Finally, we arrive at the conclusion of the epic movie trilogy adaptation of NisiOisin’s Monogatari prequel, Kizumonogatari Part 3: Reiketsu (Cold Blood). My reviews of part one and two can be read here and here. It’s been quite a ride and I’m (almost) sad it’s over. Someone commented after one of my previous reviews that the Kizumonogatari movies are like the Hobbit movies of the franchise, and I can certainly see the similarities. This is a slight story stretched out thinly over three films - technically brilliant, eye-catching and creative films - that would have benefited from judicious editing of a third of their combined length to make two films maximum.
Part 1 definitely stands out as the weakest of the lot, and could have been reduced to 20 minutes duration and nothing important would have been lost. Part 2 was much leaner and more propulsive and out of all of three was probably the best in terms of pace. Part 3 is entertaining to watch but does fall back on the old Monogatari staples of circular/repetitive conversations and off-putting fanservice to pad out its time.
DETAILED SPOILERS FOLLOW
Reiketsu opens with “supernatural specialist” Meme Oshino admitting to protagonist Koyomi Araragi that he was supposed to have been his fourth opponent. In Part 2, Araragi defeated his “master”, the vampire Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade’s three enemies and retrieved her four stolen limbs. Unbeknownst to any of the relevant parties, Oshino had stolen Kiss-shot’s heart, and had intended to battle Araragi over it. For reasons unknown, Oshino hands the heart to Araragi and admits his intention to leave...
With her body parts restored, Kiss-shot returns to her original adult self, laughing and rolling around on an inexplicable mound of bird feathers. Before she follows through on her promise to return Araragi back to normal, they have a heart-to-heart where they discuss life as a vampire, immortality and her previous minion, a samurai warrior, who gave up his life rather than exist for eternity. Kiss-shot has since then been alone for hundreds of years, Araragi was the first human to interest her enough to make him a vampire too, only the second time in half a millennia. During these scenes, Kiss-shot dances with joy at the wonder of being fully alive and restored. Araragi is caught up in the emotions shared by this radiant, beautiful being and after all their laughter together realises for the first time since becoming a vampire he is hungry so goes to the shop to buy drinks and snacks. Poor naive fool.
Leaving Kiss-shot alone and hungry for any length of time was not a good move on Araragi’s part - he returns to find her devouring the corpse of his previous opponent, the priest Guillotinecutter. Seems like the poor guy couldn’t stay away, so became lunch. The thoughts Araragi has been suppressing bubble to the surface. Of course Kiss-shot is going to eat people. That’s what vampires do. Understandably, Araragi freaks out and runs to the abandoned cram-school’s gymnasium storage where he proceeds to destroy presumably millions of yen’s worth in gym equipment in a fit of self-hatred, frustration and anger.
Kiss-shot wants a companion to follow her into an immortal life of vampirism and excess. To his credit, Araragi never wavers from his belief that although he’s a vampire right now, he’ll always really, truly be human. Kiss-shot explains that after a single taste of human blood he’ll lose any sense of guilt over eating people. She completely fails to see the value he places on his only friend - Tsubasa Hanekawa - referring her to her only as “the rations with glasses and pigtails”. In his hour of existential need, he calls on her - and of course she comes running.
There follows a lengthy dialogue scene that can be best described as... excruciating. The dejected Araragi is comforted by Hanekawa and comes to the realisation that the responsibility for preventing Kiss-shot killing anyone else lies with him - after all, if he hadn’t inexplicably saved her life, then he wouldn’t have become a vampire and the enemy of humanity himself. Guillotinecutter (despite being an utter dick) would still be alive. In order to perk himself up and to “train himself not to be distracted by Kiss-shot’s enormous breasts” he persuades Hanekawa to remove her bra and let him fondle hers.
Yep, Araragi is still a perv and pressurises Hanekawa into doing something she’s clearly not comfortable with, yet due to her self-sacrificing nature she capitulates. Although at times this was uncomfortably hilarious in a brutal cringe-comedy kind of way, I did not enjoy this scene. Araragi got creepier and creepier as the scene progressed. Thankfully it ends with an anticlimax, but not before we see an imaginary naked Hanekawa with enormous shiny, bouncing nipple-less breasts run through a white void and fight through a thin, clinging fetish-red rubber material barrier... Uh, ok then.
