This is me writing a review of the monogatari series in hindsight after watching the original bakemonogatari series back in ~2012-2013 and being caught up even today Long review.:
I am not a person easily convinced that an adaption is better than the original by any means. Only a select few can truly amaze me to the point where I claim that the adaption is truly better, because I am a person that has a strong belief that source material is always going to be better.
However, there have been times where an adaption becomes something MORE than the original. Usually, when this happens, the adaption isn't a 100% faithful adaption, but rather, an almost new show due to the artistic liberties or changes in plot, and these can make or break a show. 99.99% of these shows that deviate from the plot and story, or ones that take liberties are generally criticized for their lack of faith to a story, and I am also one of those people who criticize if the deviation is not well done, and for good reason. They're usually terrible. So shaft did something bold. I like that. Something that could go horribly wrong, but also perfectly right. They took the risk, shot the shot, and it worked out in their favor.
Shaft has, however, done something great with the monogatari series. To me, it surpasses the source material, and this is due to their take on direction of the show. The novel is pretty different from the anime. A lot more ecchi and harem scenes are emphasized more in the novel, making it a painful read. While the monogatari anime series surely has fanservice scenes, it was kept at a barely acceptable level for me (honestly I wouldn't want any if possible), it made for a much better show for me. The pacing of the story is also nice as well, the anime being used as a medium for adaption is used as an advantage rather than a disadvantage, which is great. Because of course, an anime is going to be differently expressed than a novel, I love how shaft is able to make the series feel like its best suited as an anime. This is pretty tough to pull off.
And of course, to address the elephant in the room: the animation style and art. It's quite unique and elegant. While I really don't bother with checking which studio animated what series because its hella boorish as it already taints your opinion of the show, you can really see Shaft's direction in the show. The nice good looking solid color backgrounds are really appealing to the eye. Not hyper realistic, but just good color tones and fits the anime style. I really like that. Odd camera angles of people when dialogue is happening is also a huge plus. Anime is known for kind of still frame talking to save animation budget, but Shaft doesn't do that with this series. While the camera angles and shots are essentially 1 frame per second with some subtle movements and lips moving, they're interesting to look at, and a breath of fresh air to try to keep the dialogue as engaging on the screen to the audience as possible. Plus, just the characters moving around as the story goes on is great! Lamps, schools, streets, and other commonplace things are still interesting to look at, and it really shows the love and care shaft puts into the anime. Their effort shows in every camera pan and movement. Monologuing does not show Araragi just standing still or looking out a window. It's the scenery, him doing something completely unrelated to what he is talking about, something that's not just a still frame. Transitions are also unique, and the characters themselves have a unique look as well. Entire episodes such as the first arc in Owarimonogatari just consist of Araragi talking to someone, yet you are never bored at all. They make seemingly mundane things turn into eye candy, and it is present throughout the entire show. And let's also talk about the OP's. While to me, some of the songs are kind mediocre, the fact that OP's change not according to season, but to arcs is a much more of a commitment, especially when you talk about the amount of extra animation. I respect that.
So no, I don't think the fight scenes are great. But do I think the monogatari series has the best art and animation by far? YES. Monogatari is a niche dialogue and character driven series which is pulled off to perfection.
So, what about the characters themselves? They're solid. Lots of solid characters. Seemingly contrasting personality of senjougahara, innocent girls, endearing sisters, experienced con men and the oshino's group, an erudite school friend, a perverse junior, and the list goes on and on. So no, there is not a lot of tropes going on. However, as a result of a huge cast, as expected, characters are pretty static other than the main ones. It's not bad though, and it's just a natural binding of the anime medium (unless its a hella long anime), that you can't fit so much character development. As a result, you might be scratching your head at some character's actions, but its not that bad. Once you get down a character's personality, then their actions won't come off as nonsensical. While characters might not get as much screen time as wanted, their conversations with Araragi which are usually quite long or complicated do give a sense as to what they are like, and this is one of the things that cement a character's personality in the anime. Once you get to know all the characters, the arcs that center around them get very interesting. While a lot of arcs center around Araragi, a same number also don't feature Araragi at all, or he's not an important aspect of the arc. Each arc furthers a character's character, as well as the worldbuilding. Since there is so much to explore with characters, the arcs don't get boring at all
And the thing is, the beginning isn't boring at all. Usually, anime that start becoming good means that the beginning is kind of mediocre(shinsekai yori is my example). Bakemonogatari starts of good, and doesn't lose steam throughout the entire series which is great.
Conclusion: Shaft made some bold decisions in art, animation, and story which made for a great anime. For me, at least, their changes were for the better compared to the original novel, and they also use the medium of anime to the best of their ability, rather than as a limiting factor of their adaption abilities. It's great from start to end, and the gradual character development really brings you the big picture of the entire world of the monogatari series.