Review of "Nisemonogatari Collection (Blu-ray)"

published 01/05/2015 | GenerallyInterested
Member since : 15/07/2013
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Still snoozing.
Pro Still visually enthralling and compelling
Cons Tends more towards comedy and a bit too drawn out
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"Nisemonogatari - a touch too comedic"

Nisemonogatari Collection (Blu-ray)

Nisemonogatari Collection (Blu-ray)

You said at the end of your review of Bakemonogatari – the second part that is – that based on your experience of the series you would’ve bought this second series of monogatari sight unseen taking it upon good faith that it was just as good. Were you equally as pleased?

There is the honest answer and the lying answer, so I’ll give you the honest answer: frankly I was a bit disappointed. You’ll probably seen that I’ve given Nisemonogatari around four stars because I got through all eleven of the 25 minute episodes within one day and without much of a break so it was easy to sit through everything, and I reasonably enjoy it but in truth I think it’s a little bit closer to 3 ½ stars than four, but frankly too good to hand on heart give it three.

I think there was one very obvious problem with this second series of monogatari and I’ll get to that pretty soon but just as a quick reminder what the series actually is, being part of the monogatari series – this translates as story – which revolves around the character of Araragi, who seems to have the misfortune to continuously meet people who have some issues of the supernatural kind – generally referred to as apparitions. On the plus side, it means he’s actually made some friends at last, even if it seems that it’s provided him with something of a confusing emotional and love life. We also start to focus more on Araragi’s two sisters, who we barely meet in the first series though they do narrate in Bakemonogatari the next episode information, at the very end of the episodes.

The series tend to be structured so that it tells very distinct story arc across a number of the episodes, before moving into the next. Each story centring on a specific character, whether one that we’ve already met or somebody new joining this strangely underpopulated world.

In case you’re wondering what the title, Nisemonogatari, actually means it seems as translates as imitation story, a title that is very meaningful.

But enough of that.

Indeed, let’s introduce our characters and tell a little bit of the story

Koyomi Araragi; our protagonist; a high school student; cannot resist helping people; was saved from being a vampire by fellow pupil, Hanekawa
Tsubasa Hanekawa; another classmate of Araragi; class president; may not have the best home life; likes to walk
Hitagi Senjogahara; Araragi’s girlfriend; blows hot and cold; mother ran off to a mad religious cult
Meme Oshino; a man versed in apparitions and the supernatural; likes people to save themselves; lives in an abandoned school
Mayoi Hachikuji; carries the world’s most enormous bag; is no longer lost
Suruga Kanbaru; a younger high school student; recovering from a brush with an apparition; in awe of Senjogahara; a lesbian
Nadeko Sengoku; a friend of Araragi’s sister, Tsukihi; no longer dismembers snakes
Tsukihi Araragi; Araragi’s younger sister; one of the two fire sisters, who are goodness themselves; feminine
Karen Araragi; Araragi’s other younger sister; one of the two fire sisters, who are goodness themselves; a tomboy
Deishu Kaiki; a conman; not Senjogahara’s favourite man
Shinobu Oshino; apparently a young once vampire
Yozuru Kagenui; an onmyoji; a friend of the now absent Oshino
Yotsugi Ononoki; Kagenui’s familiar; talks funny

Our opening seven episodes tell the story of Karen Bee. Araragi escapes the clutches of Senjogahara, who has imprisoned him to protect him from… From what? And why his escape? Because his sisters seem to be in trouble! Karen end Tsukihi, known as the fire sisters for their passion for justice, are seeking the cause of many a curse across their school, and the source of this curse? Ah, the conman, Kaiki, who when confronted by Karen seemingly curses her by the wreathe fire bee apparition. If only life were so simple that this curse was but the only problem but Senjogahara wants to protect Araragi from Kaiki, who was responsible in part for breaking up her family…

And finally, we are introduced to the story of Tsukihi Phoenix. By chance Araragi meets with the rather unusual Yozuru Kagenui, a woman like Araragi’s now absent friend Oshino, au fait with the apparitions and hunting down a potential cuckoo in the nest, who may be someone rather close to home…

