Koyomi Araragi is in his final year of high school, a somewhat aloof but kind-hearted person still unsure about his future direction in life. In other words, a typical teen.  Except for the fact that Koyomi is only 90% human. During the spring break, he was attacked by a vampire and had almost his entire blood supply drained, briefly turning him into a vampire himself. However, he was rescued and restored to human life by the mysterious Meme Oshino, a kind of paranormal Mr-Fix-It who once trained for the Shintō priesthood. However, aftereffects remain, among them the fact that Koyomi’s body is able to heal itself from injuries at a preternaturally fast rate. One day, while running late for school, as Koyomi is dashing up the stairs that lead to his classroom, he notices a girl in front of him slip and begin to fall. Catching her, he is astonished to discover that she weighs next to nothing. The girl is fellow final-year student Hitagi Senjyōgahara, and she has had her body weight stolen by a mysterious supernatural creature called a “Weight Crab”. Despite Hitagi’s initially cold reaction toward him, Koyomi decides to seek out Oshino’s help so that she, too, can be restored to normality. In doing so, he discovers the dark secret lurking in Hitagi’s family history, and the self-inflicted nature of her encounter with the “Weight Crab”. Thus begins a series of paranormal adventures in which Koyomi and Hitagi encounter other people whose lives have been impacted one way or another by different kinds of mysterious, otherworldly creatures. And in the process, they realise that these creatures are but a representation of the deeper and darker currents of the human heart, and only emerge because the human psyche contains depths that normally remain hidden, but which circumstance can sometimes bring to the surface…

Based on a highly successfully series of illustrated novels by Nisio Isin and Taiwanese artist Vofan, “Bakemonogatari” (Monster Story) was produced by anime studio Shaft and aired on Japanese television between July 2009 and June 2010. Animated in a surrealist pop-art style characterised by silhouettes, sharp angles, and a vivid colour palette, “Bakemonogatari” uses supernatural themes as a lens through which to explore issues as diverse as religious cultism, domestic violence, the impact of divorce, romantic obsession, and the law of unintended consequences. Along the way, we get to learn about both Koyomi and Hitagi through their interactions, most of which are based on word-play, as well as the threads of circumstance and past association that tie them to the other people they encounter. We also get an insight into the detachment between parents and children that is all-too-often the by-product of Japan’s punishing workplace culture, which demands that adults spend long hours away from the family home. Some viewers may find the fast-edit title cards that punctuate the narrative annoying, not least because they whip past at a speed that makes them impossible to read; others will find at least some aspects of the sexual innuendo that operates throughout the series problematic, especially as it relates to some of the younger characters. All in all, however, “Bakemonogatari” is an original and engaging supernatural adventure that combines elements of comedy, fantasy, horror, and folklore into a dynamic tale of self- and other-discovery.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.