THIS TEXT CONTAINS SPOILERS
First of all, this text is about Bakemonogatari and Bakamonogatari only. I don't care what happens later, because this isn't a sequel's review, obviously. So refrain using that point in order to negatively criticize what I'm about to write.
Character Design: Nothing impressive. Long hair, short hair, basic colors and shapes. 6/10
Background: It has all sort of different visual elements on the background, transiting from one place to another. It has a sublime atmosphere due to the lack of imperfections on the scenes, however, it is still just common locations and nothing too impressive. 7/10
Camera angles: Now this is an easy 10/10. You see, one of the things that captured my attention was the fact that the camera doesn't stop moving. And the angles quite always allows you to see the whole picture of the setting.
Animation: Not impressive at all. It's good, but as good as many other works I've seen so far. The animation is pretty fluid in specific moments when the camera come closer to the characters' faces. But when it's far from them, it's quite ordinary to be honest. So, even though there're some peaks, overall I give a 7/10.
Colors: Since the show has this sublime and bright atmosphere, most colors are contrasting, calling attention whenever possible. Sometimes it can be a bit irritating, but as a whole, it's showy and satisfactory. 8/10
MC classic voice with peaks of exaltation. Tsundere/Yandere emotionless voice.
Gentle girl voice, always in the same tone.
Loli Tsundere voice, irritating as always.
Super gentle girl voice, ranging from normal to super submissive tone, which is irritating and cliche.
Excited girl voice, with peaks of sadness and joy. Nothing special, but at least not that irritating.
Guy who knows everything's calm and smug voice.
Normal things, except when they start to fight with spirits. Nothing special, but not bad or incoherent. 7/10
Nothing that I can remember being amazing or something alike. The same thing from other anime, boring scenes, boring music. Action scenes, action music and so on. There're more openings based on the characters, but none of them called my attention more than any other song of the genre would do it. 7/10
Plot: Basically episodic. The protagonist finds a girl, help her to solve her problems and adds her to its natural harem. Regardless of what really happens, things seem forced because of the non relatable character's behavior and nonsensical ways of solving problems. I know the idea was calling people's attention by doing something not conventional, but if you ignore the dialogues, what happens is cliche at best:
- Almost raped as a kid, behavior following the trauma.
- Died running away from home, now it's a ghost who wants to go back.
- Friendzone, wanted to kill crush's actual boyfriend.
- Gentle girl suffering a curse because of jealous colleagues and with unrequited passion for the MC.
- Gentle girl's unrequited passion for the MC, who is stressed because of domestic problems.
NOW, what most people say is that it was the whole point of the series bringing overused tropes in order to deconstruct them. How that happens? I have no idea. Indeed, the characters are presented at first with a certain look, and we theoretically change our viewpoint about them after seeing their backstories and ongoing development throughout the episodes. But that isn't deconstruction, that is simple PRESENTATION. The characters keep acting like they should during the entirety of the show and at least I can't see any sort of deconstruction, subversion or solid development.
Also, the plot quickly becomes repetitive and I was bored by the end, because whatever happens, things will stay the same in the end. That's because since the characters are overall arbitrary, it's impossible to identify significant changes. Basically, they're the same thing throughout the whole series, with peaks of acting and behavior who serves only to not bore you until death. It may seem a character-driven series, but at my sight, it isn't nor plot-driven. It's not driven. It's static.
Now, this part is where paths split for the viewers. While some say the dialogue is "witty", I say it's pure bullshit. Let me explain why I DON'T LIKE IT.
First of all, they aren't talking about anything relevant to the plot. That's ok, a lot of shows do that once in a while. It may serve to a lot of purposes, like knowing better the characters or just having fun.
