What They Say:
March 25th—just another day during spring break.
Koyomi Araragi, a second year high school student at Naoetsu High School, befriends Tsubasa Hanekawa, the top honors student at his school. Tsubasa mentions a rumor about a “blonde vampire” that has been sighted around their town recently. Koyomi, who is usually anti-social, takes a liking to Tsubasa’s down-to-earth personality.
That evening, Koyomi encounters this rumored vampire: she is Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, also known as the “King of Apparitions.” The blonde, golden-eyed vampire cries out for Koyomi to save her as she lies in a pool of her own blood, all four of her limbs cut off.
Kiss-shot asks Koyomi to give her his blood in order to save her life, and when he does, the very next moment he awakes, Koyomi finds himself re-born as her vampire kin.
As Koyomi struggles to accept his existence, Kiss-shot whispers,
”Welcome to the world of darkness…“
If the beloved Monogatari series were a real person, it would embrace its unique qualities, strut its stuff, and stand out among the endless crowds of wannabes and cookie cutter copycats. Kizumonogatari, the origin movie for all of the stories, takes it one step further (back?) and shows us the awkward stages that shaped it into what we know and love today. Following the always perverted and sometimes supernatural antics of high school student Koyomi Araragi, Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu, explains how he became a half-vampire. The movie opens with a highly stylized and unforgettable scene showing a distressed, freshly-turned Araragi. Studio SHAFT has always impressed in the visual department, but Kizumonogatari takes it to a whole new level.
Immediately, it differentiates itself from previous entries in the series with a stunning blend of 3D and 2D animation. Trees, buildings, and endlessly sprawling staircases showcase a level of realism not usually seen in anime. Coupled with a different but familiar take on established character designs, every scene seems to pop out in a manga-esque way. The color palette is much more muted than usual, especially the cast themselves, but contrasts perfectly with the bright backgrounds and striking sunsets present for most of the 1 hour runtime. You could pause at any moment and have yourself a wallpaper-worthy screenshot.
The animation doesn’t just excel from a broad view, though; it also nails the subtle details that are hard to catch at first glance, but would leave a void if absent. Hair and clothes flutter accurately to show both the direction and strength of the wind. Tsubasa Hanekawa’s feet invert ever so slightly when she walks by in her first meeting with Araragi. Blink twice and you’ll even miss a callback to the Tsubasa Cat arc on Araragi’s cell phone. All of these minute details add up to create a more complete picture of the world.
The above-mentioned scene between Araragi and Hanekawa is a brilliant start for the movie. What you know and expect is all here and more over the top than ever before. Seeing a much less confident Araragi attempt to converse with the smart and beautiful Hanekawa was a joy to watch. Stumbling over his words. Struggling to control his urges. It is all conveyed with the signature witty banter that makes the Monogatari series what it is. Little touches like a car physically crashing in tandem with Araragi’s mental crash brought out a few chuckles now and then.
This carries over into the very next scene where Araragi meets Kiss-shot. Fans that have been waiting for this scene will not be disappointed. There is a level of eeriness and gore not found in the previous shows that make for a gripping and breathtaking moment. We really see the toll it takes on Araragi as he has a mental breakdown, symbolized by him hearing a baby crying instead of the actual cries of the dying vampire. The sound design shines in this scene with its more conservative approach. Background music is kept to a minimum, allowing for the focus to be kept on the characters and never feeling too forced or melodramatic. In fact, the same can be said for the rest of the movie, too. A later scene in which Araragi is fearing for his life, is only heightened by him hearing everyone around him speaking in gibberish.
Soon after, we get the origin of how he met Oshino in the most disappointing scene of the movie. It is unfortunate that the strong writing in the first half is almost entirely absent from the second half. The final act is missing nearly all of the over the top action and writing found previously. The scene drags on far too long and overstays its welcome. But the worst part has to be just when it seems as if it is going to transition to something much more interesting, the credits roll. End of movie. Obviously, this is meant to be experienced as a trilogy of movies as this is just Part 1. The ending, however, kills the hype that the rest of the movie worked so hard to build up.
Tekketsu is far too reliant on the next two movies to really stand on its own, opting for an abrupt ending, instead of easing into a better stopping place. Part 1 really is the origin of the origin story. Ironically, though, Tekketsu is not for newcomers to the series at all. It assumes that you understand all of the characters and who they will become, as well as the way the humor and tone works. SHAFT clearly made Kizumonogatari with fans in mind, and that’s a great thing for them, but beginners should start elsewhere.
Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu is some of SHAFT’s finest work. The animation, sound, characters, and writing are all at its peak. It is only hindered by a weak final act and anti-climatic ending. While newcomers to the Monogatari series won’t be able to fully jump in, fans can rest assured that the wait is over. This is the story of Koyomi Araragi’s spring break done right.
Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu was viewed at the North American premiere Friday, February 26th, 2016 courtesy of Aniplex USA and as of the posting date, tickets are still available for purchase at select theaters.