It is easy to assume Kate and I have near identical tastes when it comes to anime. If you look at our My Anime List profiles you would see that Kate and I have remarkably similar lists. While there is clearly a bit more Type-Moon stuff on my list and a bit more shoujo romance on Kate’s list I don’t have anything close to the same compatibility with anyone else on my friend’s list. The fact that we don’t really bicker about shows in reviews like Siskel and Ebert only reinforces that idea. But if you have been coming here long enough you will notice that we each have our own distinct taste that can really show how differently we view things. A title like Kizumonogatari demonstrates that brilliantly. I can’t think of an anime movie that I would casually watch that Kate would dislike more.
In many ways Kizumonogatari is probably a near perfect checklist of things that Kate hates in one package. A series about vampires and controlling women directed by Akiyuki Shinbou based on a book by Nisio Isin that has nothing but bad puns. The fact that the series has incest and lolicon themes in its harem antics only seals the deal. It would take dog murder and blatant misogyny for her to hate this series more. She might rage over something like The Rising of the Shield Hero or No Game No Life more for how deeply they commits to the elements that Kate hates but there is absolutely no element of Kizumonogatari to bring Kate anything close to feeling of enjoyment. It seems more like a phony title you would make up centering around the worst thing for Kate to watch.
I on the other hand am hardly the biggest fan of the Monogatari series but considering I have watched 77 episodes of this series I guess I am in it to win it at this point. (I have not watched any Koyomimonogatari at this point it time. I assume it will eventually get licensed so I can watch it streaming somewhere.) So if you’re wondering why Kate is not reviewing this now you have your answer.
All that is left is for me to give my impression of the movie.
Before helping Hitagi Senjougahara in Bakemonogatari it seems Koyomi Araragi was just a loner who mostly just enjoyed the solitude of his life. But a chance encounter with a mortally injured vampire Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade embroils him in a desperate struggle against a trio of vampire hunters after she turns him into one of the undead like her. Araragi tries to regain his humanity and save his depowered new master with the aid of the unusual mystic Meme Oshino.
A little bookkeeping for anyone who has not neck-deep in this series. Kizumonogatari Part 1 is the first of three movies telling the story from the Kizumonogatari novel. Kizumonogatari was the third book released in the Monogatari series despite the fact that it takes place before the original two books. These charts sum some of it up if you are super curious. The movies themselves have been delayed so long that seven parts of the anime have come and gone since the original TV series came out. I have never been able to find out exactly what caused the delay but the first film in the trilogy has finally come out in spite of the fact that later iterations have made reference to this story under the assumption that this portion has already been told.
I was thinking of reading the novel before the movie but I decided against it. The translation from Vertical has been getting excellent reviews so it is probably the best experience unless you can read the original Japanese version. It is mostly the fact that I wanted to take in the movie without having my expectations tainted by the novel. I find that you tend to be much harder on an anime when you keep comparing to the source material as opposed to thinking about what the adaptation did to explore what is unique to its medium. Reading the novel after the first movie lets the animated version stand alone before I read the written version that would probably overshadow the movie otherwise. This way I can let the first movie speak for the trilogy, then read the novel, and then judge the movies against the book a bit more fairly.
I have to get this out-of-the-way because it is probably the most interesting part of the movie. It is actually a bit unnerving at points. I’m not going to say terrifying or even scary but it creates a disturbing mood unlike anything else in the series. It is the closest the series comes to actually being a horror movie. Before this point for a series that dealt with ghouls and ghosts it was never really that scary. Some parts were gross, disturbing, or shocking but it took the concepts of a horror series more than actually being in the genre proper. The meeting between Kiss-shot and Araragi in the subway was genuinely disturbing. There is constant feeling of deep-seated dread that was not present elsewhere. The shots of a limbless screaming vampire or Araragi burning in the sunlight disquiet the audience in ways the series has never attempted before.
Despite that change in the tone the overall style is still distinctly a Shinbou version of a Monogatari story. The elaborate architecture that makes even an abandoned cram school look like an art installation. The frequent use of title cards is still fairly omnipresent with the themes of red and black this time. The walls of text that flash by too quickly to read are not used as much. I have to assume they use that on the TV broadcast episodes because the people who care will rewind and freeze frame to see all at home but they can’t do that in the theater. They do keep the old school anime references at a fairly strong clip as well with things like a Tetsujin 28 homage. If anything there seems to be less dialog than you would normally see in a Monogatari story. Kizumonogatari is hardly the Monogatari version of Angel’s Egg but there is a far greater emphasis on atmosphere and visual presentation than dialog as compared to the rest of the franchise.
If anything the only thing they have seriously upped the detail on is Tsubasa Hanekawa’s breasts. Monogatari has always been a pervy series but the emphasis on Tsubasa and Kiss-shot’s curves is almost an artistic level of lasciviousness. This is not the utter sexual deviancy on display like in Nisemonogatari but Tsubasa almost seems like a shiny key chain rattled in front of a child to keep its attention. It is not as if the TV series never did this. In fact it did it all the time. The thing is since the movie is far less talky as compared to previous iterations alongside the slightly more dynamic animation it makes the fan service stand out a bit more than usual.
This is really setup for the next two movies more than anything else. The main beats are Araragi meeting Tsubasa, becoming a vampire, learning about the three vampire hunters, and then starting to formulate a plan with Kiss-shot and Oshino. While you are given the impression that the trio of hunters is formidable Meme steps in before the triumvirate even has a chance to show off what they can really do. Episode and Dramaturgie warm up a bit but they are really just giving the audience an IOU on being cool more than putting down a full deposit. I’m not even sure what Guillotine Cutter’s gimmick is. If you expecting a huge Katanagatari style battles then your going to be sorely disappointed. This is more about setting the mood and the stakes. The fights are for the next two movies.
I guess the real question you want to wonder is if this is a good place to start. A trio of movies is a far smaller investment than the fifteen episodes of the Bakemonogatari TV series and OVA. Also this is the earliest story (that I know of) on the Monogatari time line. No muss or fuss with unexplained events or characters. Everyone gets a full introduction as if this was the first time anyone had seen the character. In fact it might be slightly easier to get into than Bakemonogatari which makes several references to this story without ever going into what actually happened here other than the broadest of broad strokes. Plus it has all the elements that characterize the series in a slightly diluted form. They are either in a milder form or happen less than they would in later stories. It gives someone new to the series a good idea of what they are getting into without overwhelming them.
So is everything tempered enough that Kate could watch this?
It is still a Nisio Isin story about vampires. She still might have a better time watching the second episode of Akikan! (OK. That is hyperbole but you get what I’m trying to say.) For anyone else this good place to start if you were curious. Anyone else has probably already watched it and just wanted to see my opinion.
For now I’m going to reserve my judgment for the end of the third movie but I see no reason not to watch the next two movies.