Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 68 minutes approx.
I hope you are all sitting down when reading this as the following statement might come as a bit of a shock to you. Ahem…
Kizumonogatari – Nekketsu isn’t that bad.
Are you still with me? If it is any consolation, I can hardly believe it myself but the cold reality is I didn’t hate the second film in this prequel trilogy to the Monogatari saga. Given the track of the franchise for leaving me bored and frustrated with its obtuse and pretentious prolix nonsense, it stands to reason my expectations for instalment of this series should be lower than low.
However, it would appear that now the set up for this story has covered in the first film Tekketsu (as such, taking 64 minutes to relay a five minute plot) this follow-up pretty much gets down to business and continues with the action. The usual aimless chat sessions are still present – thankfully in a reduced quotient – as are Shaft’s esoteric visual affectations which have become synonymous with this franchise.
Before we proceed with this review, a brief reminder of the plot: – Koyomi Araragi has been turned into a vampire after giving his blood to Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade – aka Shinobu – whose limbs were removed by a trio of vampire hunters, and now Koyomi has to fight them to retrieve Shinobu’s body parts.
The opening shot of Nekketsu teases a hot start with Koyomi and the monstrous vampire Dramaturgy facing off against each other in the rain, but true to form, the scene then summarily shifts to Koyomi sitting under a street lamp reading instruction books on aikido and baseball pitching by way of preparation to facing off against a violent behemoth vampire.
He is soon joined by buxom classmate Tsubasa Hanekawa, who just happens to be wandering the streets at night in her school uniform as anime fetishes dictate, and they engage in another wordy but ultimately vapid exchange presumably designed to pass for awkward flirting. The content of the discussion may be empty but its relevance is revealed later in the film.
And so the first of three showdowns occurs and Dramaturgy scores an early advantage when he kicks Koyomi’s left arm clean off his body just with the draft from his kick. This isn’t going to be an easy fight, but Koyomi quickly discovers his body is now capable of regenerating very quickly thanks to the infusion of Shinobu’ vampire blood, which is a huge boon to his chances of survival.
Victory is soon his but Koyomi is unaware that the more time he spends accepting his new vampiric powers the further away he is from being a human. It’s a dilemma he doesn’t stop to consider having pledged to regain all of Shinobu’s limbs and Koyomi also seems to enjoy being powerful for once. Offering a counter incentive for Koyomi to retain his humanity is where Tsubasa role seems to be heading, though at the moment their awkward exchanges are largely prurient.
Like its predecessor, Nekketsu only just breaks the hour mark in it run time but unlike the first film, it only wastes some of it with worthless extraneous material. Three fights in sixty minute might sound like a cram job, but this isn’t Naruto or Dragonball – the longest battle is barely eight minutes long but it does fit a lot into it, including lashing of blood and gruesome injuries.
The second clash against half-vampire Episode is shorter but nonetheless eventful in its own way, as Episode can transform into mist and wields a giant cross as a weapon. Koyomi may be feeling more confident with one victory under his belt but is hampered by his remaining humanity when Tsubasa is severely injured during the fight, providing the most graphic scene of the whole film.
Human priest Guillotine Cutter is Koyomi’s final opponent in this three round fight an is the swiftest of them all, coming with ten minutes left in the film, but it is a matter of context in terms of Koyomi’s gradual evolving into a vampire and feelings for Tsubasa that require this to be a brief contest, but we are now firmly in the supernatural by now, Koyomi’s grip on his human side slackening by the minute.
Visually the film is nothing short of spectacular as per the previous film, the photo-real backgrounds, and set pieces once again delivering a glorious treat for the eyes in tandem with the smooth animation of the characters. Along with the copious spilling of blood and excessive violence, both Tsubasa and Shinobu and provide the obligatory and tacky fan service, the latter arguably pushing some boundaries in transforming from her current prepubescent form.
As someone perpetually unimpressed with and baffled by the Monogatari saga I find myself compelled to question why it couldn’t be as focused as this film is all the time but this will no doubt be considered blasphemy to fans of its quirky and arcane nature. In many ways, it shouldn’t be surprise that Nekketsu is such a tightly constructed piece as it is the middle section of a trilogy, which is usually where the meat of the story happens to set up the conclusion.
Whether this means the third instalment Reiketsu will be business as usual and this has simply been a transitory aberration on the part of writer Nisio Isin remains to be seen. I shall remain cautiously optimistic but not rigidly as there is so much ground to be covered in the final part pertaining to the lead into the start of Bakemonogatari, that I fear the action is no over and the endless garrulous dialogue shall return in full force.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it transpired all three parts of the Kizumonogatari trilogy could have easily been condensed into one coherent and enjoyable 90-minute film but that wouldn’t be Monogatari for the hardcore fans. At least I actually got something out of it with this film.
Japanese Language 5.1 Surround Sound
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Package CM #1
Package CM #2
Illustrated Art cards
Rating – ***
Man In Black