Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Kizumonogatari: Tekketsu
Anime Studio: Shaft
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Vampire / Mystery / Supernatural
Released: June 10th, 2019
Length: 64 minutes
Extras: Promo videos, Trailers
One day, Koyomi Araragi encounters the horrifying vampire, Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade A.K.A. the “King of Apparitions.” He saves the fatally wounded Kiss-shot by offering his blood at the expense of his own life as a human. Now Koyomi has to face the vampire hunters to retrieve Kiss-shot’s limb which were taken by these hunters… THE ORIGIN STORY OF MONOGATARI SERIES! This highly anticipated film has brought together an all-star creative team including Director Tatsuya Oishi (Series Director of BAKEMONOGATARI), Character Designer Akio Watanabe (Monogatari Series).
Coming into this release, I knew very little about the Monogatari series. It’s one that I’ve been recommended a few times, but I’ve never had the opportunity to actually sit down and watch any of it. I mention this, first of all, because I’m reviewing this as a newcomer to the franchise, so it’s worth noting that I have no preconceived expectations with it. I also mention it to point out that, with this being the first in a set of three prequel films, my lack of experience wasn’t an issue. While I’m sure that you will get more out of it if you’re familiar with the universe, If you’re new like I am, there’s still plenty to enjoy.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the film is very stylized. What we essentially have here is a mix of high detail art in backgrounds, and characters that are (mostly) drawn with a more simple style, at least in terms of shading. On top of that, we also get some moments of CG animation thrown in alongside the more traditional feeling art. Even that is not entirely consistent though, as we move from character art that would fit in alongside films like Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children, higher detail shots with a gothic edge, and simple but horrifying scenes of burning bodies. Not one thing in the general art direction slots together comfortably. In terms of audio, the film switches between almost ‘silent movie’ trappings, complete with a noir-esque OST in the early going, to the more standard full cast and orchestrated music of the second two thirds.
Where I found this quite is interesting is that the odd contrast in styles shouldn’t work as well as it does. The colour styles are so different, and the CG moments are very clearly different from the rest of the animation, but the clash somehow feels like it fits with the overall tone of the film. The story comes across like it’s built to be uncomfortable, thanks to the combination of visceral moments and the nature of our protagonists. When looked at through that lens, the disparate mix of styles could be taken as intentional, which really enriches the tale.
In terms of characters, there are a few that turn up, but most of the time is spent split between four. Our lead, Koyomi Araragi is an interesting one, as he comes across as relatively awkward, but has a good heart. While his personality isn’t the sort that immediately leaps out at you as being endearing, moments like his joy when he makes a friend gives light to a softer side to him. Said friend, Tsubasa Hanekawa, seems like a bit of an oddball herself, and though we only see her for a brief moment, she’s an intriguing character, for sure. Meme Oshino appears towards the end of the film and is immediately likable. He has a standout design when set against the more standard feel of Koyomi and Tsubasa, and his general attitude marks him as morally grey with positive leanings.
My favourite though is the vampire, ‘King of Apparitions’ Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade. When we first see her, she comes across as genuinely scary. Her cold, harsh attitude and her ability to exert some power over humans mark her as both powerful and dangerous. Even when showing weakness, such as during her panic at Koyomi seemingly abandoning her, is punctuated with graphic imagery that helps it keep with the tone of her role. Once she is regenerated in child form, we get to learn a little more about her, with her predicament setting up her main goal, and her willingness to not kill Koyomi – but instead work towards changing him human again – marking her as perhaps having some humanity.
There isn’t too much fan service here. In fact, an unneeded scene of the wind blowing Tsubasa’s skirt up aside, all we really have is Kiss-shot’s outfit in her first appearance. So, if fan service is a deals breaker for you, that shouldn’t apply here.
In terms of the actual release, the disc is packed full of promo videos. While they’re a nice addition, it’s the physical extras that will make the set more worth owning for collectors. The release comes with a deluxe booklet, a set of illustration art cards, and special edition packaging designed by character designer Akio Watanabe. Given the cheap price for a collector’s edition too – £30 at time of writing –that’s pretty good going.
So, how do I summarise this? The clash of styles may put some off, and while it ends at a logical point, this does feel like the first part of a longer tale. That is to be expected though with two more releases to come. Even with this though, the film works as a jumping on point and should provide fun for veterans of the franchise too. In all, this is an entertaining, stylized film that comes complete with a decent amount of extras. Well worth purchasing, and easily worth a 4 out of 5.