Monogatari Series Review, Part 2 of 3

In my review of the previous season of the Monogatari novels, I mostly praised its strange writing and its weird and complex characters, while showing disdain toward its slow-pacing and “smart-sounding” dialogue. But wow, this season is really where the series gets good.


Nekomonogatari: Shiro

I alluded to disliking Hanekawa in my previous review. So, naturally, I was DREADING a volume told from her perspective. Well, it turns out that I like her a lot more now. My problem with her last time wasn’t so much her personality as it was Araragi’s hero worship of her. Even when her tragic backstories and flaws came to light, he would unflinchingly maintain his preconceived image of her as Super Mary Sue 9000, and that made me resent her (and Araragi). But in HER head, we see a more down-to-earth and less pompous person than before. 

She is, in some ways, a better narrator than Araragi. The volume’s shorter chapters provide more places for readers to stop and process plot developments. Plus, her proactiveness makes it so that she tries to solve the volume’s conflict, as opposed to Araragi, who had to wait for Memelord or Kaiki or whoever to exposition dump the issue onto his clueless face.


Kabukimonogatari

Oh boy. Araragi again. Well, fortunately, he at least learned some lessons from Hanekawa. The chapters are still shorter and he didn’t take QUITE as long to get to the actual plot.

It sure jumps the shark by suddenly introducing TIME TRAVEL out of nowhere. And similar to 99.99% of time travel mechanics, it falls into modern fantasy’s “make up random inconsistent crap just for whatever would help the narrative” schtick. Not even NISI can match Steins;Gate.

The biggest issue with this volume is its ending, as it builds up to an epic confrontation that ends almost instantly. However, the suspense and tension of the scenario are enough to make Kabuki arguably one of the best volumes of Monogatari up to this point.


Hanamonogatari

I was told by my friend who’s been lending me this series that this is either their least favorite installment or widely considered to be the worst installment… I don’t quite remember. In fact, I properly remembered incorrectly, because this is not a bad volume at all!

It is, however- in good old NISIOISIN fashion- an unusual volume. Hana is the FINAL volume of the series, chronologically speaking. Starring Kanbaru for the first time, this volume is set after Araragi has graduated high school and moved to college. We get our first deep look at the weirdo as she tackles this volume’s conflict solo.

However, just because it’s not the worst or not bad, doesn’t mean it’s a straight-up masterpiece either. If actually read chronologically, this would’ve been a horrible way to “end” the series. Also, I don’t get the point of this examination of Kanbaru. Unlike with Hanekawa, where I actually started to view her differently as a person, I didn’t feel any differently about Kanbaru. Sure, we learn about an aspect of her past, but unlike with previously established characters, I didn’t understand what aspect of her insecurities was explored via this volume’s conflict. Maybe I brain-farted on this one or something. 

Nonetheless, NISI made a good call publishing the finale when he did, instead of actually publishing it at the end. He saved himself from a lot of salt that way! Unfortunately, Araragi’s presence in this volume gives him plot armor for the rest of the series. Great!


Otorimonogatari

Making her first appearance in what feels like forever, Nadeko takes the helm in the strangest installment in the series thus far. Did she always alternate between referring to herself with a lowercase “i” and her own name in the third person? I feel like I would’ve realized that sooner.

The premise is that she becomes possessed by a strange white snake, which is supposed to represent the guilt of her chopping up snakes back in the first arc. The theme seems to have something to do with how Nadeko is a horrible person who tries to victimize herself or something… I’m not quite sure. But regardless, Otori showcases just how much of a basket case she is!


Onimonogatari

A strange phenomenon threatens to engulf Araragi and the town, and it has something to do with Shinobu. The main appeal of Oni is the telling of Shinobu’s backstory with her previous thrall. 

Unfortunately, her story is kind of boring. It doesn’t really give her any meaningful character development, and the dude doesn’t even have a name. Plus, like the troll that NISI is, no information in the backstory actually contributes to solving the conflict of the volume. This is probably my least favorite volume of the second season.


