Premiere Date: 7/3/09
Third year high school student Koyomi Araragi has a secret: not long ago he was turned into a vampire but was saved by a mysterious man named Meme Oshino. After being saved, Araragi starts working for him by bringing people to him who also need to be saved. In the first episode, Araragi saves a girl in his class named Hitagi Senjougahara after she falls over the edge of some stairs discovering the secret that she is hiding: her weight was stolen from her by a crab like creature a couple of years earlier. Promising to help the arrogant but troubled tsundere, Araragi takes her to see Oshino.
Good and the Bad
Bakemonogatari is an odd series in that the first few minutes is either going to turn you off completely or have you absolutely captured with no middle ground. Starting with a very haunting opening sequence that features no vocals but plenty of blood (and the sound effects that usually goes with it), the opening gives a very dark impression which almost feels as though the animation staff is giving you one last chance to back out.
Once the episode begins, it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to turn back though. Filled with stylish animation that is unlike anything I’ve seen in recent memory, the backgrounds and settings are all almost entirely CG. Using very light color palettes and heavy shadows, the animation grabs viewers with a tight grip and never lets go until the end.
Shadows and perspectives are where Bakemonogatari breaks boundaries and grabs its audience the most clearly though. Constantly using them to either give backgrounds a sense of never ending depth, heightening anxiety and suspense by keeping characters hidden within shadows or creating a sense of being enveloped by the series via a first person perspective the artwork easily pushes it so far away from the moe herd that has been filling screens for the last few months.
The artwork is not the only thing about this series that makes it stand away from the pack. Using an incredibly slow pacing and smoothly delivered dialogue, many of the best character moments of the episode happen during times of silence. Never afraid to hold the moment for awhile longer, Bakemonogatari does an excellent job of establishing its own pace and style. Some fans are going to be bored stiff by the slow pacing of this first episode but anyone with a sense of patience will find their time well rewarded as Araragi and Senjougahara begin to have their standoffs both at school and away.
Despite the slow pacing and dialogue, it’s inaccurate to assume that Bakemonogatari doesn’t have a sense of humor. The real truth is that the series does have a sense of humor but it is entirely up to you as a viewer to decide if you notice it or not. Never playing the jokes up or attempting to actually get a cheap laugh from the audience, only one time in this episode will an attempt at comedy be overt. There are certainly other jokes made such as Senjougahara becoming literally and figuratively disarmed at school but they happen with such subtlety that some people may not even notice that they were jokes.
Matching the artwork, the music composed for this episode by Satoru Kousaki (whose work you might remember from Kannagi, Lucky Star or Haruhi Suzumiya) is very quiet and low key. In the first minutes for example, almost every piece you hear will be made up of primarily quiet glockenspiel scores. It’s never loud or over the top but you can always feel its presence. And this will be a theme that plays out throughout the entire episode until Oshiro’s theme which kicks things into a much more bluesy direction.
If you have said a sentence that even vaguely sounds like ‘I’m so sick of the moe crap that keeps getting churned out’ within the last year, you need to watch this first episode. While I make no promises on where Bakemonotagari is going to go after this, the artwork and style behind this series has my firm and undivided attention leaving me with no choice but to suggest you get into this series now rather than later.