Review for Nisemonogatari Part 2
This is quaint and nostalgic. Once upon a time, all anime was released this way, single disc releases, with at the most four episodes in a volume, splitting whole series into six or even seven parts. That isn’t the case for Nisemonogatari, which has been released in the UK the same way as everywhere else, in two instalments. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a single disc release with just four episodes to it, and it’s been just as long since I’ve had just two watches to write an anime review. Normally I get to split a reviewing into five or six nights at two episodes apiece. Incidentally, this is probably the only title ever to get an 18 rating because of provocative brushing of teeth!
Following hot on the heels of fan favourite Bakemonogatari on DVD and Blu-ray (A subtitle only anime Blu-ray in the UK; now that is niche!); we get the sequel series Nisemonogatari as well, which continues the adventures of reformed vampire Koyomi Araragi, and his harem of oddball female friends. Nisemonogatari is shorter in length than Bakemonogatari at just 11 episodes, but MVM have to follow licensor stipulations in its release, and have released it in two parts, on DVD and Blu-ray, subtitle only again. The follow up series concentrates on Araragi’s younger sisters, Karen and Tsukihi, the Fire Sisters, who appeared occasionally in the background of Bakemonogatari.
Following the previous instalment’s Karen bee tale, this time the attention turns to the youngest of the Araragi siblings, sister Tsukihi Araragi, although as this story starts, Koyomi’s attention is still devoted to middle sister Karen, who has made the fatal error of demanding an introduction to Koyomi’s friend Kanbaru Suruga. That kind of demand needs punishment, but it’s the kind of punishment that sends Tsukihi into a very special apoplexy. That kind of rage needs to be avoided, which is why Koyomi gives in and takes Karen to meet Kanbaru, and live with whatever consequences may follow. But on the way there and back, Koyomi runs into two very strange characters, the athletic Kageru Yodzuru, who refers to Koyomi as Devil Boy, and Karen as Hornet Girl, and then the deadpan Ononoki Yotsugi, who again calls Koyomi, Devil Boy, and Mayoi Snail Girl. Both are looking for the Eikou Cram School, the abandoned building where Oshino had set up shop. Four episodes of Nisemonogatari are presented on this dual layer disc from MVM.
1. Tsukihi phoenix, Part 1
2. Tsukihi phoenix, Part 2
3. Tsukihi phoenix, Part 3
4. Tsukihi phoenix, Part 4
Nisemonogatari gets a very nice 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, just as Bakemonogatari did. It is native PAL with 4% speed-up courtesy of Australia’s Hanabee. This is a Studio SHAFT production, so it’s obvious from the off that the visuals play a big part in the show, and splitting having just four episodes on one dual layer disc gives them space to breathe, with very little in the way of visible compression and aliasing. Colour reproduction is strong and even the most frenetic moments, with rapid shifts in image and colour, aren’t hampered by the DVD format. It’s a lot like Bakemonogatari in terms of visual invention and sheer imaginative quirkiness, but if there is something that separates the two series, I’d say that Nisemonogatari’s colour palette tends more towards the bright, primary colours, and the character designs are, for want of a better word, shinier.
It’s great if you watch it on a small screen. Something like a 32 inch television will show off its quirky aspects without issue. I watched it first on an old CRT set and was very impressed. It’s just when I adjourned to my HD panel, and gave it the upscale treatment to 1080 lines of resolution that the slightest hint of edge enhancement reared its head. Of course if you have an HD panel, you’ll be getting the Nisemonogatari Blu-ray release instead.
Nisemonogatari gets a DD 2.0 Stereo Japanese track, with optional translated subtitles. This is a subtitle only release, and there is no English dub, although when you see just how dense the script is, and how reliant on wordplay and punnage, very culture specific at that, you can understand why dubbing such a show would be a daunting task, impossible to do the show justice. The dialogue is clear throughout, and the audio does a fine job in giving the show some space, and conveying its sound design.
As mentioned, the script is dense, there is a lot of dialogue, and the story is one based on wordplay and wit. The subtitles can zip past, and this isn’t a show that you can half watch. You have to give it your full attention. Add to that the prevalence of background text, intertitles and the like, most of which is translated into English by means of on-screen subtitle captions. The Japanese text is on for just a frame or two, and the English translation reflects that. There is hardly any time to register what is written, regardless of whether you read Japanese or English, and these captions are almost Easter Eggs for fans purchasing the discs that have the time to play freely with the pause button and note what is actually written. The all important subtitles are accurately timed and are free of error.
The contents of this disc are presented with an animated menu.
This time around there are extras, although of the inconsequential sort that hardly has you revisiting that menu of the disc more than once.
You get four versions of the textless opening, three versions of the textless closing, 4½ minutes worth of TV promos, just under two minutes of DVD & BD promos, and finally trailers for Bakemonogatari, Inu x Boku SS, Hakuoki, Hiiro no Kakera, Another and Gyo.
So here we are, I’m trying to collect my thoughts, and deliver a few, hopefully insightful paragraphs about what the conclusion of Nisemonogatari is like, and the predominant sentiment in my mind, flashing in bold neon colours is ‘More of the same!’ It offer more of what Nisemonogatari Part 1 delivered, albeit in merely four episodes, with the same circumlocutory dialogue, the same vivid colours and SHAFT imagination, and the same sense that this is a studio wallowing in the height of self-indulgence, delivering predominantly on fan service, and adding in the narrative simply as an afterthought. In that respect, once more Nisemonogatari is a bright, and flamboyant exercise, a treat for fans of the characters and the universe, but somewhat disappointing for those who put their faith in storytelling, and for those who expected more of the same after watching the, quite frankly superior Bakemonogatari.
Karen bee, the seven part story in the first part of Nisemonogatari, ostensibly about elder Fire Sister Karen Araragi, indulged fans by spending more than half its runtime on brother Koyomi Araragi circulating around the various members of his harem, before actually getting to the meat of Karen’s story. This second story, Tsukihi phoenix, may be shorter than the first, and a little more efficiently told, but just as before, the title character, youngest sibling Tsukihi Araragi is pretty much neglected for most of the story’s run time, with most of the focus being spent on Koyomi’s interactions with Karen. Nisemonogatari hasn’t been shy about pushing the fan service angle, but in this story, the creators decide to push a few taboos as well, which for some viewers may be a push too far.
It’s only midway through the third episode, once the antagonists have been introduced, and the preliminary fan service elements dispensed with, that we actually get to the meat of the story, set up with the opening lines of the long forgotten first episode, where Koyomi questions his youngest sister’s identity. There’s certainly more drama to be had with Tsukihi phoenix in the way that the story concludes, and there’s certainly more meat to the tale, more emotional engagement to be had this time around. Ironically, Tsukihi is never really a presence in these episodes, merely a motivator of events, and she had a much greater weight in the Karen bee story.
Nisemonogatari is certainly memorable. You’ll never think about brushing your teeth as a mundane activity again. But it’s memorable for the wrong reasons, for fan service and fracturing a few taboos. It is however a show that will get more than a few re-watches, just to get hold of every nuance. You may compare it unfavourably to Bakemonogatari, and Nekomonogatari, but in its own right it manages to entertain, and it will get you into the mood for the Monogatari series which follows on from it. I’ll be adjourning to Crunchyroll and Daisuki forthwith to get some judicious Monogatari streaming done, and hopefully MVM will be picking up further Monogatari adventures in the future.