Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu-hen

Thursday, February 18, 2016
Kizumonogatari movie poster

I've watched Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu-hen now. I hoped Shaft would put Monogatari on cinema screen and adapt the style accordingly to this format. They had the benefit of having almost 5 years to work on it I guess but I doubt they used all that time to actually work on it, the delay was probably something related to marketing again. It doesn't matter because I would say they even exceeded my expectations.

This was, or will be, the best Monogatari adaptation in my opinion and I genuinely enjoyed everything, from the design and script to the directing, the most of the entire anime series. Kizumonogatari was written more straight forwardly than the rest, and so it's no surprise that the movie looks like the most straight forward experience too (compared to the rest). But don't worry, they still managed to exaggerate some of the scenes and crank up the Monogatari tropes to 11.
I mean, I do like what is more prominent in the other installments, and missing in this movie, but it being cut didn't hurt the movie at all. What I'm talking about is inner monologue of the novels, and that of the other adaptations which adds to the banter nature of the series, but also provided the majority of humor and introspective. But Kizumonogatari is the most morbid part of the series with the least comedy, and more negative thoughts. It works out.

The introspective being almost entirely cut really fits the movie format but also, maybe, it would have been the right choice for the entire anime adaptation of the series.
Even though the writing is the heart of the series, it's up to the anime to interpret and display it on it's own. The earlier adaptions did a bit of both, driving the story via monologue but also replacing monologue with visuals, and thus presenting the colorful imaginations of the narrator which ended up making the series seems so abstract and over the top at time. Which is fine but I don't think would have been work for the movies in the same exact approach. Instead we get a bit more ambiguity and visual interpretation but also creative freedom for animation since the novels as a script are not very descriptive due to the writing style. It would have been great if all the shows after Nisemonogatari would have gotten that kind of directing and storyboarding though. A little bit more trust in the visual interpretation than trying to stay close to something which was unfit to be put on screen to begin with.
They really couldn't have gone the TV route and plaster its 60 minutes full of still shots with bare minimum character interaction while having a conversation and just do the usual jump-cut close-ups to fill the visual void. And so they added some minor (inter) actions or extended on the script a bit since the novel is a little bit sparse on description. I think this was the better way to do it and it reminded a lot more of the Bakemonogatari's directing and style in general with less random abstractness. The decision to create a more vivid experience was the correct one.

One complaint may be that Araragi's decisions, ambitions and thoughts are inexplicable due to the lack of monologue, which was a somewhat important part of the book series. For the anime, the audience has to interpret and understand his action themselves, but we were given some information in the later parts of the anime now. Though the severeness of his state of mind at the beginning may never be spoken out in the anime. In this movie, we a nearly given hints by his actions and character design. I mean it's not just that he lost his will to live because his yet to be written homeroom teacher disappointed him. Maybe it's better that it doesn't debrief his depression or apathy, which seems to be of unrelatable cause and is more organic in origin, given the explanation we got later. However, all of this is the driving point of Araragi's actions in the movie.
As a standalone, the characters may seem weak, but the end of the trilogy may shade some light to the key aspect of their characters and ambitions, or lack there of. Anime only viewers may complain about a certain lack of major plot here as well considering they watched one third of a story without a beginning, middle and end of it's own.

The pacing was good, which was one of my fears when they first announced three movies because I assumed we'd get 6 hours but about 3 seems to be perfectly fine. Would have been great if some of the later story arcs would have gotten the same treatment (Kabuki~).
Part 1 was actually a bit short but oh well, the "entire movie" will be 3 hours in total later. Which is one of my main complaints; the movie feels more like a third of a movie and not Part 1 of a trilogy.
There were a lot more moments in Kizumonogatari where it took its time with its shots and scenes with build ups and just tone setters.
One scene has Araragi walking through a building in silence for 5 minutes or so. The attention to detail is incredible and the experience very vivid, I've seen only minor parts in Bakemonogatari trying to do that, and I've seen shots in Kizumonogatari that had the attention to detail and patience that reminded me of a Ghibli animation.

I do like traditional backgrounds in anime but I don't see any point for myself to criticize the CG kind of environment in this movie since it looked great actually and was weirdly a nice tone setter as well. They had a lot of time to spend on this after all... It's also not just CG they're using, SHAFT can be creative when they want to or have the luxury to be, they used a mix of methods, which I'm not an expert of so I will shut up. But unlike most CG in (TV anime), this didn't break my immersion or anything, like I said, it weirdly fits. And to be honest, it was an upgrade to what we've seen so far in previous installments no doubt.
Some of the surroundings were made to resemble locations from Bakemonogatari (since it takes place in the same locations), but they completely changed the ones from the early trailer and Bakemonogatari preview of course. But behold, you will see the inside of the Cram School in a coherent layout and it looks like an actual inside of a school. The same applies to Araragi's house.
The character animations were very well done and also had some actually decent directing at times. I completely believed Araragi's shocked reaction. The scene of Araragi and Kiss-Shot meeting was genuinely macabre and looked and played out slightly different than I imagined and remembered given the information from the book and the visuals from the early footage.
The character designs and animation seem to be pretty much the same from the early 2011 trailer, which is great. The character designs and style in this movie are the best ones yet and I wish the entire would have gotten that art style. I don't mind the super high quality shots of the Second Season and Blue-Ray versions of some of the later parts, but the TV time restraints really seemed to put a shackle on the series and they had to cheat a lot for the later recent shows. Ignoring that the general visual quality was a bit wonky sometimes since Hanamonogatari. But it might have taken them 20 years to conclude the series at that rate. Afterall... Kizumonogatari was announced for 2012. And they did seem to make use of the time since then, even if it was just for a proper script and storyboard.

The music and sound were well executed. Kizumonogatari's OST resembled Bakemonogatari more in tone and style yet. The OST was a little bit less ambient I feel, but it sure did sound like Monogatari.
Voice acting and timing was always strong in the series and they nailed it yet again, maybe even more so. Some sound effects carried a specific meaning or tone in the context of the scenes, while they may seem out of place, they added to the bizarre situations. Also, as I mentioned before, Kizumonogatari had the time to make use of quiet scenes and build ups.

I'm excited for Part 2 this summer or so and then finally, watch the entire thing as one large movie.
And let's be honest, splitting them was purely a marketing cash-grab decision. But we'll see how that will work out.

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