Nisemonogatari was certainly one of the more interesting anime of the season, not least for its trait of dividing viewers down the middle in terms of who enjoyed it and who didn't; this show, being the continuation of a well-known franchise, has attracted plenty of vitriol in the last eleven weeks, even though many people have been outspoken in its defence. But now that broadcasting is finished (even if the argument over whether it is masterpiece or merely the latest victim of too-high expectations has plenty of fuel still left to burn), I'm afraid to say that I couldn’t resist the lure dangling so temptingly in front of me, and so it’s time to tackle Nisemonogatari and hopefully wring a definitive conclusion out of it.
Now, the main sticking point with Nisemonogatari has been the storyline, which was quite slow in its progression; if you’ve recently read about the ‘fast-paced, clever storyline’, and are quite surprised by this assertion, then I shall elaborate; the first three episodes reintroduced characters from the first series, and while the Karen Bee arc was supposedly seven episodes long, it really did drag at points. In addition to that, the resolutions of each arc felt way too easy, and while we’re on it, the almost-complete absence of Tsukihi from the first two episodes of her own arc was bizarre. Although it initially wasn't promising, the story did become more interesting as the series went on, although I believe there will be further episode releases post-broadcast, because not everything came to a conclusion within the eleven episodes (and the Japanese equivalent of 'to be continued' seen at the end of the final episode is a confirmation that we'll be getting more Monogatari one way or another). I think the best way to see Nisemonogatari is as the bridging point which sets everything up nicely for a third series (and if the director is to believed, several more series after that), and in terms of introducing characters who will probably play a part in these later series, it does a pretty good job. Contrary to the impression I might have made, I did enjoy watching this, but I do think it could have been better.
The art style is extremely effective. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it before (except in Bakemonogatari, to state the obvious for the resident pedants here). The background art is most striking, with the use of colour co-ordinated objects and scenery to create scenes which immediately grab the viewer’s attention. The much-debated black and red scenes seem to have been cut down on since Bakemonogatari, now only making a couple of appearances per episode, but the use of talking heads is still common. The background sets the atmosphere much more effectively than a show which is constrained by realism; just watch Kaiki Deishuu’s first screen appearance, and the shadows of the trees stretching out towards Koyomi, and you will realise the brilliance of this art style. And now, the fanservice; how do they handle it? Well, what’s happening on screen and the progression of the storyline are almost completely separate from one another, for starters. It’s nothing compared to an actual ecchi series, and the characters are wearing clothes (cough… most of the time), it’s just the choice of shot and where it focuses on the character’s body that makes it fanservice. And when there are no clothes present, any details are obscured by the production team, preventing the need for masking or other censorship. That was incredibly awkward to write. Moving on…
The sound hasn’t changed drastically from the first series; the episodes start with a blast of heavily distorted electric guitar, and a catchy pop-song opening, which is reminiscent of Staple Stable, to say the least. The lack of background music in Nisemonogatari compared to other series is noticeable, with only the occasional piano melody from the opening or ending slipped in at appropriate moments, but with the amount of dialogue that it has, this is actually a good thing; it would be pointless including any more soundtrack, as it would just either pass completely over our heads or make it incredibly difficult to listen to. The ending is a pop-rock four-chord number which will probably get stuck in your head on an endless loop at some stage, and no amount of purging your memory with your own music collection will dislodge it. If you liked Bakemonogatari’s Staple Stable and Renai Circulation, then this is definitely worth a listen.
The characters from the first series remain as they are for the most part, with the exception of Hanekawa Tsubasa, who is now short-haired. Hitagi Senjougahara, self-diagnosed tsundere of the highest order, seems to have been relegated to a supporting role in Nisemonogatari, having only made three or so appearances in seven episodes; however, Araragi’s sisters, Karen and Tsukihi, step into the breach, so we have a net gain of characters. Connoisseur of Hawaiian t-shirts and supernatural phenomena Oshino Meme has disappeared, and the role of ‘sole adult in the series’ has gone to the much more evil, scheming Deishuu Kaiki, who looks like one of the creepier film incarnations of Dracula. It’s interesting that they’ve gone for a central villain, rather than having different problems which are unrelated in cause, as per Bakemonogatari. It must be mentioned that in this series, the characters do not merely lean on the fourth wall, they've practically installed a revolving door in it for their convenience. Even the creation of the anime was slipped a thinly veiled reference in one of the characters' metaphors. I quite like it, but you will need to know at least a little bit about the Monogatari franchise to get some of it.
It should probably be mentioned that Nisemonogatari will make some of its audience feel uncomfortable at certain points. Aside from the various Lolita characters, there are incestuous overtones involving Araragi and his sisters, including the now-infamous ‘toothbrush scene’. And I know that people will say “Oh, it’s only here in the West that we’ve got a problem with it, but in Japan, those scenes are seen as the funniest part of the show.” Aside from not wishing to read anything into these peoples’ apparent attempts to justify having relationships with underage girls or members of their own family, they might have a point; our moral values here don’t let us see the funny side. If we look at the source of all this trouble, Vladimir Nabokov’s now-infamous novel, half the time he is mocking us and our values; are SHAFT doing the same thing? Quite possibly. Just be prepared to ignore the screams of moral outrage you might occasionally feel welling up inside you while you’re watching this show, make sure your parents/partner/siblings/friends aren’t going to walk in at an awkward moment and then spend the next three weeks not talking to you, and you should be able to cope.
So, Nisemonogatari does indeed have all the elements that Bakemonogatari was praised for, and at the same time features fanservice, which Bakemonogatari, if I remember correctly, did also have a certain amount of. I don’t think it is possible that it has ruined the series, as some people claim; these claims probably would have been made regardless of the actual nature of the series, and were sparked by its mere existence. Unfortunately for those claims and the people making them, Akiyuki Shinbo, the animation director, has apparently stated his intention to animate every single Monogatari novel, of which there are (or will be, to be entirely accurate) twelve. Now, if the first one came out in 2009, and the second in 2012, I think we can safely say that this series will continue for a while. For my part, I'm looking forward to it, and I hope that it may continue to be as innovative and interesting as it has been up to this point!