Animation Production: SHAFT (Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Nisekoi, Monogatari series, ef: A Tale of Memories, G-On Riders, Hidamari Sketch, Katteni Kaizo OVA, Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World film, Maho Sensei Negima! OAVs, Mahoromatic, Magical Suite Prism Nana, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Maria Holic, Mekakucity Actors, Moonphase, Pani Poni Dash!, REC, Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei, Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai)
Director: Akiyuki Shinbo ( Director on Dance in the Vampire Bund / Director on Arakawa Under the Bridge / Chief Director on Hidamari Sketch / Director on Bakemonogatari / Director on Mekakucity Actors / Chief Director and Series Composition on Monogatari Series Second Season / Chief Director on Nisekoi / Director on Puella Magi Madoka Magica / Storyboard on Saber Marionette J episode 11 / Director on Sasami-san@Ganbaranai / Director and Storyboard on Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko episodes 1 and 3 / Key Animator on Tokyo Babylon OVA / Episode Director and Storyboard on Yu Yu Hakusho episodes 7, 12, 16, 21, 24, 30, 35, 41, 47, 52, 58, 66, 74, 82, 89 and 109)
Chief Director: Tatsuya Oishi (Key Animator on Yu Yu Hakusho episodes 71, 74, 78, 82, 89, 92, 98, 104, 107 and 112 / Key Animator on Ninku episodes 4, 9, 11, 16, 21, 24 and 31)
- Akiyuki Shinbo
Original Creator: NisiOisin ( Original Creator on Death Note: Another Note, Bakemonogatari, Hanamonogatari, Katanagatari, Kizumonogatari Parts 1, 2 and 3, Medaka Box, Koyomimonogatari, Monogatari Series Second Season, Nekomonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Owarimonogatari, Shojo Fujubun, Tsukimonogatari, xxxHOLiC: Another HOLiC)
Music: Satoru Kousaki ( Music Composer on A-Channel, Bakemonogatari, Captain Earth, Hourou Musuko, Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, Nisekoi, Oreimo, STAR DRIVER, Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, Wake Up, Girls! / Theme Song Arrangement and Composition on Natsume’s Book of Friends Season 4 Ending Sequence)
- Akio Watanabe ( Character Designer on all of the Monogatari series / Original Character Designer on Grisaia no Rakuen / Animation Director on Saber Marionette J episodes 10 and 18 / Key Animation on Street Fighter Alpha / Character Designer on Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai)
- Hideyuki Morioka ( Key Animation on Agent Aika episode 7 / Character Designer, Chief Animation Director, and Key Animator on Arcade Gamer Fubuki 2nd Stage – Nusumareta PP episode 4 / Key Animation on Sailor Moon S episode 92 / Character Designer and Chief Animation Director on REC / Character Designer and Chief Animation Director on Zan Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei)
When Bakemonogatari had first aired back in 2009 two things immediately stood out to me: SHAFT’s unique visual style and the very first five minutes of episode 1. Split into three parts, this is the film series that introduces us to how exactly Koyomi Araragi became a vampire, meets Tsubasa Hanekawa and Meme Oshino. This film kept pretty much in line with the designs made for the 2011 trailer. The TV anime Bakemonogatari while held a lot of restraint in terms of animation in the beginning it showcased a few pivotal scenes played out in this film–Araragi’s encounter with the vmapire hunters and discovering Heart-Under-Blade. There were changes from the original scene cut that they did and overall turned out fantastic on the big screen! Such as Heart-Under-Blade being in the subway rather than on the streets.
Kizumonogatari was originally slated for 2012 and the novel dates back to 2008. There’s been numerous delays for its release and it certainly paid off. Love the visual style going for this film, one I wish they could have used for the television series.
