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Review: Bakemonogatari

Realism is easy. Everybody knows and agrees on what reality is, at least in the visible details. Anime is never perfectly realistic; if that were the goal, it’d be simpler to film a live action series. Despite the fact that certain aspects might be highlighted, caricaturized, or extrapolated, simple reality remains the baseline of the vast majority of anime series.

Bakemonogatari breaks that convention. Surrealism is the near side of the spectrum it explores. Actually, this series makes something of a point of sending up conventions; from embedding a pun in the name (bakemono = monster; monogatari = story) to the unique cinematography, it’s difficult to come up with points of similarity to other series at all, let alone examples of conventionalism.

Perhaps the most similar show to Bakemonogatari is Serial Experiments LAIN. Whereas that show subverted the cyberpunk genre to talk about solipsism, this one subverts the horror genre to talk about figuring out what it means to be in love. The staff of the two shows appear to be disjoint sets, but in several areas they made very similar choices: both use looping, monotonous visuals as a stylistic effect, both only really make sense after viewing the whole thing and thinking a bit. Both use non sequiter and static scenes to set a tone. Stylistically, the biggest difference is that Bakemonogatari is more stylized about it all. Given that LAIN came out a decade prior and pioneered these style choices, that is acceptable.

This is not a series for anyone who wants to watch something brainless and engaging; it fails to match either of those descriptions. For anyone willing to put in the mental effort, though, this is a rewarding show.

Genre: nonviolent (except sometimes) textual (presented in animated form) monster story
Emotion: unexpected immersion
BTFS: .85

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