Ask any Monogatari fan what the correct order to read or watch this series in is and you will receive a different answer. The first novel published (in two volumes) was Bakemonogatari (Monster Story), the animated adaptations I reviewed here and here. Next was Kizunomonogatari (Wound Story), a prequel that explained the situation of Koyomi Araragi, the series’ main protagonist. Next came Nisemonogatari (Fake Story), which the author himself admits was basically his own fan fiction that was never supposed to have been published, until his publisher begged him for more material. I reviewed the adaptations here and here. Following this came Nekomonogatari - Black (Cat Story - Black), reviewed here. These books were all adapted into what became known as Monogatari Season 1, with the exception of Kizumonogatari. Akiyuki Shinbou, chief director of the series decided this story would be better served by three movies, and many delays later (well after the release of the entirety of season 2), they were finally released. By sheer serendipity, my journey through season 1 ended just prior to the June 10th 2019 UK Blu-ray release of the first part of the Kizumonogatari film trilogy - Tekketsu (Iron Blood). Part 2 (Nekketsu - Hot Blood) is released in July, part 3 (Reiketsu - Cold Blood) in August. Therefore I have decided to watch each film before embarking on season 2.
For some reason the blu-ray autoplays straight into the movie, bypassing the menu. This happened on my PS4 and on my PC, so I guess it must have something to do with the way the disc is authored? I am unsure how intentional this was. The first few minutes of the film do much to set it apart from the TV series preceding it. Firstly - there is no dialogue at all for the first few minutes. Instead it is an insanely detailed depiction of Araragi’s walk through the familiar abandoned cram-school that appears many times in the show. It’s never been depicted like this though, with a perpetually moving camera and almost photo-realistic background in place of the stylised flat colours we are used to. Araragi’s movements are smooth and detailed, with particularly close attention paid to his changing facial expressions and body language. This scene fits chronologically later in the movie, so the viewer shares in Araragi’s obvious disorientation - just what is he doing here, and why does he seem so upset? The scene works to build some mystery, but gorgeous animation aside - it takes too long. I was actively willing for the goddamn story to start. I am generally patient with slow movies, but this scene was indulgent and would likely put the casual viewer off.
This is a problem throughout the rest of the film too. There’s about enough material in here to fill out your average 24-minute anime episode, but it has been stretched out to 63 minutes - and not even with the series’ signature verbose conversations. Long dialogue scenes are present, but they are not as prominent as in the series, for better or worse. It seems the film’s purpose is to beautifully depict as much ephemeral minutiae as possible. Don’t get me wrong - it looks great, but I can’t help feeling the animation talent could have been used on material more meaningful (ie probably not Monogatari). What story there is here is threadbare. As an opening segment of a three-part movie, I guess that is to be expected, but I hope the pace picks up later.
Once the story does start, we follow Araragi walking along the street where he encounters Tsubasa Hanekawa for the first time, of course accompanied by a gust of wind that flips up her skirt. Apart from this scene (and her comically enormous bosom), there is very little else of the series’ signature fan-service. Somehow this embarrassment leads to a conversation between them and Araragi admits he has no friends because he is basically scared of the potential negative emotions and pain that might arise from making himself vulnerable to others. Hanekawa argues about the potential positives, forcefully inserts her email address and phone number into his phone and declares that Araragi has made his first friend. At first he seems confused, but then as she leaves and waves cheerfully to him, he suddenly becomes happy and skips down the street, completely oblivious to the conspicuous smashed-up car he passes. Hanekawa plays no further part in this film - I expect her role will be expounded upon in the next two installments.
