anime series has been a fan favorite ever since its release in Japan a few years ago. In 2010, our correspondent Matthew Lee had the following conclusion in his review
Ultimately, for such an utter fantasy Bakemonogatari feels strikingly human. The self-indulgence is undeniably part of the appeal - the show is hugely entertaining and frequently very funny - but for all it can be wickedly crass it also displays subtlety and a kind of grace lacking from far too many mainstream productions... For any anime fan after something playful or experimental - a portmanteau of witty short stories, beautifully drawn and scripted with genuine heart - Bakemonogatari comes hugely recommended.
At the time of Matthew's review, the anime was only available on non-English friendly Japanese DVD and Blu-ray or fan-subtitled digital release. Fortunately since then, (perhaps helped by Matthew's very positive review,) Bakemonogatari has been released on DVD in the USA and now Australia.
Having seen the anime for the very first time with the recent Australian release, I have found that I totally agree with Matthew's recommendations. Bakemonogatari is greatly entertaining and frequently laugh-out-loud funny thanks to its witty dialogue and clever wordplay. The story is interesting and characters are compelling and memorable. And being made by animation studio SHAFT and director Shinbo Akiyuki, their unique minimalistic visual style is evident throughout the show. Matthew elaborates:
The production design draws heavily on artist Vofan's original illustrations for the light novels - this is a distinctive, eye-catching world of layered silhouettes in soft pastel colours, using minimal animation, staccato cutting between still frames and copy and paste to sly, humorous effect (like the running visual gag that every car looks exactly the same)... Stop-motion collages, live-action models and super-deformed characters all crop up but the standout feature is undoubtedly the wordspam peppering every episode, passages from the novels flashed rapid-fire in between shots like a soundless inner monologue. Even subtitled, the effect is (literally) staggering, almost synaesthetic - sometimes played for laughs, sometimes ramping up the atmosphere.
Bakemonogatari is truly superb and simply one of the best anime from recent years. It tells a very enjoyable tale with both great narrative and wonderful visual style. Like Matthew, I give it my full recommendation.
Bakemonogatari is available in Australia on DVD from Hanabee. It is divided into 2 parts, and each of the limited edition DVDs comes as a hard-cover book that contains a 32-page booklet and sleeves that hold the discs. The DVD extras include character audio commentary, TV version previews and promotional videos.
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