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Reaper71's Blog

July 20th, 2017
DISCLAIMER: These are my unadulterated, unedited thoughts on the Kizumonogatari trilogy of films, written immediately after watching both Kizumonogatari II and III in quick succession (I watched the first film a few months ago). It is more than likely that I will contradict myself in this post, or that some of the things I say won't make sense. But I want to preserve what I'm feeling right now about the beginning--and what feels like the end--of what has historically been one of my favourite anime franchises.

SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE TRILOGY WILL FOLLOW.


I've kind of jumped off the ~Monogatari bandwagon in recent years. I think I last watched the first half of Owarimonogatari before dropping that show due to lack of interest, and the last installment I really paid attention to was Monogatari Series: Second Season. Since then, I've progressively lost interest in what seem to me to have become a string of loosely-connected vignettes with just enough intrigue to make one feel that something big might be coming up, but without the resolve to actually deliver on that promise. It doesn't help that each new installment seems less and less polished than the last, with that all-pervasive feel of a classic anime-studio cashgrab pervading most of them.

It's a shame, because up until Second Season, I would have considered Monogatari to be one of my favourite series of all time. Not top ten, perhaps, but solidly top twenty, for sure. Bakemonogatari straight-up changed my world when I first saw it, and I even liked Nisemonogatari, even though it was plainly just Nisioisin writing pornography for himself using his established characters. And Second Season, although the ending was marginally disappointing, was just inspiring in how effectively it included so many largely-unrelated stories in the same series and made them all mostly enjoyable--some of them are up there with my favourites from the franchise. But with each successive installment, I've found that gnawing feeling in my gut growing, and the question poses itself in my head time and time again: what is the point here?

I broke my longtime hiatus from the series to watch Kizumonogatari. Since the halcyon days of 2008 when I saw the first section of the first episode of Bakemonogatari, saw the emaciated Shinobu curled up in a corner of Oshino Meme's abandoned cram school, and learned about her relationship to Araragi through his conversations with others, I couldn't help but feel like that was the story I wanted to see most of all. This feeling pervaded throughout my time watching the show. "Can't wait for Kizu," I'd just nonchalantly think while watching an episode of another installment. "It's going to be really good." People confirmed this online; some even said it was better than Bake. Better than Bake? Now you have my attention.

When it was announced that it would be a three-part trilogy of films instead of a TV series, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, a series of films would certainly have a greater budget and, consequently, much better production values. On the other hand, I have a rule: anytime an adaptation team/committee splits something that was once one work into multiple parts, it always ruins (or at least compromises) the quality of the work. This has happened multiple times with books that I love, and it hurts me inside everytime I see the final book in a trilogy separated into two parts. At best, I have to sit through at least one boring half (typically the first one) to get to the good bits. At worst, the whole thing just sucks.

Nevertheless, I went in with relatively high expectations. From here on in, I'll switch to describing my experience on a movie-by-movie basis.

Tekketsu-hen: This one is the one I remember least, seeing as I watched it a little while ago. I do remember coming it out of it distinctly underwhelmed, which may have been due to a number of factors.

The things I really liked were the new character designs and the seemingly darker tone that they served to support. The opening scene was gripping, powerful, and masterfully animated, hooking me from the very start. The character of Araragi, whom I had come to know as a perverted but selfless hero with a few hypocrisies under his belt, seemed a lot darker and less approachable than before, which I loved. And the subject matter. Hot damn. We're not just helping a girl with her weight problems here. We're trying to get our fucking humanity back. Let's jam.

What I guess I was disappointed by was the length and the lack of stuff that actually happened. The movie was only an hour long, and most of that was exposition about Araragi's predicament interspersed with some light fight scenes along the way. Some of the shots and directing decisions were really wonky too. In particular, there were certain scenes that used effects which were obviously supposed to heighten the tension, but only made me feel like I was watching a Youtube Poop (I'm looking at you, camera-shake guy). It ends on a cliffhanger, but that's to be expected. Ultimately, this movie wins points from me for establishing the tone and letting us in to the story, but didn't do much else for me.

Nekketsu-hen: Easily the worst movie in the series, but it has some good points. The humour in some of the fights is well-done, and, conversely, when it gets dark, it gets dark. This is where the trilogy got a reputation with me for gratuity. The first movie has nothing on this. However, that's not necessarily a point in its favour.

What I remember most about this movie are the pacing and the ending, and both because they were bad. This (if I remember correctly} is actually the shortest movie in the trilogy, which I suppose makes sense, considering all the much more juicy stuff we needed to get to in Reikketsu. The problem is that requires the fights on which the movie is based to go by fast, especially because in between the directors have to fit in a lot of exposition about unanswered questions that haven't been addressed yet and would become plot holes if they weren't addressed. Ultimately, this means that the fights lose a lot of impact and end up feeling kind of stupid and trivial by the end. This might have been the point for reasons that are addressed in Reikketsu, but still doesn't help my enjoyment.

