Sunday, January 22, 2012

:anime: First Impression:: Nisemonogatari Ep. 1

To Nisemonogatari, Ep. 2-->

I made a promise to myself before the season that if Nisemonogatari--someway, somehow--got licensed and was made available for streaming, I would recommend it as "HD's Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month", no question (even if I already posted one; doesn't hurt to recommend more ;D ). Well, not only did it get picked up, you can also watch it, and many other shows this season, in non-upscaled 1080p at Crunchyroll (subscribers-only)! And having a full-HD laptop (with a fast Internet connection) and a show this gorgeous, I can attest that this is certainly the way to go…

Nisemonogatari, Ep. 1 - "Karen Bee, Part 1"
[Crunchyroll] [Crackle] [Hulu]

Ah, just like old times…

Nisemonogatari, the long-awaited sequel to the mega-hit Bakemonogatari, kicked off with--how else--a six-minute long banter consisting of Hitagi Senjoughara playfully teasing/mind******* with Koyomi Araragi, who--for unknown reasons--is bound-up and--for equally unknown reasons--is being "protected" by her…

Surprisingly enough, the transition between the 2009 series and its current 2012 counterpart is rather seamless in terms of look, feel, and style. However, it also feels a little more high-budgeted and polished than its predecessor. Of course, with SHAFT, director Akiyuki Shinbo, and particularily Aniplex's recent successes (i.e. Bakemonogatari, Puella Magi Madoka Magica with the latter two; Kara no Kyoukai and Fate/Zero with ufotable, AnoHana and Blue Exorcist with Sony stablemate A-1 Pictures, Inc.), they can afford to spend a little more money on production. The pop culture references (though mostly anime/manga-related), the long non sequiturs that lead to nowhere and have little to do with the show (but actually do), the stream of clever Japanese puns and play-on-words, the fearless subject matter, the quick changes in animation style, and yes, all of those Shinboisms are back, but even through the prettier veneers and increased use of animated motion, the opening scene and subsequent content showed that the staff didn't lose touch with what made Bakemonogatari truly great: its substance, great characters, and their interactions, including their particular quirks.

That's what a certain Yandere Queen said…
(and with that kind of face, I don't know if I necessarily want that…)

And in Bakemonogatari fashion, there is a plot nestled underneath its tidbits and sharp architectural designs, so in this episode:

--We really start back about a day prior, with Koyomi on a day-off from tutoring, as Tsubasa Hanekawa had last-minute matters to attend to.

--Koyomi's younger siblings (and central figures of the sequel), Karen and Tsukihi--the "Fire Sisters"-- appear to be up to something as part of their crusade for justice, which he isn't exactly an endorser of.

--On his way to paying Nadeko Sengoku a visit, Koyomi runs into Mayoi Hachikuji and after a "playful" greeting and wordplay fun, he asks for some advice over whether he should finally tell his family of his becoming a vampire (albeit a former one with residual powers).

Of course, all of this also entailed:

--Terrorizing/sexual harassing the ghost of an elementary school girl.

--Fourth-wall breaking.

--Handstands (which is apparently of greater value than bowing to someone on your hands and knees).

--Convenience stores selling "love" for 298 yen (and on sale, at that).

--A lesson in how adding the word "courage" to anything automatically makes it sound noble.

So yeah, like old times…

In spite of the contentiousness and Koyomi's seeing his "Fire Sisters" as being nothing more than frauds, it was nice to see that they seem to genuinely care for one another. With them being the focal point of Nisemonogatari's plot, and with new characters yet-to-be introduced, it remains to be seen what trouble what their fanciful adventuring will get them in. But if Bakemonogatari was any indicator, it'll be pretty deep and none-too-pleasant. Something tells me Big Brother won't have to keep his secret for much longer…

On the flip side of things, it was pretty amusing seeing how naive Koyomi still is of Nadeko's affections, highlighted by Tsukihi's shock over him wanting her to tag along (mainly to keep her out of trouble). The ridiculous word challenge between him and Mayoi was funny, too, but as amusing as some of the panty talk was, it also was a reminder of just how difficult a sell this and Bakemonogatari would be to the general public, much less to something like Adult Swim. Surely, its cleverness and charm could propel it, but anything sexual involving a youth, however comedic or light, in the U.S. is sort of asking for it (particularly if not done to cartoony effect, like in a Family Guy or South Park). Not that the series won't sell well among anime fans in general or that it's incredibly icky (mileage may vary), but its the kind of title that you would enjoy seeing get wider attention on the mainstream level, but have certain portions in it that are likely to get scrutinized.

That being said, the humorous wordplay with the word "courage" (which actually works!), the absurdity of the headstand reward, and how everything led to the heart of the matter of Koyomi's secret helped not only bridge the events of the two series together thematically-speaking, but also was a microcosm of the structure and spirit of its predecessor's mix of comedy, the bizarre, and reflective depth. While the episode ended on an endearing note, the "Fire Sisters" precocious meddling in supernatural hearsay will likely muss things up for their brother and the rest in the near future…

P.S.: Being a screenshot aficionado, Nisemonogatari is like paradise, so I'll try to keep myself in check…Try…

Is everyone in a Shinbo/SHAFT show rich or something? How can their families afford such swanky abodes?

P.P.S.: Added links to Crackle and Hulu, who were added as streamers of the show after this review was done.

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