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March 2, 2010

The more I think about Bakemonogatari, the less I like it.

When Bakemono started last year, I was really digging it. I loved the visuals. Araragi seemed like he’d break the spineless main dude mold, if only a little. Senjougahara was a pretty badass female lead. That Meme guy seemed like he was rife with potential. There were monsters and spirits and vampires and a chick who wielded stationary like she was Mousse from Ranma 1/2.

As I watched the first story arc, I was digging where it was going. I figured they were setting up Araragi and Senjougahara as some sort of duo. They go through some rough times, bond and shit, and once that’s over they join up with Meme and Shinobu and start delving further into the world of “oddities.” I wasn’t sure where it was going to go from there, but I figured it’d be a mix of people fighting monsters, Araragi and Senjougahara falling in love, and smart dialogue to keep things interesting when the action was at a lull.

What I wasn’t expecting was for the series to essentially repeat itself several times over, with the only difference in each “repeat” being the girl in question. Araragi finds a dead elementary school brat. Araragi finds a girl that claims to be a lesbian but really has no idea what she wants. Araragi finds a girl with good tastes in hats but bad tastes in everything else. Araragi finds a girl who wants to sleep with him and turns into a cat because he’s already doing Senjougahara.

Bakemono boils down to “Araragi saves women from their female problems because they’re lesser creatures and can’t save themselves. Because they aren’t men.”

It’s basically every other harem/moe/visual novel/dating sim story line ever made, with the only exception being there’s some genuinely good dialogue. And I’m not just being “nice” when I say that the dialogue is good. I’m not coping out and trying to find something good to say about Bakemono to make my diatribe sound “balanced” or any other lame bullshit. Bakemono has great dialogue. When Senjougahara speaks, it might not be “realistic” in terms of “yeah, a real girl would say that,” but it’s “realistic” in terms of “yeah, a real fictional character in a well-written story would say that.” Assuming this dialogue is coming straight from the novels, the author has a good ear for this sort of stuff.

Shame he’s wasting it on such derivative, repetitive, meaningless drivel.

I really don’t get this Prince Charming fetish in anime, especially because so many anime fans claim to be “above” the sort of stuff you see in Disney movies. Despite this claim, most anime “romances” boil down to the dude sweeping in and doing something that “rescues” the girl from a situation that she can’t get out with her own abilities. That’s basically what Araragi is doing throughout Bakemono. He’s rescuing the damsel in distress from some metaphorical-but-not monster that’s ruining her life in some fashion. Is that really any different from Maleficent being killed to rescue Aurora in Sleeping Beauty or any other Disney “princess” movie scenario?

Other than the fact that I find Senjougahara more interesting than most Disney “princesses,” I don’t see a difference. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the whole shining knight cliché, when it gets used five times in the same series as the climax for each story arc, you have to wonder what’s up. I could buy Araragi helping to save Senjougahara at first because I figured it was a jumping off point for future stories that went in other directions. But once I saw that the Snail Girl story was going in the exact same direction, I started to worry. At first I didn’t worry too much, since I liked how that arc painted Araragi as a bit of a prick that got off on beating up little girls, but once that one was over and we saw him doing the same damn thing with Monkey Lesbian, I knew that Bakemono wasn’t even coming close to being the anime I was anticipating.

Is seeing some dude save a bunch of girls from themselves really that fascinating? Is this what people want out of anime? I can buy people liking the art style, the dialogue, and the interplay between Araragi and Senjougahara. I liked that stuff too. I can even buy into people digging the other girls, even if I don’t find them all that interesting. But Bakemono is nothing but a dating sim gussied up with pretty pictures and snazzy dialogue. I hate to say it, since it makes me sound like some stuck-up fuckwit, but Bakemono is just a sexist fantasy at heart. It’s the sort of save-the-princess nonsense that even Disney tries to avoid nowadays, yet Bakemono and so many other anime “romances” still swim in this shit like it’s Uncle Scrooge’s gold vault from Ducktales.

It’s the one-sided aspect that hacks me off. None of the girls in these series are doing anything to help the guy. There’s none of the give and take that you see in anything resembling a real relationship. Someone could say “well that’s why it’s a fantasy and not real life,” but I don’t buy that either. In my own admittedly screwed-up principles, that’s not something for which I can suspend my disbelief. I can buy 14 year old kids piloting giant robots. I can buy little girls out-gunning grown men in shoot outs. I can buy people shooting lasers from their hands. I can buy all of the fantastical shit that anime likes to do, but I can’t buy into this sort of fantasy without rolling my eyes in disgust.

