Art by Oh!great
Original Story by NISIOISIN
Original Character Design by Vofan
Translated by Ko Ransom
Production by Grace Lu & Hiroko Mizuno
It’s easy to see why the Monogatari series has exploded in popularity over the past decade. NISIOISIN’s intricate storytelling and complex characters enthrall his readers, keeping them coming back for more. Combined with a beautifully creative anime adaptation by animation studio Shaft, the series has had all the ingredients required to be a booming success. Still, not everyone watches anime or even reads traditional novels. Some people want to experience their stories through comics, and that’s what the Bakemonogatari manga is here to deliver. Drawn by veteran artist Oh!great, the Bakemonogatari manga sets out to provide a new way to experience the world of Monogatari, one that will captivate fans new and old.
The Monogatari series centers around high schooler Koyomi Araragi. After a series of events, Araragi now lives in a bizarre state between that of a human and a vampire, encountering the abnormal in his daily life. Despite his quirky nature, Araragi is someone who deeply cares about the people around him and tries to help them overcome their problems. That being said, Araragi’s sympathy towards others is also his biggest detriment, forcing him into dangerous and life-threatening situations. In this way, Araragi chooses to take on the burdens of those around him, prioritizing the other people’s happiness above his own. Araragi is a simple protagonist at his core, but the conflicting nature of his ideology is what makes him intriguing as a character.
The first volume of the Bakemonogatari manga adapts the Hitagi Crab arc, which introduces one of the series’ main heroines Hitagi Senjogahara. Senjogahara has a harsh personality around other people, but that is a guise to hide her own insecurities. After a traumatizing family experience, Sejogahara encountered an omoishi-gani which stole the majority of her weight. The combination of these two events made her isolate herself from other people, fearing to trust and burden them with her problems. What makes Senjogahara such a great character is that her behavior is filled with nuance and you can easily sympathize with her situation. Her deadpan comments towards Araragi are also thoroughly entertaining and help flesh her out beyond the archetype of a tragic heroine.
In order to deal with the oddity afflicting Senjogahara, Araragi enlists the help of Meme Oshino, a nomad who specializes in the abnormal. Oshino tries to play a neutral role in Araragi’s encounters with oddities, selling information on their behaviors and how to counteract them. From his appearance alone, its apparent that Oshino is a quirky individual. Even in the most dire of circumstances, he maintains a laid-back demeanor that helps break the tension of the situation. Overall, he’s a fun addition to the cast and it’s always amusing when he’s around in the story.
One of the major themes of the Monogatari series is the ambiguity of the world itself. NISIOISIN intentionally keeps the concept of oddities vague, as they are meant to represent the world’s unexplainable abnormalities. To this end, the oddities in Monogatari are neither good nor evil, and their actions can’t always explained by logic. In the case of the Hitagi Crab arc, the omoishi-gani that stole Senjogahara’s weight did not do so out of malicious intent, but to relieve her emotional burdens. That said, its interference created further hardships for Senjogahara, which causes the oddity’s actions to be morally unclear. It’s an intriguing concept that helps bring further substance to Monogatari’s world and keeps the reader fascinated by the supernatural encounters of Araragi and his friends.
For those who have already experienced Bakemonogatari before, the biggest differentiator in this adaptation is Oh!great’s artwork. While not perfectly resembling Vofan’s designs from the original novels, each design in the manga feels fitting for the respective character while staying true to Oh!great’s signature aesthetic. Oh!great also takes full advantage of the manga’s visual medium to enhance the story, utilizing a combination of intricate backgrounds and dynamic paneling. Even during the idle conversations of the story, Oh!great finds new ways to frame the characters and alters the backgrounds to fit the narrative’s tone. This helps Bakemonogatari’s story feel like a new experience for even veteran fans of the series and keeps you invested in the adaptation.
As someone who loves NISIOISIN’s original novels as well as Shaft’s anime, it was exciting to see a new interpretation of Bakemonogatari’s story. Oh!great does a fantastic job of staying faithful to the original novels, while still enhancing it with his artistic skill set. Whether you’ve been wanting to get into the series or have been a dedicated fan, Oh!great’s manga adaptation of Bakemonogatari is totally worth checking out.