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Nisemonogatari PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 March 2012 00:00

First up for the Winter 2012 reviews: Nisemonogatari, which is a strange one from the start as it's a sequel to Bakemonogatari, which has yet to see a legitimate Western release, be it streamed or physical - so unless you've turned to the Dark Side (fansubs), prepare to be confused. And if you did, perhaps prepare to be disappointed...

For those who haven't seen Bakemonogatari, a quick recap / explanation: Koyomi Araragi, having been bitten by a vampire (the ever-delightful Shinobu, who now lives within Araragi himself), is possessed with near-immortality - something that he's been using to help others in his town who themselves have been subjected to supernatural curses. Bakemonogatari told their stories: Hitagi Senjougahara, cursed by a crab who robbed her of her weight; Mayoi Hachikuji, a primary-school girl - or rather, the ghost of one, wandering to reach a home that no longer exists; Surugu Kanbaru, possessed by the unexpected side-effects of an innocent wish; Nadeko Sengoku, a junior-school girl, possessed by the spirit of a snake that is slowly crushing the life out of her; and Tsubasa Hanekawa, the high-school class president who knows only what she knows, and not what she doesn't.

Through a curious combination of witty banter, striking visuals, and some very neat action scenes, Bakemonogatari saw each girl freed of their curse - and each in turn coming to see Araragi in a more romantic light (and in Senjougahara's case, becoming his girlfriend). Must be nice to have a harem. I blitzed through the series in two days just before Nisemonogatari began airing, and it impressed me greatly - easily one of my favourite shows of 2011, which in turn also meant that Nisemonogatari was easily my most-anticipated show for the Winter season. But that sort of anticipation, much like what the show's girls have to deal with, can be a bit of a curse.

Nisemonogatari moves the story on to Ararai's next problem - it seems that his sisters, the famous Fire Sisters (whose sense of justice is legendary), are also under the influences of the supernatural. The series is split into two arcs, Karen Bee and Tsukihi Phoenix, where he does what a brother should do and deals with their problems, along the way encountering conman Kaiki, who also had a role in the curse that Senjougahara was subjected to; and exorcist pairing Kagenui and Yotsugi, who are determined to make sure that 'anomalies' in the world are dealt with, and have received a tip-off about Tsukihi. So far, so good - but between the two seasons, there's been a shift in emphasis that makes Nisemonogatari by far the lesser of the two shows.

That emphasis change is in the way the stories are presented. Bakemonogatari had a lot of witty banter, but it mostly focused on the problems facing the girl in each arc (5 in that series) and how Araragi was going to help - the talking was relevant, for the most part, and if it wasn't it was at the very least character-building. Now, it's in the service of fanservice. Nadeko wants to seduce Araragi - so we get half an episode devoted to the resulting wordplay, and some interesting use of a twister board. Kanbaru wants to seduce Araragi, and his sisters if the chance arises - so we get half an episode with her talking to Araragi on the phone, while she rolls naked on the floor at home. And let's not mention the erotic power of a toothbrush, as demonstrated by Araragi and Karen. Smuttymonogatari. Pornomonogatari. It got these nicknames for a reason.

And they're not the reasons that I was anticipating the series for, or that I was watching to see. Now, I'm not anti-fanservice (review of Highschool DxD coming soon...), but I am anti dropping it in where it isn't expected or required - and it's been cranked up to eleven here for no good reason that I can see. I can't even blame that on the anime adaptation, as apparently everything that's here is lifted accurately from the source light novel - although my suspicion is that, with eleven episodes perhaps being too long for the amount of material that that the series had to work with, the fanservice has been emphasised more than it really should have been in an effort to pad things out.

The end result leaves me, to use Tsukihi's phrase, platinum mad. All the things I loved about the first season are here, but pushed into the background, wrapped in aspects that, to me, really don't fit. It's been possessed by a curse of the type that Araragi would like to do battle with, perhaps - the curse of trying to be something that it wasn't really meant to be.

To be fair, though, while Nisemonogatari is a disappointment compared to its predecessor, it still stands on its own as a decent enough series. Watch it cold, as many people following the simulcast probably did, and once the initial confusion over the background to the story wears off (easily fixed with a quick trip to Wikipedia) you'll still find plenty here to amuse and entertain. You don't miss what you never had, and the series still has a lot going for it. But there was the potential for it to be an even stronger piece of work, potential that it unfortunately doesn't live up to - and that, more than anything else, is what makes it a disappointment.

Rating - ***