Anyway, the latest episode of Bakemono was the tipping point that created this rant. It was a fairly boring episode, since it consisted of Araragi calling up everyone in the series to help him find Shinobu and little else. But once the ending came around and Cat Chick basically said “you don’t need that little vampire to save me, all you have to do is love me,” I was irked. For once it seemed like Araragi wasn’t going to be the knight in shining armor, then out of the blue the Cat tells us that he can “save” her by loving her. No vampire. No blood sucking. No conflict (save for Senjougahara getting pissed that another chick wants in Araragi’s pants). All Araragi has to do is give her his love. It’s all about Araragi. Only he can save the day.

Whatever, Bakemono. Let me know when your emotions are as mature as your words. I’ll still watch the last episode, since I’m already this far along, but I’m still pissed at you.

By the way, I did love the last episode of the TV broadcast. That was the sort of thing I was looking for in this series: seeing Araragi and Senjougahara interact and get to know each other. That was awesome. No saving the day and stroking Araragi’s manly ego. Just solid interaction. Give us more of that, please.

Addendum: Something I thought of after I wrote all the crap up above is the fact that the world is completely barren save for any character who is of significance. It’s like this world exists only for these characters. I’m sure it’s just a cost-cutting style choice, but it makes it seem like this is Araragi’s world. That’s just furthering the whole idea that this all exists just to satiate his Rescue Ranger fetish. Someone get him a Gadget furry cosplayer already. Maybe that’ll appease his lust.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2010 2:34 PM

    Great post!
    I dont find Bakemonogatari that great so it’s always nice to see someone point out what isnt good about it teehee ~
    Leaving that bias aside what you found out’s really interesting, I rarely watch any harem anime so I didnt even notice about this pattern but it’s so true. Though senjougahara did help araragi a little bit in the monkey arc didnt she ? Since she’s the source of trouble after all. But acting coldly toward subaru like that and pretending to be friendly later made me think she’s such a hypocrite.

    • Landon permalink
      March 5, 2010 8:59 PM

      It’s stuff like that which makes me like Senjougahara as a character. She ISN’T all that nice. She’s a bit nasty and ugly, personality-wise, and the series doesn’t really try to hide this from the audience.

      I tend to like characters I wouldn’t really like if they were real people. Interesting doesn’t equate to “I want you to be my friend.” So I give the series credit for that.

  2. ojisan permalink
    March 3, 2010 3:16 AM

    Your main points – granted. But I reconciled myself to all that somewhere around episode 4, and continue to enjoy the fast & furious wordplay, the duel between what’s being said/what’s being shown, the fragmented, stilted gorgeousness of the artwork, the whole Samuel Beckett meets Love Hina vibe etc blah blah you get my drift. I still like it. Did I mention I like the fanservice?

    • Landon permalink
      March 5, 2010 9:01 PM

      The fanservice has been a turn-off for me, especially when it came to snake girl. It’s been done with considerable more taste than similar series, but it’s one of the many reasons why I just can’t get behind the series. Too many negatives that end up outweighing what I like.

  3. March 4, 2010 4:34 PM

    On the whole I think you were right in both your praise and criticism. The only thing I would have added was that I liked the pseudo-psychological explanations for the hauntings (or weirdings or whatever they were calling it).

    Given how much promise it showed at times, I was disappointed that the series merely aspired to being a harem fan service anime. I am not sorry I watched it, but I am not anxious to do so again. Given that I watched all of the broadcast episodes of Bakemonagatari (haven’t bothered with the webcast ones) but stopped after only two episodes of Love Hina, I might even recommend it to someone (albeit as an example of a harem show).

    In the end I personally consider it a missed opportunity that doesn’t live up to the hype it receives. I would definitely be willing try another show backed by the same writer, but I would have tempered expectations.

    • Landon permalink
      March 5, 2010 9:04 PM

      Unfortunately the other series by the same author, Katanagatari, was even worse based on the two episodes I saw. The dialogue wasn’t as good (either that or something was lost in the translation) and the characters were just annoying. It tried to go for the same “odd couple” thing like Araragi and Senjougahara, but neither of them was particularly interesting. The actual plot seemed to be more interesting, since it was a fetch quest to find swords instead of saving girls, but it just didn’t do anything for me.


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