Bakemonogatari is the first installment (the first one made, at least, not the first in the series’ timeline) of the expansive and widely beloved Monogatari series. Aired by Studio Shaft in Summer 2009, with three more episodes being released online afterwards, the Monogatari series is based on the Light Novel Series of the same name written by Nisio Isen. The Monogatari series as a whole is rather dense, so we’re just going to focus on Bakemonogatari for this review.
Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and Tatsuya Oishi, Bakemonogatari is probably one of the most dense anime series i’ve watched to date (not including the rest of Monogatari). Combining striking visuals, bold directorial choices, and really really fast talking, Bakemonogatari is a show that’s hard to fully grasp on a single watch-through. Even after watching it multiple times, it still manages to confuse me to some extent.
Bakemonogatari follows Koyomi Araragi, a high-schooler in his third year. We quickly discover that, prior to the events of the series, Araragi had been transformed into a vampire for a time, and while he is no longer a vampire, he’s still showing some mild side effects from his transformation, i.e. aversion to sunlight, rapid healing, superhuman strength and durability. Due to being saved in the past by a powerful exorcist named Meme Oshino, Araragi has developed a sort of sacrifice complex, he is willing to take on the pain and anguish of others to help save them, which he can do with surprising effectiveness now that he’s relatively immortal.
The story begins as Arararagi catches a classmate of his, Hitagi Senjogahara, as she is falling down a huge flight of stairs. Upon catching her, he discovers that she is nearly weightless, like a feather in his arms. Though Senjogahara is extremely hostile to him, threatening him and even stapling the inside of his mouth, Araragi resolves to help her solve her problem, introducing her to Oshino. She reveals that her weight had been stolen from her by a giant crab monster, and she implores Oshino to help her return to normal.
With Oshino’s help, we learn of Senjogahara’s tragic past, and discover that the reason the crab stole her weight is because she wished to get rid of her emotions of sadness, frustration, and guilt concerning her past. The crab stole those emotions, along with her body’s weight, and she has been possessed by the beast ever since.
Thus we get to the real purpose behind Monogatari, as Ararararagi helps a variety of girls confront and defeat their “curses”, which are really just manifestations of the girl’s emotional insecurities and need to escape from reality. Upon being forced to confront and defeat these beasts, the girls don’t necessarily get a happy life, but they do feel better, and are able to take steps to move past their curse. However, like real emotional scars, the beasts never truly go away, and the girls are occasionally haunted by a relapse of their curse.
As a person who has suffered from anxiety and depression, among other things, in my past, I found this show to be extraordinarily interesting and enlightening, and it’s quickly become one of my favorites. It may be hard for some people to watch, but I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.
Art: Bakemonogatari has some amazing art, and it’s used in such a nice way to accentuate the storytelling. The lines and colors in every scene are positioned in a way that draws your attention directly to where the action is, or where you need to be looking at that moment. Angles are smooth and crisp, and everything is spot-on perfect. 5/5
Animation: Just like the art, Bakemonogatari’s animation style is used in perfect sync with the story to draw your attention exactly where it needs to be. Additionally, no background characters ever appear on screen. In a sense, the only characters shown are the main characters, as they interact in their own little world, apart from everyone else. 5/5
Music: Bakemonogatari has a gorgeous sountrack, with over 2 hours of music, not including the FIVE OP’s (one for each heroine). From happy to sad, silly to serious, mysterious, and even some tracks for an epic fight scene or two (mainly Arararararagi getting beaten around), Bake has it all. 5/5
Characters: Oh boy, does this show have a nice cast of characters. From the silly and sarcastic Araragi to the serious and often violent Senjougahara, the perverted Suruga, the adorable Mayoi, the shy Nadeko, the smart and beautiful Tsubasa, and more, each character has their own part to play in this gorgeous story. But that’s not all. Now, each arc does feature a single heroine and her problems, as is so common in these romcom/harem shows. However, Bake is unique in that the rest of the cast also has a major part to play, and many of the girls show up consistently, even outside of her own arc. Especially Senjougahara. 5/5
Character Development: Watching these girls slowly overcome their “demons” and grow is one of the most touching and effective parts of this show. I felt like every character got plenty of character development, and nobody really got left behind. Except maybe Araragi, who, though his character matures and learns throughout the show, is still largely the same dork he was at the start. 5/5
Worldbuilding: I love to see a creative idea taken as far as it will go, and I feel Bakemonogatari accomplishes this very well. That being said, during the course of the show, we learn almost nothing about the town they live in, or any people outside the main cast. We don’t even get to see Araragi’s parents! However, the point of the show is that it all exists within the consciousness of the characters. Small details that the characters would overlook are, similarly, overlooked, while big things are highlighted. 4/5
Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, Drama, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Action, Occult, etc… Bake spans so many genres it’d take up this whole section just to write them all down. While many shows that try to take up so many genres end up being shallow and poorly developed, Bake does a very good job of blending them together and making a palatable product. 5/5
Tropes: Unfortunately, Bake falls prey to a few anime tropes, including fanservice, straight-man, harem, tsundere, and more. And while it does a good job making use of most of these elements, some of them seem somewhat out of place, making for a dip in immersion. 4/5
Personality: Bakemonogatari has personality by the bucketload. You won’t see better head-tilting in any show. The avant-garde style, the complex and fast-paced dialogue, the characters, the music, everything works so well together to give this show a truly one-of-a-kind feel. 5/5
Plot: I absolutely adore the plot of Bake. I believe it’s one of the most creative, inventive, and unique plots to any anime out there, and while it can certainly be very hard to digest, the sheer brilliance of not just the writing, but the execution, make it something that I will come back to time and time again. 5/5
Pacing: My biggest complaint with Bakemonogatari is probably the pacing. The characters talk so fast, probably because the show is so dialogue-heavy, yet there are times that the show seems to drag a bit, because of how slow the pacing is. I won’t blame the dialogue, because I feel like the reliance on dialogue instead of visuals to tell the story was the correct move for this show, however I do wish, at certain points, that the story would move along a tad faster. 3/5
Personal Opinion: I love Bakemonogatari so, so much. I haven’t seen all of Monogatari, but of what I have seen so far, it’s my favorite season by far. I love the characters, the dynamic relationships, the witty dialogue, and the crazy art and animation. Senjougahara and Araragi’s relationship feels so extremely real to me, and the show itself makes me relate on a deep emotional level. So, I give Bakemonogatari a 5/5. It’s an absolute masterpiece.
All done. Sorry about the word vomit, this is a show that I could go on about for hours. Literally. It’s definitely one of my all-time favorites, and I hope my readers will give it a try as well. Now, time for scoring!
Now that’s a good score! The show’s not perfect (no show is, though,) but it’s still extremely good. My personal recommendation for watching Bake is to watch it one story arc at a time, with a few day’s break in between, so you can really think about and absorb what you’ve read.
And there you have it. Thank you everyone for reading! Please let me know what you thought of this review in the comments below, let me know if there’s anything you want me to review in the future, and please follow so that you can stay up-to-date on my latest posts!