14 CommentsFirst Impressions, Nisemonogatari / By Scamp /

Nisemonogatari episode 1

Somewhere over the course of the 2 and a half years since Bakemonogatari aired, I had forgotten how utterly strange this anime is. It’s one of those little anomalies that can only exist in anime. How something with such out-there animation and artwork, with rambling and self-referential dialogue, can become the massive hit that it was. Nisemonogatari was all that again, for better or for worse.

This artwork is Shinbo at his most unrestrained form. Probably not as weird as Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, but certainly a step above the likes of Maria Holic or Pani Poni Dash for sheer abstract imagery (and makes the relatively lower key Arakawa look like it was animated by JC Staff ho ho highbrow animation studio jokes). It does mean Bakemonogatari is never boring to look at, but my old problem with this level of Shaftyness is that they often serve no purpose at all except because the director thinks they look cool. For example, why are there a stack of multicoloured ladders in Ararararagi’s house? I’ve heard it described as post-modern imagery, but that’s a bit of a cop-out excuse since it really boils down to “there is no reason”. Utena did this too, but Utena very deliberately played with the concept of post-modern imagery, constantly twisting your expectations of whether this scene meant anything in the overall picture. In Nisemonogatari, it’s there because Shinbo thinks it looks cool.

Then there’s Nision’s dialogue. You can’t exactly divorce the dialogue from the artwork, because the windy nonsensical dialogue is the reason why the artwork take that trippy approach in the first place. It’s still sharp and witty as hell, but also still has that problem of being too wordy. This sounds like criticising Death Note for having too many dramatic angles, but Nisemonogatari still drags out certain jokes beyond their natural stopping point too much. I feel for the poor soul who has to edit the nonsense that comes out of Nision’s pencil. It didn’t yet have the problem I had with last season where sometimes these pieces of dialogue would lead nowhere and peter out into nothing, leaving one of the characters to go “anyway, as you were saying before we went off on this completely unrelated tangent”, but that was probably because this was largely a re-introductory episode where a lot of the dialogue had no point beyond “hey, remember these guys”.

Where Bakemonogatari shined best is when the dialogue had a sneaky purpose underneath its characters’ jibes. The only piece of dialogue in Nisemonogatari that had that same quality was the discussion between Arararagi and his sister. At the end he mentioned that he didn’t want to tell his sister about his vampiric abilities, but a lot of that we had already subconsciously recognised through their dialogue. Part of the writing’s genius is the characters develop while they’re talking, without being blatant and pointing it out to you. While the animation frequently has no purpose, it does sneak in little pieces of changing in facial expressions, cuts to falling down desks or whatever, to show the change in emotion in the scene. While we don’t immediately recognise it, we still pick it up and change our perceptions of events very subtlety.

It really is a strange and unique show, and I am pleased to see it back again. I’m even more pleased to see Shaft back in the game after taking the last two seasons out. Bring back in the plot underneath these fierce ribbing sessions and we’ll see the series back to its finest form.

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  1. Someone Else
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I don’t really like the background, I don’t care if it looks cool on Shinbo. It’s not what makes this show shine anyway, but I still love the witty dialogues in this show and it never got dull since season 1, I think we now have the best anime again of this season

  2. lostsage
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Also pleased to see Ararararagai is still a huge pedophile.

    • Demo
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t see anything suggesting he liked feet.

  3. Jumendez
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I think the whole red ladders in the room thing ties into the metaphor used later in the episode regarding the stage (which is supported by the stage lights seen at the top of the room). I’m going to guess it’s alluding to how (in terms of the metaphor) this stage is unstable, and will come crashing down. In this case that means his (or some) secret will be revealed.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Heh, really reading into things there. If they do come crashing down later, maybe I’ll buy that theory

  4. Moomba
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Those ladders. The first thing I thought when I saw those ladders was that it was a reference to the OP… but then I remembered that it was the original Maria+Holic OP that had ladders rather than anything Bakemonogatari related….

    I would guess that they’re a post-modern representation of you know what I’m not going to even try and think about it because it’s SHAFT and SHAFT is crazy anyway.

    The dialogue was witty as expected, but in a way it felt like something was missing from Bakemonogatari… maybe there were less random cuts this time around. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing though. Or I could just be suffering from nostalgia again.

    I personally think it’s too early for the mass calls of BEST ANIME 2012 people are throwing around, but I guess we’ll see how it turns out. I have no major complaints so far.

  5. Posted January 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Well those ladders do look cool. Not everything in the background has to have some sort of symbolism you know. Besides those ladders do add up to Araragi’s house looking really. . . modern cool. Well most of the background in Bakemonogatari are like that so if you didn’t like it then, you probably wouldn’t like it know. I on the other hand drool on those backgrounds.

    Guiltily though, like most of you I’m sure, the best part would be Senjougahara’s. I just missed her teasing so much.

  6. mcm038
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Still it’s a refreshing show as ever. Tough is it me or is it focusing more on the familial bond between Araragi and his sisters, rather than his sisters like I was informed.

  7. Posted January 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I do have this sense of guilt about the whole XXmonogatari series that I’m watching a harem anime, but dismissing it as a harem anime because it’s well-presented, yet I dismiss all other harem anime as good anime because their quality is wretched. Then I look at a harem comedy like Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko and give it a free pass because it’s a Shaft harem anime with poorer-than-expected quality.

    Argh. I’m reading too much into this.

    • Erif
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      I know how you feel, man. I went into watching Bakemonogatari with no prior knowledge, and I had no idea what to expect. Well, the first few episodes utterly blew me away (Senjougahara’s arc), but further along in the series I finally realized I was watching a harem. That’s exactly what it is. One of my biggest problems with Bakemonogatari was the fact that it was a harem; and each character was split into her respective arc. I still love the anime, but I just wasn’t expecting that at all.

      But it’s not a typical harem, really. Romance usually takes a back seat, and when it doesn’t it’s only present between Araragi and Senjougahara, unlike some other harems. If some of the characters were replaced with guys it’d be just the same.

      • ペーパー先生
        Posted January 9, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

        The fact that it actually made fun of the fact that it was a harem show did help.

  8. Chipp12
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I was wrong about dialoges… all hail Nishio!

  9. ShinigamiGin
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    So Shaftyness is a noun now? I like it..

  10. Erif
    Posted January 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    So, I’m rewatching Bakemonogatri before I watch this. Amazing how many things you pick up on the second time through.

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