The opening sequence was a visual feast. Director Shinbo was in charge of animating that first scene and I must admit that was one of the prettiest things I’ve seen SHAFT do in a long time. The crows remind me of Zankyou no Terror‘s ending sequence–penciled and shaded in with a fine attention to detailing the eyes. The beginning foreshadows to new viewers that Araragi is definitely not human and the fact that even under vampiric circumstances he can quickly succumb to weakness. The fire animation where Araragi was exploding in flames couldn’t have been better if it weren’t for Araragi’s screaming! It gave off real tension to the beginning of this film. Aside from the amazing updated Hanekawa sequence, which was a nice way to bridge this to the original show this film surpasses most of what the Monogatari series represents, a harem series with tons of inner dialogue. Kizumonogatari Part I is an introduction piece that dives into an artistic whirlwind of mystery and horror.
Throughout Kizumonogatari Part I there is this incredible sense of creativity from Araragi running through the subway station, Oshino diving from the building to the reanimated scene of when Araragi first meets Hanekawa with the skirt flying up, a nod to NisiOisin’s works. The novel is quite a read and contains more dialogue than this first half in animated form even touches on. Right at the final scene I believe this first part ends on chapter 6.
Given SHAFT’s visual style of storytelling this works wonderfully in delivering new viewers and fans of the TV series an enjoyable simple experience. The lack of dialogue between the gorgeous slow-paced key frames extends the idea that everything that’s happening is what we’re seeing from Araragi’s mind every minute and every second. We see, hear, and can think everything that’s going on inside of him!
One of the huge successes of this first film is its pacing. We’re going to be seeing more of a larger story later on. There’s no need for long character development the tension is built up around Araragi discovering Kiss-Shot-Acerola-Orion-Heart-Under-Blade for the first time and what we get to see is a busty blonde woman with arms and legs missing and blood everywhere. Extremely intense! I love how realistic Araragi is–he’s taken in by her beauty but deep down he knows she’s a monster. Seeing Kiss-Shot on the floor begging for his blood (which was had some pretty detailed closeup shots of her) illustrates that she still has some humanity left in her after 500 years. I also thought it was interesting how the quick cuts of the subway station signals were displayed like morse-code against a white backdrop with sound effects similar to Araragi’s cell-phone as if he’s desperately wanting to call Hanekawa to save him. Questioning whether or not to help Kiss-Shot makes this whole segment believable! Araragi even runs away from her at one point out of desperation to save himself!
This entire film was a lot more expressive than anything the TV series ever had–SHAFT with a movie budget this should happen more often! Using CG for the backgrounds and cars might be a bit off-putting to new viewers of SHAFT’s works because the characters moving around and having still conversations feel abstract especially the fanservice with Hanekawa Tsubasa moving in slow motion.
The charm of the Monogatari series sense of humor derives from its female cast interacting with Araragi. They all have supernatural circumstances surrounding them and Kiss-Shot being a unique vampire having drained all of Araragi’s blood still wasn’t enough to retain her adult body. A kid shows up when Araragi wakes up and it’s funny to see his initial reaction. The homage to Araragi’s point on the top of his head is brief and sometimes shown throughout this film is a nice comedic touch to an overall dark setting.
Meme Oshino’s introduction was cool. Since this is the first time Araragi is meeting him it makes all his scenes in Bakemonogatari‘s first arc much more interesting in his methods on dealing with Hitagi’s situation. A mediator between apparitions and humans he saves Araragi from being torn apart by three vampire hunters–Episode, Dramaturgy and Guillotine Cutter. Really like how brief that was and that this film didn’t heavily rely on fight scenes to attract the viewer.
I’m really glad this will be a three-part series because it doesn’t rush the dialogue between Oshino and Araragi trying to come up with a plan to get Kiss-Shot’s limbs back from those vampire hunters and it ends in the middle of a conversation rather than rushing a heroic trope conclusion. Since this is slated to be a three-hour film series and this first one having the runtime of only 60 minutes it will be interesting to see more characterization developed later on.
There was a trailer at the end of this film in typical Monogatari fashion–no visuals just talking and the heavy emphasis of French and Japanese characters appearing on screen. The second film arrives Summer 2016. Can’t wait!
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 86/100