Sunday, January 6, 2013


For those unfortunate souls who aren't already informed, the Monogatari anime franchise from SHAFT is largely an exercise in "Tarantino-esque dialogue, surreal avant-garde imagery, and clever deconstruction of harem tropes." When I caught a glimpse of Bakemonogatari half a year ago, I was floored by the show's cleverness, and I'd argue that there are few anime that can match the incisive wit of the Monogatari series. With great excitement I began Nekomonogatari: Kuro, a four-episode installment showing Araragi's encounter with the oddity cat that possessed his poor buxom buddy Hanekawa.

Nekomonogatari: Kuro is as good a starting point as any for fans unfamiliar with Monogatari. It's part prequel, part side story, and overall a solid contribution to the series. We're introduced to Hanekawa, Araragi's close friend from school who has both brains and an excellent body (trust me, you're never allowed to forget her large breasts). Araragi is busy sorting through his feelings for Hanekawa when she confesses that she suffers under the hand of her adoptive parents - her father pimp slaps her across the room and into a wall. Hanekawa makes Araragi swear silence about the incident and the two part ways for the day. The unusually calm set-up and lack of urgency is typical of the franchise and definitely requires a different type of audience member, one that loves good dialogue and stimulating food-for-thought with some perverted moments sprinkled in. One might forget that the central conflict involves Hanekawa being possessed by a cat oddity/spirit/monster in the first place, but meandering from the path isn't a bad thing in this show, since all that is discussed early on is eventually relevant to the problem at hand. 

Though defeating the antagonizing oddity cat is the series aim, the most poignant moment of Nekomonogatari in fact arises when Araragi's sempai, Oshino, posits that Hanekawa herself is responsible for the way her parents treat her. She's a perfect kid in every way, one that does her duty without complaints and unintentionally drives those around her to examine their own flaws. As Oshino says, such people have be aware of the effect their benevolence has on others. This postmodern examination of morality and justifying typically unspeakable acts is where the Monogatari franchise shines, and also runs the greatest risk of alienating Western audiences. I'd wager that anyone who finds FLCL and similar mind-bending anime intolerable probably can't stomach Nekomonogatari's outlandish, alien outlook on life.

I wasn't crazy about the series before this one (Nisemonogatari) which had a lot of great moments but didn't particularly stand out as much as the first series does; most people remember Nisemonogatari for the incestuous tooth brushing scene. Nekomonogatari: Kuro tones down on the intense ecchi action (not including the sister groping the first episode starts with) and sticks to the narrative. For a four episode short series, Kuro gets from point A to B and sticks the landing with style. There's a lot to disclose when it comes to Kuro, but the series is so short that one may as well watch all four episodes and test the Monogatari waters for themselves. 

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