Not everything is how it seems. I now realize that as an open-minded twenty year old: Life isn’t just what you can see. There are layers upon layers of human thought that can be sifted through and explored in and of yourself that, as a young man, I refused to do. I instead took everything at face value and, in all honesty; it was a boring way to live. I now like to imagine that all things are possible, both the physical and metaphysical. Why believe in one deity when you can believe in them all? Why only try to understand one system of belief when you can try to understand many? Ghosts are real. Aliens are real. Monsters are real. Creatures are real. I cannot prove this and, to be blunt, I’m not even sure I entirely believe this BUT wouldn’t it be awesome if I was right?
That’s why we watch things like Anime, because it is leagues more exciting than real life and it’s series’ like ‘Bakemonogatari’ that perfectly blend the natural with the supernatural in a way that seems, for lack of a better word…real. Hanabee released this series a while back in two parts but now it it has gotten a re-release as a complete collection box set available in both Blu-Ray and DVD. Us here at SnapThirty were lucky enough for Hanabee to give us the Blu-Ray release to review and, as someone who considers themself a fan of the series, I couldn’t be happier.
A magnet for trouble is all an ex-vampire ever wanted. Forever “Mr. Nice Guy”, Koyomi Araragi, should have learned to never get involved with the supernatural after his last brush left him as a vampire. But he can’t help being a magnet for these types of apparitions and a damsel in distress. Except there’s more to these victims than a simple curse. They’re flawed individuals with their own dark personal history tied with their ailment. So what’s a boy to do but help, even if it can only end in a lot of pain?
‘Bakemonogatari’ is a series that I believe can be accurately labelled as ‘half good, half bad’. As mentioned, it’s story blends real life and fantasy masterfully. The mundane and the mysteriously extravagant are stitched together wonderfully. Unfortunately throughout the moments of good are moments of pure bad which usually come in the form of ruined jokes, incestual fanservice, aggressively two dimensional character personalities and light pedophilia. For the most part, Koyomi Araragi is a pretty good main character. He’s quirky, self referential, kind of a badass at times and he has one hell of an interesting backstory but there’s also so much I absolutely hate about him that drives me wild because these character traits are unnecessary.
What’s so sad about the series is that you can describe most characters in that way. For every single positive trait they have, there’s a more powerful negative one. I can think of two characters who have no character flaws whatsoever but they’re barely around in the series despite the fact that they play pivotal roles.Though I think their ‘elusiveness’ is what draws me to the series time and time again. In fact, it is what we’re not explained throughout ‘Bakemonogatari’ that are THE most interesting story aspects OF ‘Bakemonogatari’.
It’s all the lore and mythology of the characters that kept me interested from episode one all the way up until the final episode which, without giving away too much, actually made the entire series worth watching. The only way to be able to actually appreciate ‘Bakemonogatari’ is if you watch the entire series. With some Animes, you can watch three episodes and make a pretty solid decision as to whether or not it’s one that you’re going to like. With ‘Bakemonogatari’ you have to stick it out until the end. It’s only then that you can make an educated decision. The series is just one massive hook.
Most of what the characters say to each other is inconsequential. Jokes are taken way too far and go beyond funny into the realm is stupid. The series spends too much time focusing on things that don’t exactly matter while they skim over the meaty chunks of back story and actual interesting information. Every few episodes a brilliant ‘hook’ will come around where you’ll essentially be forced into watching the next episode out of sheer curiosity but these episodes are usually followed up by more unnecessary ‘humour’. If you can even call it that.
Something else that kept me glued to the screen is the way that Shaft – a Japanese animation studio – visually laid out the series. First and foremost; the animation was top quality. ‘Bakemonogatari’, despite the fact that it was made and released in 2009, holds up so well in 2014 and, in my opinion, really puts some of the newer Anime series’ to shame. Updated technology means nothing when you can’t utilize it properly and it just so happens that Shaft knew exactly what they were doing while producing ‘Bakemonogatari’.
There are odd little animation techniques that I’ve never seen used before but I hope to see more. Though, in saying that, if another series was to use these techniques I’d probably just say they were ripping of ‘Bakemonogatari’. Not only is the actual animation crisp and smooth but the colours are so vibrant, they practically pierce your retinas.
It looked brilliant and I know for a fact that the ‘arty’ crowd will absolutely love it because it looks good and it hasn’t been done to this degree ever before. Shaft seems to really enjoy smash cuts and nontraditional styles of animation because that is pretty much what ‘Bakemonogatari’ is populated by. Fact is; it works to the series’ advantage. It gives off odd and eerie vibes that add to the strange feelings that should be rushing through your body while watching.
Never dubbed in English, this particular Hanabee release only featured Japanese voice acting which is perfectly fine because the cast did a great job at portraying their characters. Unfortunately what they had to say was, at times, utter nonsense but I happen to love the language and so I enjoyed how it sounded over what the subtitles were telling me they were saying.
What took center stage for me was that of the soundtrack. It was made up of a bunch of contemporary tracks, each of which sounded somewhat abnormal BUT normal enough for me to be able to appreciate what I was listening to. They came in at great times and worked well to fill in the spaces between dialogue. They ranged from slow and soothing to fast and exhilarating, and were timed great so I can’t complain about that.
What I found just as impressive were the sound effects; things I never usually bring up in a review because so many other audio aspects eclipse it. The sounds of movement in ‘Bakemonogatari’ were so dynamic and booming. They felt…satisfying, oddly enough.
I have such an unjustified attraction to ‘Bakemonogatari’. I see so much potential in it. I see what could be changed, rearranged and made so much better. I see what lies just beneath what the audience is told throughout the story and I want to reach in and pull it out for everyone to see. It has this odd grip on me. I can see the bad things about it and there are many, but I can also see some redeeming qualities.
I’m not a fan of fanservice so that doesn’t appeal to me. I have strong opinions on the ‘loli-type’ stuff that I’m not going to get into right now, so THAT doesn’t appeal to me. I see no reason in having characters converse idiotically, especially in a short series, so THAT doesn’t appeal to me. What appeals to me is everything we don’t see. It’s a series laced in the supernatural. There’s so much more to see than what we’re shown and THAT is what keeps me coming back. There are nuggets of pure brilliance hidden throughout ‘Bakemonogatari’ but it takes an open and patient mind to find them. Maybe you’ve got what it takes to be able to fully appreciate ‘Bakemonogatari’.
Enter the world of the supernatural! Head to the official Hanabee store to pick up your own copy of ‘Bakemonogatari’ on Blu-Ray or DVD: Click Here