Let’s start with what is wrong shall we

Quite simply put the series does two things that I struggled with, firstly I found Bakemonogatari as a series to be strangely hypnotic and really quite enthralling. Many of the elements that cause this seem to be missing - I’ll get those on a minute - and also though Nisemonogatari is a short series in terms of number of episodes, it only tells two stories and it tends to meander more then the more focused one in Bakemonogatari. I think it’s meant to be paying more attention to the characters but Bakemonogatari did that too and frankly better in part because I felt the series took something of wrong turning because it seemed to get more interested in providing a, for want of a better term, almost more mature take on fan service. Fair enough this is generally evident in all the different series but it seemed to move further into comedy mode than before (not that humour was ever absent in Bakemonogatari), not in a slapstick way, but it certainly was starting to veer more towards the madcap and this change in tone to me just was to the detriment of the series. But then I suppose I do have certain sensibilities that must be obeyed.

That being said if anything the very beginning of the first story started off strangely compellingly; for the first five minutes we suddenly discover Araragi in the school having been kidnapped by Senjogahara. Always something of an enigmatic character and just as likely to say kind as a vicious word to Araragi, we find that because she loves him and wants to protect him she’s taken the rather unconventional step of locking him up to do this. Why it’s compelling is in part because you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s going on, the way the atmosphere is built is somewhat darker and Senjogahara’s rather contradictory emotions and actions and also how she describes to him what she would do, both in terms of violence and the extremes of looking after him, seems to be trying to flesh out the character quite nicely, even if slightly surreally, but then we’re suddenly going to a flashback to understand how we got here and we start to hit the problem that the episode does start to meander. All the previous monogatari series that I’ve seen are very much like Nisemonogatari in as much as each episode seems to be structured around conversations, sometimes quite long conversations, generally between Araragi and no more than one or two people. Because of this it needs to be compelling otherwise conversations in anime just as in real life can drag. I felt in many scenes that it wasn’t always bringing out as much of the characters as some people seem to feel Nisemonogatari does, so it could drag and because there is more of an emphasis on humour and scenes frequently have a slightly disturbing sexual nature, even to the point of hinting at potential incestuous thoughts it can also be rather uncomfortable. Still, as I said towards the top that in many ways it’s done enough far more mature manner then you sometimes do see in anime, and by mature this isn’t a euphemism for nudity etc. because there isn’t much – and also you notice that Araragi being a man is actually shown naked when in the bath, which is quite unusual in my experience because it tends where anime does start to try and show some form of nudity it tends to be mainly women. What nudity there is as well of course revolves around where it’s generally far more natural – though not always so – such as when he is in the bath and even if he might be joined in the bathroom by somebody else you got to bear in mind that in places like hot springs then going to these naked is quite normal and going to bathhouses and ditto is again something that’s quite normal and to occidental eyes this can sometimes seem a little bit like gratuitous nudity when actually it’s just real life, it’s just starting from a different perspective than where we would be.

Still the sexual content also can be a bit disturbing because a least two characters, Hachikuji and Shinobu, are rather young, or at least ostensibly so as the former is actually an apparition and the latter is a vampire – who clearly used to be older but has been weakened and become a child due to some previous encounter with Araragi we aew yet to see but is continuously alluded to – but both are actually adults inside, but it does make for some occasionally uncomfortable scenes. There is a rather bizarre teeth brushing scene between Araragi and his sister Karen which is again rather disturbing.

Though for all the Araragi might have roaming hands he’s given food for thought, a comeuppance, call it what you will, when he nigh on being sexually assaulted, by Kanbaru, a lesbian, of all people. I’ve seen it written that some people think that actually he’s been raped, which I think is maybe a tad extreme so to be honest you don’t really see much but if it’s the true interpretation then it would go some way into explaining why the series has got its 18 rating. Otherwise I’m not really sure why though some of the very occasional violence is quite extreme but more in effect than actually is shown.