I don't see how this show through any line of dialogue makes us know better the characters BEYOND WHAT IS OBVIOUS at first. They always say typical things of their tropes. MC denying negative commentaries from the tsundere/yandere girl, tsundere/yandere girl saying mean things to the MC because she's tsundere/yandere, duh. Loli tsundere girl saying loli tsundere stuff like insulting the MC for no reason to show how loli tsundere she is. Gentle girls saying gentle things, always shyly and careful to not cause any misunderstanding with the MC. Lively girl saying lively stuff, mainly nonsensical subjects while always questioning and revealing what she's feeling at the moment, because well, she's obviously lively and talkative.
Most of the dialogue is exactly what I described above. But the problem doesn't lie on that only, but in the fact that they extend pointless subjects and situations AD INFINITUM. The whole point about something being pointless, is that no one would normally put any effort in exploring it, unless you are searching for nonsense content. As a viewer, I'm not so interested in pointless stuff to the point of diving into a ocean of bullshit for the sake of being weird. Yeah, the show does all those intricate dialogues lazily just to look WEIRD and nothing more. It's not funny TO ME, because it isn't creative. You can say whatever random bullshit you want about anything at any time and it'll not necessarily be funny, besides you making a joke of yourself. In sum, it isn't witty. It's fast, long and nonsensical dialogue. Do you know an anime with witty dialogues? Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei. Twice as fast, ten times more interesting and really CREATIVE. Something that at least I can always relate with.
I hate cliche in writing, so making something so different from the usual in a fan service show of course would call mine as well most people's attention. But as you look, not from the perspective of being a special harem show, but looking for wit and funny/creative jokes, you'll realize there's barely any of it on the show.
So, what for most people is one of the strongest points of the show, for me it's one of the most obnoxious.
Complex characters? Character development? Deconstruction of characterization stereotypes? Where? Please tell me, because I'm interested in those kinds of shows.
About Bakemonogatari, there's none of it. ABSOLUTELY none of it. One by one:
The presentation doesn't offer something new, three-dimensional or complex at first. We're inside MC's head and by what I could hear, he wasn't special. He blabs constantly about having to help others, about the reasons he does things, about his wishes, etc. I couldn't wonder anything about him, since it's always thrown upon my face at some moment. That he's kind of a vampire, that he has two sisters, that he likes certain things and dislike others. Even by simple "yes" and "no" answers, you'll be spoon-feed about every possible thing you should know about him in 15 episodes.
The tsundere/yandere girl starts, well, as a tsundere/yandere girl and with time she... doesn't change a thing. It's not because she's smiling more near the end that this means any particularly decent development. Hell, her father states she's smiling and acting differently, because apparently we can't see that for ourselves, nor the MC who was theoretically the closest person to her. Jesus, poor exposition in everywhere. Her backstory is as basic as you can guess. "Poor girl, she suffered. She is like this because of that, but the MC will help her in every way possible. Great". I don't understand why people insist that presenting a backstory changes anything about the character itself. See, what changes the characters isn't the presentation, but the BACKSTORY itself. However, you can easily put a background and say "it affected her", but that will not be easily digested by some viewers who want to SEE that happening. That's why I hate flashbacks narrated by the characters, usually put in a scene where things need some sort of explanation. It seems so rushed and forced. Look at Yojouhan. Even though all the narration is made by Watashi and he explains every step of the flashback, they are not PREDICTABLE. He can presents facts early on or even hugely after some happening, because guess what, it doesn't serve the sole purpose of explaining a current situation. They are his honest memories about something, not to spoon-feed us with explanations over explanations.
So NO, Senjougahara backstory didn't affect ME, not a single bit of affection or empathy towards her. It is not character development, it's exposition like any other. Seriously, play attention to the way her flashback is shown. IT IS AS BASIC AS I'M DESCRIBING, but people insist it leads to a solid character development and deconstruction of the trope associated to her. I imagine they're referring to the trope of being naturally tsundere/yandere, and not because some traumatic event. GREAT SHIT, you took a silly concept and turn it around itself. Come back when you make something significant about those concepts. So, by the end of the series, Senjougahara is exactly the same person she is at the beginning. The only difference is that now, we know that she was almost raped. Applause everyone.
