Monogatari is certainly one of the weirdest and most beloved anime series out there. Produced by Shaft, the studio also behind Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the anime is based on a series of light novels by Nisio Isin that follow a former vampire and the many mythical entities he encounters. The story gradually expands, and more characters, myths, and dangers are introduced, the show becomes an intense mix of supernatural mystery, drama and romance.
What makes Monogatari stand out is that the anime flows more like a novel than a typical anime. The anime is heavily driven by dialogue, and the weight of the narrative is placed on the lives of its cast. Each arc focuses on the personal story of one character, as seen through the eyes of the protagonist and narrator, Koyomi Araragi.
Luckily, the cast of Monogatari is one of the most fascinating and well-developed that anime has to offer. Every main character, from the fan-favorite vampire Shinobu, to the wildly unpredictable Nadeko, is able to hold up an entire plotline of their own while flaunting vastly distinct personalities, designs and desires. Their interactions with Koyomi and the mythical entities that surround them push the narration forward and keep readers on edge. Most importantly, Koyomi rarely their knight in shining armor who comes to save the day. While he will try his best to help them, they most ultimately save themselves from their own struggles – whether that happens to be demonic possession, a vicious curse, their own mythical creations or something more real and personal, such as abuse.
Monogatari is willing to go into darker subjects as often as it is willing to show Koyomi, a third-year high school student, attempt to wrestle and suplex a girl in elementary school, and its tone certainly reflects that. Koyomi often serves as the comic relief for the more intense situations that surround the other main characters. Sometimes a scene becomes so insane that you wonder if Koyomi is making it up, but the mere fact that you aren’t sure keeps you on your toes.
Unfortunately, the only thing more intense than Monogatari’s dramatic subplots is the process of figuring out what order to watch it in. The anime and light novels follow different arc orders. On top of that, the anime is not told in chronological order, and newcomers will find its arcs confusingly named instead of numbered. The general agreement among fans is that newcomers should watch in airing order, while chronological order is best for rewatches. Despite not being completely chronological, the airing order tells a very tight and consistent narrative, since every arc was carefully ordered to tell a compelling story. Airing order also follows the order of the original light novel, with small differences, so it also presents the original’s well-crafted series of twists and revelations most closely.
Airing order is the following: Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari Black, Monogatari Series Second Season, Hanamonogatari, Tsukimonogatari, Owarimonogatari, Koyomimonogatari, Kizumonogatari (Parts I-III), Owarmonogatari 2, Zuko Owarimonogatari. Additionally, many fans recommend watching the Kizumonogatari movies before Koyomimonogatari for better overall pacing.
Chronological order is much more complicated since it involves swapping between arcs and even switching around sub-arcs. Moreover, the overall narrative won’t be as consistent, since it was meant to be told in airing order. However, for fans on a rewatch, chronological order will offer a brand new and sometimes surprising experience.
Chronological order is the following: Kizumonogatari (Parts I-III), Nekomonogatari Black, Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Monogatari Series Second Season (Mayoi Jiangshi and Shinobu Time), Owarimonogatari (Shinobu Mail), Second Season (Tsubasa Tiger), Owarimonogatari (Ougi Formula, Sodachi Riddle, Sodachi Lost), Second Season (Nadeko Medusa, Hitagi End), Tsukimonogatari, Koyomimonogatari (Nothing and End), Owarimonogatari 2, Zuko Owarimonogatari, Hanamonogatari.
This order is especially complicated by arcs that take place during or in between one another. Moreover, Koyomimonogatari is scattered across the entire series chronologically, although only the two listed sub-arcs are impactful to the story. For these reasons, this order will likely be somewhat overwhelming for anyone but already-devoted fans.
For anyone who enjoys a great book, mythical mysteries, or fantastically well-written and well-developed characters, with a bit of comedy and drama on the side, Monogatari is well worth a watch. While there are shows that have been compared to it, like Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, the series still stands on its own in tone, style, and scale. Its Shaft-style directing and artistic style is reminiscent of the weirdest and most inspired moments of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and its storytelling sets it apart from most shounen and seinen, which are often far more action-oriented. Considering the show’s focus characters are almost exclusively female, the anime has also earned the reputation of being a “best girl factory” among fans. Monogatari is not for everyone, but if it has interested you at all, then you should certainly give it a try.
The Monogatari series is one of the most unique anime out there, but also one of the most confusing to figure out. Here is what you need to know.