Nisemonogatari – 01 Review
I wish that would’ve been a joke instead of the cruel truth what really happens to girls in this series…
Nisemonogatari 01 – It Started With Boredom And Ended With A Kidnapping
*sigh* Finally a series where I don’t have to start telling people to stay the hell away from this. Nisemonogatari is the sequel to the really popular series Bakemonogatari (for those of you who lived under a rock and didn’t know that already…) and like that there were of course a lot of expectations for this series. And I think the good news is that it continued being as good as Bakemonogatari. But the bad news is that if Nisemonogatari doesn’t bring anything new to the table I might end up declaring it to be ‘more of the same’. But who knows, this obviously was just an opening-episode leaving it to the next episode to truly start with the arc.
The episode starts with the sudden realization of Araragi that he was kidnapped and is now chained to some chairs. That’s when Senjougahara comes in and the usual abusive banter starts as she’s enjoying the situation of Araragi being chained and being thirsty and hungry.
After the Opening the story goes back to the morning of that day when Araragi gets a message from Tsubasa that she can’t come to help him study so he realizes that he’s really bored now. As he goes downstairs he meets Tsuhiki, his youngest sister, watching TV and they start bantering. At some point Araragi remembers that he promised Sengoku to visit her and he calls her. Taking the call she immediately agrees being completely flustered by his sudden call. As Araragi wants his sister to come as well she declines and Araragi ends up leaving alone. On his way to Sengoku’s house he meets Hachikuji and they start bantering while discussing some trust-issues Araragi has due to the fact that nobody of his family knows that he’s a vampire (sort-of…).
It isn’t unexpected at all if having the kidnapping-scene right at the beginning as some kind of flimsy foreshadowing means we get to see Senjougahara right in the first episode. She’s the most popular character from Bakemonogatari and it would’ve been strange then not to shoehorn her somehow into the first episode.
As one of the series with the most expectations I would say this episode was good enough. It highlighted everything which made Bakemonogatari likeable. And since every guy and his dog liked Bakemonogatari it’s safe to say that nearly everyone will love this episode. But let’s be serious and say: No, it’s really nothing special. The first episode was the usual opening-episode of a sequel. Highlighting important plot-points, setting and showing off all the characters you need to know for the sequel. Pretty much by-the-book you might say. What made the episode enjoyable for me, though, was its humour and the solid direction.
First of all, let’s talk about the animation and how surprisingly ‘tamed’ it is in contrast to series like Zetsubou Sensei or Bakemonogatari. There are still cartoony faces and weird scene-set-ups to highlight characterizations but it’s all done in a very conventional way (considering Shaft, I mean). I wouldn’t say that the series suffers from having less blank colour-screens, in fact that was one of the things I hated about the original. No, I think it seemed kinda ordinary because of the contrast to the dialogue. The variety of Shaft-styles in Bakemonogatari mostly improved the experience of the dialogue. In this episode it just seemed arbitrary like it simply has to be there since it’s an anime. It doesn’t have to be on the level of Bakemonogatari but a little bit of weirdness more here and there wouldn’t hurt, I guess.
So what’s left is obviously the dialogue and that means: jokes. Nisemonogatari isn’t a supernatural thriller of Araragi’s sisters ghostbusting while they have the time of their lives. Even with the supernatural element it’s mostly social drama giving a background for the jokes. And the humour of this franchise comes in three varieties: Okaku-pandering, manzai and wordplays. Now what I want to call otaku-pandering are all these jokes relating to anime-references and pretty much everything which needs some kind f otaku-background-knowledge to get it. Well, perhaps pandering sounds a bit too negative for what it actually is but you get the gist. The Manzai-stuff is already pretty much obvious by the fact that in each scene of this episode Araragi is talking to one person. It’s not a horde of stock-brokers speaking over each other at the same time. The dialogues are a clear back-and-forth between two characters and like that most of the dialogues seem like a kind of play. Instead of going with the usual way of characterization where depth is preferred to charm, in this case the characterizations become a silent background to jokes playing out between the characters. The word-play-parts were pretty mild considering how kanji-heavy some of the stuff from Bakemono was but I guess nobody will complain as many of us Subber-watchers don’t really want to start learning Japanese kanji to understand what’s going on.
Like usual Araragi is more than ready to openly show his pervertedness and make jokes about it.
Overall the jokes ranged from good to being mediocre. One time I think the timing was wrong what the “love for sale in the supermarket”-bit got introduced a second time but the rest of it had really good timing. And yeah, looking at the other series of this season which call themselves being a comedy that’s not something you naturally can expect.
The characters are a bit problematic, I would say. On one hand it was nice to see again the characters with their quirks and also one new characters who obviously also has a quirk but I fear that at some point the part which makes the characters unique becomes stale. And I think one can already see this with the Senjougahara-scene which feels more like a kind of fanservice for Bakemono-fans than real funny storytelling. First of all, you don’t get anything story-related from that bit besides that Araragi got kidnapped by Senjougahara (probably…) and that she keeps him there to protect him. So this scene is so context-related that it doesn’t have any kind of real foreshadowing-value. The joke relies on the surprise that he’s in this situation so after the scene plays out there’s no real need to know how he got there. The joke of the scene’s finished and that’s all that matters because we don’t know what the story is yet. And it shows Shinbou’s good direction that after the OP (which by the way sounded far too similar to the “stable, stable”-OP to be called interesting, it was kinda like what “ebullient future” was for ef – a tale of memories)… so that shows since after the OP there was no “But let’s look back at the beginning…”-start for the sort-of flashback to the morning. It simply wasn’t necessary. So while the scene-structure of the episode was really solid, I think the next episode’s story has to hit pretty hard to not make the story dull as it’s buried by the same kind of jokes again and again. Because if something was established by now, it’s the kind of jokes we’re gonna see in this series, that’s spilled milk under the bridge and whatnot. So it all depends on the context making it interesting and funny enough to stay new and fresh.
As for the parts that actually did say something about the story and we know it’s gonna focus on Araragi’s sisters, it was handled actually pretty clever. By letting Araragi talk to Tsukihi there was already a lot of indirect characterization going on as to what kind of characters they are. It isn’t anything deep, though, and the franchise still is a harem-series no matter how often there are meta-fictional jokes made about that. I will laugh about the meta-fictional jokes when they are good but it’s still dull to have a harem-mentality going on with seemingly every girl having a crush on Araragi for some mysterious reason. And that’s why it’s nothing great. Even when it’s making fun of stereotypes and despite the fact it’s really witty sometimes, in the end it adheres to some nagging stereotypes as well. It’s a pity but that’s how it is. This franchise is great – but not without its flaws.
While being rather light on the story-side this is the typical opening-episode reintroducing everything you need to remember from the first series. What it makes enjoyable is the same witty humour and the same charming characters you’ve already got to know from Bakemonogatari. Although I doubt that this episode adds much to what makes the Monogatari-franchise what it is, the concept is still good enough to deliver some good entertainment.