March 25th—just another day during spring break. Koyomi Araragi, a second-year student at Naoetsu High School, befriends Tsubasa Hanekawa, the top honors student at his school. Tsubasa mentions a rumor about a blonde vampire that has been sighted around their town recently. Koyomi, who is usually anti-social, takes a liking to Tsubasa’s down-to-earth personality.
That evening, Koyomi encounters this rumored vampire: she is Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, also known as the “King of Apparitions”. The blonde, golden-eyed vampire cries out for Koyomi to save her as she lies in a pool of her own blood, with all four of her limbs cut off.
Kiss-shot asks Koyomi to give her his blood in order to save her life, and when he does, the very next moment he awakes, Koyomi finds himself reborn as her vampire kin. As Koyomi struggles to accept his existence, Kiss-shot whispers, “Welcome to the world of darkness…”
Note: This is a review of the theatrical screening. Because of this, I obviously can’t get visuals from the movie itself, instead relying on the trailers, the only available source. As an advance notice, what I saw in the theater may be different from the home video releases (Blu-ray and DVD).
Sticking With Tradition
The Monogatari series is certainly a unique creation, and Kizumonogatari follows through on that. As per usual for any Monogatari entry, Shaft takes center stage for animation production. Trademark quirks from the series are still present: the witty, expository banter, interspersed colored frames, Shaft head-tilts, and every public location being empty, among others. This film is most definitely Monogatari and nothing else.
Despite not taking notice of the soundtrack in previous Monogatari entries I have watched, Kizumonogatari most definitely takes the cake. From lively and upbeat to kick-ass rock and chilling horror, Kizumonogatari’s music was by far the most immersive, literally seeming to evoke the atmosphere from the screen. It’s an exceptional score by series composer Satoru Kousaki that I would definitely buy in a heartbeat.
As stated before, Kizumonogatari is a prequel to Bakemonogatari, and as such, tells the origin of Araragi’s involvement with apparitions and Shinobu herself. Araragi takes the spotlight, as opposed to the other entries, where the heroines are the focus. With this change, we instead learn about Araragi himself and how he comes to terms with his unexpected circumstances. The story is the film’s strongest point, without a doubt. It’s intriguing and, at times, rather thrilling.
The highlight of the story is how Araragi wants to turn back into a human, but he can’t do that without taking the long and thorny path. Araragi could choose to live as a vampire if he wanted to, but he has no other choice if he wants to become human again. With this scenario, the stakes are raised, and Araragi is at a huge disadvantage. This first film may only be setting up the story, but it does a damn good job at what it does, and I believe Kizumonogatari is only going to get better.
Grabs Your Attention
Kizumonogatari has this way of getting your attention that just draws you in effortlessly. Whether it’s a very long panty-shot scene, Araragi screaming frantically, or a temporary change in visual style, the film keeps your eyes glued to the screen. This is most prominent with Araragi’s emotions, and especially his fear, which is illustrated evocatively. He gets (literally) pink in the face, sweats like crazy, and breathes very heavily. When you look at him, you understand just how scared out of his mind he is. The art and animation is simply amazing in how expressive it is.
Here Comes the Fanservice
If fanservice makes you uncomfortable, just know that Kizumonogatari has some, and I know this is definitely not for everyone. If you can sit through a strange hugging scene and the aforementioned panty-shot scene, you should be fine. Ironically enough, Kizumonogatari is really light on the fanservice, when compared to other Monogatari entries. (I’m looking at you, Nisemonogatari.)
Strange Blend of Visuals
The Monogatari anime adaptations have always had a unique visual style, but Kizumonogatari looks noticeably different—extremely so. For the most part, everything looks normal, but some (not all) of the backgrounds did not mesh well with the 2D characters. It looked awkward and completely out of place. Getting used to those strange visuals took some time, but they don’t hinder the experience too much. However, Shaft has been known to rush their projects when they first broadcast them, and then correcting the issues in the Blu-ray/DVD releases. This isn’t really something you would expect to happen with a movie, but hey, the film might look prettier in the home video releases. You never know.
Might Not Be the Best Starting Point
As a prequel, you’d think that a newcomer to the Monogatari series wouldn’t have a problem starting with Kizumonogatari. However, in the case of the film, I personally wouldn’t recommend it. I actually took a friend along to see the film. He said he planned on getting around to the series, but hadn’t really touched it yet. However, he still enjoyed it, despite being somewhat confused.
It’s Currently Incomplete
The biggest issue here is the matter of Kizumonogatari being a trilogy of films. In other words, we still have to wait for two more. The after-credits teaser for the second film showed a release date of Summer 2016. Keep in mind that this is the Japanese release date; it could be June, July, or August for us Western folk. Add a month for Aniplex to translate, subtitle, and actually getting the theaters to play it. If what I said is actually correct, the second film could be released anywhere between June and September. Did I mention this first film was only about an hour long? Because, yeah, it was really short. They could have easily split Kizumonogatari into two parts, but Shaft decided to go for three instead. Oh well, at least it exists now.
So to those who haven’t watched any Monogatari whatsoever, I recommend to watch Bakemonogatari (as the bare minimum) before turning to Kizumonogatari, as you will be waiting for a long time for the films. Alternatively, you could buy the light novel, because the good people over at Vertical were kind enough to release it in English.
You can also check out Messiah’s post on viewing/reading order if you’re interested:
Kizumonogatari is off to a great start with its first movie. It is a captivating work that demands your attention, and only further improved by signature Monogatari elements (even if fanservice is one of them), complete with a fantastic, well-composed soundtrack. Araragi is the star of this film, and learning more about him was a blast. However, in spite of its well-crafted story, this is only the first of three films, which in turn creates a long wait for the complete story. There were minor issues with the backgrounds, but they didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of this wonderful production (and may also be changed in the home video release). Fans of the series will find much to enjoy here, but newcomers might want want to start off with Bakemonogatari before jumping in. All in all, Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu-hen is a stellar work that only leaves me wanting more.
Big thanks to Rockmandash for creating the review card!
Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu-hen is a 2016 Japanese animated youth horror film directed by Tatsuya Oishi and produced by Shaft. It is based on the light novel Kizumonogatari, a prequel to Bakemonogatari, and part of the Monogatari series of light novels written by Nisio Isin and illustrated by Vofan. It was released in Japan on January 8th, 2016, and began its limited theatrical screening in the United States on February 26th. It will be followed by Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu-hen, scheduled for release in the summer of 2016.
The film is not available for legal streaming (and probably never will be). It has not been released on Blu-ray or DVD as of yet, but it has been licensed by Aniplex of America, most likely with a physical release on the way.
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