Hanamonogatari Is Little More Than Two Hours Of Philosophical Dialogue

Hanamonogatari Is Little More Than Two Hours of Philosophical Dialogue

While delayed for several months, Hanamonogatari, the latest tales from the sprawling Monogatari franchise, has finally aired in Japan. Sadly, this six-episode series lacks much of what makes the rest of the franchise so enjoyable -- and may be the densest anime I have ever seen.

Good -- Pretty and Surreal

Hanamonogatari Is Little More Than Two Hours of Philosophical Dialogue

One of the best things about the Monogatari franchise in general is its art style and direction. As I'll get into more later, the vast majority of Hanamonogatari is two people standing around talking. It is difficult, no matter how you frame it, to keep something like that visually interesting. However, Hanamonogatari is always visually captivating as it turns all its backgrounds into surrealistic works of art. A popular train station is reimagined with bright colours and a disturbing lack of people, a messy bedroom is shown to contain nothing but red books (which are then set up outside as dominoes), and a basketball court is flooded with a thin layer of reflective water before the roof retracts to show the open sky.

Frankly, there were times when watching Hanamonogatari that I became so lost in the backgrounds that I had to rewind a few minutes after I realised I had totally lost track of the conversation. In other words, this is an anime I wouldn't mind watching on mute.

Good -- Exploration of an Underused Character

Hanamonogatari Is Little More Than Two Hours of Philosophical Dialogue

Suruga is one of the original girls from the first Monogatari series, Bakemonogatari. While all the other girls have tended to flow in and out of the overall narrative with some regularity since then, Suruga has been conspicuously absent -- something all the more strange because of her familial relationship to one of the show's most enigmatic characters. So it's about time that Suruga gets a follow-up story of her own.

Perhaps the best part of Hanamonogatari (other than the art, of course) is the fact that the main characters of the series are largely absent -- even the franchise's protagonist Araragi only shows up for two short scenes. Thus we get a supernatural story revolving around someone largely unconnected to the main group and get to see her confront the mysteries arrayed against her. Better still, none of the incredibly powerful characters ride in at the last moment to solve the problem for her. Instead, it is up to her to handle it all on her own.

Mixed -- Two Hours of Dense Dialogue

Hanamonogatari Is Little More Than Two Hours of Philosophical Dialogue

If I were to describe the structure of Hanamonogatari, I would say that it is "all talk and no action" -- and this is just barely hyperbole. Of the hour and fifty-five minute runtime, I'd be surprised if even ten minutes of it aren't dialogue or internal monologue.

Perhaps this would all be alright if the dialogue wasn't as painfully dense as it is -- the conversations are nothing but philosophical arguments. The characters cover at length topics like the nature of good and evil, the internal battle between selfishness and selflessness, doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, how listening to other people's woes can make you feel better about your own life, the purpose of wishes, and how worries affect how you view the world.

These are all interesting topics and their points are well-made. However, when simply piled on top of one another without giving any time to digest the information, it feels like slogging through a jungle of ideas with no end in sight. Moreover, it's hard to pay such close, constant attention for so long without being distracted by something else -- say the pretty backgrounds, for example.

Bad -- A Lack of Monogatari's Greatest Asset

Hanamonogatari Is Little More Than Two Hours of Philosophical Dialogue

One of the greatest aspects of the Monogatari franchise as a whole is its wit. While the series has always been dialogue heavy, smart word play has always been one of the ways that it allows the viewer to decompress a bit. Absurdist humour and metacommentary are also used from time to time to much the same effect.

Of course, none of that is present in Hanamonogatari. Perhaps a single scene in the entire show has anything more than a brief, one-sentence gag -- and even the one-sentence gags are strikingly rare. Instead, it is nothing but philosophical dialogue from beginning to end.

