Reaper's Reviews: 'Nisemonogatari'
Original title: Nisemonogatari (Impostory)
Format: 11 episodes
Release: January 8, 2012 - March 18, 2012
Source: Light novel
Age rating: R - 17+ (graphic violence, mild profanity, suggestive themes and partial nudity)
Bakemonogatari was this delightful surprise that I had no idea that I'll love so much, but knowing how long the Monogatari saga is, I was a little afraid with starting this watching project. Then it was after finishing those excellent 15 episodes filled with fun, tragedy, hope, humor, pain and emotion, that I just knew I had to continue this journey.
And so we have Nisemonogatari, the then-long awaited sequel to Bakemonogatari that added eleven more episodes to the mix, this time in a slightly different manner. And I swiftly watched all those episodes in a matter of a week, with some breaks in between.
My thirst for more Monogatari quenched for the time being, with Nisemonogatari having some of my favorite moments and conversations in the series so far. But at the same time, there was a slightly bitter taste, as if it just wasn't as fresh as it used to be for me, nor was it as well made and delicious as I remembered it.
And with that, our review of studio Shaft's sequel, Nisemonogatari, begins.
Story & Setting
Nisemonogatari takes place shortly after Bakemonogatari and follows stories involving Araragi’s sisters Karen and Tsukihi. It should go without saying that as a second season, Nisemonogatari will require you to watch the first season beforehand, but honestly, watching Bakemonogatari is a joy, not chore.
There isn’t too much to add about the Monogatari series’ trademark writing and execution at this point: Nisemonogatari has all of it and more, with the same spicey and eccentric dialogues, clever references and bizarre descriptions that Bakemonogatari had.
In some ways this is an even darker story than its predecessor, as Araragi’s supernatural adventures start to involve both his family and strangers with unknown intentions, and Araragi no longer has the help of the shrewd yet affable Oshino, who left the city last season.
Unlike the previous season which had five different arcs, Nisemonogatari includes only two arcs, each revolving around one of Koyomi’s younger sisters. “Karen Bee” sheds some light on the cause of some previous events, while “Tsukihi Phoenix” brings the paranormal situation close to Araragi’s home.
Both arcs provide some of the best and most intense scenes, conflicts and conversations seen in the series thus far, with unique philosophies and some heartfelt interactions that feed a lot of development to Araragi’s character.
Two of the biggest themes this season is the concept of justice and what it means to be a fake, and Nisemonogatari takes pleasure in dissecting and studying different characters and their opinion on delivering justice, and how some people can be swallowed up by their own masks while others, despite knowing how horrible they are, remain aware of their own flaws.
Unfortunately, when Nisemonogatari isn’t busy with ruthless deconstruction and blood-boiling confrontations, it spends its time on forgettable filler. Araragi goes from place to place on his bicycle, talks with all the girls he knows… But with little importance to the actual plot.
There is a lot more paddling in Nisemonogatari -Koyomi running from one place to another every five minutes, girls showing up for a little chat and disappearing for the majority of the season - to the point that you could cut off three episodes worth of run-time with little impact on the relevant stuff, and the pacing tends to drag too often. The most glaring issue being the fact that the Karen Bee arc is 7 episodes long, but could be solved with just 3 episodes at most.
It’s especially disheartening since Bakemonogatari was so excellently paced and well thought-out through and through, while Nisemonogatari - despite being the shorter season - feels like the longer one.
While the two arcs Nisemonogatari offers bear the names of Karen and Tsukihi, this season places far greater emphasis on Araragi and his role in the Monogatari series, as a man, as a brother, and as the main character.
In Nisemonogatari, Araragi’s ideals and beliefs are pushed to the max, and his limits are tested both mentally and physically. His position as the main character as well as the setting’s new “supernatural expert” are touched upon, but it’s his role as a big brother that adds a new dimension to his character.
Araragi’s unique approach to his relationship with his sisters is a fun dynamic to watch, with his desire to be their shield from danger while also being blunt and direct with his low opinion of their sense of justice bleeding into the season’ primary ideas. In many ways, he carries this season almost all by himself, which is quite impressive.
But this leads to another reason of Nisemonogatari’s inferiority in comparison to its predecessor: the rest of the cast, for the most part, is just not as compelling as it was in the previous season. Hitagi, Hanekawa and the other girls are still a joy to watch, but they all get shafted after what feels to be a pointless re-introduction. For characters we were already familiar with
Sengoku disappears into thin air only two episodes in, Kanbaru is mostly there for a few fanservice shots and Mayoi is present solely for Araragi’s hands at random point throughout the series. Hitagi thankfully gets another nice addition to her character arc even if she loses all relevance by the second half of the series while Hanekawa’s involvement with the Araragi siblings didn’t add too much to either character.
