*Note: This review may contain minor spoilers of the Bakemonogatari series and its sequels. This movie will contain spoilers of the Kizumonogatari movie.
Kizumonogatari, the prequel to the successful Bakemonogatari title and the beginning of Nisio Isin’s well-received Monogatari novel series, finally found its conclusion on January 6, 2017 in Japan and later on April 2017 in the US. Kizumonogatari tells the story of how Bakemonogatari‘s protagonist, Koyomi Araragi, received his vampire characteristics and the events that took place during his spring break in his early high school years, which ultimately led him to becoming more involved with oddities. Originally announced for an anime adaptation in July 2010, it was later decided to be a movie instead in March 2011 and expected for premier in 2012. With no news for another 3-4 years, Kizumonogatari ultimately became infamous for its production delays until October 2015 where it finally received a new confirmation that the movie will be split into three parts, premiering between 2016 and 2017.
With almost seven full years of production behind it as well as additional successful adapatations of the Monogatari series, including Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari – Kuro, Monogatari Second Season, Tsukimonogatari, Owarimonogatari, and Koyomimonogatari, one must wonder was this movie really worth the long delays? Note: This review will cover all three films
March 25th—just another day during spring break.
Koyomi Araragi, a second year high school student at Naoetsu High School, befriends Tsubasa Hanekawa, the top honors student at his school. Tsubasa mentions a rumor about a “blonde vampire” that has been sighted around their town recently. Koyomi, who is usually anti-social, takes a liking to Tsubasa’s down-to-earth personality.
That evening, Koyomi encounters this rumored vampire: she is Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, also known as the “King of Apparitions.” The blonde, golden-eyed vampire cries out for Koyomi to save her as she lies in a pool of her own blood, all four of her limbs cut off.
Kiss-shot asks Koyomi to give her his blood in order to save her life, and when he does, the very next moment he awakes, Koyomi finds himself re-born as her vampire kin.
As Koyomi struggles to accept his existence, Kiss-shot whispers,
“Welcome to the world of darkness…”
- SHAFT’s production quality continues to be top notch with gorgeous action sequences and fluid movements
- Great exposition and character development on the two most important characters in the Monogatari series: Kiss-Shot’s/Shinobu Oshino’s and Koyomi Araragi, filling a seven year void that has been hinted at during other adaptations
- A solid and much needed entrance point for those new to the Monogatari series
- Fans of the series will know the ending thanks to Bakemonogatari. Newcomers may find the conclusion dissatisfying
- Inconsistent art quality despite good animation going along with it
- Lack of philosophical and roundabout conversations in this part of the series makes some of the dialogue feel stale and out of place for a Monogatari series
A Closer Look:
Kizumonogatari focuses on Koyomi Araragi’s first encounter with oddities during his spring break prior to his last year of high school. As a loner, Koyomi has never had friends nor does he make an effort to do so that is until classmate and representative Tsubasa Hanekawa forcefully befriends him. At the same time, she spreads the rumor about a vampire roaming the city, something Koyomi casually ignores until he encounters it himself or rather decides to involve himself in. The vampire he involves himself with is not just any ordinary vampire but the king/queen of oddities known as Kiss-Shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade or as Koyomi calls her for short, Kiss-Shot. Since then his spring break and uneventful high school life was turned upside down as he sacrificed his own humanity to save a dying Kiss-Shot.
Once Koyomi reawakens, he finds that he had been turned into a vampire with Kiss-Shot as his master even though he had intended to die instead. Dreading what he had become, he luckily encounters Meme Oshino, a specialist in oddities who decides to help Koyomi return to being human, but required Kiss-Shot to have her limbs recovered to do so. Given this chance, he agrees to Meme’s terms and decides to help recover Kiss-Shot’s stolen limbs from vampire hunters: Dramaturgy, Episode, and Guillotine-Cutter, taking us to the end of the first movie. The second movie focuses primarily is Koyomi’s individual encounters and how he manages to takes each hunter out by himself. The third and final movie focuses on the biggest twist of the story that Koyomi returning to human would require him killing Kiss-Shot by sucking her blood otherwise face the consequence of Kiss-Shot ending all of humanity. Unwilling to let Kiss-Shot simply die out of his own selfish desire for her to live, Koyomi makes the most despairing choice where neither he returns to being a full human nor does Kiss-Shot fully die – a fitting conclusion given how Koyomi’s character developed throughout the movie of wanting to be alone yet at the same time not wanting to be.
With all the action scenes ranging from Koyomi’s encounter with the vampire hunters to the climatic confrontation with Kiss-Shot, SHAFT continues to demonstrate that they are an industry leader when it comes using symbolism and imagery rather than direct or generic motion. Some may call the latter lazy animation but I would say it’s more unique and something that has worked for SHAFT time over time, including in series like Puella Magi Madoka Magica or ef ~A Tale of Memories/Melodies~
While animation is gorgeous, music is generally absent from the movie and hardly memorable, which may or may not be fitting depending on your views. In some sense, the dark vampire setting of the story makes it appropriate while at the same time it feels like it’s all too quiet to have no background soundtrack. Voice cast is the same as its predecessor titles and continues to be enjoyable as always, in particular Kiss-Shot’s given her larger role in the movie.
Overall, Kizumonogatari is a good place to start if your a newcomer to the Monogatari series. It helps explain the origins of Koyomi’s vampire powers and characteristics in a simple story without getting to muddled in the convoluted dialogue found in the rest of the franchise. On the other hand, those who have already experienced the other Monogatari titles may find this less appealing given the lack of Koyomi’s self-narration, which really makes Monogatari shine at many points. After all, this is instead his oddity experience so he can’t really self-narrate without it being overly awkward.
While it seems evident that the staff put seven full years of thinking into how to to best tell the story that began it all, at the end of the day, the story itself is not groundbreaking enough that it deserves seven years of thought. Not really worth the wait but at least it’s finally here for everyone to enjoy.
Score (Overall): 7/10
Rewatch Value: 6/10