Sunday 10 November 2013

Anime REVIEW: Nekomonogatari (Kuro)

Nekomonogatari (Kuro)

It's been four years now and the Monogatari series train still shows no sign of stopping any time soon. With the continuing story of Koyomi Araragi and co. still airing, it's time to go back in time and take a look at the first instalment in franchise's prequel material. Get your cat puns at the ready, because it's time for Nekomonogatari (Kuro).

This four-part short series is a direct prequel to Bakemonogatari, explaining the events of the Golden Week that is frequently mentioned in the franchise. With his brief transformation into a vampire still fresh in his mind, Koyomi Araragi continues to adjust to his new abilities before coming across another supernatural apparition in the form of class president and love-interest Tsubasa Hanekawa. Tsubasa has been possessed by a dangerous apparition known as the Meddlecat, which has been relieving its host's stress by attacking people in the city. Koyomi enlists the help of Meme Oshino and the remains of his vampire attacker (now in the form of a young girl) in dealing with the creature, however along the way he must learn the full story behind Tsubasa's turbulent life.

Nekomonogatari (Kuro) Koyomi Araragi
It ain't Monogatari without some good ol' Koyomi pain.

As a prequel, Nekomonogatari features only a fraction of the overall Monogatari cast. The focus is squarely on both Koyomi and Tsubasa, however these four episode also include Koyomi's sisters Tsuhiki and Karen, Meme Oshino and finally (a currently unnamed) Shinobu. In the past one of the Monogatari series biggest weaknesses has been devoting screen time to side characters in others' arcs, so a smaller cast means this is easier to get around. Of course Nekomonogatari isn't completely free of this as the first episode devotes 80% of the time to a long-winded conversation between Koyomi and Tsuhiki, but at least this conversation has something to do with the overall plot even if it is something that can be dealt with in a fraction of the time.

Nekomonogatari (Kuro) Tsubasa Hanekawa Meddlecat
How do you like your cat ladies?

Though the previous series have highlighted the relationship between Koyomi and Hitagi Senjōgahara, Tsubasa has always played a huge role in Koyomi's life (and love life) and this is the where we see some light shed on the mysterious surrounding her. Though many might see her come across as annoying or less interesting than many other members of the Monogatari cast (I myself fully admit to this), her's is without a doubt one of most deepest backstories so seeing it finally explored is both wonderful and chilling given the subject matter. The character is heavily invested in the story despite her human form being barely in it. We can finally see why there the obvious romance between her and Koyomi never went anywhere, adding yet another level of character drama to the mix as well as the show's unique form of supernatural tension.

As usual Shaft's animation and unique visual style is on top form, working at its very best when woven around a tight storyline such as Nekomonogatari's. Of course it wouldn't be a Monogatari production without a little bit of fanservice, however most of which comes from Black Hanekawa (the meddlecat possessed Tsubasa) which works for her character as well as giving fans something to ogle at. Only a minimal amount of time is spent on throwaway humour, although what it does have are things that are actually welcome. Ever wondered where Shinobu's obsession with donuts came from? Well here you can find out first hand.

Nekomonogatari (Kuro) Shinobu Oshino
The greatest mystery solved.

While seemingly short, Nekomonogatari (Kuro) is simply another arc to the overall Monogatari franchise and sheds some much needed light on the highly talked about Golden Week. It's minimal inclusion of characters allows it greater focus on the main subject matter, and for the most part it manges to get around the overdrawn pieces of dialogue that often have nothing to do with the task at hand. After the disappointing antics of Nisemonogatari, this is an excellent return to form for the franchise and does everything that a good prequel needs to do.

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