Bad -- Very Little Actually Happens

Hanamonogatari Is Little More Than Two Hours of Philosophical Dialogue

Truth be told, nothing much happens in Hanamonogatari -- in fact, the plot can be summed up easily in a single (spoiler-filled) sentence. Yes, one major character-building event for Suruga takes place early on, but this is done to her passively and does little beyond creating more conversations to drive the rest of the anime. Really, all that Suruga does in the anime is talk, then move locations, and talk to someone else. Any sort of action beyond talking (or monologuing) is practically non-existent aside from two short basketball scenes -- one of which serves as the climax.

Final Thoughts

Hanamonogatari Is Little More Than Two Hours of Philosophical Dialogue

Hanamonogatari is definitely one of the weaker stories of the Monogatari franchise. While it follows a character with real potential to be interesting, it largely squanders said potential by telling a story filled with little beyond dense philosophical musings. Even worse is the almost complete lack of the series' trademark humour. That said, it is still beautiful to watch and fans will likely forgive anything just to get another helping of Monogatari's supernatural world -- even if they walk away with a bit of a headache.

Hanamonogatari aired on BS-11 in Japan. It can be watched for free and with English subtitles on Daisuki.


Comments

    This series has always been full of barely funny word play and things that only an angsty 13 year old would consider deep, the animation is mostly shifting colours and shapes with words to save money and there is barely any plot progression in any individual episode. It absolutely confounds me how all the bakamonogatari series have become so popular. DOWNVOTE ME TYPE B ANIME FANS, I DONT EVEN CARE!

    Last edited 23/08/14 8:55 pm

      I'm guessing because all of those points are unique to Bakemonogatari and people might be tired of the current trends. That or general weirdness equates to interest in this day and age, like that one episode with the toothbrush. I still don't get it.

      Last edited 23/08/14 9:56 pm

      i get the feeling you'd be terrible in an art gallery...

        I agree, that this is a form of art, just like any anime/game/e-mails sent to coworkers with smiley faces made out of typography. I dont agree that this is nessecarily a good form of art, unless you think just because something is popular makes it good.

        As a fan of anime with real inuative storylines, plots and characters, I feel this is getting praise that it doesnt deserve. It's essentially a supernatural harem anime, with the slowest plot progression in the world and terrible jokes/narrative style dialogue which a lot of the "weird" comedy animes have in Japan nowdays. NOTICING A WORD SOUNDS LIKE ANOTHER WORD ISNT FUNNY.

        Last edited 24/08/14 12:39 am

          As a fan of anime with real inuative storylines, plots and characters, I feel this is getting praise that it doesnt deserve.

          I'm sorry, but this is a pretty strong sentence to chuck out. As you mentioned, it's art; and a piece of art's meaning and significance varies from person to person. And while you can argue that as these are stories that one story can be 'deeper' than one another in terms of literary themes and characters, it's still kinda pretentious to stack stories against one another without actually watching/viewing both 'works of art.'

          For the sake of argument- I mean, I *like* the monogatari series but I will agree it's a very hit-or-miss series- I'm willing to argue some points.

          1) The wordplay that monogatari is famed for is most of the time lost in translation- because, you know, it's a anime adaptation of a light novel, and japanese wordplay is not so easily translated into english. For instance, here's a good example of the more lengthier examples of wordplay taken from tv tropes-

          For example, in Nekomonogatari White, when Senjogahara and Hanekawa discuss Kako (the fire tiger oddity), Senjogahara says her first thought upon hearing the word is that it refers to the past. Hanekawa replies that she's actually talking about a fire tiger and goes on to have a Eureka Moment regarding the tiger's relation to her own envy of others. None of this is given context at all—in case you were wondering, "Kako" translates to "fire tiger" (火虎) but when written differently also means "past" (過去), while "envy" (焼き餅 yakimochi) contains "burn" (焼き yaki).

          Japanese is funny like that; their words can be far easier to dismantle and twist than in the English language.

          2) Argh, you're killing me man, going on about 'lack of intuitive plots,' because again, meaning and depth can be conveyed very differently to everybody. I'm afraid it's a very difficult thing to argue unless you've watched the series and are willing to discuss in length about it-; while Monogatari isn't the most thought-provoking show around, it still holds ideas and themes that are handled in a appropriate enough manner. The reviewer of this article lists some themes that are present throughout this, and perhaps the entire series-

          The characters cover at length topics like the nature of good and evil, the internal battle between selfishness and selflessness, doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, how listening to other people’s woes can make you feel better about your own life, the purpose of wishes, and how worries affect how you view the world.

