Tsukimonogatari (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 103 minutes approx.
There is a point during the final episode of this latest release from the Monogatari saga in which the following dialogue comes from the mouth of the show’s protagonist Koyomi Araragi:
“I’m dense. I don’t understand when you tell me in such a roundabout way.”
Initially I wondered if this was a rib on viewers like myself who have struggled to get into this series, baffled and bludgeoned by the verbal onslaught which obscure the plot and eke out the stories beyond their natural shelf life. Then again I doubt that Nisio Isin is that aware of how impenetrable his works are to some of us to make such a knowing crack at our expense.
Anyway, regular readers of this site and the previous Monogatari reviews will be bracing themselves for my usual rant which basic reiterates the points raised in the above paragraph. This in itself does reflect somewhat on the Monogatari formula as much as it does the lack of connection this writer is able to make with this decidedly esoteric franchise.
Taking centre stage in this story is the aforementioned protagonist Koyomi Araragi for the first time since the very early days of this surreal epic journey, although the episodes titles suggest that this yarn belongs to the Shikigami doll Yotsugi Ononoki. Technically they share the journey here but it is more to favour Koyomi’s plight with Yostsugi getting her own personal resolve as a result.
A prologue in the first episode uses Yotsugi as a means to discuss the nature of ghosts and human acceptance of them, deciding whether Yotsugi as an apparition acts like a humans because she wants to or needs to. Either way this rather interesting meditation concludes that all apparitions, like ghosts or bogeymen, only exist because people believe in them.
Despite the potential this discussion has, it doesn’t seem quite so relevant once the main story gets going which revolves around post-vampire Koyomi discovering he is turning into a full vampire. After seeking advice from resident loli-con vampire Shinobu, the duo seeks out an expert, Yozuru Kagenui, but getting in touch with her is difficult, requiring the aid of Yotsugi to find her.
Kagenui confirms that Koyomi is indeed becoming a fully-fledged vampire, which can’t be reversed or cured. However he can halt the progression of his vampirism – all he has to do is not use his vampire powers! This would be easy if his sisters Karen and Tsukihi and close friend Suruga Kanbaru hadn’t been kidnapped by apparition killer Teori Tadatsuru as a means to get to Koyomi and Shinobu.
As plots go this is one of the more straightforward and (comparatively) easy to follow entries in the Monogatari canon which makes for a more enjoyable experience in terms of keeping track of what is occurring. But that doesn’t mean the favoured formula or excessive prolix dissertations and abstract visual distractions have been watered down in favour of storytelling, oh no.
This is no more evident than in the first episode where Koyomi makes his shock discovery after failing to see his own reflection in the bathroom mirror. In any other anime this would have occurred after Koyomi woke up and went to the bathroom for his ablutions – done and dusted inside 30 second maximum. But this is Monogatari so instead we get twenty minutes of fan service and borderline creepy incestuous innuendo leading up to this reveal as Koyomi shares a bath with younger sister Tsukihi.
Not that this franchise hasn’t already got form in this area (see Nisemonogatari for evidence) and there will be some who will get some jollies from this but really, as excessive means to an end go, this one abuses the privilege. Thankfully this is the most prominent case of such material on display here, with future distracting embellishments being largely of the verbose variety.
Again this means there is roughly thirty minutes of actual cogent and relevant material stretched out to 102 minutes with the endless chat, so expect to see the phrase “in other words” appear regularly in the subtitles when an explanation is due because it seems none of the character are able to give a direct answer – hence the quote posted at the start of this review.
Buried beneath this garrulous guff is an interesting tale of conflict – Koyomi has the power to save his sisters but using that power will result in his life becoming the living nightmare he doesn’t want. Shinobu can save Koyomi if he should be badly wounded but that would again make him a vampire. Meanwhile Yotsugi has offered to sacrifice herself to Tadatsuru to earn the sisters’ release but Koyomi doesn’t want to do that either.
This is where the Monogatari series is so frustrating – Isin does occasionally have some great story ideas which handled correctly make for some philosophically and emotionally ripe drama, but the obtuse presentation undermines it dreadfully. I am sure many will relish this maverick approach and wallow in its unique and unconventional approach but not everyone likes their steaks very well done.
Similarly the characters are presented in odd shades of quirkiness which results in an emotional detachment for the viewer and a lack of sympathy towards their plight. Certainly incidents like the aforementioned bathroom scene do little to endear Koyomi to the audience while Yotsugi’s appeal will no doubt be superficial based on her cutesy appearance and not her emotional emptiness as a former human turned apparition.
In the final analysis Tsukimonogatari has the rare distinction of being one of the very few instalments of this extensive psychedelic parade of perplexing parables not to be so disagreeable with yours truly. The long time devotees of this franchise will be in their element as ever while anyone joining the fray at this late stage will wonder what hit them.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Rating – ***
Man In Black