Welcome to Anime Amateur, a feature where yours truly (Nick Robinson, Whiskey intern) comes out of anime-watching retirement and jumps into the deep end with some of the stranger shows the world of Japanese animation has to offer. Join me as I try desperately to find my bearings in this strange and often beautiful land. My goal? To filter these shows through a decidedly non-otaku perspective. Let's dive in!
Hm. So episode three of Bakemonogatari is the start of a new arc, which might help explain why it felt like nothing happened.
Some of you have criticized this show in the comments for being a bit dialogue-heavy, and before now, I didn't know what you were talking about. This whole episode takes place in a park, and the vast majority of it is just Araragi and Senjougahara sitting around talking about what happened previously. It is, for all intents and purposes, a bottle episode. The conversations they have are interesting enough, and there's reason for all this set-up, I'm sure, but after getting used to the speed that Bakemonogatari has moved at up until now, it's a little bit jarring.
Even when nothing's really happening, this show is still downright beautiful. The stills pretty much speak for themselves, but this episode's sole setting is an expansive, cement urban park, and it is gorgeous. The area is sparsely populated by this colorful, highly saturated playground equipment. It results in this striking primary-colors-on-white look that isn't even remotely realistic, but sure is fun to look at.
A bit of a confession: watching dialogue-centric anime is fundamentally problematic for me. When watching a show with subtitles, I always have this nagging feeling that I'm missing out on a lot of conversational nuance. Embarrassingly, I'll sometimes struggle to even understand what two characters are even talking about, much less how they feel. I don't know if it's something inherent in not speaking the language or if it's something I'll get better at as I fall deeper down the anime rabbit hole, but right now, the language barrier is unignorable. It doesn't help that this show seems predicated on a knowledge of Shinto customs that I simply don't have. Thankfully, I've heard from other lowly gaijin that Bakemonogatari begins to make more sense as the show unfolds, but right now, I can't help but feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.
Still, I know enough to know that Senjougahara is an exeptionally weird girl. She's got this very specific vibe about her that, for lack of a better term, I'm going to call "cutescary." It's this spooky, robotic type of awkward that mostly consists of standing too close to everyone and saying mildly alarming shit, and it's something I totally love. She's a strange, fascinating, paradoxical character, and her interactions with Araragi are fun to watch. They seem to be pushing the Jim and Pam "will they / won't they" thing just as far as it'll go, which is fine; it's a fifteen episode series, so I doubt it'll get too wearying.
It's funny: from my tepid reaction this episode, you wouldn't expect it to have been one in which a new character was introduced. This show has kept its cast small thus far, with only two characters having made an appearance in every episode, and that's something I love. I can't tell you how confused I was after the first episode of Azumanga Daioh. We don't know much about Hayoi yet, other than that she's an elementary schooler and, if her half-fight with Araragi is any indication, an exceptionally light human being.
Oh yeah, that reminds me: to get this kid's attention, Araragi slams her face into a metal street sign. And it's played for laughs! I just... I don't know if I get this show, man.
Look, like I said, it's the first third of a three-part arc, so hopefully things resume their normal chaos in the next episode. Either way, this show is such a visual feast that I have nary a bad thing to say about it. I'm pretty sure that if Akiyuki Shinbo directed a 25-minute animation on paint drying, I'd still savor every second of it.
Nick Robinson is a Whiskey Media intern and a journalism student. Won't you follow him on Twitter at @Babylonian? He'd be ever so appreciative!