Bakemonogatari Part 2 (Episodes 9-15) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 171 minutes approx.
The mind bending, supernatural encounters for high school boy and former vampire Koyomi Aragari conclude in this second release, as he seeks to free more troubled damsels from the animalistic demons that possess them.
Two stories make up the final set of episodes in this two disc set. With the subject of his most recent rescue, Suruga Kanbaru, Koyomi heads off to an ancient shrine to perform a ritual task for his own saviour, the enigmatic Meme Oshino. On the way the pair cross paths with a young girl frantically fleeing from something. Upon arriving at the shrine they find a pile of chopped up snake corpses and assume the girl had something to do with this. The next night they meet the girl again and Koyomu recognises her as Nadeko Sengoku, a friend of his younger sisters. Revealing reptilian scale patterns all over her body, Koyomi concludes that Nadeko has been possessed by a snake.
The second tale is a little closer to home as Koyomi’s friend and class rep Tsubasa Hanekawa begins to experience severe headaches during a conversation, taking Koyomi back to a previous incident when he Tsubasa turned into a white cat woman and attacked people, robbing them of their vitality. Koyomi though this had been cured but is proven wrong when Tsubasa sprouts cat ears again. Unlike the other apparitions Tsubasa has been completely possessed and her feline alter ego is dangerous, requiring Koyomi to tread carefully when trying to save Tsubasa.
Depending on your point of view towards the first volume, there is some good news and bad news concerning this second release – that being it continues with the same esoteric, surreal, non-linear and dialogue heavy material as before, aided or hampered by the lightning fast flashes of salient material and graphic asides. It is worth repeating that Bakemonogatari is no conventional anime which always makes for a risky investment on the part of the distributor, where even highly praised and critically acclaimed shows can fail to resonate with the UK fanbase in favour of run-of-the-mill mecha shows or the cheap thrill of a fan service drenched harem comedy. The fact that this series at its very core is a harem comedy will pass over the heads of many a viewer purely down to its unconventional execution.
This might convince some viewers that a storyline isn’t present and this is just random pretentiousness in anime form, and honestly one can’t blame them. However the two arcs here do have a purpose behind them even if they are obscured by the irreverent presentation. Everyday activities such as going on a date and declaring one’s love for another are not immune from such treatment, as witnessed during the first romantic outing between Koyomi and Hitagi Senjōgahara, Koyomi’s first rescue. It’s a typical angsty moment for Koyomi while for Hitagi, there is a detached rigidity to her words and demeanour that exudes anything but romanticism; yet it’s the closest we’re ever going to get to it in this show.
There may only be seven episodes on offer in this set but they are considerably more verbose than before, with any kind of supernatural action severely limited to roughly two or three scenes at most. The bulk of the material sees Koyomi in heavy and deep philosophical discussion with his various female companions, which increases with the arrival of Nadeko, in lengthy discourses that seem to lead to nowhere in particular. Sounds like a real drag but there is something oddly hypnotic about the articulate chat sessions, in which even the simplest of subjects is dissected with a wry and personal abstract manner by the speaker. Elsewhere we are bamboozled by some local humour which, unless one is fluent in Japanese and has a PHD level of understanding of their culture and the subtle flexibilities of their language, will pass straight over your head.
Perhaps more likely to raise a smirk are the self-referential jokes. In one scene Hitagi remarks on the versatility of her voice artist, leaving Koyomi to wonder aghast if they are living in an anime world? Since normal girls don’t turn into snakes I think that’s a pretty safe bet, Koyomi! It wouldn’t be a harem comedy without some base humour so all praise the top heavy presence of Tsubasa’s cat manifestation for some boob squishing moments of embarrassment to bring Koyomi and us back down to earth – only for a brief moment mind.
As before the unique approach to the visuals, which tread a fine line between simplistically evocative and eerily understated, that puts this show in a league of its own and as such, this individuality and boldness in breaking away from the accepted anime model has won this show a number of fans. It’s easy to see why but far more difficult to explain why. For this reviewer at least, Bakemonogatari feels like watching a comedic situation unfold where the perpetrator isn’t letting anyone else in on the joke.
It is either a discordant mess or abstract genius, but either way it is a one of a kind.
Japanese Language 2.0
Disc 2 Only:
Nisioisin Promo Spots
Ep 9 Textless Opening Theme
Ep 10 Textless Opening Theme
Eps 14 & 15 Textless Opening Theme
Eps 11, 13 & 14 Textless Closing Theme
Ep 15 Textless Closing Theme
Ratings – ***
Man In Black