best of 2009: #1

#1: Bakemonogatari

“It’d be great if it came into fashion. Senjougahara fascination.”

Also wins for 2009:

  • Best Writing
  • Best Dialogue
  • Best Starry Sky
  • Best Dressing Scene
  • Most Reliable Girlfriend
  • Best Coupling
  • Best Meme
  • Best Use of Internet Meme
  • Best Yandere
  • Best Underwear Imprints
  • Most Quotable
  • Most Unstable Harem
  • Most Walking and Talking

Gosh, where to begin. Bakemonogatari is all about execution. Sure, there’s characters, there’s dialogue, there’s animation, there’s music, but what separates the good, the bad, and the awesomely awesome anime is how they execute. Ghostory just has that perfect blend that is all majestically brought together by the one thing it does better than anyone else: talk. Nishio Ishin’s dialogue and writing carries the day. And I’ll show you, with some of my favorite quotes.

“Think of it like how you can tell women apart by the shape of their hips. ‘You’ve got nice, solid childbearing hips. so I think you’re sure to have healthy babies.. Ehehehe.’ Didn’t you just tell me that recently?”

I think every great anime needs to start with a bang. There has to be that great hook, like lovely hips that first draw you in. Haruhi had the Mikuru special. Gurren Lagann had the great first arc culminating with Kamina’s death. Eden of the East had a terrorist waving his Johnny at the White House. Bakemonogatari had a prince catching a falling princess… and then the whirlwind introduction of this stationary girl who had no fear, no need for clothes, and endless amounts of spite.

“I told you anything is okay. Like saying you want me to end all of my sentences with ‘nyu’ for a week. Or that you want me not to wear underwear to school for a week. Or that you want me to wake you up every morning for a week, wearing nothing, but an apron. Or that you want me to help you with colon cleansing. You have plenty of kinks.”

And the characters. They’re true characters. They all have their own motivations and agendas and problems and imperfections, but they all come together. Everyone’s got their own style. Senjougahara’s the reformist spite. Kanbaru’s the kinky athelete. Nadeko’s the understated lovelorn. Koyomi brings everyone together and is the perfect foil for everyone’s eccentricities. He only serves as the sponge and fodder for all those wonderfully spiteful and abusive words. But they’re surely highly crafted words. And he’s a great punching bag for them.

“Unluckily, you were fallen for by a crazy virgin so starved for love that she’d fall for anyone who showed a little kindness. If you tell me you want to think about it like a coward, I’ll despise you. You shouldn’t make women feel embarrassed.”

Each has their own particular very human problem. Even though the show may be about oddities, the oddities are only a manifestation of a human condition. For example, Mayoi doesn’t like her parent’s divorce. Hitagi’s mom let her be almost raped. Kanbaru is jealous. Nadeko has a crush. Tsubasa is stressed out. They’re all human problems that most people go through, yet most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a kind person come through our lives and fix said problems. There’s nothing really supernatural about this show… except the part about the stranger sweeping in “like a prince” an rescuing the poor haremette.

“My harsh remarks are made by transmuting 40g of copper, 25g of zinc, 14g of nickel, 5g of hiding my embarrassment along with 97kg of spite.”

And this is where Bakemonogatari really shines. Just endless witty banter between the characters, and nothing is ever wasted. For example, during the beginning of Kanbaru’s arc, Senjougahara tells Koyomi that she would kill anyone who kills him… an important fact that he forgot but does lead to the eventual resolution of Kanbaru’s situation. Also, at the beginning of Tsubasa Cat, there was a call-in radio show… and it turned out those people who called in have a small part later on.

“To put it bluntly, I just enjoy talking with you.”

In terms of anime, there hasn’t been anything like Nishio Ishin’s dialogue for this series. A lot of clever wordplay and banter that is the hallmark of this show. And, boy, do the characters talk. They talk at school. They talk while walking. They talk while biking. They talk when dressing. They talk when walking yet some more. Just non-stop talking with some occasional walking. Yet, it’s all interesting, it’s all fantastic, it’s all the heart of this show. A string of excuses to spit out more words. Highly crafted words.

“Demons, cats, crabs, snails, monkeys– and now snakes?”

Beyond the dialogue, there is an interesting– for the lack of a better term– freak show underneath. Just a cavalcade of freaks with an animal motif tossed in for seasoning. They’re all standard variants of folk ghost stories, like the monkey’s paw, but each has their own unique twist on the original twist. The original monkey’s paw story is about how your wishes could come true, but not the way you want it… Bakemonogatari‘s spin is that well, actually, that’s exactly how you want it to come true. And that’s the rub. You may think you know the story, but there’s always a clever twist at the end.

“I can’t ignore your mistaken ‘kinky’ impression of my cute junior. … I’m going to sway the basis of your judgment.”

