The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Nekomonogatari Kuro

Title: Nekomonogatari Kuro aka Nekomonogatari Black
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Company: Shaft
Format: 4 episodes
Dates: 31 Dec 2012

Synopsis: Araragi Koyomi is questioning the nature of love. Having recently survived an attack by a vampire with the help of his classmate Hanekawa Tsubasa, he begins to take a keen interest in her. He soon discovers that she has been possessed by the oddity known as the meddlecat. To return the favor, Koyomi must find a way to rid Tsubasa of her curse.

The Highlights
Introduction: Beginning is excruciatingly boring, but improves massively thereafter.
Prequel: Successful prequel to Bakemonogatari; enriches the main story.
Hanekawa Tsubasa: The main focus of the story, and an utterly fascinating character.
Tone: Overall, darker and more serious than both Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari.

Nekomonogatari Kuro, the third installment of the Monogatari franchise, takes the opportunity to examine a little history. It jumps backwards to a time before the franchise’s cornerstone Bakemonogatari to analyze key characters and relationships, while at the same time incorporating the more familiar elements introduced in the second installment, Nisemonogatari. However, whereas Nisemonogatari often portrayed its iconic characters in a cartoonish way and placed much more focus on excessive fanservice and humor, Nekomonogatari returns to a stronger story and character focus and stands as a worthy addition to the franchise.

Oddly enough, what Nekomonogatari has that Nisemonogatari lacks is a tighter and more coherent plot. The things typically associated with the enjoyment of the Monogatari series, such as snappy and playful dialogue, amusing character poses, and SHAFT style LSD induced visual experiences, all work best when they gravitate around interesting character and story developments. Narrative or thematic purpose is necessary, otherwise the viewing experience feels empty. This is where Nekomonogatari shines most of all, as it manages to capture the audience’s attention with more than just the superficial.

In particular, on full display throughout Nekomonogatari is the enigmatic personality of Hanekawa Tsubasa, who proves to be one of the most interesting characters in Monogatari. The details of her life that unfold onscreen are both chilling and captivating to explore, but more importantly, it explains many unanswered questions about the nature of her relationship with Koyomi. The reasons why Koyomi never got involved romantically with Tsubasa are understandable and beautifully illustrated. Moreover, there is a sense of gravity to the drama presented that makes it quite engaging.

Nekomonogatari, however, is not without fault. While it avoids many of the traps that Nisemonogatari ran into, it still shares some of its poorer qualities. In particular, the first fifteen minutes of this story, while not completely without meaning, are excruciatingly difficult to get by. It features an extraordinary display of pussyfooting around the main story along with crass fanservice that is not helped by some uncharacteristically poor and inane dialogue. This introduction sequence is overly self-indulgent and miserably boring, which makes it difficult to believe that the story could ever turn into something worth watching.

With this to build from, it is startling how different and how much better Nekomonogatari suddenly becomes after these introductory scenes. The initial lighthearted atmosphere is discarded and replaced with a more subdued and somber one. As if to prep the audience for this change, there is also a very noticeable transition in the visuals from a vibrant and light color palette, to a darker and grittier one, which complements the unsettling nature of the ongoing events very well. This drastic tonal shift is welcome departure from the norm, given a story that features child abuse and parental neglect.

Tsubasa greatly benefits from the darker tone as she has always been one of the more serious characters in the lot. Furthermore, although Tsubasa has never been unimportant in the grand scheme of things, this prequel retroactively adds greater importance to her role. Her connection to Koyomi is given more weight, raising interesting questions about Koyomi’s relationship not only with her, but also with Senjogahara Hitagi in Bakemonogatari. Suffice to say, Nekomonogatari does what any good prequel does, enriching the original series in a meaningful way. Most of all, it reminds us of just why we keep coming back to see more of this fascinating franchise.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Reckoner

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