What They Say:
Koyomi Araragi was turned into a vampire by the legendary vampire, Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, and he needs to revive the weakened vampire back to her complete form to return to being human again. The only way for Koyomi to achieve his goal is to fight the three vampire hunters – Dramaturgy, Episode and Guillotinecutter.
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. This installment has more action to it and works it very well, 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, is still the main draw for me. 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.
The second installment of Kizumonogatari largely replicates the first as the soft slipcase for it is done in all blue 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 second film with the rain and lightning in the background that’s just very striking. The back cover also uses the other main key visual from the school setting from the outside amid the battle in the rain. 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 set also comes with the original soundtrack for this installment, which is once again a very welcome inclusion for those that dig into the instrumental score.
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 blue 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)
The opening installment of Kizumonogatari certainly delighted in a lot of ways. The animation production is what it is, which means it’s detailed, fluid, and pretty gorgeous in a lot of ways – if you’re into this particular style and design. It set up the opening moments for what Araragi has to go through so he can begin to realize what he is and how he’s going to figure into Kiss-shot’s world. It provided for some pretty intense moments and ticked a lot of the boxes off for fans of the property. But it also forced viewers to realize and remember that each installment is simply a part in a three-chapter film. Kizumonogatari may be three releases but it’s one three-hour film when all is said and done and each act covers its own specific intent.
With this installment, there are three fairly distinct things at play here, though they different in time and attention. The biggest piece is the most obvious in that we get three challengers coming to deal with Kiss-shot that Araragi has to deal with. They’re all very different but fit into a pattern where the first is a full vampire that hunts other vampires, the other is a human/vampire hybrid, and the third is fully human and hunts vampires. They’re all different in style, reasoning, and approach, which makes each of the action sequences in this hour long piece stand out as exciting and engaging. There are some good character moments mixed into it as we get to know them in a superficial way but it’s more so that Araragi understands his abilities more as he protects Kiss-shot and realizes what he can (and can’t) do in a fight. Some of it is comical with how he runs from the first, for example, but when we later see tiny arms regrowing that he forces out by yanking or we see how he uses his blood to keep someone alive, it all serves to remind what he’s capable of and what he’s become. A baptism by fire to be sure.
The second piece that works well here is the way things come together with Kiss-shot and Oshino in regards to Araragi. While not a unit in the classic sense, what they provide here is the kind of bedrock that Araragi will have to deal with going forward into the other stories, the constants that may not always be present but are a presence in all that he does and in ways that they help. Each bring little bits of advice along the way here while also showing their wisdom and knowledge, things that are helpful since Araragi really is just being thrown into things. Oshino tends to be more of an information dump kind of character in small form but it serves to give us the core things we need to know, or rather, that Araragi needs to know, such as why his body parts disintegrate after being lopped off whereas he’s still able to reacquire Kiss-shot’s leg.
The third piece is the thing that I enjoy but also keeps me from trying this with casual or non-anime friends as we get a good bit of time with Tsubasa throughout it. She’s certainly bonded toward Araragi at this point with what’s gone on but she’s also just utterly playful. She’s the type that just enjoys showing off her panties to him and seems like she’s intent on pushing all his sexual buttons just to see how far he’ll go. I do like the dynamic between them, especially as it reminds us of how his body has changed since becoming Kiss-shot’s minion, as it adds a playfulness to the film that it needs so that it doesn’t become just dour and grim. All of this is fun and fine if you’re used to it, but from an outsiders point of view it can be just so sexualized and strange. That said, the sequence where she gifts him with her panties is just delightfully silly and sensual that I’m glad it was produced.
The middle act of Kizumonogatari is all about the action and it delivers three fantastic fight sequences with variety and style. The middle act is more than that as there are some good character pieces along the way and explorations of how all of this works, but it is primarily about the action. This is the kind of film that I can imagine having watched at the start of my fan period where there were no subtitles, maybe a script or summary to the side to read, and just adore it for the animation. It’s beautifully done with some great technical skill and an amusing heaping of violence. Combining that with the background pieces we get and the fanservice side with Tsubasa and the end result is something that definitely clicks very well, and is well put together as a release from Aniplex, but is just the middle act of a whole. I’m excited to see the finale and revisit it as a whole down the line.
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: May 9th, 2016
Running Time: 68 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.