So here I am with another review of an hour-long episode that I paid fifteen bucks to see. And once again, I happened to see another anime movie that same day for half the price (Miss Hokusai), and yet was structured way more like a movie than how Shaft has been handling this "totally not worth the wait" prequel, which still baffles me. I know Japan has a different culture to the West, but I'll never understand what it is they love about airing anime episodes in theatres and expecting their audience to pay full price for them. Was this how it was like to experience the big screen when the Looney Tunes were popular? I bet if I somehow time-travelled to that period, I'd be calling all of you guys paying ten bucks to see Daffy get blown up for six minutes a bunch of crazy fucks.
But enough about the price. Let's talk about whether Kizumonogatari actually lived up to its promise this time with its second installment. In case you've forgotten, the first part of this serial movie release had Shinobu get turned into a little girl for reasons that I can't be assed to explain the biology of, and Araragi must use his newly acquired vampire powers to defeat a group of supernatural individuals "shonen tournament"-style in order to get the body parts our Heart-Angel-Blade needs to swallow in order to go from "you masturbate to her and you'll get arrested" to "you masturbate to her and you'll get humiliated". Thanks to his newly acquired vampire body, Araragi is basically a non-shining version of a Twilight vampire with his toned body and fighting skills, along with the usual regenerative powers, so of course the movie will exploit the shit out of it with over-the-top fight scenes, Araragi bleeding like a geyser in order to showcase how dangerous his opponents are, and making fangirls squee harder than when Sora in Kingdom Hearts II sung "Under the Sea". This is what all those years of production were for, fanboys. Pure fanservice that I seem to recall Madhouse accomplishing with a far less time-consuming schedule back when attaching their name to an anime actually meant something.
Hanekawa also shows up for no reason other than fanservice. No seriously, that's it. Her cat powers don't seem to exist as of yet and she contributes nothing to the plot but overlong "comedic" banter without the humor and giving Araragi a motive to fight harder, because apparently his loli-fetish for a vampire who doesn't wear underwear is not the best choice for drawing out his true inner strength. She also has this weird habit of just teleporting to where Araragi is at the most plot-convenient moment, just in time to get her guts ripped out or to discover that the only teenage boy that seems to exist in this world is going to be young and hot forever. And because nobody seems to exist in the Monogatari universe but the main characters, it's really distracting how much this movie doesn't bother to clarify why she'd be wandering around these battle arenas in the first place, especially given how these fight scenes always take place in the middle of the night. Is her favorite grocery store in the area? Is her internal clock set in Western Hemisphere time? What?
I'm having a really hard time describing the plot to this thing because it's not really up to much. There's not really more to the movie than Araragi fighting vampires (and a vampire hunter), getting closer to Hanekawa, and that cliched "you risk becoming a monster with these powers" narrative with no original ideas whatsoever. Exactly how am I supposed to write a few paragraphs about your story when that's all you're giving me? Describe the fight scenes? I guess I could say that I liked how Araragi won some of them due to tactical planning rather than Dragonball Z-logic, although the overblown emotional nature of the second and third fights was pretty silly, and the comedic nature in the beginning of the first fight was fucking dumb. And because the camera is constantly swinging, it's hard to appreciate any existing choreography that might have snuck in amidst all the power level clashes, although to be fair, I recall the camera being more calm during those scenes than the talking ones.
As for the animation style, what do you want me to say? Nothing has changed from the last Kizumonogatari or any of the other ten Monogatari iterations aside from a little more blood and a little less fire. Nekketsu-hen does increase the amount of humor, so of course that means an increase in the amount of annoying sound effects and stupid reaction faces that would only be funny to twelve year olds who think it's appropriate to make fun of a woman's vagina whilst calling attention to the fact that you're making fun of it as a free pass. Every time Hanekawa banters with Araragi regarding his perverted tendencies and the amazing appeal of the panty she may or may not be wearing, I wanted to reach into the screen and beat both of them up with each other's faces for wasting about half the movie's runtime on something that in any sane universe would be considered "filler", but in the Nisio Isin universe is considered "solid gold".
Please explain to me the appeal of two characters purposefully making bad jokes and calling attention to the fact that said jokes are bad for long stretches of something that's only an hour long. If I was watching Danganronpa, said jokes would be accompanied by someone getting murdered or going through a villainous breakdown in order to keep the energy going. Monogatari though seems to have that stupid mindset that characterization for its own sake is engaging, and self-aware humor where you just do something stupid and point out that said thing is stupid was funny when Mike Myers did it. And that's what's always annoyed me about this series' usage of irony: it doesn't go far enough or attach that irony to something with momentum. Every time characters converse, the plot basically grinds to a halt in order for the actors to banter with each other like a deleted scene that somehow made it into the final cut. Also, someone please tell me the appeal of sexual harassment as humor. What the fuck is the punchline of those sorts of jokes anyways?
Finally, there are the new characters, who I honestly don't remember a thing about because they have no characterization other than being antagonistic and not above playing dirty to get what they want. Honestly, I can't even remember what they look like or what their names are. They don't have any good chemistry with Araragi, making them very pointless villains that makes Doc Ock's relationship with Spiderman look like something from DC comics, and they're never mentioned again after they're defeated, so Araragi might as well have been fighting moving gargoyle statues. It occurs to me that if you had cut out Hanekawa's very existence from this movie and given all that screen time to Araragi and his vampire opponents bantering it up instead, at least it would have given the action more meaning, even if risks falling into that other DBZ trademark of drawn-out anime action by doing so. But then again, Nisio Isin just doesn't seem to like the concept of male-on-male conversations. Why else would Oshino leave the story right the first series?
All in all, Nekketsu-hen just gets a big meh from me. I don't care for the animation because it's the same Shaft-style it's always been except of higher technical quality, but lacking in strong visual metaphors deserving of said quality, and full of so many quick cuts, annoying reaction faces, and title cards that I'm surprised I came out of the theater without a seizure. The story actually goes somewhere in this part so it's not as torturously boring as last time, but anyone who thinks that Araragi sacrificing his humanity to protect those he loves is an engaging tale obviously does not watch monster movies. Not to mention, since this is a prequel, we know he and everyone else are going to make it out okay, so there's no real tension to anything that happens to the established cast unless you were curious regarding whether Hanekawa actually got through the whole ordeal with her virginity intact.
At the end of the day, I just don't understand why this prequel needed to exist. All it does is show us stuff that we already knew happened, except being shown to us visually. And there's nothing being conveyed to us through these visuals that's new and refreshing unless you count another stupid usage of the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey new and refreshing. It's basically what's inevitably going to happen with that new Star Wars movie focused on the spies who stole the Death Star plans, and if there's anything worse than getting compared to the prequel trilogy, it's getting compared to Disney's brand of mediocre nostalgia cash-ins.