The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Nisemonogatari

Title: Nisemonogatari
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Company: Shaft
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 8 Jan 2012 – 18 Mar 2012

Synopsis: After the events of Bakemonogatari, Araragi Koyomi wakes up to find himself being held captive by his girlfriend Senjougahara Hitagi. Koyomi flashes back to earlier in the day, where he meets up with the various girls he helped from the first series. On his way home, he meets a curious figure named Kaiki Deishu, the same swindler that once targeted Hitagi. Now, Koyomi’s own little sister is in danger of falling for one of Kaiki’s curses.

The Highlights
Do you need to watch the first series: Yes.
Fanservice: Objectively excessive.
Production quality: Excellent; noticeably better than the first series.
Villains: Solidly designed, elegantly simple, easily understood.

Nisemonogatari is the much-anticipated continuation of Bakemonogatari from 2010. Shinbo Akiyuki (Pani Poni Dash, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei) returns to animate Nishio Ishin’s third novel, telling the story of Koyomi’s sisters, imbued with the same quirky style that worked wonders with Bakemonogatari. Given Nishio’s narrative approach, viewers should expect the same style of dialogue-heavy storytelling that they experienced in the first series. Many episodes are structured around a single scene of two characters conversing, framed by Shinbo’s creative visual imagination and its success is dependent purely on quality writing. While the anime is generally competent, profound, and entertaining, inconsistent pacing and a diminutive scope leaves Nisemonogatari in the shadow of its predecessor.

Nisemonogatari is organized into two arcs: “Karen Bee” followed by “Tsukihi Phoenix”. Similar to Bakemonogatari, each arc is about a specific spiritual ailment that affects a character — in this case Koyomi’s two little sisters. Karen and Tsukihi themselves are present enough to barely develop their own stories but absent during the actual climaxes and resolutions of their respective arcs. Both times, Koyomi and one of his allies goes to square off against the bad guy. This departure from Bakemonogatari’s plot structure came off initially as peculiar, but I’ve come to understand it as a motif the series constructs about family. Koyomi is unflinchingly devoted to protecting his sisters and acts as their proxy in dealing with their curses.

The anime’s villains are simple yet surprisingly effective, a type of character absent from the first series. The first villain introduced is Kaiki Deishu. Kaiki is heartless and conniving, but plainly candid about it. But he doesn’t come off as cheap or as a thief, but rather as an intelligent and rational con-man. Kaiki’s design is elegant because his cold logic is easily accessible and understood by viewers. As a villain, he has no sense of self-doubt or hesitation — he is completely confident in his worldview, and it justifies everything he does.

Nisemonogatari draws the lion’s share of its strength from its writing. The narrative varies between witty banter to surprisingly thoughtful explorations of philosophical points of view. Recall that as Koyomi progressed through the arcs of Bakemonogatari, Hitagi’s presence was felt despite not being directly involved in the narrative. The anime established a bond that inextricably linked the two characters. While Hitagi has screentime and presence in the first half of Nisemonogatari, her existence is greatly diminished in “Tsukihi Phoenix”. As I mentioned earlier, even the titular sisters themselves seem to take a secondary role in their own storylines. Koyomi himself, rather than Koyomi and Hitagi, is the focus of Nisemonogatari. It’s his own personal responsibility to protect the ones he cares about most. The anime gracefully explores the contrast between his view on responsibility and his sisters’ view on “justice”, one of several themes discussed throughout the show.

The main problem with Nisemonogatari is pacing. The show curiously spends its first two episodes reintroducing the several girls from the previous series, only to not do anything with them in the anime proper. Koyomi’s relatively inappropriate encounters with Mayoi from the first series return, but they come off as more random than amusing. Other characters, like Nadeko, basically disappear after being introduced. The show hints at some kind of conflict between Hitagi and Tsubasa early on, but ultimately doesn’t deliver on this subplot at all. It feels so wasteful since one can easily tell that some sequences were drawn out to fill time. The aggressive and distracting nature of this anime’s fanservice exacerbates the issues with pacing. Bakemonogatari successfully completed its five character arcs over fifteen episodes — averaging out to three episodes per arc. Nisemonogatari, with much more time per arc, does too little.

Overall, I enjoyed Nisemonogatari. In every sense, it was obviously made from Bakemonogatari’s mold. It’s stylistically fascinating and the narrative is quite compelling. The key difference is an uncanny lack of ambition uncharacteristic of Shinbo. When Bakemonogatari aired, it was unlike anything I had seen before; it possessed a distinct tone of originality and experimentalism even by Shinbo’s own standards. And while Nisemonogatari lacks that rare quality of its predecessor, it confidently addresses themes such as the perception of righteousness and the validity of “impostors”. Though the series does contain underdevelopment and too much fanservice for some, Nisemonogatari is an overwhelmingly charming and intriguing series that I would recommend for any fan of the franchise.

The Rating: 8
8/10

Reviewed by: kevo

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