Following this we reach by far the high point of the film - Araragi and Kiss-shot’s fight to the (multiple) death(s) at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. I wonder if the director ground up old Looney Tunes/Tom and Jerry celluloid into powder and snorted them because this is pure OTT (and very very bloody) slapstick of the highest order. Turns out that it’s very difficult for two vampires with completely broken regenerative abilities to conclusively kill one another. Part 2's fights were all extremely cartoony but Part 3 has the centrepièce de résistance with both vampires repeatedly lopping bits off the other, limbs flying right left and centre - followed by long trails of spewing blood, disembodied torsos chasing after their other halves and heads comically boinging down the playing field like a macabre football game gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Kiss-shot grins throughout most of the fight, goading Araragi to commit ever more extreme violent acts against her while she repeatedly eviscerates him and at one point even rains down scorching flames from the heavens at him. Studio Shaft’s god-tier animation in this sequence is something to behold. The camera is rarely stationary and the animation style changes on the hop to accommodate the director’s (insane) requirements. One section where Kiss-shot grabs Araragi by the neck and drags his head along the inside wall of the arena is drawn in hyper-kinetic scratchy style to emphasise the exaggerated motion as chainsaw noises evoke the feeling of Araragi’s head being ground by friction into nothingness.
I laughed like a drain throughout the entire fight and would recommend anyone seek out this segment and watch it, regardless of their interest in Monogatari. There is nothing else quite like it out there. The sense of motion and space is perfect, and despite the hectic pacing and constant viewpoint shifting, the action never confuses or disorients. My eldest son (who has minimal interest in Monogatari) saw me watching this, was turned off completely by the previous Araragi/Hanekawa ecchi scene but then when the fight started sat down beside me, mesmerised. “Well... That was certainly... something,” he said afterwards, slightly dazed. My son has a bright and shining future career in media analysis awaiting him, as you can no doubt tell.
Hanekawa watches the fight from a distance but realises something is amiss - she tries to intervene and during this distraction Araragi clamps onto Kiss-shot’s neck and drains her of half her blood, reducing her back down to child size. Kiss-shot seems unexpectedly delighted at this outcome and then confirms Hanekawa’s suspicions - she had no intention of winning the fight against Araragi. The only way he can return to being human is to completely destroy the vampire who turned him. Hence the reason he had to retrieve all of her missing parts, including her heart. Oshino had guessed this was Kiss-shot’s intention and that was why he relinquished the heart to Araragi. Araragi killing Kiss-shot and returning to normal would have fit Oshino’s objectives just fine.
Kiss-shot makes an interesting observation about Araragi. When he found her dismembered in the train station, he helped her because she was weak and needed help. He would have done this for anyone. She was always aware that when she returned to her full power, he would lose interest in her. As far as she is concerned, that is exactly what happens. Of course Araragi does not want to kill her, that doesn’t fit with the kind of person he is. Now that she’s been reduced to a pathetic state again, he wants to save her in a way that doesn’t compromise his morals. So he begs Oshino (who conveniently turns up again) for a way in which everyone can be happy. Oshino responds that the only option is a way for everyone to be miserable instead. Much to Kiss-shot’s horror, Araragi then drains her of almost all her blood, keeping her barely an inch from death - but still alive - and unable to feed from any human, except for himself. She is barely a vampire any longer, and he is mostly - but not completely human. Poor Kiss-shot loses all of her powers and identity to the point she no longer even has a name, hence the reason she becomes “Shinobu” in the series, and presumably why she’s so sullen all the time.
These final scenes help to recontextualise the previous two films in an interesting and worthwhile way. That does not excuse the extreme length and indulgences that mar the adaptation as a whole, but overall I found watching this trilogy to be a valuable experience. As a final note, I’d like to mention the importance of the colour scheme in keeping all three films coherent in appearance. I’m not entirely sure of the reason for the limited palette, but it certainly makes these films look like nothing else. You can see from the screenshots the overabundance of orange tones that lend an appearance of sepia-tinged memories. There seems to be an almost complete absence of blue, and green appears only rarely when grass appears on screen. Otherwise the entire trilogy is shot in red/yellow/white/grey and everything in between. If anyone better versed in cinematography can explain the colour choices in the comments below, I would be extremely grateful.
That’s the end of my journey through Kizumonogatari Parts 1-3. Next time I’ll be looking at Monogatari Season 2, starting with Nekomonogatari: White and the return of everyone’s favourite violent cat-girl. I’m excited. Perhaps I need to get out more.
Kizumonogatari: Reiketsu Collector’s Edition Blu-ray
Directors: Tatsuya Oishi, Akiyuki Shinbou (Studio Shaft)
Based on the light novel by: NisiOisin
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Classification: BBFC 18
UK Blu-ray Release Date: Sept 9th 2019
Japanese Theatrical Release: January 6th 2017
Runtime: 82 minutes