One of the many purposes a prequel can fulfill is to show how the characters we’re already familiar with came to be who they are. This is the story of light novel author Nisio Isin’s Kizumonogatari, which recounts how Araragi Koyomi, protagonist of the Monogatari series, would become embroiled in the world of the supernatural, and how his friendship with his beautiful classmate Hanekawa Tsubasa would form. In its adaptation to film, Kizumonogatari has been split into a trilogy, with the first being an introduction to the cast, and now the second covering Araragi’s realization of his newfound vampire power. Suffice it to say, this film is not meant for people to watch it without having seen Part I.
While the first film was quite violent, as we see images such as a limbless Shinobu bleeding all over the ground, Araragi writhing in agony as the sun sets him aflame, Kizumonogatari Part II: Nekketsu is much more violent in terms of the ubiquity of action scenes. Presented much like a series of video game bosses or Bruce Lee’s Game of Death progression, Araragi (with his new vampire abilities) must fight three increasingly strong opponents who have taken the limbs of his master, Shinobu. During these fights, we begin to see the origins of Araragi’s favored game plan: sacrifice his own body because its regenerative power allows him to take a lot of abuse. In Bakemonogatari, he’s much less of a vampire than he is here, so this is the strategy at its most powerful, even if Araragi’s lack of experience means he isn’t using it as well as he could. One of the other interesting aspects of Araragi’s battles is that he initially assumes himself to be the underdog, which is very much in line with this personality.
In terms of the action scenes but also many of the “slower” parts of Kizumonogatari Part II, this film is unmistakably SHAFT-esque. Ever since director Shinbo Akiyuki brought his signature visual style of sudden cuts, fragmented imagery, and head tilts to the world of Monogatari, it’s created a certain expectation for how these anime should look. With a clearly larger budget than what they get for their TV series, the fight scenes get elaborate and intense beyond what one might even expect simply reading the light novel, and even the endlessly large rooms where battles take place in the TV series feel somehow less infinite than the sets of Part II. Unlike Part I, which I found to be a good deal more amenable to those unfamiliar with or jarred by the Monogatari style, this middle part of the trilogy pretty much goes in full force. Due to how much both Nisio Isin and Shinbo love to indulge in metatextual elements, it often feels like a match made in anime, but at times I wonder if there’s a breakdown somewhere between the two creators’ approaches.
One aspect of the film that still leaves me puzzled is the way that Araragi and Hanekawa would eventually end up the way they are. While Araragi is clearly always attracted to Hanekawa and vice versa in later parts of the series, in Kizumonogatari their mutual interest is almost animal at times. By the time of Bakemonogatari, it’s still there, but somehow also a lot more cordial. Not only that, the two of them also just feel fairly different personality-wise and somewhat disconnected with the images of them I’m more familiar with. This is probably intentional, in order to show their growth. Also, while the disconnect seems jarring, Part II lays some of the foundations for what we see from Araragi and Hanekawa later on in terms of secrets and revelations.
Kizumonogatari Part II: Nekketsu suffers a fair amount from being the second part of the trilogy because the context can feel lacking and the end of the film leaves things a bit unsatisfying so that it can lead directly to the third film. However, it still ends up being a very thrilling and visceral experience in terms of both action and sexual tension. In a way, this film is mainly a transitional state, the point where everything begins to really change, but the outcome of which is still a mystery.
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