A Kizumonogatari: Nekketsu Review

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Kizumonogatari is a movie cut into parts for absolutely no reason other than to make more money off of chumps like me, both off the airing in theaters and Aniplex’s already wildly exorbitant Blu-ray box sets. While Nekketsu does manage to end on a much less awkward and arbitrary note than Part 1, it’s still abundantly obvious that this film was chopped up after the fact. Does this ruin the experience for me? Not really, but it’s certainly disappointing, and a bit of a personal burden because I have to travel to another state each time to see it. I’d gladly pay three times the amount of a ticket to see the full movie in one sitting, too. But because of the shitty, imposing business strategy behind it, Kizumonogatari can’t be consider a complete film, despite each part being still being an immensely enjoyable experience on their own. With that out of the way, let’s get into the actual review.

Kizumonogatari really goes out of its way to look and feel different, doing so in a fashion so gratuitous yet overwhelmingly desirable that I can’t help but want more. Starting with the setting itself, Nekketsu follows up on Part 1 with its continued use of a 3D rendered setting. Normally you might expect the combination of 2D and 3D to not work out well, with either the characters or the environment feeling out of totally out of place. In this however, it’s an awe-inspiring mixture of extravagant animation and the skillful mimicking of live-action cinematography. Kizumonogatari makes use of this combination in ways that you wouldn’t expect to actually look good, utilizing tilts and pans which you might assume would make the 2D character models appear even more flat, and instead creates shots that are much more compelling and intense.

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The attention to detail in the 3D setting is most likely the greatest contributor to actually making the computer generated images “work” (although the quick and precise camera work has a large part to play as well). Specifically, the lighting, shadowing, and reflections all have a major role to play in making the world of the film look ideal, and in a lot of ways, real. Light and shadow are critical in creating believably 3-Dimensional objects, but to create a truly realistic setting you mustn’t neglect the many reflective surfaces of everyday life. Kizumonogatari doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the details, and it exhibits a complete and utter mastery that surpasses any and all reasonable expectations. All that, paired with grandiose architecture and scenery that the monogatari series is known for, this film manages jaw-dropping scenes of an impressive variety ranging from the fabulously intense to the astonishingly serene.

Moving on to a focus on the characters, as well as a focus on the camera’s focus of the characters, it’s utterly delightful how much expression is delivered through the close-ups of this film. Though predominantly Araragi and Hanekawa, almost all of the characters make complete use of their close-up time in conveying emotions. Their facial expressions exemplify so much of what they’re feeling at any given moment; it’s remarkable just how excruciatingly painful things look when just given the facial expressions of Araragi, or how imposingly malevolent Episode seems to be in the heat of battle. And outside of the fights, feelings of reluctant embarrassment and cheeky skepticism come off just as strong.

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Another signature of the monogatari series, the editing of this film is just as sharp, agile, and wildly hilarious as you’d expect it to be. On a personal note, one of the things I love most about the series is how it’s able to inject comedy into any situation, going much farther than you’d think is possible without overstepping the boundary of where it becomes hokey and depreciative. Kizumonogatari amplifies this even further, making some gags hit especially hard with jump cuts and non-diegetic imagery. The whimsical and avant-garde nature of the film makes it so much more than just a viewing experience. It’s as if the movie itself is playing with its audience and going the extra mile to make sure we’re all having a fun time.

But as wonderful as it was, this film was not perfect. I mean, I’ll give it a 10 anyway because I’m a biased SHAFT fanboy and numbers are pretty meaningless to me anyway, but I do have a few gripes that somewhat relate to the consistencies between the novel and the movie. I normally don’t like comparing a movie to the books they’re based off of, because adaptations are not inherently meant to precisely embody its source material, and making judgements based on how it didn’t live up to the base that exists in a different storytelling medium is usually pretty unjust. That all being said, I thought the villains in the film lacked a lot of dialogue and consequentially a lot of character. In the book, they’re given plenty of lines, and Episode’s even given a catch phrase. However, in the film’s interpretation, they’re just obstacles to be overcome. Having villains with depth is obviously preferable in most instances, at least for me, because that essentially raises the stakes. Understanding motivations for the hero is one thing, but being able to see the point of view of the antagonist, and being able to relate to them on some level, can be much more thought-provoking.

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Other than the villains not being compelling characters however, I’d say this film was an absolutely marvelous experience. Kizumonogatari: Nekketsu knows how to experiment and perfect almost every single aspect of itself, presenting its unique mastery of visual design, cunning cinematography, and brilliantly whimsical editing, to far exceed our necessary requirements of captivation. And I haven’t even addressed the musical score, which is full of fantastic jazz renditions that really add to the whole “film noir” motif that the movie also has going for it. While it does suck that film was arbitrarily cut into three parts, it’s still incredibly satisfying to witness an hour of this extraordinary piece of art.

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