Light Novel Review: Bakemonogatari – Part 1

Koyomi Araragi encounters two girls with very unique circumstances–and considering his experiences with the supernatural during Golden Week, this isn’t unusual for him.

One day when walking up the stairs, he sees a girl floating down from above. Araragi catches her but upon contact, he discovers that she weighs very little–like she nearly didn’t weigh anything at all.

On Mother’s Day, Araragi is walking in the park when he sees an elementary girl with a large backpack, looking at a district map. She says she’s trying to find her mother’s house, but as the both of them quickly find out, getting there may be more difficult than expected.

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Bakemonogatari presents itself differently than its light novel predecessor, Kizumonogatari, mostly in the way the story is told narratively. This doesn’t mean that the story content is entirely different. The series remains focused on character dramas with a supernatural twist and a pinch of mystery. However, that rewarding experience of fully understanding its two character arcs and their respective characters lies within its atypical prose structure.

Bakemonogatari Part 1 consists of two arcs: Hitagi Crab and Mayoi Snail. The former introduces Hitagi Senjougahara, a very pretty and cloistered girl who’s renowned for being always ill, while the latter introduces Mayoi Hachikuji, an elementary girl who’s trying to find her mother’s house, claiming that she’s a lost snail.

Both arcs deal with the apparitions that are haunting them, placing them in their unique predicament, and the underlying reasons behind it. While the supernatural elements are describing the physical build and characteristic of the problem, the true cause is outlined in the psyche of the focused characters. The in-depth look inside these characters reveal a complex background history, comprised of various topics regarding troubled family relations, and as we get to understand their trauma and conflicts, the story and its  characters becomes very compelling.

However, understanding its characters and their arcs is dependent Bakemonogatari’s narrative structure. As readers will quickly begin to realize, the majority of the story is told through long drawn-out conversations between the characters. Some of these almost-endlessly rambling dialogue are an outlet for these characters to build up their relationships with each other, having heart-to-heart conversations. These exchanges can drop subtle hints about their personal conflicts which then becomes a clue to figure out the true cause to the problem. The character arcs plays out a bit like a mystery and the hints are placed within the dialogue, which makes the ending punch-line for the story rewarding for those who can figure out it out ahead of time.

On the other hand, the conversational dialogue itself is lengthy, strenuous, and almost meaningless. And by meaningless, conversations like Senjougahara’s repetitive insults at Araragi or the fight scenes involving Hachikuji and Araragi, can be cut out and nothing would be gained in terms of the plot. How the reader will view these conversations is subjectively, so the exchanges could be hit or miss depending on the reader. This can be frustrating at times as the transitions between topics are noticeably abrupt. For example, a very serious topic about Araragi’s family situation can be immediately sidelined to a banter about Hachikuji’s chest size.

How much a reader will enjoy Bakemonogatari will ultimately depend on their patience with the unique prose of Nisioisin. However, it’s Nisionisin’s style that allows for these  unique and complex character stories. I can’t whole-heartely recommend Bakemonogatari immediately for readers, but for fans of the Monogatari series and those who express interest in this supernatural drama premise and are willing to read between the lines, they will be rewarded.

Rating: Recommended – Average


Author: Nisioisin

Illustrator: VOFAN

Translator: Ko Random

Publisher: Vertical

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