After the 15 episode Bakemonogatari series and the Kizumonogatari film trilogy, next on the agenda was the 11 episode series Nisemonogatari. I have always wanted to find an anime series I enjoy that has lots of episodes, so I can really take a deep dive into one of these sprawling epics, so I am delighted to have found this show and to have so many episodes ahead of me. Nisemonogatari has a tight focus on Koyomi’s two sisters, with the first seven episodes dedicated to Karen and the final four to Tsukihi.
Karen is the older of Koyomi’s two younger sisters and, fitting in with the theme of this whole show so far, she and her sister have supernatural possessions that Koyomi has to help them with. Karen’s is a bee creature, who gives her a dangerous fever that could kill her. Anyone who has watched Monogatari from the start will probably be wondering by now why so many of Koyomi’s friends, acquaintances and now his family are afflicted in this way, which is beyond coincidence, and this series answers that question, with the introduction of Kaiki, a creepy conman who is inflicting misery on school children for financial gain. He is a revolting character but also incredibly compelling and entertaining to watch. His presence is always signposted by the same creepy incidental music.
There is more than a hint of incest about Koyomi’s relationship with Karen, which spills over into the first episode of Tsukihi’s arc, when she walks in on her older siblings getting horny about a competition that involves Koyomi brushing Karen’s teeth. But this series’ trademark is becoming the way that it pushes the boundaries of good taste to their limits, and does so with a lot of humour, which works surprisingly well. At no stage did I find the incest theme became too disturbing, because it is played for laughs but is also used as part of a wider theme of familial love and what that means.
That comes together really well in the final few episodes, which focus on younger sister Tsukihi. Two more new characters are introduced, Yozuru and Yotsugi, connected entities who hunt down immortal beings. They are after Tsukihi, who turns out to be an interloper in Koyomi’s life, a phoenix who has lived for millennia by being reborn into the wombs of pregnant women. The big question is what difference that will make to her relationship with her brother. Does it matter that she is not quite the sister he thought she was? The series concludes with an incredibly gory battle that justifies the 18 certificate for the blu-ray set, although anyone who has watched the Kizumonogatari film trilogy first will be used to that.
Shinobu, whose origins have now been explored in prequel, in Kizumonogatari, becomes a much more important character here than she was in Bakemonogatari. We are used to her being a largely silent and occasional presence in Koyomi’s life, but in the fourth episode of Nisemonogatari she has a long conversation with Koyomi and basically explains the whole plot. After that she makes fairly regular appearances, always highly amusing. She has become my favourite character, and I love the idea of Shinobu living in Koyomi’s shadow, emerging whenever she has something important to contribute to his life. A warning to those of a sensitive disposition: much of the fourth episode takes place with Shinobu fully naked, perhaps justifying the 18 certificate even more than the bloodthirsty final episode, and while she is centuries old, her body certainly isn’t. I didn’t have a problem with that, as firstly it shows the extent to which these two characters are living a constantly combined existence together and are fully comfortable with that, and secondly it culminates in the funniest moment of the series.
Over the course of 11 episodes, Nisemonogatari successfully explores Koyomi’s relationship with the two most important girls in his life, his sisters. He has a girlfriend and a couple of other girls competing for his attention, but in the end family is the most important thing of all. By exploring Koyomi’s loyalty to his sisters, unshaken by revelations about their pasts, Nisemonogatari succeeds in making him an even more likeable protagonist. RP
Further reading in the Junkyard… Fanservice Debate: Nisemonogatari Episode 4
Or read about the next in the Monogatari series… Nekomonogatari Black
Revolting characters who are somehow made to be watchable for an audience, specifically thanks to all the magic of animation in most obvious cases, may even include a villain like Kaiki, whom most children might recognize from real life experiences. It’s a lot to reflect on regarding the animated villains most of us in childhood recognize as realistically evil, like in Oliver Twist and Animal Farm. The music for such a villain or villainess can indeed atmospherically make them compelling. Thanks, RP, for your review.
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For the avoidance of doubt, this is definitely not a children’s show!
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