What it’s about: Koyomi Araragi is not your average student. After surviving a vampire attack, he retains an unusual regenerative ability and a close association with the occult side of everyday life. And so when one of his classmates, an aloof prodigy named Senjougahara, falls into his arms and only seems to weigh less than 5kg, he’s quick to seek out the reasons behind it and to offer his help.
Why you should watch it: Bakemonogatari has one of the most unique directorial and cinematographic approaches to animation that I can think of. The already-stylised SHAFT artwork on both characters and backgrounds, the almost exclusive use of jump cuts as transitions (no panning, zooming, etc), the flashes of text and live-action scenes interspersed throughout the episodes, it all comes together to make the show one of the most memorable experiences in recent anime. The dialogue is snappy and naturalistic, the characters are interesting and nuanced, and the humour is perfectly integrated. It’s an incredibly solid show.
Caveats: It’s not a straightforward show. The artsiness can be seen as a bit pretentious (though since it reaches and surpasses its artistic pretentions, this isn’t a criticism I’d personally level at it). Make sure to watch the show in the correct order: Bake-, Neko-, Nise-, Monogatari S2, Hane-
Themes: Being willing to ask for help – most of the characters end up making their situations worse along the way by refusing to bend their pride and ask for assistance with the problems they’re facing. At the same time, Araragi’s martyr complex is put under the microscope.
Similar works:Mekakucity Actors for more a similar visual style. Katanagatari for more of the writer’s dialogue-driven narratives. Noragamialsohas a lot of similarities, though it replaces the wit with wackiness.