Today it occurred to me that there is more to Bakemonogatari than what’s on the surface. No, I’m not talking about the occult subject matter or the Nisio Isin writing which can give even Japanese people pause, or even that Shinbo touch that the director puts into most of his works. Instead, what I’m referring to is the way Bakemonogatari treats otaku, or more broadly, anime and manga fans.
Now I want to ask, who in Bakemonogatari is an anime fan? The answer is no one and everyone. In this story, everyone is able to just mention obscure manga titles and make equally esoteric references with the assumption that somebody else out there will get them, almost like how everyone in Beyblade knows about tops.
Within the confines of its own story, Bakemonogatari normalizes the otaku, something that is exceedingly rare. In titles about otaku such as Genshiken and Mousou Shoujo Otakukei, the otaku is still seen as something special or at least different. Other works take aspects of reality and soften them through layers of otaku filters. Bakemonogatari on the other hand assumes otaku to be the starting point and moves the story forward from there, adding in all of those supernatural elements.
It’s kind of like how superhero comics are traditionally a power fantasy, taking the real world and making it a little more fantastic, but titles like Watchmen take the fantasy and inject reality back in. Not that I’m comparing Alan Moore to Nisio Isin, mind you.