Also some of the traditional music is gone. In Bakemonogatari much of the mesmeric mood of the series was developed through the music, especially some of the more traditional Japanese elements combining shimmering and chiming percussion with what I have always pictured in my head as the clacking of two blocks of wood together – something that Susumu Yokota uses so effectively in his album The Boy and the Tree – but this is entirely absent and I think that really tells you a lot about the tone of the series and the way in which it is far more light-hearted. If anything I became far more aware of the music watching Nisemonogatari than ever I did with Bakemonogatari, there was a lot of still very jazzy and sometimes quite rocklike music that was effective and as always complimented the scenes over which they played, it was noticeable that there was a lot more standard anime comedy music, rather unsubtle and again actually matching the scenes and working to their favour assuming that that humour is what you’re after, when because to me it just made the series tread water I never felt that it really worked as well. So this was something of a disappointment, in part of course because some of the music still worked exceedingly effectively. Maybe I’m just a humbug?

Another problem is I think because I rather like their characters, is the fact that in the second half of Nisemonogatari, Hanekawa and Senjogahara are pretty much absent. The same is true for most of the other supporting cast. The dynamic between Hanekawa and Senjogahara changes within these episodes and you have a sense that Hanekawa actually has a strange hold over Senjogahara. On one level this is obvious because Araragi is clearly sweet on by Senjogahara and Hanekawa both, and so Senjogahara who is at heart actually quite delicate is worried that Hanekawa could steal Araragi away from under her. Araragi of course is continuously referred to as weak, but weak rather more in terms of allowing himself to go with the flow as opposed to necessarily being a complete wimp. Araragi of course is actually very altruistic, but it’s very much his downfall. The focus purely or mainly on Araragi and his sisters also means that there’s not a great deal of variety and I think this again because we spend so much time with them and the series is treading narrative water it does detract somewhat from your enjoyment, especially if some of the humour is not necessarily quite your tastes.

So having just try to trash the series, what got you through these 11 episodes in that single day?

There is still a great deal of very strong elements in the series, the visual style for one and something else that I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or bad thing though I think will be a positive for some people in the audience. One thing that Bakemonogatari did stylistically was continuously have flash cut images that contained anything from one word to several paragraphs worth of text that is almost subliminal because it comes up so quickly you can barely read anything, apart from the shortest possible ones – and of course you’re reading the subtitles not the original Kanji characters. This is completely absent, though it did still seem to have its obsession with geometric forms that sometimes brought up as pure images on the screen against say a red or yellow background, though it does this with far less frequency than Bakemonogatari. The way it continuously brought up text to flesh out what’s going on on screen could be overwhelming at times, though very soon you would just relax into it. I think its absence made Nisemonogatari feel less intense and you feel that this is probably very intentional considering the lighter tone of this particular series. So it meets the aesthetic, and this takes us into the visuals.

We see far more of Araragi’s home than we did before and the design is both baffling and wonderful because as I described in my other reviews, all the episodes of all the series seems to take place in a strange vacuum of a world. You never see anybody apart from our particular characters and the design is very unique, which gives a sense of this being a real place in the context of the series itself, but it many ways it doesn’t really meet what we would think of as our reality. That being said, it has its own internal logic a little bit like reading a Philip K Dick novel. The example of the living room in the Araragi household is pretty much futuristic, the artwork on the wall is abstract and almost naive in nature, and the colours are bold and energetic and it’s all beautifully designed, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. I find it intriguing that inside the home at one-point Hanekawa, whilst sitting in the Araragi hallway with Araragi and his two sisters, comments that they better be quiet or they might wake up their parents but you know that’s not likely to happen because in your head you wonder if these parents actually exist. There’s no reason to necessarily think that they don’t but because we never meet anybody, even up in scenes that take place in the street, not even a single passer-by or a stranger or anybody is seen. Literally no other human figure appears unless they become part of the story.