As for the Araragi sisters, they get enough screentime to flesh out their personalities, but they lack the depth and complexity of the previous female leads, and they are more often absent from their own arcs than not. Tsukihi especially hits this harder than Karen and while she is the being the second arc revolves around, she barely appears at all.
But there is saving grace and it comes in two forms, the first being the deliciously designed antagonists of this season, Deishū Kaiki and Yozuru Kagenui. Kaiki is an almost emotionless yet blunt con-man who believes money to be the sole purpose in the world, but he is surprisingly honest and chill about his selfish reasoning, recognizing how his actions hurt people, but ignoring it anyways for his own benefit. His cold heart and rather logical demeanor sets him apart from your usual greedy or sleazy thief.
Kagenui, on the other hand, appears to be a more righteous person, a firm believer in justice, but she avoids being a one-dimensional or unaware flat character thanks to her ruthless approach to her idea of justice and overall lack of morality regarding her actions and their consequences.
The second saving grace comes in the form of Shinobu Oshino, the quiet vampire girl from Bakemonogatari. This time Shinobu talks, and quite a lot at that. From what was thought to be a shy, timid girl, Shinobu turns out to be the very opposite: an incredibly chatty vampire and sharp personality.
Her seemingly selfish behavior with an overly confident tone makes this playful vampire chick my favorite character in the series so far, and every time Shinobu is on screen, one can expect an hilarious conversation filled with razor-sharp wit and sass.
Animation & Sound
Nisemonogatari looks just as great - if not better - as Bakemonogatari, using the same strong, vibrant colors, quick shots, usage of different art-style, excellent lighting and special effects, visual puns and metaphors, highly polished art and generally fluid animation.
My only problem with the animation comes with the fanservice, namely how much of it exists here. In the previous season fanservice was present and the show was filled with suggestive visual cues but here this is just taken up to eleven, which shots such as of Kanbaru laying completely naked on her books or Tsukihi being stripped of her clothes by Araragi (it does makes sense in the context, I think…), but more often than not, the fanservice ends up being a little too excessive to the point of being distracting.
On the sound note, the soundtrack merges some of Bakemonogatari’s tunes with new ones, and I have to admit I somewhat liked Nisemonogatari’s soundtrack additions more, especially the menacing yet melancholic (and fittingly named) “Ominous” which serves as Kaiki’s theme, as well as the energetic and urgent “There are Many Exceptions on the Rules” that comes in one of the series’ most intense scenes up to this point.
The opening themes are sparsely used but when they are featured, they are catchy and energetic like the Araragi sisters who sing them, coupled with some beautifully animated scenes filled with strong colors.
Now in my previous review I’ve already talked about how excellent the voice acting is, so let me reinforce that point with some fresh additions. Shinichiro Miki’s calm and collected performance as Kaiki is nothing short of fantastic, capturing his character’s logical approach to situations while also adding a hint of dry wit in his voice.
Eri Kitamura’s Karen and Yuka Iguchi’s Tsukihi already debuted in Bakemonogatari, but it is their more major roles here that allow them to show more emotion and personality than before, and they both manage to make the Araragi sisters engaging and funny.
But the real star is none other than Maaya Sakamoto as Shinobu, with an excellent performance filled with humor, cockiness and playfulness that bring this blonde vampire to life. When Shinobu on screen, Sakomoto’s voice acting always steals the spotlight.
For all my criticism against this anime, Nisemonogatari is still a very fun series to watch. It falls short of being as good as its predecessor, but at the same time it manages to outdo Bakemonogatari in several aspects, most notably in the inclusion of formidable adversaries and further exploration of Araragi’s character.
It has some paddling, some notable pacing issues, a weaker set of heroines and too much fanservice, but at its best Nisemonogatari still delivers the spicy script and witty humor Bakemonogatari was famous for, and at times, suppresses it in terms of quality.
Possessing the typical studio Shaft production values, memorable soundtrack and excellent voice acting, Nisemonogatari is not as good or addicting as its predecessor Bakemonogatari, but it delivers just enough to be a worthwhile watch for fans like me.
- Excellent antagonists that provide some of the franchise's highest points to date
- Shinobu is one of the best anime characters and is pure joy to watch
- Typically high-quality animation, soudntrack and voice acting by studio Shaf and its staff
- Mismanaged pacing that drags this notably short series for too long, alongside paddling and pointless character re-introductions
- The Araragi sisters, despite being the season's main characters, barely get anything in comparison to previous heroines
- Fanservice gets excessive at times to the point of exhaustion
& The Ugly:
- Kaiki goes to the same barber as Wolverine
My first recommendation would go to studio Shaft's own Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, which is more or less the series that introduced the world to Akiyuki Shinbou's directional style.
My second recommendation is xxxHolic, which I haven't watched myself (weird considering how much I love its sister-series Tsubasa Chronicle), but its supernatural elements and approach to related problems may hit home with fans of the Monogatari series.
© 2018 Raziel Reaper