When it was announced that Kizumonogatari would be split into three movies, I thought this might happen. I didn’t think the result could be this bad though.
And before “hurr durr you just don’t like it because it’s not 100% true to the novel,” no. That’s not my problem. Well, far from the only one at least. You don’t need to worry about any spoilers for this movie. Somebody could tell you word-for-word everything that happens and you’d probably just forget outside of Araragi becoming a vampire and the panty-shot. Because nothing else worthwhile happens.
Kizumonogatari is the story of Araragi’s first encounter with a vampire – Kissshot Aceleraorion Heartunderblade. Chronologically first in the series, it shows Araragi’s descent into the world of apparitions and slowly sets the events of future arcs into motion.
If you weren’t already aware, I’ve been a big fan of the Monogatari Series since I first started watching it a few years ago. Each arc adds something to the greater narrative, and the presentation is always enjoyable. By comparison, this first Kizumonogatari movie is easily the worst part of the Monogatari Series anime. They took a great story and needlessly castrated it. I’m glad I went to see this one, because now I know not to waste my money on the next two if they’re going to be along the same lines.
The most obvious change compared to the rest of the series, and the one that bothers me the least, is the visuals. The character design is different, the animation is a bit different, the backgrounds are different, and black frames have been replaced with “noir” frames. The color pallette is also weirdly flat. (Of course, I say it bothers me the least, but you know the part of the first episode of Bakemonogatari that’s basically a quick flashback to Kizumonogatari? It looks better than this movie.)
The updated character designs are generally fine – Araragi and Hanekawa look quite different, but Oshino and Episode are about the same. The backgrounds seem to be exclusively 3DCG, which is quite strange. In the television series/OVAs, the backgrounds were at least flatly colored so they matched up with the character/other animation, but here there’s a strange disconnect. In moderation, it would be something I’d expect from a movie Shinbou Akiyuki directed, but the entire movie uses that style. Well, besides one weird little scene that uses live-action footage for the background.
A weird nitpick – the cram school and Araragi’s house look completely different than they did in the rest of the series. That’s not a big deal for his house, but the cram school looking different is an issue for one big reason. While it’s supposed to be a run-down and abandoned cram school, it looks pristine in Kizumonogatari, and I think I know why. Since all the backgrounds are CG, everything tends to look nice and clean by default. So adding in the extra grunge and indication of disrepair and decay would take much longer. For this reason and several others, I’m expecting a lot of touch-ups for the blu-rays/DVDs. Unless they’re too lazy to even fix that in post.
In terms of the directing style, it’s par for the course. There are plenty of black frames, red frames, shots of street lights and crosswalk signs, etc. One of the definite strengths of the movie is visual humor in a few instances. Instead of a lot of joking banter between the character – or even Araragi playing the straight man – there are several instances where the visuals alone provide the humor. I’m not going to attempt to explain an example, so just take my word for it. It works.
One of the problems with the movie, and something I completely did not expect, is the music. If you’ve watched any of the Monogatari Series, you’d know that the music tends to sit nicely in the background, adding some nice ambience to Araragi’s narration/thoughts or the conversations between characters. In this movie, that is not the case. The music isn’t calm and rhythmic, it sits way too high in the audio mix, and it frequently emphasizes the melody, which can be very distracting. Of course, it wouldn’t be so bad if there was something else to listen to much of the time. Which leads me to my next point.
One of my two biggest problems with the movie is that there is absolutely zero narration/monologue/soliloquy/whatever you call it. None. In both the anime and books, Araragi’s (or Hanekawa’s or Kaiki’s) narration carries the story, filling in the gaps with his thoughts on things, showing his reactions to what others are saying, and generally offering a look into what makes him tick. The first Kizumonogatari movie has absolutely none of that. Instead, you just get to watch everything unfold without knowing what he’s thinking, which feels extremely empty when things are dragged out so much and the music itself isn’t doing well on its own. And honestly, compared to every other part of the series, this is the one where Araragi’s thoughts are most important to both understanding his actions and generally enjoying what’s happening. I have no idea what they were thinking by omitting it.
Now, the second problem. Maybe the bigger of the two, but it’s hard to pick. The story is dragged out to an extreme, which results in one of the most unsatisfying endings of all time. As I mentioned before, the pacing issue is exacerbated by the music and lack of narration, but the bigger issue is that this means there is no climax to the movie. The movie ends before the Dramaturgie fight. BEFORE the Dramaturgie fight. If you’ve read the book, you’d know that it’s the first super important event after Araragi first encounters Kissshot, and it’s about a quarter or a third of the way through the story. Yet for some reason, they decided to make a one hour movie that covers what should have been about a half hour to 45 minutes of material, and the first potential climax has been pushed back into the next movie for who knows what reason. Seriously, why?
Random mutterings I heard when I left the theater included “That’s it?” “Are you serious?” and “Why end it there?” (except they were spoken in Japanese, obviously)
If I had not already read Kizumonogatari and knew what happens, I can guarantee that I still would have been confused about the choice in where to end it. But even beyond that, most of the problems could have been solved by approaching the movie similarly to the rest of the series. Based on the book, this is one of my favorite parts of the series. If it had been adapted in the same manner as everything else (and not pointlessly broken up into three movies) I’m sure it would have been excellent.
For whatever reason, they didn’t think that was good enough.
Recommendation – Read the book.