Also, the ending. What the fuck did I just watch? I distinctly remember laughing at the sight of it: at the sight of Araragi literally channeling his as-of-yet unseen vampire power to become a really big, really long tree--snatching Hanekawa out of Guillotine Cutter's hands and fucking the guy up big time. I was so hyped for this battle, mainly because Guillotine Cutter's design was rad and they seemed to be hyping him up as somewhat of a powerful opponent, but that all went out the window when Araragi turned into a tree. Also, this was never explained. With the precedent of using exposition to paper over plot inconsistencies after the fact being firmly established in this installment, you'd think they'd take the opportunity to put it to good use to explain this. It never happens.

Reikketsu-hen: This, not unsurprisingly, is the best movie in the series in my opinion--and MAL agrees. The tone in this film is spot on, and those sexy-ass shots that we saw in the first film in particular (here's looking at you, opening scene) come back in full force. My favourite part of this film is that it answers a question that, if you're a dumbass like me or just haven't read the novel, you never thought to ask all throughout the first two movies, but is now staring you and Araragi in the face: what does saving a vampire really mean?

Turns out, it means people being eaten. And this is something that Araragi tries to come to terms with and fails. He ends up deciding that, as he is responsible for Kiss-shot's resurrection--and by extension, for all the people she's going to end up killing--the only possible way for him to atone is to kill himself.

At this point, I'm eating this shit up. It's like Nisioisin and Akiyuki Shinbou were dishing out big, steaming plates of shit and I was just clearing every one of them off, one by one. I'm in to this. I can dig this.

When Hanekawa shows up and convinces him, you know, not to kill himself, I still don't have a problem. It's obviously something that had to happen, and Hanekawa's a decent character so I don't really mind. But immediately, this whole atmosphere of sober resolve at best and suicidal despair at worst is ruined when Araragi asks to fondle Hanekawa's breasts before going off to confront Kiss-shot in the final battle. I'm not even blaming the adaptation staff on this one. This one's all you, Nisioisin. The scene takes up about 2-5 minutes, and brings the whole sense of narrative tension to a grinding halt. But I guess it was funny.

The fight scene with Kiss-shot is godly. Just 10-20 minutes of some of the wackiest, most gratuitous, and least comprehensible animation cuts I've seen in a long time. It really lends credence to the innately unfathomable idea of two vampires fighting that their fight itself is completely nonsensical and full of bullshit. And in case you think I'm being sarcastic here, I'm not. This scene is probably one of my favourites to come out of animation in the past year or so. Shaft threw caution to the wind while drawing it, and I threw caution to the wind while watching it.

The climax itself--Araragi's choice to keep Kiss-shot alive in a crippled state while he himself is unable to fully return to humanity--is nicely done, and even though it's only set up maybe 3-5 minutes before the fact (does anyone who worked on this trilogy know anything about foreshadowing?), it still manages to have impact. This also further reinforces the underlying theme of Araragi's own hypocrisy, which come up later in the series; this is a nice touch.

The ending itself is nice too. We get a sense of the pain that this solution causes both Araragi and Kiss-shot, as well as their growing connection to each other. You get glimpses of the darker Araragi from the first movie before a moderately uplifting conclusion. Fade to black, credits, ending song, done.

FINAL THOUGHTS: When all was said and done, these movies were disappointing, but not spectacularly so. I was expecting more from them than I otherwise got, but this didn't mean they were bad--far from it, in most cases. I loved the character designs, the darker tone, the more brooding atmosphere, et cetera. And some of the character moments were animated and presented beautifully. I caught myself with a dumb grin on my face at a few points, and laughed out loud at others. The latter, however, was largely at Kizumonogatari, not with it.

Do these movies convince me to come back to the fold? To catch up with all the Bakemonogatari I've missed up until now? Not really, which I suppose is the saddest thing. Taking these movies as a standalone trilogy, they were alright. Most of the value I got from them, though, was the feeling of having finally filled in a blank that had existed since 2009. I finally had all the pieces to the puzzle. That doesn't change the fact, however, that the puzzle has been rapidly expanding and contorting since then, and my "all the pieces" really only make up half of the bottom-left corner at this point.

Insofar as I'm willing to give a definitive opinion on these movies, this is it:they were worthwhile, and I don't regret watching them, but they're far from the end-all-be-all they were once chalked up to be. Far from being the best anime movies I've seen, they're not even the best installment in the ~Monogatari franchise. They were just there.

Thanks for reading my really long, convoluted, and unedited/unproofread thoughts on these movies. You're the real MVP here, unnamed reader. You're the real MVP.

See you later!
Posted by Reaper71 | Jul 20, 2017 10:20 PM | 1 comments