What does those two words reminds you of? A cat perhaps? Well, neko (in Japanese) does translate to cat, an ordinary theme in many anime series we see today. Oh but Nekomonogatari is anything but ordinary. In fact, for Shaft fans and those who have experience already with the monogatarai series, you will know the way these type of works go. Once again, the franchise brings forth the latest installation from the monogatari series. So, if you're curious just like a cat/neko, then this series is definitely worth some time to invest on.
Nekomonogatari: Kuro is the prequel of Bakemonogatari, an anime series adapted from the light novels written by Nisio Isin. Nekomonogatari: Kuro actually translates to Nekomonogatari: Black which is adapted from the sixth light novel written during the summers of 2010. The series details of the Tsubasa Family Arc with cameos from other characters and of course features our beloved main protagonist, Koyomi Araragi.
For anyone new to the monogatari franchaise, there are a few things that you should first familiarize yourself. It's hard to exactly describe what Nekomonogatari is because it's quite an unique series. In fact, many words can describe the monogatari series like strange, bizarre, otherworldly, sexy, clever, enthusiastic, humorous, entertaining, amusing, and maybe...just something like you might never ever forget.
To me, Nekomonogatari and most of the other monogatari series is like a reading a textbook with pictures. Only difference is that there seems to be no limits on how many pictures are on each page, or at least ones that convey to the words written. The series Nekomonogatari and like many of its other titles is an actual portmanteau or combination of two words. In this case, the words “neko” and “monogatari” is used. Neko means “cat” when translated in Japanese while “monogatari” means story. At this point, one might assume that this series may be about the story of a cat.
Like its other works, the animation studio Shaft (Maria Holic, PMMM, Bakemonogatari) handles this prequel. They are known for its unique gags and references that are used for their ways of conveying their storytelling to the viewers, often with the usage of word plays. The word plays themselves are heavily incorporated into this series as well because a lot of the scenes often comes up heavy dialogue, references, and parody. In fact, the visuals themselves represents a way of presenting to scenes of showing rather than telling. Most of the times, they are humorous, bizarre, amusing, and a way of expressing a particular word or dialogue.
The series starts off with Araragi doing what he does best and who am I kidding, it's already blasts off with humorous quotes with his beloved sisters. He talks about various subjects although his interest seems to be focused on “love” that he portrays in his peculiar way. From there on though, we later meet the other main character who represents the title: Tsubasa Hanekawa. She is seen as the class president at school and nicknamed “Class Rep-chan”. To me, that title fits her well. I mean, just look at her! Hanekawa's hair is braided, wears glasses, and has a mature personality just like how a class president ought to be. In fact, the way she is has made Aragai call her the “class president of all class presidents”.
Besides that part though, there are other characters who makes their cameos and return to this series. For vampire fans out there, our beloved vampire Shinobu Oshino makes her cameo in her amusing way. Her love of donuts remains strong as ever during her brief reunion with Aragai. Her personality changes somewhat according to Aragai but let's another story. On the other hand, there's also Karen Araragi who also makes her short yet very entertaining cameo. Unlike Shinobu, she is every talkative and hot headed with an equally hot body that she boasts about. Unfortunately, her dialogues are limited in this series but the moments she presented were entertaining. Speaking of moments, there were quite a bit that some of us may never forget...
In fact, despite the many humorous scenes presented in Nekomonogatari, there is also some violence with blood being shed by a vengeful cat. Blood getting spilled is often depicted as violent in anime or real world culture, but in this series, I found it to be near comical. In fact, I found many of the scenes in this series to be comical. Whether it's the various parodies, dialogues, violence, or fan service, Nekomonogatari presents these type of scenes as almost classical. Its abstract and absurdity is so often set up that it becomes a work of art; even the fan service. Oh and speaking of the fan service, there are quite a bunch of them especially involving our neko and those delicious scenes during the classroom. The way she talks, dresses, and uses parody of the “nya” that are incorporated into her speech patterns is absurd yet amusing to watch. She's pretty much nude wearing those skimpy clothing in the way of a cat with those ears and suggestive positions. It's no surprise though especially for fans who got a taste of the original series. In fact, the fan service expands beyond just the bare skin. The violence is also over exaggerated to the point of “gore” and blood. Although it's an overused trope in todays' anime cultures, I found it visually appealing by the way Shaft uses it to present the monogatari series. It's like a work of art rather than to show off.
In the meantime, there is a darker scene of the series as the episodes progresses especially later on. It's hard to tell the exact direction due to the way most of the dialogues are used as well as the visuals presented. Therefore, it's just best if you go with the flow and to follow what you see rather than analyze the series to its finest details. Like I said before, the details in the series is portrayed in that way which is Shaft's way of doing their works. It is artistically unique and presented in a way in which...*gasp* done right with the fan service. Whether you agree or not is up to you but I personally found it quite entertaining.
The artwork of the series remains generally the same as its other works from the franchise. Many of the series' visuals are presented with geometric designs in simple shapes and sizes. It's not complex and easy to watch. If you want some spectacular artwork, go watch some Shinkai Mikoto's films or something. However, the way it approaches its visuals is quite unique. It's like going to an art museum for the first time in a room where you see the walls and walls of abstract works.
The soundtrack, music, and voices of the series is imperative for this to flow well. Because there is a lot of dialogues, the voice actors have to step it up to the plate (unless of course if you're playing a vampire). Luckily, it works quite well and most if not all the mannerisms fits well. In particular, Tsubasa Hanekawa's voice actress Yui Horie (Higurashi, School Rumble, Little Busters!) perfects her skills with her voice by using her speeches similar to a cat during her scenes. In fact, the OP song, "perfect slumbers" by Tsubasa Hanekawa even has her involvement. It is quite a purrfect match that fur her roles well. Similarly, many of the OST played during the word plays scenes are orchestrated in that way of the monogatari style.
All in all, Nekomonogatari was a fun experience for me. It's clever, entertaining, fun, sexy, and an unique watch similar to its other title works. I do admit though that it occasionally tries too much especially in the fan service and dialogue department. In fact, some of the presented word plays are a bit repetitive and hard to adapt. If you're new to the series, you will likely get one of those “what the fuck did I just watch?” moments. But if you're already familiarized yourself with Shaft's works, then this could definitely be an enjoyable experience for you. Whether you enjoy Nekomonogatari: Kuro in the end is up to you however. It's not a purrfect series but definitely one hell of an experience.