Before I begin this review, I’ll preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of the Monogatari series. Therefore, this review of the long-awaited movie series might be somewhat biased. I’ll try to be objective, but I’ve been waiting for five years for this to come out, so admittedly, my own excitement kind of overrules any objectivity I might have.
In the first few minutes, SHAFT studios do what they do best. They set the stage for the plot in a way that grips you, gives you just enough information to want to know more, while still leaving most of the questions unanswered. For example, if you didn’t know the backstory between Araragi and Kiss-Shot, you would probably wonder why Araragi suddenly bursts into flames. You would also not know why the building he is in is important to the overall Monogatari series. The choice of colours is especially interesting. Both the opening scene and the one following, Araragi and his surroundings are grey, white, brown, and black. There is very little colour used, which is surprising, as the Monogatari series is well known for its use of bright, contrasting colours. As such, the rather drab colours show us where Araragi was before he met Kiss-Shot, it shows us the excistence of a boy who believes having friends will ‘lessen his powers as a human’. Of course, this is just something he has come up with to mask the fact that he is actually a very lonely human being. To prove my point, that a look at this scene where you have Araragi facing Kiss-Shot. It is the culmination of a long series of shots where colours are only vivid when Kiss-Shot is directly involved, such as her blood or the subway station leading to where she lies dying. It is also proved in the flashcards that appear on the screen, showing ‘noir’ when Araragi appears and ‘rouge’ for Kiss-Shot.
When the second scene starts, we see Araragi and Hanekawa walking towards each other on a stretch of road. For those of you who are annoyed at fanservice, this scene will probably be your least favourite in the entire movie. A burst of wind makes Hanekawa’s skirt fly up, revealing a pair of lacey white panties. Now, this is nothing unusual for the Monogatari series and fans of it will probably expect it. Noevertheless, I did kind of find it unnecessary. However, Hanekawa’s reaction is, as usual, levelheaded and she proceeds to make a joke at her own expense, though looking thorougly embarrassed doing it. Seriously, this girl can’t get more adorable. (Except when she turns into Black Hanekawa, but that’s something else altogether).
There are several small details in the movie that made me laugh and that showed the attention SHAFT has put into the production. When Hanekawa’s skirt flies up, a car drives past and we hear the sound of a crash in the background. Normally, this would have been a comic little detail, but in Kizymonogatari, it is followed up. Araragi walks away from Hanekawa and, on the road, lies the car looking rather the worse for wear.
This is not an important detail and I wouldn’t have missed it had they left it out, but it does heighten the viewing experience. Jokes that are made are followed up, not just left hanging. However, Kizumonogatari is not as funny as the other series in the Monogatari universe. In both Bakemonogatari and Nekomonogatari, there are several funny moments, usually involving Kanbaru. Here, the story is darker and grittier and occassionally downright hard to watch. When Araragi runs away from Kiss-Shot, leaving her to die, her reaction is devastating. As she cries and thrashes in a pool of her own blood, the sound of a crying child is played in the background, showing just how pitiful this normally powerful vampire becomes when faced with her own demise. However, this is also what makes Araragi come back for her, what makes him empathise with her pain and suffering. It thereby humanises her and creates a very powerful bond between her and Araragi. Though the fanservice is still going strong.
Now, I had read the light novel already, so I knew what was going to happen. For those who didn’t, the next clip is rather hilarious. After embracing an attractive, voluptous, blonde vampire, Araragi wakes up to this scene:
Kiss-Shot is now reduced to a small child and Araragi’s reaction is rather predictable. After having left Kiss-Shot, who I guess we can now start calling Shinobu as she is mostly called while in her reduced state, Araragi goes outside and catches fire. It is only by having Shinobu rushing to save him that he survives the torment of immortality – dying, reviving, and dying in an eternal loop. Shinobu does not really treat this is anything too serious, just warning him not to do so again. In the novel, this scene was depicted in more seriousness and implied that there would be some more permanent damage if a vampire, even one as powerful as Kiss-Shot went outside in direct sunlight. However, this is a minor detail and the movie has stuck rather closely to the novel up to this point. The scene, in usual Monogatari-style fashion, quickly jumps between seriousness and hilarity, where Shinobu, as Araragi’s master, demands that he pet her head:
And apparently, it’s quite enjoyable for both parts
This is where the main plot of Kizumonogatari starts, the retrieval of Kiss-Shot’s lost limbs that were taken from her by the three vampire killers; Dramaturgy, Episode, and Guillotine Cutter. Seeing as this is the first part of a series of three movies, we only dip our toes into the main story. At the end, we see the character design for the vampire hunters, as well as our favourite Hawaiian-shirt wearing guy, Oshino Meme.
All in all, I think this was a good start to the light novel adaptation. While I don’t think it was worth a five year wait, I don’t feel let down at all. The music was good, the pacing was on point, the characters acted as they usually do. The only thing I found slightly annoying was the rather exaggerated use of simplistic cartoonish animation and design. While used much in the rest of the Monogatari series, I did sometimes find it a bit excessive here. I also think that, after five years, SHAFT could do us the favour of releasing all three movies at the same time, or at least a bit closer in time. The first part is barely over an hour long, which is not much for a movie that has been so eagerly and impatiently awaited. But then again, some might not mind this at all. I just know that by the time the third installment of the movie series comes out, I’ll be rewatching this so that I can watch all three in one go. I already think I did a good job by waiting so long to watch it, and yet I still have to wait at least another six months for the third movie to be translated into English.
However, this has nothing much to do about this movie in particular, but is rather a problem I have with SHAFT’s decision to split it into three movies and release them several months apart. For those of you who can’t wait, the light novel is translated and can easily be bought online, and for those who are new to the Monogatari series, just start at Bakemonogatari and watch the rest of the series first. Seriously, you’ll get more enjoyment out of this movie if you do.