Kizumonogatari (Review)

Kizumonogatari Kiss-shot 12 year oldAnyone who has watched any of the Monogatari series will probably know that it is difficult to decide what order to watch the various different instalments. My default approach is normally to go with the original release order, but that doesn’t quite work, because unintended delays messed with the studio’s plans. This film trilogy was supposed to be the second thing anyone watched after Bakemonogatari, with a 2012 release, but in the end the films came out between January 2016 and January 2017. I have chosen to watch them next after Bakemonogatari, as originally intended, and that worked very well, as they are a prequel to that series, so it is good to have that relatively fresh in the mind. Kizumonogatari also explains the origins of the main characters, so it makes sense for us to gain that understanding now rather than very late in the game.

The first film in the trilogy is Tekketsu, which shows us how Koyomi became a vampire in the first place. His first meeting with Kiss-shot, the female vampire who will sire him, is fascinating and disturbing. She has been dismembered and is lying in a pool of blood, helpless. It is never entirely clear why Koyomi decides to help her, despite his terror. He knows it will end his life, but sacrifices himself for her. He is certainly not much of a success in life, and is down on himself, but not to the extent where he would seem to be suicidal, although he does believe that he will be reincarnated and will have a go at making a better life next time round. I don’t think that fully explains what happens though, and instead there is possibly some kind of vampiric mesmerism at work. When Kiss-shot cries out in fear, we hear the sound of a baby crying, which is hugely disturbing, but it probably triggers an instinctive response in Koyomi to want to help.

The second film is the action-packed Nekketsu. Kiss-shot has been saved, but with no power, and has regenerated in the form of a little girl. Koyomi does a deal with her to recover her severed limbs from the enemies who stole them from her, which will return her to full power. In return she says she will make him human again. Making a bit of a nuisance of herself, and therefore a difficult character to warm to, is Tsubasa Hanekawa, who we saw in Bakemonogatari. She nearly gets herself killed, but protecting and saving her is the motivation for Koyomi to level up his abilities a couple of times, so she does him a favour in the end, although I did find her quite irritating and she is the most ridiculous fanservice character this show has had to offer so far. The fight scenes are spectacular, with Koyomi gaining more and more superhuman powers. Seeing his limbs repeatedly severed and regrowing is gross but undeniably impressive. Also impressive is the transformation of Kiss-shot, with each recovered limb restoring her to an older version of herself. There is room for a bit of comedy, and the way she consumes her own severed arm is a bit of cartoonish silliness, but made me laugh out loud.

Nekketsu is fabulous, and it’s a close run thing, but Reiketsu ends the trilogy with the best film of the three, thanks to a breathtakingly weird, protracted battle between Koyomi and the fully restored Kiss-shot, which takes place in the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. By now you will have realised this is a series to avoid if you can’t stomach plenty of blood and gore, but this sequence is something else, a barrage of dismemberments and instantly-regrowing body parts. It veers between horrific and funny. At one point there are several iterations of the same disembodied head rolling around on the ground of the stadium, laughing. I have never seen the idea of immortality taken to such logical extremes as this, and it’s a masterpiece of fast-paced animation. But that’s not the only reason this is the best of the trilogy. By the end we realise that we have never truly understood Kiss-shot’s motivations, and the journey Koyomi has been taken on is extraordinary. He has had to face up to the consequences of what he thought was a good deed, the sight of what Kiss-shot really is when he sees her eating a human being (much more savage than just sucking blood – she literally devours the whole corpse), and the horror of realising what he has become and what he is responsible for, while unable to find a solution to the whole mess. That’s where Meme, the most mysterious character from Bakemonogatari, steps up to suggest a way forward that leads to the status quo as we see it at the start of Bakemonogatari. What a roller-coaster ride it was to get there.

These are some of the most violent animated films I have ever watched, and I’m not normally a fan of blood and gore, but the story is so gripping that the combined running time of about three-and-a-half hours just flew by. As an exploration of guilt resulting from the unintended consequences of a good deed, it’s a remarkable piece of work, and it provides the context that gives meaning to this whole franchise. It’s horrific, but you just can’t look away. Like Koyomi, the viewer is mesmerised just a little bit.  RP

Read next in the Junkyard… Nisemonogatari

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Anime, Entertainment, Movies, Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Kizumonogatari (Review)

  1. scifimike70 says:

    The notion of the natural design to live your life right in the next cycle, after failing to do so in this cycle, is a common notion which resonates with me. So it’s nice to see the notion somehow dramatized in our entertainment. Thanks, RP, for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

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