For general information on this novel: Monogatari entry
This review is for Kizumonogatari by Nisio Isin. This was the third volume of the Monogatari series in Japan, but was the first to be translated and released in English. It is a prequel to the first two volumes of the series (collectively titled Bakemonogatari), and it was suggested by Nisio Isin’s team that Vertical start with the Kizumonogatari volume. It was released in December 2015, and it was just recently announced that English volumes for Bakemonogatari will begin releasing December 2016.
I will start by noting that I am not familiar with the popular anime adaptations of the Monogatari franchise, so I went into the story of Kizu pretty much blind, primarily picking it up because the series in general has been highly regarded for its writing. I have also read and reviewed a couple of Nisio Isin’s other works which have released in English–Zaregoto (volume 1) and Death Note: Another Note–and I found both of those to be entertaining (and quirky) mysteries.
Glancing at a synopsis, Kizu isn’t the sort of story that sounds all that special. At first mention of the word vampire, one can’t help but think of the hundreds of novels that have been circulating over the past decade which all deal with that popular concept in some manner. But this is the premise: a high school boy named Koyomi Araragi comes across a vampire woman named… Kissshot Acerolaorion Heartunderblade… and in their chance meeting Koyomi ends up becoming a vampire himself. It’s a basic setup, but the way things play out afterward is clever and rewarding.
The thing that stood out to me the most while reading Kizu though was the prose itself. Nisio Isin has a particularly distinct style of writing, and the translation felt like it was handled superbly all throughout. In fact, I found the writing so enjoyable I had to start putting small post-it notes on some of the lines I liked the most. Lots of amusing dialogue and narration in this one–for example, after one character has explained her abilities of “matter generation” and transformation, the protagonist notes to himself:
Where are you, laws of conservation of energy and mass? Oh well. Something must have happened to them.
Or when he first tests out his vampire strength:
In light of laws against the destruction of property, permit me to remain silent.
And this dialogue between Koyomi and class president Tsubasa Hanekawa, who asked Koyomi what he studied that day (which was nothing):
- Koyomi: U-Unfortunately, all I studied today was Spanish.
- Tsubasa: Spanish? Hunh… Too bad, I don’t know much Spanish.
- Koyomi: Th-That really is too bad.
- Tsubasa: Yeah. Just enough for basic conversations.
- Koyomi: …… Spasibo!
- Tsubasa: … Spasibo is Russian. Also, it doesn’t have any connotation with wonderful if you wanna know.
Suffice to say, I got quite a few good laughs from this story. Instead of simply describing what happens, the author often takes a roundabout way of explaining things. Dialogue between characters at times is almost completely random, with conversations straying into as many tangents as the author feels like. And just when it begins to seem like the plot is following a certain pattern, the author throws a plot twist that sends the final act into a new and exciting direction.
The story could perhaps be described as half-action and half-drama, each of which is handled with a tone that is half-comedic and half-serious. It surely won’t click with everyone, but I think it’s worth a try for anyone looking for a more unusual light novel to read. Even when scenes of “fan service” ensue–a facet of anime, manga, etc I generally don’t care about–Nisio Isin handles it with such an over-the-top gusto that you can’t help but wonder if he is simply playing around with familiar tropes or if he is making some kind of tongue-in-cheek jab at his audience. Either way, there were many times in the book that briefly left me wondering: Did that honestly just happen?
All in all Kizumonogatari is a ridiculous story, but it was an enjoyable romp that has left me anxious to see what more Vertical will bring to English light novel shelves.
Cho’s Rating: Strongly Recommended