Review: Kizumonogatari: Wound Tale by NisiOisiN

Posted by DarkChaplain at 5/28/2016
Around midnight, under a lonely street lamp in a provincial town in Japan, lies a white woman, a blonde, alone, robbed of all four limbs, yet undead. Indeed, a rumor's been circulating among the local girls that a vampire has come to their backwater, of all places.
Koyomi Araragi, who prefers to avoid having friends because they'd lower his “intensity as a human," is naturally skeptical. Yet it is to him that the bloodsucking demon, a concept “dated twice over," beckons on the first day of spring break as he makes his way home with a fresh loot of morally compromising periodicals.
Always disarmingly candid, often hilariously playful, and sometimes devastatingly moving, KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale is the perfect gateway into the world of author NISIOISIN.
I watched the anime Bakemonogatari a couple of years ago, and found it intriguing. I also knew that the prequel, Kizumonogatari, was due a movie adaptation... which in 2016, 6 years or so after the initial announcement, is finally coming to pass in the form of a 3 part short movie series in cinemas. Might as well read the light novel now, seeing that it is the first Monogatari book officially released internationally. No regrets.

The Story:
"Around midnight, under a lonely street lamp in a provincial town in Japan, lies a white woman, a blonde, alone, robbed of all four limbs, yet undead. Indeed, a rumor's been circulating among the local girls that a vampire has come to their backwater, of all places.
Koyomi Araragi, who prefers to avoid having friends because they'd lower his “intensity as a human," is naturally skeptical. Yet it is to him that the bloodsucking demon, a concept “dated twice over," beckons on the first day of spring break as he makes his way home with a fresh loot of morally compromising periodicals.
Always disarmingly candid, often hilariously playful, and sometimes devastatingly moving, KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale is the perfect gateway into the world of author NISIOISIN."

The Review:
Chronologically, Kizumonogatari is the first light novel in the long-running Monogatari series by NisiOisiN (over 20 volumes published to date!), even though it was published as number 3. The english publisher Vertical has decided to bring this one over first, with Bakemonogatari volumes one and two following in the coming year or two.
There shouldn't be any problems with reading this one first - if anything, you can even read it as a standalone book, outside of the series context, and still enjoy it for what it is.

The book's title, Kizumonogatari, is putting together the japanese words "kizumono" and "monogatari". The latter simply means story, or tale, whereas kizumono has multiple meanings, all of which fit the story told - "damaged goods" and "deflowered girl" both fit in many ways. As a result, the english subtitle of "Wound Tale" is a bit simple, but still fitting in my eyes.

Where a good chunk of the series entries tell multiple stories, titled "episodes", Kizumonogatari only has one: Koyomi Vamp.
It introduces the series protagonist Koyomi Araragi, 17 year old student, who encounters supporting character Tsubasa Hanekawa and vampire lady Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-Blade, as well as "abberation" specialist Meme Oshino. Finding the vampire limbless and dying on the street one night, Araragi decides to throw his (so far) meaningless, lonely life away to save the pleading Heart-under-Blade's immortal life.

Instead of feeding on him properly, the vampire turns him into her thrall while sustaining herself on a basic level. Araragi is then tasked with reclaiming Kiss-shot's four limbs, taken by professional vampire hunters, by defeating them one by one in combat, in exchange for the vampire to turn him back into a human.
He is supported by "class president among class presidents" Hanekawa and the sleazy yet competent hawaiian-shirt-fanatic Oshino, as he battles through summer break, and feels his world views shift.

Honestly, I thought this was an enjoyable, if relatively simplistic and quick read. I will say, however, that it will not be something for most readers, and it is good to bring some understanding of japanese anime and manga culture with you - otherwise you might find a fair few things offensive or nonsensical.

There is, for example, a good element of fanservice here - it took the book not even two whole chapters to get to the first panty shot. Indeed, it brazenly has Araragi, in his first person narrative, describe the view, metaphors and all, for about two whole pages! Just before following it up with snarky remarks by Hanekawa, the undergarment's owner, including a self-aware comment about it feeling to her like "he just described the view for two pages".
It is a common comedic style in anime and manga, and while it made me shake my head more than once here, it still managed to amuse me. It, and the developing friendship between Hanekawa and loner Araragi, provided some lighter contrast to the otherwise fairly dark story.

Yes, there is plenty of dark stuff here too. Blood, gore, eating of limbs, nevermind the slightly philosophical discussions of immortality and vampirism, or the value of life, or the motivations of the vampire hunters. And yet despite all the tension it definitely brings to the table, the author still managed to maintain a whimsical, lighthearted tone to balance it all out, just before plunging back into the abyss. The penultimate chapter especially had a lot of impact and emotion behind it.

Araragi himself undergoes some big changes (besides, or maybe because of, his newly attained vampirism) over the course of the story. He grows emotionally, and as a person. I enjoyed observing that growth, and with it his relationships with the other characters. And there better be enjoyable interaction in such a character-driven series!

One thing that can either be a positive or negative point for you will be the wordiness of it all. It is something common with visual novels, and gets pretty obvious with translations into english. They tend to circle a topic with more sentences than necessary to drive the point home, or repeat phrases and key points excessively often. Kizumonogatari is no exception here - if anything, the Monogatari series is a serial offender in this regard.
Even the anime adaptations of Bakemonogatari and co adopted the wordiness pretty straight up, which resulted in the animation studio behind them doing a lot of very experimental, whacky things with it - there is only so many things you can do to animate long conversations between characters. Expect to read a lot of dialogue and internal monologues, rather than detailed descriptions of environments or objects.

You'll find that almost every character has a catchphrase (Hanekawa: "I just know what I know", Oshino: "Something good happen to you today/recently", etc), liberally used all over the place. Whether you find them catchy or not is up to you.

Despite its longwindedness about things, it is still an easy read that manages to bring across the protagonist's emotional state and views pretty well, along with those of the other cast members. There's a good amount of hooks for the rest of the series too.

The way it all wrapped up felt satisfying to me, even though (or maybe because) it felt a little ambiguous about the effects of Araragi's decisions. I had a good time, even if it isn't exactly higher literature. It is a character-driven drama, with the charmes and pitfalls of japanese anime culture.
And can I just say that I adore the english edition's cover? It feels great to me. No outlines on the illustration of Kiss-shot, all flat color surfaces... It is a very distinct and clean style that suits the book in its relative simplicity.

Now, I might actually give the anime adaptation of the first two volumes another shot, and look forward to the 3-part short movie of this book, when it finds its way onto streaming platforms at last.

Kizumonogatari on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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