Watched with the Girlfriend: Bakemonogatari

11:22 PM

My girlfriend and I recently finished watching Bakemonogatari, albeit skipping a few episodes and including Nekomonogatari (it's sometimes categorized into Nisemonogatari, but I find that it's best watched after Bake 11.) For her, this would be the frst time she's watched it, but for me, it'd be at least the third.While it generally reviews well, and it sold like hotcakes, it's a problematic series to recommend. Bakemonogatari is a collection of short stories - that's why it's broken up into 2-4 episode arcs that each have their own name. "Nekomonogatari", "Hanamonogatari", "Koimonogatari", each of these arcs is a short story. As each short story features a different character, themes between each story can differ wildly. In one, we have a murder mystery-esque story. In another, we might get an uncomfortable basically tentacle-porn spectacle, which I decided to skip for the time being.

Moving right along, I asked my girlfriend a bunch of questions and had her spill her thoughts on Bakeonogatari.

In general, she liked it. She thought the characters were written well and more dimensional than the average anime character (which tend to skew towards trope than personality). She thought the direction was great, handling potentially triggering scenes in  a way that maintains the scene's gravity, but not making it graphically objectionable. Lastly, a big win for the series, in her eyes, was how well it did things that the majority of anime don't usually do - like using SHAFT's distinct "weird" animation style to "censor" scenes, rather than going for an all out gore-violence shock factor.

All in all, she enjoyed the series, but is a bit wary of continuing on into the next seasons.

More details after the jump
What she Liked:

The Characters:

A big part of what she liked about the series revolved around the characters. They're well rounded and well fleshed out for the amount of episodes a character will appear for. The dimensions given to the character's personalities give them an almost "real" quality. While all the characters had their strong points, each character had a tangible flaw that usually was the crux of each arc.

Her two favourite characters were Senjougahara Hitagi, and Oshino Shinobu, with Hanekawa in a close third.

In more specific details, she enjoyed certain things baout Senjougahara. Firstly, she appreciated the healthy relationship that she (Senjougahara) and Araragi had. Although Araragi "saved" her, they stand as equals - she doesn't become the "damsel in distress" trope nor the prize won by the "hero". Another thing she liked was Senjougahara's hesitance in the final episode of Bakemonogatari proper. In her (my girlfriend's), "an assault like that would scar you for life, and I appreciate that they showed her bearing those emotional scars, and that Araragi was accepting of her boundaries".

For Shinobu, it's mainly the mystery as to who and what she is. The season proper showed her, always accompanied by Araragi's "don't worry about her". The constant non-information about her built up enough intruige, coupled with her relation to Araragi and the past events that have yet to be told (even to this day!).

While she didn't like Hanekawa as much as Senjougahara or Shinobu, she felt like Hanekawa was a really well written character. My girlfriend could sympathize with Hanekawa's problems (to an extent), and felt that her problems and the way she (Hanekawa) dealt with them felt "real", as an actual teenager would act.

The Art

My girlfriend's appreciation of the art and art direction of the series was primarily centered around it's ability to provide an alternative to the usual censoring techniques of anime. In her (my girlfriend's) words, "it handles troubling scenes with class, rather than go all in on the shock value of showing potentially triggering scenes." The first example of this is at the end of Hitagi Crab, as Senjougahara recalls painful memories of her mother. The scene was animated in a way that conveys the message in a more abstracted way, without taking away from it's impact. In the final episode of Suruga Monkey, the brutal fight between the possessed Kanbaru and Araragi was animated in an off putting bright mess of colours. Again, those bright colours hide the violence, but it's pretty clear what's happening. When Kanbaru starts swinging Araragi around, it only took my girlfriend a handful of seconds to ask "is that his intestine". Bakemonogatari doesn't need the shock value - the animation of the series is a spectacle into itself.

The Story:

The story proved to be a double-edged sword for my girlfriend. On one hand, the non-chronological progression through the story proved to be somewhat confusing and a little frustrating, as characters kept making references to events that haven't been shown yet. On the other, the held back information creates an overarching intrigue that worms its way into each arc through small mentions here and there. Even for someone who's watched the entirety of available episodes (me, not my girlfriend), making sense of the timeline can be a daunting task as the story really starts to skip around in the later seasons.

What Didn't Work:

Surprisingly, she didn't dislike too many things about the series, granted that I skipped what might be the most problematic of the arcs. The things she disliked can counted on one hand, and I'll just rattle them off.

She generally liked him as a character, but his flaws can make him an irritating main character. First is his selfish selflessness - that is that he believes that the best outcome is that no one gets hurt but him, without thinking about the feelings of the other parties involved. It's made most clear in Nekomonogatari, where my girlfriend had the most trouble liking the protagonist. She said that his opinions were swayed too easily. She also didn't like how harem-y it got, with each of the female characters somewhat falling for him. I'd disagree with this as there's actually only 2 other characters that vie for him, outside of Senjougahara, and both are story related. The last point, which is only slightly related to Ararargi, my girlfriend disliked how verbally abusive Senjougahara could get, particularly with her protagonist boyfriend.

The Fanservice
Anime has the unfortunate label of being pantyshots, boobs and big eyes. The slog of bad to generic light novel and manga adaptations doesn't really help, especially as authors attempt to cash in on a trend.

Part of what makes Bakemonogatari a difficult series to recommend is the level of fanservice it has. It goes from low level stuff like a panty shot here and there, to some more troubling things, like Nadeko's tentacle snake problem. Unfortunately for my girlfriend, Nisemonogatari is the most fanservice ridden part of the series, so it's going to have to get worse before it gets any better (in Monogatari Second Season).
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All in all, my girlfriend generally enjoyed BAKEMONOGATARI. She said that the series did a lot of things that anime doesn't usually handle carefully, and that she appreciated the how triggering events were animated in the unique ways that they did. More modern anime, like Kill la Kill have conditioned her to be a little less sensitive to all the fanserivce that came up in the Bakemonogatari episodes we watched (again, except for Nadeko's arc). As a closing thought, she said that each and every character in the series needs some serious therapy of sorts. It'd probably be for the best.

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And there ends the first of the "Watched with the Girlfriend" posts. I've gone one more in the pipe, but I'm planning to do a couple more at least. Not sure what I'll do for future ones, but the next one to go up is still a good while a way. If you're curious, it's a series I enjoyed a lot, Arakawa Under the Bridge (season 1). Maybe Hidamari Sketch? I'll have to watch something she suggests perhaps. Regardless of future posts, thanks for reading!

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