too. I think the dialogue is what I had the biggest problem with in Bakemono. Keep in mind that a good 90-95% of this show is people sitting around and talking. About… half or a third or something? That’s jokes. And most of those jokes are Japanese wordplay jokes or puns or whatever. So, the show is really big on really heavy, dramatic and expository textwalls, and the humor is lost in translation for a lot of non-Japanese speakers (like myself). I mean, I get them, but it’s not as funny when it needs to be explained in the next bit of dialogue or looked up or read off a translator’s note. But, whatver, that’s just me.
So, in conclusion, this really is something you need to appreciate for what it is (as someone who escapes my mind told me). It’s a very dialogue-heavy, character driven series with no real sweeping, epic plot. It’s a guy going around and helping people with their problems. It’s the guy a lot of us strive to be (although to a much lesser extent) helping people a lot of us can relate to. If any of you fine folks read my first impressions, I said that I didn’t quite know what to tag Bakemono as. Too serious to be a comedy, too supernatural to be a slice-of-life, not enough fanservice to be a harem. Well, I’ve finally figured it out. Bakemonogatari is a surreal supernatural feel-good series driven by the characters and their interactions. It’s a nostalgic series, at least for me, as I used to be the kind of guy that Araragi was. Or I tried, anyway. But, in the end, it’s definitely something that everyone needs to give a shot. Plow through the first episodes, wait for more characters. Trust me, it’s worth it. Anyhoo, as always, thanks for the support and have a good’un.