But again the visuals very much mean the series is eminently watchable even at its most disturbing in scenes of comedic sexual harassment – as terrible and as American gross out comedy as that sounds, you’ll be glad to hear it never actually is – the way that the animation is designed and the use of colour is compelling and quite innovative. It continues with the design that reminds me of Japanese woodblock prints, in the ways that detailed tends to be included where relevant and otherwise design is very much outlined and the colours within them are beautifully shaded but not necessarily what you would expect them to be in real life. You feel that absolutely nothing looks like Nisemonogatari whether or not that’s other animation or anything that’s been filmed. Of course they’re unafraid to introduce normal – though mainly black and white – images that you might see in a live action film and animate over them, because in many ways stylistically anything goes, if they feel that it will enhance the scene. There is something wonderful in this. Also the scenes can tend towards the surreal, such as Kanbaru’s bedroom which is quite literally a sea of red books. Seen against a silhouette of her sliding doors it creates a beautiful image simply through colour, but as the scene then progresses, Araragi comes to help clean up, the book start to become cleared mnany drifting along conveyor belts in the room, moving the books to and fro in different directions, how or why and where these conveyor belts appeared from, it doesn’t matter just as later on we find that in the courtyard of Kanbaru’s home these books are then piled up as if to make sculptures, and this seems quite natural if oddly bonkers. When we see Kanbaru’s room later on the books have returned yet they’ve been built into what could be huge Lego landscapes. There are examples of this all the way through and once again it seems to have its own strange logic to it. For all that it is bonkers it also feels extremely real in the context of the series. You feel like the animators and the creators and the storyboard artists all truly understand this interior logic and are able to build it visually block by block, or in this instance book by book. When you match a lot of these images with the unusual colour palette that they use you can sometimes feel that in shot by shot and scene by scene you are met with a cascade of intriguing and interesting and always thoroughly enthralling images. They are able to make something fascinating of something like a normal street because of the way that they might have bright yellow railings and the remainder of the world in black silhouette. That might not sound particularly original but it’s certainly effective.

One thing that probably works in Nisemonogatari’s favour is something that actually, and rather ironically, without speaking Japanese your unlikely necessarily to understand. It seems is a great deal of wordplay, say between Hachikuji and Araragi where there’s a running joke that she continuously mispronounces his name and the mispronunciation have very specific meanings and sometimes based on Araragi to retorts, you understand what this means but otherwise they can go over your head a little bit. It would be intriguing to understand these better. Maybe I better learn Japanese but sadly I know I’ve neither the aptitude for languages or the patience and commitment to actually do it.

Some of the new characters that are introduced are quite interesting, such as Kaiki, the conman – well I did say this that the title translates as imitation story – who is almost the dark mirror image of the now absent Oshino, being a man who versed in apparitions would encourage and help people to save themselves from whatever is afflicting them whilst Kaiki is more like to afflict them. Plus Kaiki works as a good way to explore Senjogahara’s past because as we discover he was involved in damaging her family. Personally I find Senjogahara one of the more compelling characters because she does seem to be more complex than the rest and so anything that helps explore where she’s coming from is a good thing in my probably dubious book. Plus some of the other characters become a bit rounder such as Shinobu, who prior to this is nothing more than an apparently sullen vampire child – but of course she’s actually an adult – and her relationship with Araragi becomes more greatly defined. Also with Hanekawa you get a sense of there being something a little slyer than previously seen. You get a sense that she is willing to manipulate Araragi and even Senjogahara, and so you wonder if there may be a bit of a character arc that is going to develop over time here or if it’s just something that my mind is imagining. Frankly I have no idea which way may go, or it could go in a completely different direction but I like the fact that my mind is suddenly bouncing in two different directions. And of course Hanekawa’s behaviour also impact Senjogahara’s character, helping to tease out some of those moments of vulnerability and as much as I enjoy her when she’s in her full on vindictive mode towards Araragi, the softened scenes that suggest something more vulnerable work nicely in counterpoint to her more tsundere moments.

Also despite the fact that a lot of the scenes revolving around Araragi and his two sisters, Karen and Tsukihi, can tend to get bogged down a bit in unnecessary innuendo and roundabout conversation is a bit frustrating, the extent to which they care for one another is nicely teased out and in the final story – Tsukihi Phoenix – the way in which Araragi deals with the cuckoo problem and also the recognition that his own brushes apparitions are something that he needs to retain inside himself for fear of damaging his family, shows the extent to which though he has certain weaknesses of character he has backbone. He has backbone in terms of willing to take a complete and literal pounding as well, as he does towards the end when standing up to the rather commanding Yozuru Kagenui.

