Mar 1, 2016
jpenobagel (All reviews)
Few spoilers ahead**

Kizumonogatari is something that's been teased by Shaft ever since the very first episode of Bakemonogatari (where the entire intro was basically a highly condensed version of this movie). Having read the novel the anime is based off of, I had some expectations, but I also knew that anime is a different medium from text and that Shaft tries to make full use of that in their adaptations.

To begin with, let's go over the positives of this movie. To be frank, every single aspect of this production was top-notch. The animation quality was a clear step-up, the CG replacing the usual flat design served its purpose in creating strong atmospheres, and the music and voice acting were just excellent overall. Unlike the OVAs, this definitely felt like a theatrical rather than just a very long episode.

So I end up in this strange position where every individual piece boasted quality, but I still wasn't satisfied with the movie. Perhaps it's because my initial reaction became skewed from reading the novel. If you've ever wanted to see Shaft do "show, not tell", it's in Kizumonogatari. Gone were most of the voice-over narrations, very few slideshows and text flashes, everything was boldly attempted in a more direct, visual manner with expressive animation and less jarring metaphors.

But that was exactly what seemed off to me. Ultimately, Kizumonogatari's plot is more straightforward than the others in the Monogatari series. And since this movie only really covers the introduction, the overall plot is very much bare-bones. In the novel, this was spruced up by Araragi's thoughts and impressions. If this had been in the style of the TV series, a lot of these thoughts would've shown up in slideshow imagery and narration. And those parts are really the meat of Kizumonogatari: the insights from the characters, their underlying motivations, and how these develop their initial relationships.

On one hand, it's commendable of Shaft to try and convey all this solely through their animation. But on the other hand, it made for odd jumps in pacing and actions as the characters go through the motions, but without enough context to flesh things out. Scenes felt like they came in on signal rather than naturally and the interactions felt almost forced and hollow without Shaft's usual "supporting" devices. "Showing" rather than telling is fine even if the details are subtle, as long as there's enough meat behind it to get the meanings across. But in this case, you get things like Araragi constantly panting like he's having a stroke for 80% of the runtime; Meme Oshino's hero arrival losing all impact because it showed him coming from a mile away (literally); music tracks (albeit, very nice tracks) aggressively spelling out the mood even during lowkey moments.

I'm sure that others will see things differently. Shaft's Monogatari "signatures" are criticized by many for being excessive and jolting at times. However, for me at least, the removal of them in Kizumonogatari seems to have forced Shaft to be even more heavy-handed in order to compensate. So while I can't really fault any one part of the film, it felt as if the strengths of the source material were overshadowed to the point that only its weaknesses remained.