Koimonogatari

I presume this is originally meant to be the final published volume, for it is set around Araragi and Senjo’s graduation; the date that the final boss is meant to kill them, which is established in a previous volume of this season. It stars Kaiki, of all people, who is hired by Senjo to trick the person into sparing our two lovebirds.

It was a great call making Kaiki the narrator for this one. For one thing, his personality and world views are so eccentric and fresh that it makes him one of the best characters in the series. The other thing is that using him saves this volume from being utter ass. The whole thing is basically Kaiki talking to the final boss over and over again until he can tell them that Araragi and Senjo already died. But at this point, I was no stranger to NISI creating big buildup just to have it culminate in the most anticlimactic way possible.

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Verdict (Average of All 6 Books): 8.45/10

Monogatari is still kicking butt. If all goes well, I should be posting the finale of this review series towards the end of this year or the start of 2021. Peace out!

Katanagatari Volumes 1-3 Review

A lot of people love NISIOISIN’s Monogatari series to pieces, but the same author’s 2007 series, Katanagatari, is much more obscure. In fact, I wouldn’t have known about it if my friend who’s been lending me the Monogatari novels hadn’t also lent me this. Published in omnibus form by Vertical Inc., this series can now be experienced in English. Each of my reviews will cover three volumes due to the aforementioned omnibus format.

The big thing about Katanagatari is that it seems deceptively simple. The main character, Yasuri Shichika, lives alone on an island with his sister until he is approached by a girl named Togame. She tells him about these twelve powerful swords forged by a famous swordsmith named Shikizaki and offers to help her obtain the swords. Since there would be no series if he didn’t decide to tag along with her, Shichika decides to tag along with her. Given the amount of swords, the amount of volumes, and the fact that each volume, so far, has been named after one of the swords, it is easy to infer that Katanagatari follows a monster-of-the-week formula, with each volume consisting of going to where the next MacGuffin is, then fighting the person who’s wielding it.

NISI, do you actually think you can fool me? (And well, if the series actually stays this simplistic all the way to the end, then yes, you have fooled me.)

Since this is by the author of Monogatari, you’d naturally expect some phenomenally complex characters (and if you haven’t read Monogatari, just know that this author is known for phenomenally complex characters). But again, they seem deceptively simple! Shichika is kind the antithesis of Araragi. Unlike the iconic Monogatari tragic hero, he doesn’t like thinking too hard, and is pretty much an idiot when it comes to anything other than fighting. He sounds an awful lot like a cardboard cutout battle shounen protagonist… NISI, just what are you playing at? Regardless, the fact that he fights armed swordsmen without using a sword himself is cool.

Togame, meanwhile, seems to be just a waifu. She’s good at tactical stuff, but she can’t fight to save her life. So, Shichika has to protect her (NISI, do you actually want your FANS to like this series?). There are strong implications of ulterior motives on her part, but it shouldn’t be anything that would offset her need to be “protecc-ted.” Despite how bland these characters seem, they still have some great (and long) interactions between each other, as to be expected from NISI.

The biggest challenge from reading this book is visualizing it. As you can tell from the cover, this has an appealing and unusual art style. At first, I had a very hard time picturing things because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to picture it exactly like the illustrations or in a modern anime style. I ultimately settled on a weird combination of both, but it might not be so easy for you.

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Verdict: 8/10

So far, so good. Due to its simpler format, this is a much easier series to recommend to people than Monogatari, or if they’re intimidated by Monogatari, then they can use this to get an impression of NISI’s writing style. If there’s any concern I have, it’s that the basic plot formula won’t change much, and I’ll have problems writing posts for subsequent volumes… But for entertainment value, this is shaping up to be a great series for Monogatari fans who need a break from Araragi’s constant existential crises.

Monogatari Series Review, Part 1 of 3

Cover of volume 1 of Bakemonogatari

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.

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Bakemonogatari

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.
And.
Also, a lot.
And a lot.
Of crap like this.
Right here.
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!

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Kizumonogatari

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!

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Nisemonogatari

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.

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Nekomonogatari: Kuro

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.

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Verdict: 8/10

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!