The Monogatari light novel series is one of the few that have been adapted, in their entirety, into anime form. However, I heard that the show uses an artsy directing style that sounds really distracting and pretentious, so I’ve been reading the light novels instead of watching the anime. Published in English by Vertical Inc., only the first “season” is available digitally. Therefore, I’ve been borrowing volumes from a friend. At the time of this writing, I’m a little bit into the second “season”, according to MyAnimeList. In the meantime, let’s review the first season.
For those fans who know that Bakemonogatari isn’t the chronological first installment, I’m tackling the light novels in published order. Sorry.
Anyhoo, Bakemonogatari is a setup arc that serves to establish all of the major players by following a distinct formula. The main protagonist, an angsty, existential teen named Araragi Koyomi has to help cute girls who are possessed by various spirits, called aberrations. The aberrations are all representations of actual, real-life human issues, and the solutions to remove them are roughly the same as actually dealing with them in real life.
Since Monogatari is a character study, the characters are of the utmost importance. Best Girl Senjogahara Hitagi is a super tsundere who carries a stapler around. Her insults put a lot of other tsunderes to shame. Hachikuji Mayoi is also a charming character; she roasts Araragi and intentionally mispronounces his name in spectacular ways. Kanbaru Suruga and Sengoku Nadeko aren’t the most remarkable at this juncture, but the former is at least a weird, jealous lesbian. Hanekawa Tsubasa is- at a glance- a Mary Sue and a know-it-all, but the story gives a preview to a much darker side of her at the end of the arc.
Speaking of pretentious, the dialogue of this series had me- scratch that, it STILL has me- at a crossroads. The vast majority of the series is written in an unconventional and very wordy style.
Also, a lot.
And a lot.
Of crap like this.
Yeah, I’m not kidding.
Sometimes the dialogue goes on and on and on, where over half a volume can be spent just talking about random stuff. Araragi himself even points that fact out in the actual story. They talk about things from panties, to sexuality, to existence itself. I find some of the dialogue funny, some pretentious, but the sheer amount of it tends to make this series tedious to read at times. And to top it off, there are no page breaks except for the ends of chapters. Get ready to read 30+ pages without rest!
This is the chronological first volume of the series, and it showcases how Araragi became a vampire (oh yeah, forgot to mention that part in the review of Bake…). It’s a very long volume and it follows a monster-of-the-week formula.
I also forgot to mention the best man, Oshino Meme. Meme is a cool and nonchalant gentleman who serves as an exposition dump for whatever issue is occurring. He always manages to know the problem and the solution before it even occurs, and this chronologically first meeting is no exception.
Kizu is the proper introduction of Shinobu, the vampire whose fate is attached to Araragi, and goes by a much longer name in this volume. When the conflict gets resolved, she becomes a deadpan loli who speaks in “old-timey” talk. I like her, but not as much as some of the the other people.
This volume is the first one that really showcases Araragi’s emotional insecurities. If you’re fascinated by that stuff, get ready for a treat!
This two-volume-long arc deals with Araragi’s sisters and also questions the meaning of “real” and “fake” as far as identity and existence goes. Personally, I find these types of arcs to be tedious because there is no way to arrive at a clear-cut conclusion to this quandary. Last time I checked, Morpheus doesn’t exist to give you that clear-cut conclusion. It is at least something you can have an endless debate over if you enjoy that kind of stuff.
But regardless of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, the arc introduces some awesome new characters. The Araragi’s Fire Sisters are quirky and strange. Beware, there are a lot of incestuous interactions between them and their brother. Normally, I don’t have a problem with incest in fiction (because it’s, you know, FICTION), but this instance doesn’t add anything to the narrative and tries to justify itself by having the characters explicitly say how wrong it is, while still doing it anyway.
The other newcomers are the first antagonists of the series, such as Kaiki Deishu. But, this blog’s gotten long enough, so I’ll let you experience these awesome character for yourself.
This is the chronological second volume. It delves into Hanekawa’s background and gives you a true introduction to her character arc. It’s a bit lengthy given the actual content of the plot, but that’s nothing new with this series. The only real issue is that content from it is spoiled too much in the last chapter of Bake.
It’s a decent enough first impression, even if it’s a bit verbose. Having read some of the subsequent volumes, I already know that it gets much better from here. If you love the human psyche and generally weird stuff, then this light novel is for you!