Once again the series depending on which character an episode may concentrate upon introduces entirely new title sequences, each with their own song and once again these are extremely effective, both in playing on a lot of anime conventions but also to give a sense of the tone of the episode to follow. Of the two sisters it’s made clear that Karen is very much the tomboy and athletic, almost excessively so, while Tsukihi is very much the more feminine. In Tsukihi’s episodes in the title sequence she’s wearing kimono and dancing to what is the strange mixture of traditional Japanese and J pop, whilst the background seems to have the quality of old paper. Title sequences featuring Karen on the other hand are far more energetic and explosions of vibrant and violent colour, as reflects her nature. Once again you feel like the designers of the title sequences understand the episodes and even if some of the episodes themselves are uneven in tone and frankly get a little bit lost in sexual obsession at times, at the very least these are perfect examples of how to define what’s to come.

Also once again despite the fact that Nisemonogatari is in many ways telling only two distinct stories, it’s picking up strands laid out in previous stories. Part of this is obvious because of the whole character arcs and this is not entirely what I mean, rather a character like Kaiki we find is responsible for the curse – or as it’s put in the series, charms – that were responsible for Sengoku’s rather unfortunate snake curse. As such strands start to weave in and out once again this gives a sense of the place within which our characters live as being real, even if it’s visually and population wise thoroughly unreal.

Is that as unreal as your extent to be hideously verbose? Go on, prove that you can be brief and finish up using as few words as possible, for preference simply: “the end”

It’s very true that I found Nisemonogatari a frustrating series. On one level I enjoyed it but I did feel like a lot of the sexual politics comedy and occasional lapse into slight madcap detracted because it meant that it slowed everything down. Also the change in tone from the mesmeric in Bakemonogatari and the lighter tone in Nisemonogatari means it ignores some of the previous darkness, which is disappointing. But as I say, visually it’s still exciting and enthralling and pleasingly unique (in my admittedly limited experience). So all in all I’d have to say that I enjoyed it as otherwise I’d frankly never have got through all eleven episodes. So the question in my mind is: will my slight disappointment with Nisemonogatari stop me from going on into the next series? The answer is simply no. I don’t see why it should because as shown in Nekomonogatari Kuro, a later set of episodes, much of that darkness is back and I think depending on which stories that are going to be told we are going to find the tone differs. In part this makes sense because the two fire sisters are slightly more comedy characters, and so the fact that these episodes focus on them and are more light-hearted makes an awful lot of sense. Unfortunately it doesn’t entirely jive with my own personal aesthetic – and yes I know how pompous that sounds – and arguably that’s rather incidental as a lot of people I’m sure will still find an awful lot to enjoy, and may enjoy this more than Bakemonogatari, depending on their preferred style or maybe they don’t and they can enjoy both just as much.

I suppose so you can’t continue just doing the same old thing and so difference can be good, but anyway at the moment it’s between about £25 and £30 to buy the complete set of Blu-rays and if you’re going to enjoy this it’s properly worth the cash but even though I did decide to buy Bakemonogatari I know I’m unlikely to buy this, unless it drops drastically in price. But of course I’d still recommend it in general to fans of the series but I’m not sure it will appeal to many people outside if only because you really need the context of the characters and the stories that have already been told to really get the most out of it.

Oh, and there’s only subtitles, no dub and that may put some people off. Hey-ho.

Community evaluation

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Comments on this review

  • Secre published 18/08/2015
    Another stunning review. I am however rather late. A VH shall have to suffice.
  • K2705 published 22/05/2015
    Excellent review.
  • BenRai2k published 06/05/2015
    No E's so left a VH. Amazing review. I read a couple of your others, such as White Dog. I want to rate an E though so will leave that for tomorrow.
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Product Information : Nisemonogatari Collection (Blu-ray)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy

Country Of Origin: Japan

DVD Region: Blu-ray

Title: N

Main Language: Japanese

Production Year: 2012

Studio: MVM

EAN: 5060067005887

Classification: 18 years and over

Video Category: Anime


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