What They Say:
One day, Koyomi Araragi encounters the horrifying vampire, Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade A.K.A. the “King of Apparitions.” He saves the fatally wounded Kiss-shot by offering his blood at the expense of his own life as a human. Now Koyomi has to face the vampire hunters to retrieve Kiss-shot’s limbs which were taken by these hunters…
The audio presentation for this release is a bit of a change as we get the Japanese language track only but encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec instead of the usual PCM. We also get it in stereo and a 5.1 mix since it was a theatrical release, which expands things just a bit here while adhering to the usual sound design of the TV series. The dialogue here is what dominates the show to be sure as it comes hard and fast quite often with a lot of placement throughout. There’s some very minor action but the way the mix works is to handle the quick cuts, placement along the forward soundstage and to immerse you in it as best as it can. And it does it very, very well. The nature of the show is one where it has its quiet moments, but when it gets running with the fast paced dialogue and the way it shifts scenes so much, it’s impressive and comes across cleanly and beautifully here.
Originally in theaters in 2016, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Works animated by Shaft really require high definition transfers in order to shine and it does just that here, keeping the bit rate steady in the high thirties throughout, the stills and the strong, vibrant colors it chooses to employ. With a range of styles to be had, the transfer brings it all home in a really strong way with no loss of detail, solid colors and very fluid looking animation that stands out all the more because of the encoding. With so many detailed and interesting backgrounds, being able to soak them up when paused or enjoying them in motion is just all the better with what’s done here.
While similar in concept to previous Monogatari releases, Kizumonogatari changes things up a bit as the soft slipcase for it is done in all red with some shiny red embossing to really highlight the bloody nature of it. With the logo done simple through the middle it’s understated but has some real impact to it overall. The back of the case proper extends that without any text to it but we do get a sheet over it as well that provides the usual goodness. This has a lot of very good sized shots from the show along the top half while the bottom breaks out the features, bonus materials, as well as the cast and staff. The technical grid along the bottom is kept simple but effective. There’s no summary of the premise since Aniplex figures if you’re looking at it you’ve already bought it since it’s largely online retail distribution for the most part.
Within the box we get a clear Blu-ray case that uses the appealing key visual from the first film with the crows in the background along with the tree and all the red. The back cover also uses the other main key visual from the subway station that’s brighter with all the white but still hugely stark with the red. That also makes the reverse side artwork of the escalator from that segment all the more powerful as you soak up all the details of it after taking the discs out. The set comes with a fantastic squarebound booklet that’s in full color as it breaks down the characters, settings, lots of visuals and conceptual pieces, and a very good if brief interview segment with the original creator and the chief director of the project. And, like other releases, we get a really beautiful pack of postcards with the great key visual imagery.
The menu design for the series is pretty good overall with some appealing clips from the feature playing out after initially loading a white background that has the logo design on it with the black text and red shadowing The navigation is kept along the bottom where it tiers upwards as you make selections, though they’re all just a little too small and thin. The text is white on red background and it’s easy enough to read overall but could have used a little more definition. The navigation is easy to move though and the disc defaults to the Japanese language with dialogue only subtitles. It also has the option for dialogue+signs as well as the commentary track subtitles.
The extras for this release are fairly straightforward as we get a good collection of the commercials and promos that came out before it premiered along with the relevant trailers for it as well. The set also comes with the original soundtrack packed in which is definitely worth checking out as hearing the pieces isolated from the show makes you realize just how much of an impact the score has.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With some seventy-five or so episodes in the can so far that I’ve seen in the Monogatari series from NisiOsin, Kizumonogatari is a new way of getting material from it out in front of people. The three-part film series kicked off in January 2016, which means we’re getting it pretty quickly here all told, where each one is just about an hour or more in running time. Realistically, this story is one that essentially makes up a three hour film but trying to get that done in that way as well as securing screenings for it and actually making it financially viable just isn’t there. So you kind of have to go into it like the TV series arcs in that you’re getting the pieces that will further flesh out the narrative whole when all is said and done. And in the meantime you get some absolutely beautiful theatrical anime material.
The film series is essentially a prequel to the Bakemonogatari work and that’s a coinage that a lot of people dislike. The Monogatari series has worked back and forth over its run so it’s less of an issue here yet we still have the basics that we already know and understand. Second year high school student Koyomi Araragi is about to have his life changed and that’s not just because he gets an absolutely bonkers view of Hanekawa when he skirt flies high in the wind. That’s just a stunning sequence visually that also reminds me why I don’t share anime with people anymore. What the sequence does is set up the kind of positives that Araragi is feeling after making a bit of a connection with her there, getting her phone number and all, but it’s the main bit of really bright and simple innocence that he’s going to get for some time.
What it leads into is his trip home where he ends up heading into the subway only to come across a beautiful blonde woman who looks like she’s right out the talk of vampires that Hanekawa was mentioning before. The problem here is that she’s sprawled out on the tile, limbs missing, and blood everywhere. She’s pleading for him to let her drink his blood in order to save her life, though at the cost of his becoming a minion. This is an interesting piece from the viewing perspective as she talks afterward about how he’s the second minion she’s taken on in the last four hundred years and I had just finished watching the second half of Owarimonogatari that deals with that other minion in a kind of roundabout way. Such is the way this franchise works in that everything overlaps sooner or later and it all blends together.
What this film sets out to do is to put the basics into place with what the overall storyline is about. The first meeting between Araragi and the vampire Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade is something we’ve known about and something that they’ve both talked about at times over the course of the run. Seeing it here doesn’t actually change your view of anything, at least at the moment, but it does present us a new look at her while also giving us the moment of decision for Araragi that has changed his life going forward. What makes it work, and more so for those that are fans of the franchise, are the little moments and just the striking beauty of the animation itself. The look of the project is simply fantastic with what it does as we get some wonderful backgrounds, smooth and fluid action sequences, and gorgeous character designs. That may make it feel a bit empty for those that are not invested in the show, pretty but shallow, but for those that have been invested in it since the first series in 2009 it’s a new window into that world with even higher quality designs and animation.
While I’ve struggled with some of the more recent material from the Monogatari series as it feels like it’s struggling under the weight of so much material, Kizumonogatari definitely eases that problem. What we get here is something that goes back to when there’s very little material to dig into and it’s kind of streamlined with what it needs to do, focusing on just a few characters and setting up all the craziness that’s to come. Aniplex definitely put together a solid release here with some great visual quality and sound design and a solid package that will make fans happy. For those that are into the franchise overall it’s definitely a very good release that will set everything in motion that we’ve been seeing for the last several years.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Theatrical Trailer, PV & CM Collections, Original Soundtrack CD, Deluxe booklet, Pin-up postcard set
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 27th, 2016
Running Time: 63 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.