Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 64 minutes approx.
Just when I thought I was safe from the nonsensical and impenetrable world that is Nisio Isin’s Monogatari saga, a new film trilogy entitled Kizumonogatari is brought to UK shores by MVM! Regular readers of this site will know I couldn’t get on with this series and each new release of the TV anime filled me dread, so I apologise in advance for any lack of objectivity in this review.
The story, what there is of one, is set right back at the beginning of the saga, before the events of the first TV series, Bakemonogatari. It opens with Koyomi Araragi wandering through a building in a blind panic then bursting into flames once he arrives outside in the daylight. We then flashback to Koyomi meeting busty student Tsubasa Hanekawa, becoming smitten with this bespectacled honour student after catching an eyeful of her underwear.
During their conversation, Tsubasa mentions a rumour about a blonde female vampire which Koyomi scoffs at, but later that night he encounters a blonde woman in the underground tube station, her arms and legs having been cut off by vampire hunters. She asks Koyomi for his blood so she can survive, which he reluctantly agrees to, turning the woman into a young girl and Koyomi into a vampire.
Long time fans of the Monogatari franchise will have guessed already that this blonde vampire is none other than Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, more familiar under her later adopted shortened name of Shinobu Oshino. This is the telling of the first meeting between Shinobu and Koyomi, which would have taken one 23-minute TV episode to cover but in true Monogatari fashion, is painfully eked out to almost an hour.
“Painfully” might seem like an unfair adjective to bestow upon this action but there is no escaping the fact the paucity of substantial content is not commensurate of the film’s run time. The end credits, quite abruptly hit at the 58-minute mark, just as things were starting to take form, then after almost four minutes of credits there is a typically obtuse “audio only” preview for the next film in this trilogy.
I am quite willing to admit this style of storytelling Isin has mastered is not to my taste and I know there are many out there who find it enchanting and engaging, but one thing Tekketsu demonstrates is that it works best within the single TV episode format. As a feature length film it merely incurs copious amounts of padding, mostly protracted aimless visual distractions, exposing the frugality of the actual story.
To put this into perspective, the fateful meeting between Koyomi and Shinobu doesn’t occur until 35 minutes into this film, leaving just 23 minutes for it to turn into something resembling plot development. This is not exaggeration – the opening sequence of Koyomi bursting into flames takes up the first ten minutes of the film, as does the meeting with Tsubasa, much of which is random gibberish and fan service anyway.
Koyomi in this stage of his life is something of an emo loner, which automatically makes him a pervert because anime. Then again, with Tsubasa unashamed by her accidental flashing and the way the animation focuses on her voluminous bosom, Koyomi is just as much a victim of circumstance (and lazy writing). However, the inspiration for Koyomi going out on that night was his thinking about Tsubasa and somehow this equated to requiring the purchase of a dirty magazine.
For all of its dense, cod-existential surrealism this reminds us that ultimately, Monogatari is a harem show and not a particularly classy one at that – remember the infamous toothbrush skit in Nisemonogatari? Thankfully, this aspect disappears from the moment Koyomi discovers the partially dismembered Shinobu, lying helplessly in a vast pool of her own blood.
Naturally, Koyomi is shocked at this vision and rushes to Shinobu’s aid but her request – or rather, her generous offer to Koyomi to have the privilege of giving her is blood – causes him to recoil. But, being the noble chap her is, Koyomi relents and the Shinobu most recognisable to us arrives, as demanding and capricious as ever. Oh, there is one more thing Koyomi has to do on Shinobu’ behalf – face the vampire hunters that carved her up.
Making up this violent trio of distinctly shonen fantasy designed slayers are full-vampire Dramaturgy, half-vampire Episode and human priest Guillotine Cutter, evidently the most dangerous of them all. Of course, Koyomi doesn’t stand a chance against them but luckily, there is help from a soon to be familiar presence.
Unless the procrastinating style of Isin’s verbose, rambling writing and Shaft’s offbeat, angular visual presentation is a source of joy and entertainment for you, chances are the lack of story progression will be the biggest handicap to becoming invested in this opening chapter of this trilogy, behind the oblique non-sequiturs that regular pop up to fill the screen whilst providing little support to the proceedings.
Clearly, the bigger budget that comes with a theatrical release has been welcomed by Shaft and to their credit, this is a great looking work that sees the studio experimenting further with cinematic camera movements and expansive depth perception. Also, a lot of the backgrounds and set pieces look to be photo real or possibly genuine live action footage, adding a further layer of madness to the already askew diegesis of this bizarre universe.
Unfortunately, I can’t pretend I am looking forward to seeing what the second part of the Kizumonogatari trilogy has in store for us, but I can only hope that with the foundation (eventually) laid in this opening chapter, the focus will be storytelling and less on the usual pretentious obfuscation purporting to be art.
To those of you who get something out of the Monogatari oeuvre, more power to you though I imagine this film might stretch that loyalty a little, otherwise have yourself a ball with this indulgent waste of potential.
Japanese Language 5.1 Surround Sound
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Announcement CM <Koyomi Araragi Version>
Announcement CM <Tsubasa Hanekawa Version>
Announcement CM <Kiss-shot Version>
Package Cm #1&2
Clean Opening Animations
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black