Quality writing in anime, why I love Bakemonogatari and why Shonen annoys me


Recently, a friend of mine told me that he was going to watch Kamisama no Memo-Chou, and I, having watched 5 episodes and dropped it, decided to tell him that it really wasn’t very good. I told him about how I thought the first episode was pretty great, with solid writing and an impressive sense of style, and how I initially thought it would be a much better show than I thought it would be beforehand, but it squandered much of its potential, becoming fairly repetitive and dull. Somehow, among him getting pissed off at me for dropping it before the ending, and me recommending some other shows he should watch instead, he asked me if I liked Naruto, to which I responded that no, I actually kinda hate it.

I’m not a fan of long-running Shonen, I find that due to its nature, and the fact that the plot is just sorta being made up as it goes along, I find the genre to be poorly written in most cases, devolving into overlong fights and trite dialogue. This was pretty much where the conversation ended, after he told me he no longer trusted my opinion and claimed that Naruto was extremely well written. So here I am, ranting about what I believe to be quality writing in anime. It’s not as cynical as it sounds, trust me.

I’ve been re-watching Bakemonogatari, and that is my go-to example of good writing in anime. Dialogue is handled extremely well, with every line having a purpose, and the smallest of asides often say more about the characters than many other shows do throughout their entire runs. And speaking of characters, they’re all pretty great. They aren’t just archetypes; they have quirks and bizarre idiosyncrasies, because, you know, most people do, this, I should mention, is not a realistic show by any stretch of the word, but it still manages to be both relatable and extremely entertaining.  Conversation moves at a snappy pace, in a manner similar to that of films by Quentin Tarantino, and a lot is left up to the imagination, people don’t need everything spelled out to them, the mind is fairly incredible, and is capable of filling in the blanks by itself.

Therein lies one of my primary problems with Shonen, it’s often just about the spectacle. Everything is very cut-and-dry, everything is told to the audience so that they couldn’t possibly miss a thing. After all, who wants to think? There’s a 5-episode long fight to be had. I don’t mind spectacle, I thought Redline was fairly brilliant, and the plot definitely takes a backseat in that. No, the reason I dislike it in Shonen is that it just isn’t entertaining enough to back it up, and isn’t that what writing should be; entertaining? At the very least, it should be able to illicit some kind of emotional response. When a joke is well told, I laugh; when a fight is well-executed, I get excited; when Drama is pulled off well, I should feel a connection to the characters. I get none of that from Shonen, emotions, too, take a backseat to the action, and most long-running Shonen doesn’t even have the budget to make those fights look very good.

Bakemonogatari manages to take these problems and work them in its favour. It doesn’t have the greatest animation in the world, but it makes up for it with one of the most unique visual styles I’ve ever seen, and it’s not just there for show, the visuals were perfectly in line with Bakemonogatari’s tone and atmosphere, and not a thing feels unnecessary. Whereas Shonen, to quote Zero Punctuation reminds me of a politician “someone who can talk for hours and never say anything”, Bakemonogatari always seems to be saying something. Even if an episode is almost entirely made up of two characters just sitting around, talking to pass the time, hell, the visuals themselves tell their own story.


Conversation in Bakemonogatari is utterly enthralling, and looks beautiful

And really, that’s what I’ve been getting at, writing in Shonen never feels deliberate, and I resent that. Don’t waste the viewer’s time by repeating the same thing constantly, maybe all Shonen writers have really low opinions of High School students, that they can’t think for themselves. But here I am, a High School student, and I’m listing everything I think is wrong with the genre. When your target audience is attacking you, that’s when you’ve got a problem, so please, try and act a bit smarter, OK?, High Schoolers aren’t quite as stupid as you think they are, and you’ll reach a broader audience at the same time.

19 Responses to “Quality writing in anime, why I love Bakemonogatari and why Shonen annoys me”

  1. 1 Hogart
    22 September 2011 at 5:19 am

    Funny, I’ve used that quote of “talking for hours and never saying anything” to describe Bakemonogatari (and NisioisiN in general). Beauty, eyes of the beholder, etc. I can see why you’d hold it in higher esteem, and think it deserves some praise, but frankly it’s not that much of a step up from a mindless shounen. It doesn’t preach, but isn’t any more substantive. And what’s left if you remove the dialogue? Basically another shounen/harem combination show. Better, but that doesn’t take much to begin with.

    • 2 Gooney
      22 September 2011 at 12:31 pm

      Yeah, but Bakemonogatari absolutely relies on it’s dialogue, taking it away would just be stupid, it’d be like taking the cynicism out of Black Lagoon (one of my favourite anime), you’d be left with a cool action anime, sure, but it just wouldn’t have that same spark it does now. But I think that arguement of “take X out of Y and you’re left with Z” is a rather pointless one anyway, tha fact is, Bakemonogatari does have the wonderful dialogue, it is what it is, you can’t just take elements away. But Bakemonogatari’s style is very subjective, the people I know who have watched it have either really enjoyed it, or found it to be pretentious, so I get where you’re coming from

  2. 22 September 2011 at 11:03 pm

    I shall rebutt that with how awesome shonen trigun is

    • 4 Gooney
      23 September 2011 at 12:07 am

      Well, I did mention long-running shonen in particular, such as Bleach and Naruto, I actually enjoyed Trigun, as that had a clearly planned out plot and ending.

