Bakemonogatari (Bakemono = monster, Gatari = story), also called Ghost Story, is definitely one of the best well-rounded, clever and brilliant anime I’ve watched IN AGES. This show made up big time for my watching Chaos;Head, an anime that really sucked which you never should bother watching – anyway, that’s for another post.
Bakemonogatari encompasses a vibe of Japanese culture mystery where humans must deal with the supernatural called oddities and aberrations – usually backed with puns and metaphors in relation to the real world – to conquer their struggles in life.
Plot: The first episode introduces high school student Koyomi Araragi catching a fallen Senjougahara Hitagi via slipping over a banana peel – and my, how dramatic and visually exhilarating that scene was. Araragi noticed right after that Senjougarhara was absurdly and inhumanely light.
Thoughts about what had happened made him want to know more about Senjougahara, so he asked their class representative Hanekawa Tsubasa while discussing what to do about the upcoming school festival.
Araragi figured it to be an oddity and decides to pay a visit to Oshino Meme, a middle-aged guy who’s supposed to be an expert in the field of apparitions. But right after leaving the classroom, he gets assaulted by Senjougahara.
She threats and orders him not to tell anyone about her unusual weight, and pinches the stapler in his mouth anyway. Despite what happened, Araragi offers a hand and suggests that he may be able to help her. It was only until he shows to Senjougahara his seemingly unhurt mouth that she was convinced. Well, he heals quickly due to his being 1/10 of a vampire - prequel story. But it was with Oshino’s help that he was able to become pseudo-human again.
Upon meeting Oshino, they conclude that Senjougahara’s loss of weight is due to a heavy crab, also called weighty crab and heavy stone god in Kyushu folklore. A conversation between Oshino and Senjougahara:
“You didn’t become like this because of whatever, it’s just that your point of view changed.”
“My point of view? What are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying I can’t stand you acting all victimized, young lady.”
Basically, Senjougahara met a crab and it took her weight away. It seems meaningless on the surface, but here comes the clever part – weight and feelings are both pronounced as “Omoi“. So what we’re actually talking about are how her feelings are taken away from her. In other words, the heavy stone god appeared to her to shoulder the emotional burden she decided not to carry.
The problem goes back to her middle school days: due to Senjougahara’s serious illness at the time, her mother joined a cult where her heart could be at ease. Falling deeper into the cult, their mother-daughter relationship plunged and they stopped talking. When she was about to graduate, the mother let a man from the cult try to rape her, but her answer was a spiked shoe. The father decided to leave with Senjougahara and the end-result was a broken family. She thought to herself that if she didn’t resist back then, their family would still be like the old days.
“Those are your feelings (Omoi). No matter how heavy it is, it’s something you need to shoulder.”
With Araragi and Oshino not able to see it, Senjougahara confronts the heavy crab.
“I don’t see anything.”
“It’s right there!”
“Really, so isn’t there something you need to say?”
“Something I need to say…”
The crab slams Senjougahara into the wall frantically, but Oshino held it down. She eventually swallowed her pride and did what she needed to do – accept her feelings.
“I’m sorry. And thank you very much. But this is enough. Those are my feelings, my thoughts and my memories. I’ll shoulder them myself. They’re something I can’t lose. So please, please give me back my weight.”
And so the conflict was resolved. Oshino further explained:
“Heavy crabs, in other words heavy stone gods – their name can also be read as feelings and ties of obligation.” So when Senjougahara met the crab, she cut the ties between herself and her mother. It erased her thoughts about her mother as worries. It stopped her from feeling. And her weight was taken away from her. Willingly, she tricked herself.
That would be the summary of the first arc – isn’t the show clever or what!? With just watching the first two episodes, I was already taken away and convinced that the rest of the series would be epic. And yeah, hell it was!
The following arcs would be about meeting other characters who have encountered oddities and overcoming them, as well as the development of the relationship between Koyomi Araragi and the ultimate tsundere girlfriend Senjougahara Hitagi. They would all be full of life’s lessons presented in metaphors and figures of speech – a good exercise for the mind.
There would only be one heroine introduced per chapter and their oddities would always have something that resemble them. For example, Senjougahara’s stapler resembles the claw of a crab, Mayoi Hachikuji’s big backpack resembles the shell of a snail, Nadeko’s big hat and baggy jacket resembles the head and skin of a snake, and so forth.
I completely and highly recommend this anime as a must-watch, as everything is just exemplary – awesome blending of 2d and cell-shaded 3d animation, smooth and exciting action sequences, awesome music worthy of nostalgia, witty script full of word play, substantial character background and development, everything! So yeah, watch it!
Also, there would be an upcoming movie in 2012 portraying the story prior to the series – on how Koyomi Araragi, Oshino Meme, Hanekawa Tsubasa and Oshino Shinobu were acquainted. This is often referred to in the series as the time between “Spring Break” and “Golden Week.”