Nisemonogatari is the follow-up series to Bakemonogatari, which was released last year in the UK courtesy of British anime distributor MVM Entertainment. For those of you not familiar with Bakemonogatari (and you really should watch it if you hope to make any semblance of Nise’s plot) the series revolves around Koyomi Araragi, a high school student who has a knack for attracting supernatural trouble. Koyomi’s circle of friends include a phantom girl who is perpetually lost, an ace basketball player who has a monkey paw for a hand and his class president happens to be a former cat girl. Oh, did I also forget to mention that a loli vampire has taken up residence in his shadow?
This first collection contains the seven-part Karen Bee saga, spread across two DVDs. From the looks of things Nisemonogatari’s stories will focus on Koyomi’s younger siblings who are better known as The Fire Sisters. Tsukihi Araragi is the kimono wearing sis with an unstable temper that causes her to get “platinum mad” whilst the less feminine Karen pursues martial arts as a hobby (you can see her posing on the box art in a banana coloured tracksuit.) After a couple of episodes, reacquainting viewers with the Bakemonogatari cast, the story gets down to business chronicling the ramifications of Karen confronting a shady con man who has been peddling his wares on her unsuspecting classmates.
Karen, who sees herself as a champion of justice, tries to strong arm the hustler out of town but regrettably things don’t work out as planned. The encounter culminates with the Kung-Fu prodigy getting stung by a mystical bee that afflicts its victims with a potentially deadly fever. It’s now left to big brother Koyomi to sort out the mess. Can he track down the con man responsible and coerce him to lift Karen’s curse before it’s too late? The way things pan out is rather interesting, particularly as it is revealed that the evil doer in question (Deishu Kaiki) has some history with Koyomi’s current girlfriend. Trying to outsmart a swindler is never an easy task and Koyomi may have bitten more than he can chew, given that Kaiki is no slouch when it comes to paranormal matters.
My rating for Nisemonogatari is four stars out of five. As was the case with its predecessor, the show’s highlight is not horror or action (as you may expect from a series that dabbles with the occult) but rather its witty banter. By the time an episode’s end credits roll it will dawn on the viewer that they just spent the last twenty minutes watching two people chat, but amazingly the exchange flew by without ever getting dull. The fast paced dialogue, that will test anyone’s subtitle reading skills, is packed with gags that I appreciated (even if some of the puns get lost in translation.) The director also deserves special praise for his visual flair, which keeps the onscreen imagery lively, even when the scene is nothing more than two people yammering in a room.
Out of the two shows I liked Bakemonogatari a little more as its script was a bit punchier. I found the shorter story arcs more entertaining than the prolonged seven-parter we get here. Bakemonogatari also has the benefit of a stronger cast. The girls we were introduced to in the first series are much more interesting than either of Koyomi’s sisters. On the plus side Nisemonogatari reveals that Koyomi’s vampiric partner Shinobu isn’t mute and can in fact be mischievously playful when she speaks. Meanwhile those of you seeking fan service will no doubt revel in how Nise’s artists are guilty of fetishizing the girls on show. One sequence in particular has a minor challenging Koyomi to a game of twister (which I am sure is responsible for the title’s eighteen age rating.) The combination of eye candy and clever writing on offer should ensure that Bakemonogatri fans will think this series is the Karen Bee’s knees.