Review: “Nisemonogatari” [Anime]

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by Marlan Moore, staff editor, Inside AX – Anime Expo

Nisemonogatari is the direct sequel to Bakemonogatari, a series about Koyomi Araragi and the many young women in his life as they are cursed and charmed by supernatural creatures, ancient gods, and ghosts. Koyomi himself is part vampire, having survived an encounter with a full-blooded (bloodless?) one himself.

Nisemonogatari starts off soon after the end of the first series and tries its best to acclimate new viewers to the status quo in the first couple of episodes, reintroducing Koyomi’s entire harem of girls from Bake, even the ones that don’t matter to the story of – and never show up again in - Nisemonogatari.

Whereas Bake was more about Koyomi and his friends, Nise is about Koyomi and his family. Nise has two arcs, each one about one of his sisters. The first is about Karen, his elder younger sister, the second about Tsukihi, his younger younger sister. This idea really held promise, as it was a way to look deeper into Koyomi’s life, especially since the beginning of the series seemed to be leading to him struggling with keeping his vampiric secret from his sisters. There was also the possibility to simply focus more on Karen and Tsukihi on their own, since they’re fairly well-known in their middle school for being junior crimefighters of sorts. Instead, however, their relationship with their brother isn’t really delved into farther than a semi-incestual encounter with Karen, and a short heart-to-heart with Tsukihi.

One of the most interesting features of Nisemonogatari, aside from the beautiful and sometimes strange animation, is the dialogue. This is a show that seems to go out of its way to avoid physical conflict as much as possible. Most of the time, conflicts are talked out in long, semi-philosophical conversations, and many of the jokes are quick-witted back-and-forths between characters. The animation constantly borrows from other styles to set mood or to further a joke and the show itself seems, at times, to be completely self-aware to the point of even being meta.

That’s not to say there isn’t any actual physical fighting. In fact, it’s in the few physical confrontations that the animation truly shines. When things get violent, they get violent, and it is beautifully rendered. When Koyomi takes a punch to the face, or gets slammed through a wall, you won’t only see it, but feel it. The animation is so good, it’ll have you wincing in pain just watching some of the characters dole out punishment.

Although the animation is beautiful (and sometimes looks like an animated acid trip) and the dialogues can be thought-provoking, the story itself is somewhat lacking. Almost half the series feels like nothing is happening. The first two episodes, as mentioned earlier, is dedicated to introducing characters who, for the most part, are never seen again. It isn’t until the third that we really get into the story of the first arc, “Karen Bee,” and, even then, it’s dragged out to fill 5 more episodes. The second arc, “Tsukihi Phoenix,” is a mere 4 episodes, but only two of them actually move the plot forward. An entire episode, for example, is dedicated to moving Koyomi and Karen from point A to point B, so Karen can finally meet one of Koyomi’s friends. It can be argued that these episodes are for character development, but nothing new is learned about Karen, Koyomi, or his friend in that episode. We do meet two new characters in that episode, however, who tie heavily into the plot of “Tsukihi Phoenix,” but did that have to be done in an episode that’s otherwise filler?

Nisemonogatari is not action-packed, nor is it a laugh out loud comedy (although it has its moments), nor is it a straight-laced drama. It lives somewhere in between these definitions, in the center of a Venn diagram made specifically for those anime that test the boundaries of storytelling with new concepts and unique ideas. If you want something a little more low key and cerebral (and don’t mind sitting through a few pointless episodes), Nisemonogatari may be worth checking out.

Nisemonogatari is available streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll.

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