          While these might certainly be appealing to "angsty 13-year olds" as you say, these themes tend to be universally appealing to everybody.

          These are perhaps not heavy themes nor do the characters handling these themes treat it with gravitas as we do with deeper topics like war or morality like you might be accustomed to in other anime, but these lend the anime depth nonetheless.

          3) Plot progression *is* wierd in monogatari. Like you feel like nothing's happening and then suddenly everything happens. I think it's because simply because of the short nature of light novels and how there's just so much talking in monogatari that a lot of plot development comes through conversation.

          Like I said though, it's a hit-and-miss show. There are plenty of reasons to dislike it, but saying it lacks depth and thought isn't exactly one of them.

            I agree with most of this. I dont agree the characters talking to each other in a park about one word pun an entire episode can be construed as a plot. It's got nothing to do with "light novels", many others, like welcome to the NHK have amazing writing, or at least passable writing.

            This is an entirely different beast of it's own that I'm pretty sure is mainly loved by type B fans due to it's characters, harem like nature and their episode long discussions of some popular culture term that makes them go "OMG I KNOW THIS, I CAN RELATE HILARIOUS!". I can't agree this is good, I'm not debating it's not popular though, but just like any michael bay movie, I have nfi why.

            Last edited 25/08/14 6:43 pm

              That's.. an odd point. The puns *can* be simple but the show does not make a habit of saying "HEY THIS IS A PUN HA HA HA GET IT?" it's normally "This word can be written this way, right?" and then they talk about the monster/oddity in question moreso than it's name. How far did you get into the series? The only time I can imagine this happening is in the first arc, and even then nothing of the sort happens.

                Watched all of the first one, and the start of the one with the toothbrush, but didnt make it to the toothbrush episode, just heard about it.

                  yeah, I can understand where you got your view from it, then. They put a lot of emphasis on "weight," but it's really the only time in the series where they mention the name a lot. I can confidently say it gets a lot more easier to swallow later, although I imagine you still wouldn't enjoy the brunt of it. Including the toothbrush episode.

          Are you watching it subbed? Do you know Japanese? If you're watching it raw and still finding the word plays and flow of conversation not to your liking then that's ok. If you're just going by the translations then what you are seeing are someone's attempts at translating a form of humour that works well in Japanese into something that English speakers can understand, often changing the joke or losing the humour. Just like a lot of American humour revolves around situational comedy and repetition, Japanese comedy largely revolves around word play in a language that has a lot of similar sounding words and contextual meanings.

            I wouldnt say american humour revolves around reptition more than this terribly written stuff. Nearly all the type B anime have this so called new-age japanese humour, shows revolves around word play, ie, puns, dragged out and then talked about, or alternatively making a weird face/have a muscly woman or some other constantly used troupe. I'd laugh a tiny bit if someone said a word which sounded like another word and it had some other connotation, but then they talk about it for like 10minutes afterwards...

      I was following that train of thought when I first watched the series, but I continued because it was an okay break from the current trends in anime. But some of the arcs in Monogatari Second Season ; Shinobu's arc, Hachikuji's arc/time travel arc and Kaiki's arc beautifully present some meaningful character progression and tense twists. Would highly recommend Kaiki's arc (final arc episodes 21-26), some great alternative perspective of the previous season's villain.

      It's popular because it plays with interesting and obscure parts of Japanese folklore. All of the word play is based on how Japanese homophones and kanji differences interplay, so depending on your understanding of that and your general care for wordplay, you may or may not like the comedy. The art direction is thematically interesting and consistently gorgeous. Despite the often awful fan service, it makes a welcome break from the billions of same-y shonen junk and same-y moe junk.

      That said, by season 3 I was done with it forever and ever so... shrug. Your Mileage May Vary.

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