Thoughts on NISIOISIN’s Nisemonogatari

As someone who had at first watched the anime, without having read any of Nisioisin’s work prior, I would say that encountering Monogatari in the written word enrichens the experience. Reading the novels sheds a lot more light on the nature of Koyomi Araragi as a character, which is helpful as it relays the inner thoughts that are the determining factors in how he conducts himself from moment to moment. Though the anime is not devoid of his inner monologue, reading it is an entirely different animal. It is a more complete and immersive experience with Araragi as a narrator, despite him being a somewhat unreliable one.

When it comes to plot, I think that Bakemonogatari trumps Nise. The latter succeeds in the hilarious conversations and interactions between characters that Nisioisin is known for. It’s awesome to see how everyone is fleshed out as individual characters with the passing of time. Though it definitely doesn’t have enough Kanbaru, I will let it slide because I do appreciate the Fire Sisters and their story.

(there may be spoilers here)

Nise is arguably one of the more controversial installments in the Monogatari series due to some scenes that…uh…stand out from the norm — and understandably so. This is not an endorsement or attempt at justification; it’s literally just an observation of mine. Though I can’t imagine that there are many people out there who think this way, some may be tempted to argue against the Monogatari series and its sus reputation by bantering with people who unironically roast the show for p3dophilia. I’ve encountered such apologists only in online forums and the like. Though I would say they are few and far in between, both those who attack and those who defend are mistaken, at best, because of only visiting the anime.

As many know, this contains the infamous toothbrush scene. It wouldn’t be fair of me to write this review without at least briefly touching base on this particular happening. Going into reading this, I felt that there would be groundwork laid out (more-so than the anime, at least) that would allow for this scene to play out in a way that prepares the viewer. Now, I have no idea how I expected for such “groundwork” to be laid. Now that I think about it, I am not so sure that there is any way to prepare one for such a finely crafted bizarre moment to take place between siblings.

At any rate, I was surprised by the lack of contrast between the anime and novel, in regards to the toothbrush scene. It was just as ludicrous of a read as it was to watch— if not even more so. Koyomi and Karen’s expressed intimacy is a puzzling experience, regardless of how one approaches it. It can only make sense in context of the Monogatari series as a whole. This extreme perversion, this atrocious attempt at titillating, is the quintessential Koyomi Araragi.

Unironically, the entire series can be reduced to Araragi doing any one of the following at any particular moment: carrying on [humorous] conversations with girls and/or groping them, getting his ass whipped by aberrations, on his way to help someone in need, delivering some spiel upon the unpredictable tides of life and/or morality, breaking the 4th wall by talking about how he is going to be portrayed in a purported anime adaptation, etc. Though I am slightly exaggerating, fans will get the point I’m attempting to. The protagonist’s point of view is what makes Monogatari…Monogatari. Readers get to experience things from the perspective of a flawed but genuinely dynamic character. It is pure chaos, so fun to read, while also touching base on the underlying components of the human condition. Nisioisin maintains a fair balance though, as he never seems to extend beyond the proper amount of seriousness.

There’s a lot of development within the members of the harem. I cannot figure out how he manages to do it, but Nisioisin somehow weaves his stream-of-consciousness narrative in a way that allows all of the girls to get their just desserts (Shinobu in particular — both literally and figuratively). It’s awesome to see Senjougahara’s growth as a person, evolving as a result of overcoming her past trauma and finding peace in the life she lives. Though it is bittersweet, I love to see the way Hanekawa deals with her issues and is no longer reliant upon outside influence within the realm of aberrations to handle her problems. Nise could use more Kanbaru (especially the second volume), but I understand how difficult it may be to make sure everyone gets their opportunity.

It wouldn’t be right of me to talk about development and character without mentioning the Fire Sisters, considering that the main conflict(s) revolve around them. Without delving too deep, I just want to say that Nisioisin captures different aspects of the human experience (growing up, dichotomy between adolescence and adulthood, personal identity,) in an incredibly appealing way that is both sentimental and realistic. As cringe as it may sound, I somewhat see myself (someone with younger sisters) in the MC’s shoes. Considering the deeper issues that are implied and being tackled in Karen & Tsukihi’s conversations with their older brother, I can relate. I do not feel that I am alone in this sentiment.

The dichotomy of fake/real guides is the cornerstone of Nisemonogatari. During Karen’s arc, it is fleshed out under the guise of “justice.” Koyomi challenges Karen, prompting the question of where her inner desire to “enforce justice” really comes from. This concept illustrates the multi-dimensional duality of people, but the culmination of fake vs. real occurs in the latter half of “Tsukihi Phoenix.” Whenever the nature of Tsuki is made known, it puts the entire question at face value. The way that Araragi responds shows that he is worthy enough to follow throughout the course of the series.

To conclude, Nisemonogatari is ripe with Nisioisin’s nonsense dialogue/absurd interactions between Araragi and members of the harem. Of the two volumes, the first is definitely more plot-driven — especially considering that the first 150ish pages or so of “Tsukihi Phoenix” is just the MC wandering around interacting with his harem. Despite that, it is all enjoyable to read. The second volume provides an adequate conclusion for this fake tale.

This was written for fun, after all. As Nisioisin puts it, Nisemonogatari was “200% written as a hobby.” This is to say that there isn’t a ton of value to be gained from examining things through super close reading in an attempt to parse meaning and symbolism; rather, this should follow the suit of its creator. It is meant to be read as a hobby and enjoyed in that same fashion. Sometimes things are just fun. This is definitely one of those things.

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