But it’s not all serious moral lessons buried in deep violence and schoolgirls getting groped. Bakemonogatari has fanservice! Woohoo! You’d like a serving of delicious Senjougahara thighs? Or some freshly baked Hanekawa melonpan? Or maybe some lean Nadeko sashimi? You’re in luck! It’s one thing to tell an interesting story using witty dialogue… it takes it to another level when there’s constant fanservice trying to distract you.

“If you’re going to be like this, I’m going to grope you until you don’t care about ‘firsts’ or ‘kisses’?”

Of course, there’s some luck to anime. Bakemonogatari got a simple break. It was just a perfect storm of Shaft working out the kinks to their formula as well as the subject matter.

“I figured out your fetishes when I was stalking you before. I know exactly what kind of pr0n you’ve been buying lately. You’ve got pretty pervy kinks!”

And, Shaft, well, is Shaft. You can argue about what they did to Negima or SZS, but one thing’s that clear is that they got better. They have a certain style of animation, and Bakemonogatari couldn’t be more in their wheelhouse. Yes, Shaft will be Shaft, but that’s not always a bad thing. For Bakemonogatari, they brought more to the table than took off, so that’s a good thing. Just a great match between their visual style and the show. They also took VOFAN’s art style and made it their own by injecting the characters into a modern art deco throwback world filled with simple pastels.

“Well, your chest was pretty respectable.”

But in terms of production quality… Bakemonogatari is top notch. Character models and smoothness are improved over Maria+Holic, and widescreen real estate is put to good use. The backgrounds are fantastic in their own sense. They’re in that modern art deco style and hauntingly pretty. Maybe they’re not as detailed as Eden of the East, but Shaft wasn’t aiming for realism… and the backgrounds work fine. They even steal the show in the final on-air episode.

“Looks like you’ve been enjoying yourself. Having fun by yourself? How unpleasant, Araragi-kun.”

One thing that they did was made the world devoid of people outside of the main cast. You never see a random person on the street. Sure, there might be an occasional car or a typical construction worker sign representing people, but there’s never people walking around in the background. The story is set in some sprawling suburb full of industry, concrete, and problems, but it’s an empty and lonely world. It makes Koyomi’s warmth towards the girls seem all that more unusual. There’s this big world with so many people yet so few people… and here’s one guy trying to make it better, one oddity at a time. Great stuff.

“After all, my seiyuu is excellent.”

But all of that isn’t as important as to actually delivering Nishio Ishin’s clever lines. Just a fantastic cast led by Chiwa Saitou’s endearing performance as Senjougahara. Just a fantastic performance by Chiwa Saitou… Miyuki Sawashiro does a great job as Kanbaru, and Horie Yui didn’t disappoint as Tsubasa. Nyan!

“Denab, Altair, Vega.”

Complimenting each other, the seiyuu and Shaft team up for five distinct OPs each showcasing a different haremette, from the enjoyable staple stable to Ambivalent World, which combines two of my favorite things: yuri and basketball. But Shaft really went out of their way to create The Story That You Don’t Know, which just worked on so many levels. The clever lyrics that weaves nicely with Koyomi’s and Hitagi’s relationship? The unique visuals that include, amongst other things, Kanbaru dry humping a drafting triangle while in restraints? Supercell’s music? Nagi’s vocals? A home run.

But… wait! There’s more! If you act right now and just pay shipping and handling, you get the fantastic Bakemonogatari BGM suite, which includes the piano muzak version of stable stable as well as a Tsubasa Cat laugh track. Just tremendous musical value in this show.

“Besides, I keep all my stationary all over my body. I don’t need a bag.” and
“I won’t do anything! I won’t do anything! Put down the stapler, Tsundere-chan!”

(Just to nitpick– and, really, this is like complaining that LBJ isn’t a 90% free throw shooter– Shaft really should have used My Love Is a Stapler in this show somehow much like how Disney had to use The Lion Sleeps Tonight in the Broadway version of The Lion King. Just the right thing to do.)

“That’s all… that’s all I have. Being able to help you study. A cute junior and a direct father. And this starry sky. That’s all I have. That’s all I can give you, Araragi-kun. That’s everything. Everything. Well, to be exact, I can also offer spiteful and abusive words.”

That’s the charm of Bakemonogatari. The focus always comes back to the words. The music, the animation, the characters– they only serve to push out those wonderfully spiteful and abusive words. But they’re surely highly crafted words.

“If I may suggest, I recommend my waking you up every morning wearing nothing but an apron. Then I can cook you breakfast. Isn’t it a man’s fantasy to watch that from behind?”

And if I may suggest, if you haven’t watched Bakemonogatari yet. Go watch it. You’ll enjoy it. I did. It’ll make you laugh. Think. Wonder. Empathize. Needless to say, Bakemonogatari‘s my pick for Best Anime of 2009.

