Capturing the Director’s Vision With Eight Grade’s Cinematographer, Andrew Wehde
with Cinematographer, Andrew Wehde
- Nisemonogatari, 2012 - ★★★★ (contains spoilers)This review may contain spoilers. The Monogatari series is, in my opinion, the most ambitious and innovative work of art since Shūji Terayama's Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets. What writer Nisio Isin and chief director Akiyuki Shinbo have accomplished here is nothing short of pure magic. It utilizes the medium of animation to its fullest to create what is the most impressive cinematic hyperreality I've ever seen—beating out the likes of other postmodern masterpieces such as Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend and Jacques Tati's PlayTime. While it may be far more imperfect than the Nouvelle Vague art that inspired it, Monogatari stands out incredibly well. Even if you hate the series, there's no denying that its style is instantly recognizable. First of all, Shinbo's visual craftsmanship is outstanding. The world he's created is a desolate cityscape full of impossible architecture, yet it's more immersive than any live-action set could ever be. The simple backgrounds make for aesthetically pleasing locations, but they never draw too much attention away from the characters. So many pieces of cinema have a look that ends up overshadowing everything else (such as Wes Anderson's films), so it's incredible to see something so visually remarkable that manages to balance its focus. Monogatari's heart lies in its drawn-out conversations, which are brought to life not only through lovely cinematography but also through its directing and editing. Shinbo is well-known for his fast-paced and experimental style, and while it does carry over to his other works such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, it's at its most eccentric with Monogatari. Characters teleport all over the place, eyes are zoomed into out of nowhere, cards with text flash at random, and it's not uncommon for the art style to change entirely. Plenty of sequences play with space, visual motifs, color, props, and more. Speaking of the narrative, Monogatari is far from traditional in this aspect. There are several arcs in the series with each one focusing on a particular character. The way they tie in isn't for the sake of a singular story, but a branching epic about some adolescents figuring out what it means to be human through their metaphorically supernatural issues. While not all of the characters are particularly deep, the way they compare and contrast with one another makes for some pretty complex storytelling. It's nonlinear and at times hard to keep up with, but it finds that balance where it's mysterious enough to keep the viewer engaged yet not disjointed enough to lose their attention. On top of all this, Monogatari also shines as a deconstruction. It picks apart tropes & philosophies found in similar anime, turning tired clichés into subversive and oddly human pieces of writing. Now to talk about Nisemonogatari specifically. This is easily the most divisive part the Monogatari series, but I'll get to its more controversial aspects later. It's worth noting that the co-director of Bakemonogatari, Tatsuya Oishi, was swapped out for Tomoyuki Itamura due to the production hell that Oishi's Kizumonogatari film trilogy had found itself in. While Oishi took a more in-your-face approach when it came to Monogatari's surrealist bits, Itamura decided to go a different direction. His installments would have less of those experimental aspects, but the ones that were there would be even more striking than Oishi's constant…
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