Bakemonogatari is dense. Dense in dialogue, dense in wordplay, and dense in imagery. However, If you boil down its 12 TV episodes and 3 ONAs (the last of which aired June 25), well over half of its airtime is occupied by establishing shots, extreme long shots, stills, and unnumbered and labeled color cuts. This is the first non-Zetsubo-sensei Akiyuki Shinbo-directed anime I saw, and it’s clear the guy likes the little details, he prefers the scalpel to the sledgehammer, and he isn’t afraid to turn conventions inside-out and upside-down.
Two characters converse during jumps up, down, over, around, and through them, and the verbal fisticuffs are chock full of wordplay and metahumor, much of which requires fluency in Japanese to fully appreciate. Despite not being fluent ourselves, the series is nevertheless great entertainment. This anime photographs its characters, particularly the female ones, with great care and love, and we have no choice but to sympathize and root for them once we learn of their situations, as the quasi-vampire protagonist must. He muses later in the series that perhaps his residual vampire “charisma” is the reason these attractive girls keep coming to him with their problems. But it was the girls, their excellent seiyus, their vulnerabilities and verbal sparring, that kept bringing us back to this show.
For all the audiovisual artistic license taken and complexity of the dialogue, this show is not so much about a guy saving one girl after another from animal possessions, but about everything before and after that occurs. About the in-between; the peripheral; the leading-up; the aftermath. It is in these spaces that the protagonist falls in love with the first girl he saves, and that love is tested and endures through his dealings with the other girls. There is a prequel coming out in the next year or so; I hope it sticks to this formula while providing us with new insights into this guy. Rating: 4