With the Monogatari series coming to an end, with the beginning of the story, I feel like it’s time to write about this intriguing series. There are some spoilers, but parts of this series were made out of order to begin with, if it weren’t evident considering it’s ending with the beginning of the series. Although it could be seen that the beginning of the series doesn’t need to be at the beginning of the story, and it does an exceptional job of showing this.
The Japanese word ‘monogatari’ translates in English to “story.” Each set of Chapters within the series is named by the type of story it is. Koimonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Bakemonogatari, all mean Love Story, Fake Story, and a play on the Japanese words Bakemono and Monogatari meaning Monster Story. What sets this series apart from all the other series I’ve followed is the way each episode is narrated and viewed. It’s more like watching a story be told than to watch a story unfold. They break a lot of the animation for simple black screens or cuts in scenes to change location or setting to fill gaps in time. The only narration is done by characters and most of the story is told as conversation between the characters, acting as exposition as well.
During the story, it also breaks animation style to for comedic or dramatic effect regularly, following the main protagonist Koyomi Araragi and his interactions with his friends, family, and strange beings known as apparitions. In some instances, they’re like Gods, and others are more like roaming spirits of the dead. Japanese have a lot of mythologies and believe in many types of spirits and deities, and has left a lot of room for this series to give us insight into these different beliefs.
From the beginning, we are made aware that Araragi has been made into a strange type of vampire. Sunlight and other commonly believed methods of vampire extermination do not work on him as he’s still half human. This was caused by events that transpired during his Golden Week break from school. During this time he met with a vampire by the name of Kiss-Shot-Accelera-Orion-Heart-Under-Blade, afterwards named Shinobu, and a man named Meme Oshino. He specializes in encounters relating to apparitions or are occult in nature. Araragi begins to encounter apparitions in his daily life, relying on the newly met Meme Oshino to aid him in many cases to help fix or heal the people afflicted by these beings. A crab that steals a girl’s weight, a girl representing a lost cow or lost snail, a Monkey’s Paw taking control over a girl’s arm, and a girl slowly being constricted by an invisible snake, and several other types of apparitions.
I look forward to every iteration of the series because of how unique I feel that it is compared to every other show I’ve watched. It has its own style of animation and art, but it’s a series that is never too serious as it cuts away to make jokes out of over-reactions and changes to different ways of drawing the characters. Chief among the jokes can often be the attitude between Araragi and most of the girls reactions with him, as he can often be caught thinking of something lecherous in nature, and would make the show unsuitable for a younger audience. Another common feature of the series is how the writer, Nisio Isin uses wordplay with a lot of his dialogue. Araragi tricking a cat girl to use a sentence with a lot of words starting with “N”, as the Japanese consider a cat’s meow to be more of a “nya” sound, and listening to the resulting dialogue. Such as I’ve mentioned, Bakemonogatari is another example of the wordplay used in the series, and often having Japanese kanji play a role in ridiculing his own character names like Shinobu. Heart-Under-Blade’s kanji can be read literally as Shinobu, giving her a much simpler name to remember. Without knowing Japanese and the kanji for each word, it’s harder to fully appreciate the writing and dialogue, but it’s not necessary to appreciate the series.
Monogatari has also been fortunate enough to have had the same studio for its entirety, Studio Shaft, as well as we’ve had Aniplex USA bringing the series to North America for its entirety. It can almost completely be found on the Crunchyroll site save for the final Kizumonogatari (Wound Story) series of films which are airing in Japan in theatres, and is currently airing at the time of the review being written.
The series is serious and joking, relaxed and intense, and playful but disturbing during each set of chapters. The opening and ending themes have been energetic and catchy to listen to, and overall it has been a very positive series to invest the time into personally. I began watching it in 2012-2013, several years after it originally began airing, and have followed it ever since. It has been one of my longest
anticipated and enjoyed series next to Hunter x Hunter and Fate, and it’s unfortunate that it’ll finally be ending. Now that it finally is nearing the end, I’ll have a chance to use the chronological order of the series to re-watch it all in its proper order for the story, so I suppose there is an upside to the end.