Anime Review | Hanamonogatari (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 09.04.2016

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Hanamonogatari (UK Rating: 15)

The Monogatari series is a complex and psychological series, filled with deep moments, cutting wit and truly original storytelling. The series debuted in the form of light novels in Japan and each of the numerous stories have slowly been adapted over time to anime. Now the latest story to hit these shores is here and this complete collection from MVM contains all five episodes along with an alternative fifth episode and also clean openings and closing. It's available now!

There are three "series" of Monogatari story arcs and each contains numerous seasons of anime. Hanamonogatari is actually the final part of the second series of stories and the ninth season of anime and this is certainly not one to jump into without watching the previous series. While the majority of Monogatari focuses on Koyomi Araragi, and to a lesser extent Hitagi Senjogahara, this is set after Koyomi and Senjogahara have graduated and instead focuses on quite a fan favourite character - Suruga Kanbaru.

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Like many characters in the series, Suruga is afflicted by a supernatural malady. In Suruga's case, her arm has been replaced by a Monkey's Paw. This Monkey's Paw is the same as the one in the classic horror story of the same name by W. W. Jacobs. In Hanamonogatari, as in the classic story, the Monkey Paw grants wishes but at a terrible cost. In Suruga's case, she inherited the paw when she was in elementary school and, after being teased about being slow, wished she would be the fastest of her classmates in an upcoming race. She became the fastest… in a way. All of her other classmates were viciously attacked before the race and she was the only one at school when it was time for the race…

Suruga subsequently found out the arm is actually the paw of a devil, not the paw of a monkey, and that it has been making her commit these acts. There seemed to be one of only two solutions: to kill Suruga or to cut off the arm. Suruga made herself a third option, though, binding her arm whenever she went to sleep and monitoring the news upon awakening. This series picks up with Suruga again hearing of a devil that is hurting people, and fearing it could be her, she begins to investigate, although what she finds is so much bigger than what she first suspects...

Like all of the Monogatari series, the production values are fantastic. The look and feel of the show is ground-breakingly beautiful and original. It has its own charm, however, and it's one that takes some getting used to. Get ready to pause occasionally to catch the bits of text that appear and disappear within the blink of an eye. It's not just the individual shots and their beauty that grabs the attention, though - it's the entire art direction, the animation, the colours. This is SHAFT at its finest and is worth watching for that alone.

The storytelling captures the same surreal and unique heart as the art. The method of flashing the protagonists' thoughts onto the screen for a split second make for an interesting, but acquired, experience, yet it's worth sticking with because what's here is gold. This is definitely the release to choose, too, thanks to fantastic localisation and the subtitling style means that the speedy thoughts are more understandable than ever.

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As beautiful as the art is, and as compelling as the dialogue is, there's not much action to be had here. This is very much a thoughtful and slow tale with much talking between Suruga and her antagonist, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The dialogue is sharp and well written, with the characters arguing over life's big questions, the nature of humanity, good and evil, as well as right and wrong. It's thought provoking and genuinely fascinating.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
The Monogatari series is easily one of the best things SHAFT has ever done, and that's saying a lot with series like Madoka on the roster. Although this is a slower and more dialogue-driven entry in the series, it's still a superb addition to the saga. Suruga is great as the protagonist of Hanamonogatari and the relationship with her antagonist is fantastically done with some of the best dialogue in the entire story. With phenomenal levels of beauty in the direction and art styles, along with series signature storytelling, this is a must see.

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