After a visit to the newsagent to buy porn mags with which to deal with his Hanekawa-induced horniness, Araragi finds himself in an abandoned, blood-spattered subway station. There he encounters the de-limbed and exsanguinated 500-year-old vampire Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade (catchy name) lying on the ground in a pool of blood. He asks if she is ok (which of course she is not), and the first thing she says is she will allow him to heal her by letting her suck his blood... Not exactly a great pickup line. Araragi is understandably freaked out and runs away. Vampire girl then sobs and screams after him. Even as an immortal who has lived half a millennia, she’s still scared to die and her facial expressions are animated wonderfully - from indifference to despair to rage to fear, and the animators are not scared to depict this otherwise beautiful being as ugly. She cries tears of blood, apologising over and over, though for what exactly I am not sure.
Araragi is tortured by his good nature - he can’t seem to stand to see a girl suffer - and he inexplicably returns to the vampire and offers her all of his blood. I don’t understand why he is willing to give up her life for her, someone he’s never met, who has already admitted she is an undead monstrosity - the anime does not explain this. Perhaps the book goes more into depth in regards his motivations? Then much to his apparent surprise, he wakes up several days later next to a sleeping child and this returns us to the film’s opening scene with him wandering confused, ending up outside and bursting into flames.
Koyomi has woken up as a vampire and hasn’t realised it. Kiss-shot used his blood to regenerate her body, including her limbs, but there wasn’t enough for her to remain in adult form, hence why she now appears as a child. Child Kiss-shot launches out into the sunlight, bursting into flames herself in a stunningly animated scene and rescues her “servant” from an eternity of burning and regenerating. It seems Araragi has incredible regenerative powers now, well over and above that of an average vampire. I’m unsure if that is something intrinsic to him as a person or if it is something only triggered by Kiss-shot passing on her vampirism.
Kiss-shot as a child is much cuter and indeed acts much more childlike. She’s not quite the same as the sullen-but-donut-crazy Shinobu that she becomes in the series. That change must happen later in the story. Their interactions together are pretty adorable. She even promises to turn Araragi back into a human, but only if he can retrieve her stolen limbs from a trio of badass vampire killers.
There follows the one and only “action” scene in the movie where Araragi faces up to Kiss-shot’s three enemies, the bizarrely named Dramaturgy, Episode and Guillotine Cutter. Araragi can barely disguise his terror and stands shaking, claiming he is human. He’s saved only by the insanely flashy entrance of Meme Oshino, who seems to have some superhuman abilities of his own. There is no fighting in this film, everything is merely setup.
The designs of the bad guys are pretty cool, though I’m not sure about the huge cross carried by Episode - its a bit too reminiscent of both Beyond the Grave (Gungrave) and Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Trigun) - both of whom were designed by Yasuhiro Nightow. Perhaps this is a deliberate homage. Dramaturgy’s arms seem to be blades, reminiscent of Hyakkimaru from Tezuka’s Dororo. Guillotine Cutter has only one eye, reminiscent of... I don’t know, Snake Plissken or something? We don’t get to see much of them in action, and even their dialogue is deliberately muffled presumably to communicate Araragi’s terror.
The film ends with Oshino’s offer to help Araragi and Kiss-shot... for a price. Now as TV series viewers, we know what does eventually happen, but now how. I’ll look forwards to those eventual answers in the next film, which looks to be significantly more action-oriented than this introductory installment. I do wish the material in this had been hacked down to about 30 mins or so and then attached to the beginning of the next. It does not make for a satisfactory viewing experience on its own, no matter how gorgeous the animation nor how evocative the washed-out sun-drenched colour scheme. The package itself if pretty nice, as pictured below, but I don’t feel this is worth the £30 asking price. (Thank God I’m not a Region A viewer - I heard the US prices were insane.) Extras on the disc are minimal (mainly trailers and preview videos), though the book has some interesting interviews and nice pictures. See you next time for a review of part 2!
Kizumonogatari: Tekketsu Collector’s Edition Blu-ray
Directors: Tatsuya Oishi, Akiyuki Shinbou
Based on the light novel by: NisiOisin
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Classification: BBFC 15
UK Blu-ray Release Date: June 10th 2019
Japanese Theatrical Release: January 8th 2016
Runtime: 63 minutes