OP: 「perfect slumbers」 by 堀江由衣 (Horie Yui)
「つばさファミリー 其ノ壹 – 肆」 (Tsubasa Famirii Sono Ichi – Yon)
“Tsubasa Family Part One – Four”
Much of the appeal to the Bakemonogatari series comes from its heroines, and rightly so. From Senjougahara to Hanekawa, these girls are some of the most interesting and compelling characters to ever grace anime, with dedicated story arcs that memorably chronicled the journey of their personality growth and development. We learned about the scars of their pasts, watched them exorcise their demons (both literally and figuratively), and briefly enjoyed the company of their newfound, unburdened personalities. Nevertheless, even with two shows in the franchise so far, not all of the characters have been fleshed out to the same level as others. It’s something Nekomonogatari (Kuro) goes a long ways towards addressing, going as far as rewriting events that had already been shown in Bakemonogatari.
More specifically, two important characters whose backstories were never fully detailed finally receive the spotlight that they deserve in this latest installment in the series. From the title, it’s obvious one of the characters is none other than Hanekawa Tsubasa (Horie Yui). With her wholesome and kind personality (somewhat of a rarity amongst the series’ heroines), she has long been my favorite heroine. As such, this retelling of Hanekawa’s first brush with the sawarineko (触り猫, meddlesome cat) during Golden Week – originally shown during several scenes in Bakemonogatari’s episode 11 – was eagerly anticipated.
While all the other heroines of Bakemonogatari underwent fairly substantial personality changes over the course of the series, any changes Hanekawa went through were quite subtle to say the least. She started that series as a nice girl and ended as… a nice girl. Nekomonogatari (Kuro) doesn’t attempt to alter the personality we already know and love, but rather does a wonderful job of filling in the many gaps.
Nekomonogatari (Kuro) is more than simply the story of Araragi Koyomi’s (Kamiya Hiroshi) adventures before the events of Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari. It’s about how he “fell out of love for the first time, even though he wasn’t in love.” Above all, it’s about how through Hanekawa, he learned to feel for others, becoming someone who would stop at nothing to help out a person in need, even at the cost of his own life.
Once again, Shaft and Shinbou Akiyuki come together to produce another entry in the Bakemonogatari series that meets the high standard set by previous installments. The crisp art style, artistically gorgeous backgrounds, detailed facial close-ups, and interspersed frames of text on a solid colored backdrop all can be found in Nekomonogatari (Kuro), making it a feast for the eyes. The scene transitions and pacing are also done quite well. It never felt there as if there were any sudden or abrupt changes from scene to scene, nor did it ever feel like scenes dragged on too long or were rushed.
Although it is the prequel to Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari, this series was made afterward the two, which is why influences from both earlier works can be seen. Most obviously, there is the unadulterated and overt fanservice in the style of latter, and less obviously, the narrative style that is more like the former. The return to a plot structure with a greater focus on the main heroine along with a smart and heavy dialogue that is lighter on wit and wordplay works well for Nekomonogatari (Kuro), which is a series that has a more serious mood than the more light-hearted, comedic, and fanservice filled affair that was Nisemonogatari.
It all comes together for a thoroughly entertaining series that brings NisiOisiN’s unique wit to bear on clichéd but timeless issues of love and friendship, along with developing an additional depth both Hanekawa’s and Araragi’s characters. Like Hanekawa Tsubasa, I don’t know everything; I just know what I know. And what I know is that Nekomonogatari (Kuro) is another tale greater than the sum of its parts.
ED: 「消えるdaydream」 (Kieru Daydream) by 河野マリナ (Kawano Marina)