Part of me wishes that I could erase my memory of the Monogatari series completely, and watch Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu with fresh eyes.
I wonder what I would see. How I would interpret the visual feast that the film provides. If I would have fallen in love with the film as I did with the series in 2009 when I watched Hitagi Senjougahara fall into Koyomi Araragi’s arms, his inner monologue a constant accompaniment.
A film version of the Kizumonogatari story was teased at the same time Bakemonogatari aired seven years ago. Kizumonogatari became a joke among the Monogatari fan community — “we’ll get [impossible thing] when we get the Kizumonogatari film.” That’s seven years of watching other Monogatari narrative arcs accumulate and build off of one another without watching the story that chronologically comes before all of them.
I’ve mentioned this multiple times on this blog, but it’s worth reiterating again — the Monogatari series loves to play with chronology. When we see Araragi talking to Tsubasa Hanekawa after school in Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu, we already know intimate details of their relationship. We know of Hanekawa’s entire narrative arc, one of the more affecting stories in the Monogatari series alongside Araragi’s own growth. In fact, we already know this exact scene, since it prefaces the first episode of Bakemonogatari.
We know that the great vampire Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade has many regrets, even if her imperious personality hampers her ability to express them or be honest with herself and Araragi when recounting her tale well after the events of Kizumonogatari. We know that part of her wishes shed her immortality and finally die. We know that part of Araragi also welcomes death.
Watching Kizumonogatari is an experience, especially with the absence of Araragi’s inner monologue that defines the rest of the Monogatari oeuvre — both Nisio Isin’s light novels and the animated television series. Kizumonogatari is a visceral film.
It’s blood, sweat, spit, tears, and charred flesh. It’s rising steam from chemical plants that crop up next to the shipyard docks in the distance, mirroring Araragi’s own changing body chemistry — a clash of old and arcane (the vampire) with sleek industry. Perhaps the skyline was never a city, it was all a maze of pipes and blinking lights, giving the illusion of skyscrapers. It’s the tree that somehow manages to grow in the center of a building and the old story of human versus nature.
When Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade screams that she doesn’t want to die, flailing in a pool of her own blood, we hear her. Despite knowing her wish to die from later narrative arcs, we feel her in that moment — she wants to live. It’s what draws Araragi to her, and later seals their relationship, binding them together for their lifetimes.
I can’t see Kizumonogatari with fresh eyes. Yet I can’t help but wonder what I would see if I could.