The wise teacher of us all, the one who contains all the answers to each problem presented on the show. I must say, I don't have any big issue about him as a character. He shows some traits of personality here and there. However, if you look closely, he's nothing besides a tool that serves only to explanation's purposes. Maybe the fact he has so few time on screen compared to others and doesn't drive madly to the road of nonsense is why I don't have major complaints about him. I know nothing about him, I have no reason to care about him, and he even left at the end of the show. I think even he couldn't endure such annoying and boring characters surrounding him.
Now, about the other girl. The gentle one. Again, she remains the same. But this time, they didn't put any effort in making her backstory seems minimally believable, not for me at least. By the end of the series is revealed that she has this stress issue that transforms her in a monster, her other side responsible for releasing her stress. I don't have any problems with the supernatural nature of the problem. The problem is that for some reason, I should care about her. Why? The only thing I remember about her is the fact she says "I know what I know" so many times I almost cringed. The only flashback it's the one from the Golden Week when she first transmuted. The character development boils down to "she loves you". What a big revelation, impressive.
The loli tsundere is even a character? She's a lost soul that serves to please the loli fan audience. Everything about her is unfunny and annoying. 0 character development, moving on.
The lesbian sportive lively girl, who made some sort of pact to a spiritual being and had a crush on Senjougahara. That was the big revelation. Which is her function in the end? She participates on a fight later on, but her presence is so irrelevant to the show, it's pathetic.
Along with her, there's this super gentle girl who was attacked by spiritual snakes by a curse summoned by her jealous classmates or something like that. Her function? Nothing besides what her first characteristic and only characteristic "super gentle" makes you think about. Annoying voice, annoying acting, annoying dialogue lines and so on.
SO, basically, you have this bunch of generic tropes which were deliberately put there in order to DECONSTRUCT and SUBVERT. So, I should not care about characters being cliche and annoying at first, since they'll DEVELOP and CHANGE our vision about the genre, since there're complex and witty relationships between them. Hm, no thanks. Since I can't see any of that, I must be blind or I just fooled myself expecting something I wouldn't get in the first place.
DECONSTRUCTION according to Cambridge dictionary:
"the act of breaking something down into its separate parts in order to understand its meaning, especially when this is different from how it was previously understood."
So, the show is supposed to break concepts like Tsundere for example? Harem? Plot-Armor? I don't know. Probably I guess. Does it?
Let's see. According to jisho.org, the concept of Tsundere is:
"Tsundere is a Japanese character development process that describes a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing their warm side over time. The word is derived from the terms Tsun Tsun, meaning to turn away in disgust, and Dere Dere meaning to become 'lovey dovey'. Originally found in Japanese bishōjo games, the word is now part of the otaku moe phenomenon, reaching into other media such as maid cafes, anime, manga, novels, and even mass media."
That describes exactly the behavior of Senjougahara for example. When does her change this notion? When does her break the rules of this concept? When does her make you realize that she's no more a tsundere like you thought she was? When does her anything besides what you expect from a tsundere character in the first place? There's no deconstruction.
SUBVERSION according to Cambridge dictionary:
"the act of trying to destroy or damage an established system or government"
Do you really believe this plot was trying to destroy anything? You can try convince me it was trying to make a point, which I'll vehemently deny, but saying the show was trying to dissolve any sort of system, idea or paradigm is completely dishonest.
So, for the characters, I'll give a 3/10. If they were only boring, I wouldn't mind that much. But acting nonsensical for the sake of being "different", trying to make intricate dialogues by extending silly situations and BY THAT ONLY, these characters and most of what comes out of their mouths deserve my despise, I must say.
Concluding, this series is far from mediocre or average. It has a hell of production value, but its overwhelming story and obnoxious characters that by no existent way, shape or form deconstructed or subverted jack, counterweighted completely any chance I had to like the show. I would recommend, but without a shadow of doubt, not for the reasons any fan of the series would do it. Enjoy brainlessly the great visuals without expecting any depth from it, unless you want to find real meaning and deconstruction from nowhere AKA overthink, then you have perfect a show in hands.