Wednesday 25 September 2013

Anime REVIEW: Nisemonogatari

Nisemonogatari Fire Sisters Tsuhiki Karen Araragi Shaft

It's not very often that a series as good as Bakemonogatari comes along, and being only 15 episodes long its easy to be left wanting more from it. So it's just as well Shaft decided to continue animating the light novel franchise, continuing with the sequel Nisemonogatari (which translates as "Fake story", or "Impostory" if you still want a clever pun out of it) in 2012. The show ran for a total of 11 episodes.

Nisemonogatari Fire Sisters Tsuhiki Karen Araragi Shaft
Our fire sisters: Tsuhiki & Karen

Continuing on some time after the events of Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari picks up with two new arcs concerning the two characters we saw little of in the first season - Koyomi's younger sisters Karen and Tsuhiki. Nicknamed the "Fire Sisters" at school, the hot-headed Karen and short-tempered Tsukihi are a duo and perform deeds in the name of justice. When this of justice lands Karen in trouble with a conman named Deishū Kaiki, as usual its up to Koyomi to save the day and deal with what turns out to be a supernatural threat. Later, when Tsuhiki runs foul of an onmyōji by the name of Yozuru, Koyomi must spring into action once again despite learning a dark secret about his youngest sister.

Nisemonogatari Koyomi Araragi Shaft
We later learn Koyomi has some rather interesting ideas about oral hygiene...

Though the series mainly concerns Karen and Tsuhiki, once again the show is based on Koyomi's point of view and all of the main cast return from Bakemonogatari. Of course Tsubasa, Suruga, Mayoi and Nadeko have much more limited roles, but the series makes sure each of them have some sort of role and/or a memorable moment. As Koyomi's girlfriend Hitagi appears a little more, but her importance is still rather limited despite having links to Kaiki. It's all about the relationship between Koyomi and his sisters - a brother that would clearly do anything for them, even if that relationship borders on the incestuous side far more often than it probably should. There isn't a whole lot to say about the sisters themselves as their development is rather limited (both arcs concern them rather than actually involve them), but Karen gets that little bit more as her story overflows into the second arc.

Finally we have our "villains" for the series - the aforementioned Kaiki, Yozuru and her shikigami Yotsugi. While Kaiki is quite entertaining as a gloomy conman, the other two fall a bit flat as "final boss" characters, memorable only by their quirks and story rather than the characterisation itself.

Nisemonogatari Koyomi Araragi Shinobu Oshino Shaft
What? Have you never taken a bath with a vampire in an 8 year old's body?

However the real star of Nisemonogatari was, is and always will be Shinobu. After making a VERY strong impression at the end of the first season, the strong-but-silent vampire is back to steal though once again - although this time once she starts talking she won't shut up. Not only do we have Shinobu stealing the show in the show's big climax once again, but now an oh-so-slightly older looking (don't worry loli fans, you're still covered!) Shinobu has some pretty great exchanges with Koyomi. Not to mention her obsession with doughnuts is taken to an absolutely adorable level. If Shinobu hadn't become one of your favourite characters by the end of Bakemonogatari, she sure will here.

Nisemonogatari Deishū Kaiki Shaft
What about this picture DOESN'T scream "conman"?

Despite all these great characters, Nisemonogatari falls short in the other area its predecessor excelled at - story. The series is split into two arcs - the seven episode "Karen Bee" and the four episode "Tsuhiki Phoenix". Considering the arcs in Bakemonogatari ranged mostly between two and three episodes, on face value these arcs seem pretty long in comparison. However very little of the content has to do with their subject matter, with the main crux of the story crammed into the last episode or two and the rest made up of filler and fanservice. Tsuhiki is barely in her own arc! For example "Karen Bee" feels it necessary to slow reintroduce every character from the original series again, just adding new little details like Nadeko being a secret slut and Suruga spending most of her time naked. They make for funny moments, but these take up huge portions of episodes or even entire episodes altogether. With lots of sequences where nothing much is going on, the conversations become easier to lose than ever and in the end its just Shaft's gorgeous art holding scenes together.

Nisemonogatari Toothbrush Scene Orgasm Karen Koyomi Araragi Shaft
Well, things just got awkward in here...

Then of course there's episode eight, which is so notorious it deserves a paragraph to itself. This is the episode that features the infamous "toothbrush challenge" (if you haven't already heard of it, just Google or Youtube it), one of the most awkwardly fun anime moments I've seen. It's incredibly annoying that this takes up an entire episode of Tsuhiki's arc (considering she already got the short end of the stick on the episode count), but it's definitely the most memorable moment of the show that DOESN'T involve Shinobu.

After the masterpiece that was Bakemonogatari, the far inferior Nisemonogatari can be a little hard to swallow. While the original managed to pull off five great arcs in the space of 15 episodes, this struggles to pull off two in 11. The once-interesting tangential conversations feel inane and dull, and the bulk of the episodes are packed with filler and relentless fanservice. When Nisemonogatari does decide to go all out the result is magnificent, but by then it's too little too late to save the series as a whole. Still, the art is as gorgeous as ever, the characters fun (in the case of Shinobu, even moreso) and no one will ever quite forget that scene, cementing Nisemonogatari as a watchable, if not flawed, sequel.

And at the very least, you can thank this series for Platinum Disco. Best. OP. Ever.

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