Nekomonogatari White is the opening chapter of Monogatari Season Two (the on-going anime series adapting Nisio Isin’s witty light novels.) From a financial/shelf space point of view it’s a shame that we aren’t getting the complete twenty six episode series in a single DVD set, but alas MVM Entertainment is contractually obliged to follow the release strategy of the show’s U.S distributor. Aniplex of America is sadly known for exploiting passionate anime fans; so breaking up a series into several volumes is to be expected. This is after all the company that demands one hundred dollars for a ninety minute Persona 3 movie, which isn’t even dubbed. No wonder then that some fans resign themselves to watching anime via less than legal means.
What’s fascinating about Nekomongatari’s five-part story arc is that Monogatari protagonist Koyomi Araragi is absent from proceedings. The focus of this particular tale is Araragi’s high school class rep Tsubasa Hanekawa. Viewers of the franchise’s previous instalments will know that Tsubasa suffers from an unusual ailment, which transforms her into an energy sapping cat girl whenever she gets overly stressed. With all the things happening in her life it’s no surprise then that Tsubasa’s feline alter ego has resurfaced. Not only is she coming to terms with her romantic interest dating another girl, but she also has to deal with unloving parents who won’t even give her a bedroom. The poor lass is forced to nap on the hallway floor, where every morning she gets rudely awoken by a Roomba on vacuuming duty.
Turning into a seductive cat girl isn’t the only kitty themed headache Tsubasa has to contend with however, as another hot pussy (cat) has just arrived in town. Kako the fiery phantom tiger demonstrates his passion for arson in the opening episode were he reduces Tsubasa’s abode to ash (hopefully the Roomba escaped from the blaze unscathed.) With Araragi, vanquisher of all things supernatural, currently missing it falls on Tsubasa to stop Kako from striking again. Thankfully she can call upon the aid of an unlikely ally, in the form of Hitagi Senjogahara (the girlfriend of Tsubasa’s secret crush.) Despite being rivals in love Senjogahara is surprisingly friendly towards Tsubasa, to the point that she gropes her breasts in the shower. Cat girls… teenagers frolicking in the bathroom… would you believe that I watch Monogatari solely for the snappy dialogue?
My rating for Nekomonogatari White is a four out of five. It gets a thumbs up from me, although that should come as no surprise given that I am a big Monogatari fan. Even if some of the script’s Japanese puns get lost in translation, I’m more than content with having the opportunity to spend more time with the show’s likable cast of characters. Araragi’s presence wasn’t missed too much, as a number of other Monogatari regulars make cameo appearances throughout the five episode run – including the Fire Sisters, Shinobu the Lolita vampire and the perpetually lost Mayoi (who humorously breaks the fourth wall by proclaiming that she will star in season two’s upcoming episodes.)
Compared to the other Monogatari releases I would rank Nekomonogatari White above Nisemonogatari and below Bakemonogatari. The solid story has Tsubasa confronting her inner demons, which really helps her grow as a character. Some detractors accuse Monogatari of dragging out its storylines, but I personally had no issues with the pacing. The show’s punchy banter and visual flair succeeded in keeping me glued to the screen. One sequence that I thought was especially “sweet” had the characters assembling a cat’s face by stacking up sugar cubes. If anything I wouldn’t mind if the creators took their foot off the accelerator, as keeping up with the rapid subtitles and all the stuff onscreen can be a struggle. Overall I highly recommend Nekomonogatari White. Five episodes instead of a full season set is not purr-fect, but the combined running time is the length of a feature film so it isn’t a complete swindle.