To the joy of Monogatari fans, MVM are about to release the Blu Ray and DVD of four part prequel, Nekomonogatari Black here in the UK next week. The sequel to Bakemonogatari, Nekomonogatari Black is the story of Koyomi Araragi and his classmate Tsubasa Hanekawa’s adventure over the Golden Week holiday.
The series opens with a surreal scene, where Koyomi confessing his feelings towards Tsubasa to his sister, Tsuhiki. Naturally (?), she tells him that he’s merely sexually frustrated and kicks him out of the house to buy a book to relieve his romantic frustration. Whilst on his way there, he bumps into none other than Tsubasa herself, who has a bandage on her face. He decides to walk with her a while, and whilst talking about her less than spectacular home life, they bury a cat who has just been knocked over by a car. The following night, Tsubasa is possessed by the spirit of the cat, thus beginning their bizarre and dangerous week.
The storytelling in Nekomonogatari Black is fast paced, keeping up with telling the story of Tsubasa Hanekawa quickly throughout the four episodes without feeling rushed. Often, this accompanied by scene cut after scene cut flying by rapidly, interspersed with the flashing monologues of the main characters popping up on screen for split seconds at a time. Whilst not essential to the story, it feels like trying to keep up with these subtitled sections detracts from the story a little as you quickly pause and rewind to catch what is being left unsaid. I got the feeling whilst watching that these would have had more impact in the original Japanese release as viewers would be able to quickly read the Kanji as it flashed by, rather than seeing a somewhat cluttered screen full of Japanese and English translations.
Many characters from Bakemonogatari make an appearance during the series, advising and helping Koyomi in his search to free Tsubasa from her possession. Fans of Bakemonogatari will already know them, but Nekomonogatari Black does a good job of fleshing out the characters’ back stories so that newcomers don’t feel too lost. I felt that I wasn’t missing much from the story as I watched Nekomonogatari Black first, but will definitely be watching Bakemonogatari next.
Nekomonogatari Black’s art styleis unusual and definitely unique compared to the typical styles you often see on modern releases. The style is bright and fresh at times, then dark and gloomy at others, capturing the mood perfectly as Koyomi tries to help his friend. The character designs fit each personality perfectly, with Tsubasa as the twin tailed moe schoolgirl and Koyomi as your standard protagonist. I especially loved the matching egg hair accessories on the Araragi sisters. Apart from the opening and ending sequences, there wasn’t much in the way of music to be heard during Nekomonogatari Black. At first, this felt a little stark, but watching through, it was a good choice as I felt that music would have detracted from the fast paced atmosphere and minimalist style.