The finesse of Bakemonogatari
I’ve been watching quite a lot of SHAFT lately haven’t I ? *cough madoka movies and the series*
Being interested in literature and storytelling in general, I often question myself, ‘what makes good dialogue?’ It’s most probably when a piece of dialogue sounds as good in English as it is in its original language. Despite the series being rather notorious for its insanely long dialogue sequences, filled with intermittent frames of Araragi’s thoughts, the animator’s footnotes and what-not, I’ve found the whole experience to be rewarding and thought-provoking.
The story ?
Bakemonogatari revolves around Araragi Koyomi, a final year high school student and his company of girls . ( yes, given the circumstances that stuff always happens under, I decree that Japanese high schools are the eight wonder(s) of the world ) He is a pseudo-vampire with connections to spirits, which enables him to somewhat assist in the problems that the aforementioned girls have with spirits. So it is typical adolescent harem laced with supernatural themes and thus effortlessly coining the name ‘bakemonogatari’ ( ‘bakemono’ for monster and monogatari for ‘story’ / ‘tales ), or is it a shining example of deviant storytelling in this modern day and age ?
Bakemonogatari spans across 4 majors arcs:
1) Hitagi Crab : being pinched ( more like a vicegrip ) by a spiritual crab and being light as a feather
2) Mai Mai: becoming as lost and as random as a snail, and probably never returning home
3) Nadeko Snake: suffering from other’s curses
4) Kanbaru Monkey: Wishes being granted in an indirect albeit sinister way to humans
5) Tsubasa Cat: Involuntary Metamorphosis into a creature that wreaks havoc during the Golden Week
Each of these arcs have an explicit amount of detail put into the spiritual cases – obviously very clearly shown through their dialogue. Even at that, some arcs still need their backstory in order to be fully comprehended ( yes, i’m looking at you Tsubasa cat ).
Most people will agree that the dialogue is one of the series’ strongest points – you’d be pretty mad not to agree. Sure, it’s pointless fluff and rambling most of the time if you must object, but it’s these small bits of ‘going-off-the-tangent’ dialogue that makes the scenes all the more engaging and at the same time plays a part in revealing each main character’s psyche. It was sure as hell entertaining listening to Hitagi loathing at the insignificance of Araragi and his incompetence; mostly archetypal harsh Tsundere kind of thing going on back there, but the consistency in Hitagi’s character on insisting that she’s more sadistic ( she prefers it that way, unsurprisingly ), blunt and demanding than she is on shunning her emotions makes a solid and defined personality.
Another thing that people may find unnatural here ( funny, with a show with ‘monster’ and ‘story’ in its title ) is the fact that every damn female in this series (except Nadeko perhaps, who’s just plain shy ) is extremely eloquent and expressive. This makes a huge overarching personality over every character and makes every one of them seem less unique. As a said, dialogue is almost necessary to reveal character, but not until the point whereby they are homogenous in eloquence and speech-craft. But then again, that was just my critique, and from the way things have been written, I don’t mind them talking for halves of episodes.
With my very limited grasp of Japanese, I unfortunately could not remember any of the numerous tongue-in-cheek jokes concerning Kanji in this show. Hachikuji must have made some reference when she regularly ‘stutters’ and goes
Most of these puns are lost inevitably in translation and to the non-Japanese speakers’ dismay, we’d just have to make sense of it through our own native languages as best as we could. I’m sure you meant something really ‘punny’, Hachikuji.
Of course leaving out Hanekawa and her intelligence would be a grave offense. She doesn’t know everything, but she damn well knows what she knows and that is why I would listen to her talk about her wordplays all day. Pretty sure some has been left out in literal translation as well.
What a pity.
The Animation and OST
Can’t stick to one opening and main theme ? SHAFT most certainly does not care and is more than capable of producing what they deem fit. Thus we have unconventional, albeit highly enjoyable opening sequences brought to us.
For a 2010 production, the animation of the whole series was anything but ordinary. Shaft should patent deep red tints, head tilts and high-frame close ups pretty soon, because they did it so damn well in conjunction with the immersive storytelling.
> Why it’s damned good ( with my knowledge in animation foundation )
1) Every frame counts
SHAFT makes it a point to make their characters come to life and thus they don’t cut back on the number of frames that they use every scene.
A character speaking normally would only take a total of 3-5 frames to animate the mouth, just so to indicate the articulation of words. SHAFT takes it up a notch by matching the frames with the articulation of the characters. This means that Hitagi lashing out at Araragi will always feature high frame rate for the animation of the speech.
How about those iconic close ups and head tilts ? Nope, they don’t zoom in into their characters by generating a high pixel animation– they animate every frame of the close up sequence and that’s why you see jittering in the outlines of the character and that makes the experience all the more engrossing.
2) They have a focus [ this is actually pretty corny if you think about it]
Unlike most anime, Bakemonogatari has virtually no life going on in the sorroundings, aside from the occasional [homogenous] vehicles passingby, it’s pretty much just a world where these girls and Araragi exist. Some people might argue that they’re too lazy to animate and bring the backgrounds to life. I beg to differ. In this anime, the ‘background’ is just an isolated plane where all the characters are and where the story takes place– and the intermittent animation flash frames are their thoughts. It’s pretty much just like how Kyon from Haruhi articulates his inner thoughts, albeit with much less symbolism and epilepsy-inducing frames ( just kidding ). This allows them to focus on what the characters have to deliver instead of caring about their environments.
It was an experience. We often see things, but we don’t feel anything. We hear, but we do not listen. The OSTs actually only feature 10 tracks, but each of them have been used so effectively you probably wouldn’t get bored hearing the same track again in a new arc. Really intriguing.
I honestly was thrilled watching this piece of art. Not many things can do that to me nowadays. Some people beg to differ, undoubtedly- but this whole series is a gold star in my book.
We’ll see more unfold as Kizumonogatari and Nekomonogatari Kuro come around the corner
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Posted on December 16, 2012, in Anime and tagged advocations, animation, anime, araragi, bakemono, Bakemonogatari, crab, crony, cultural, curses, excellent, gaming, hachikuji, humour, Japanese, japanese high schools, kanbaru, kanjibalhalla, light as a feather, lightnovel, monkeys, nadeko, nihongo, nisemonogatari, references, senjougahara, SHAFT, shinobu, snails, snakes, Spirits, stories, symbolism, tongueincheeck, traditions, tsubasa hanekawa, tsundere, typical adolescent, wordplays. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.