21 Responses to “best of 2009: #1”

  1. Yes, yes, one thousand times yes. Bakemono was almost perfectly brilliant, Shaft-isms and all, with only a few exceptions (there was that one episode where most of the animation was replaced with random still frames of “text”, after all). We won’t see something this different-yet-brilliant again any time soon, I wager. (I mean, even more Bakemono wouldn’t be different anymore… just possibly brilliant.)

  2. Haven’t posted in a long long long time. Good to be back. I don’t have much to add here. I always did like stories about people and their proclivities. People are a lot more interesting to read/write/watch than things like abstract ideas or morals. Ultimately, we can interact with people far better.

    I have no idea if I would pick this as my #1, as last year seemed pretty sparse for me, but great show.

    Also, first?

  3. Well, this was a slam dunk number one. Now if only they would hurry up and finish the series, so I can find out what happens to Tsubasa…

  4. An obvious choice for me. Senjougahara fascination indeed. Sequel? Or just finish the damn extra episodes? Want. Now.

  5. I never watched this series.

    …(Don’t worry, I’ll watch it when the last part of Tsubasa Cat is released and decent subs are available).

  6. Loved the various OP’s. Thumbs up to Shaft, my #1 for ’09 as well.

  7. And to think I didn’t see this coming? I’m ashamed of myself. There’s no better pick than this for the best show of last year. I really can’t wait for the last episode of this show to come out, and at the same time I don’t want it to air because I know I’m going to miss this show even more than I do now when it’s truly over. There are plenty of entertaining and enjoyable shows out there but it’s only once a year or so that we get something with such quality that’s so memorable. Out of everyone I’ve known that’s watched this fully they’ve all enjoyed it but only one person who has only seen the first two episodes so far doesn’t enjoy it, I’m still trying to change that. Maybe this post will help.

  8. Yeah this first prize won’t get criticized by a good majority of viewers.

    I just hope that the rest of the industry learns from it, and not pull another endless eight (Kyoto really pulled a Gainax). Orz

  9. But it’s not over yet!

  10. Funny, I recently started watching bakemonogatari. After watching the first episode back in 2009, I somehow thought this serie was about vampires (yes shame on me), but your last post about ep 14 pulled me in, especially the screenshots (I can’t ignore nekomimi, just like jason has a weakess for maids). I just finished watching ep. 12, simply mindblowing.

  11. *nods approvingly*

  12. Given the source material was popular enough that Sue was quoting it in the last Genshiken chapter… that and she was channeling Mayoi for a while… yes, it’s popular. :D

    And we wouldn’t give up any of the haremettes in this series either – all of them have good points, without being extremely annoying, and all have their own quirks.


  14. big thumbs up!this is really the best anime of 2009.must watch definitely.

  15. You are absolutely correct with this one. BAKEMONOGATARI is far and away the best anime I’ve seen in a long time. It’s smart and smartly done. Wonderful and wonderous.

  16. >it takes it to another level when there’s constant fanservice trying to distract you.
    It’s really hard to keep up. There were many times that I had to rewind and watch again just to catch the dialog. The thing is, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing…
    BTW, “I’m in Debt!” is the new “I’m in Despair!”

  17. Definitely agree, I had a blast watching Bakemonogatari, enough that I went and looked for Nisio Ishin’s other works. As a matter of fact, I just finished reading his Zaregoto series, now if only that can get animated…

  18. Hell yeah Fuck yeah Oh yeah. Hands off 2009’s best series, so much that any other is a joke in comparison (well for stuff like Kampfer this may be good, anyway). And I’m with Chumara, wanting to see the last episode so much, yet also willing to live in a world where episode 15 never comes and you just can’t say that Bakemonogatari is over. This series was the first one I followed week after week with fanboy eagerness in a long time… and never ceased to amaze (and, maybe even more important, entertain) me. Koyomi, Kanbaru, Nadeko, Tsubasa, Mayoi, Meme… there’s just a few series where I actually like all the characters. And among (above) all of them, her. Senjougahara Hitagi. I think years will pass until we meet a new female lead who can stand on the same level of weirdness, coolness, deliciousness, tsundereness and waifuness. And to close this looong comment: 2006 was the year zero of Haruhism. Three years later, 2009 is the year zero of Senjougahara Tore. ¿The difference? In the end of the first season, Haruhi says “Are you an idiot?”, gets kissed, we get angry Haruhi with a ponytail and, much later, Endless Eight. In the end of the televised season, Hitagi says “Let’s kiss”, gets kissed, we get f-awesome starry sky and, not that much later, three more episodes featuring nekomimi Tsubasa. Ahem.

  19. gorgeous images you found my friend, saved them both @@ but is that source or is there better res?

  20. “Senjougahara fascination”
    ’nuff said

  21. yeah… where did you get those amazing pics… please do tell us…o_O

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