      • 23 September 2011 at 11:44 pm

        Hope you watched the Trigun badlands as well! If only the production quality of the original run reached that standard…wonder what are the chances for a complete reboot just like they did for FMA

        • 24 September 2011 at 12:52 am

          I have my doubts. The Trigun anime was more of a sucess in America than in Japan. And Just like Redline, The Trigun movie had little theatrical exposure. I don’t think Japan is too fond of Trigun lol

  3. 7 Raiju
    25 September 2011 at 8:46 am

    Just by the way I am the mystery friend, he hates trigun too (I know, he is crazy). First this argument may be true with anime like dragon ball z (even though I like it), it is definitely not true with naruto. In naruto there aren’t any five episode fights (technically, because every time even though it is the same fight new fighters are involved) and every punch means something and adds something new to the story; also Imagine if the fight finished in one episode it would be a bit of an anti-climax, part of the reason why I watch naruto is to see super ninjas fight. (naruto was cool but shippuden is amazing)

    • 8 Gooney
      25 September 2011 at 3:05 pm

      I never claimed to hate Trigun, I said I couldn’t get into it, and that I was alone in my opinion of it. For the record I enjoyed the plot, but didn’t like the execution.

  4. 9 ebbie
    25 September 2011 at 1:26 pm

    lol keep watchin kamisama no memo-chou… episode 5-8 was actually pretty good 🙂

  5. 10 Lectro Volpi
    26 September 2011 at 9:37 am

    Never mentioned One Piece? it is the best Shonen right now (not an opinion, I am positive)

    Oda is not making the story on the spot, he already has it all (we are talking of at least of 20 years of story) he lets you see some “unimportant characters” and 10 years later they are part of the main story and never forgets about his characters no matter how small or unimportant they are nor he lets plot holes (most “plot-holes” are just him trolling with magically repaired doors, nothing important and Oda is a fox).

    One Piece is filled with emotion and well… “passion” if it is the right word. I will admit I have cried 3 times in One Piece (the end of Drum Kingdoom arc and 2 times in Water Seven arc, some people more than that). there is a nice feeling to it, and Oda plays his cards well as you are not getting me with some forced emotions like Fairy Tail.

    One Piece is virtually perfect, I just get some “character design” crap from most people.

    The recaps and flashbacks are on Toei´s part.

    • 11 Gooney
      26 September 2011 at 4:26 pm

      Oh shit, I thought I had left that part in! In my rough draft for this post I very briefly mentioned that although I had never watched it myself, I had heard that One Piece was a rare exception. I’ve heard many good things, but I just doubt that he had every single tiny detail just kicking around in his head prior to creating One Piece, maybe the general story, but not everything. Such a thing is nigh impossible for practically anyone. But I do believe you on the emotion part, that seems to be the general opinion of most One Piece fans.

      • 12 Nathan Daniels
        5 August 2012 at 3:54 pm

        What about gintama? Even though it’s a gag manga with fillers galore there are some emotional times when sorachi sticks to the main story. Aside from one piece, gintama should also be considered a rare acception. Although I do wish he’d stick to the main story more often.

  6. 30 September 2011 at 6:35 am

    yeah….Naruto seriously sucks. along with bleach ater the Aizen bull crap, which took so many hours of my life. i tried watching an episode of naruto to see what it’s about and wowwwwwwww. seriously, the people who are able to sit through that mess are amazing (though your taste in naruto isn’t).

  7. 12 August 2012 at 2:05 pm

    You are so wonderful!!! I have become obsessed with your
    blog and I spend most of my time reading all your archives.

    And I signed up JUST to post comments. I wish I had found you sooner,
    and I wish you updated as much as you used to! You must
    be super busy now though because you are so famous!

  8. 20 August 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your blog. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often.
    Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
    Excellent work!

  9. 8 October 2013 at 6:09 am

    Bakemonogatari is really overrated. I mean, most of the time the characters are talking about RANDOM CRAP. you’d think that in an anime where the protagonist got involved in the supernatural would involve him helping others, introducing characters who are useful, but all the other charcaters are left out and they’re just downright, well, stupid, they’re like princess peach who keeps getting kidnapped! There’s no emotion in the anime, random slides keep popping up thats annoying, animation and artstyle is dull, I mean, EVERYTHINGS DULL, the second episode was wasteing 5-10 minutes on Araragi and Senjougahara talking about her being naked, the anime keeps sidetrecking and tries to look all cool, and skips the main point. This anime’s supposed to be about a guy who’s trying to help others, and then those others become useful and stuff, but this anime has none of those elements! When I was watching the Nadeko medusa arc, it was wasteing so many minutes talking about nothing but random crap, and I was telling the screen, “Get to the point already, and stop talking about random crap!

  10. 3 September 2014 at 11:45 pm

    a lot of shounen anime aren’t like that (future diary, one piece, etc). Not all of them follow the same formula. the reason I dropped the bakemonogatari series is because for me:
    1. It was boring.

    2. It felt perverted when it didn’t seem like it wanted to be perverted.

    3. Almost typical main character (perverted but cares about friends)

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Welcome to Bokutachi no Blog. That's "Our Blog" in Japanese. Our Anime Blog, to be exact. And if you landed to this page by accident, probably in search for ecchi stuff, then you should regret to have hit this page. Don't worry, this blog is children-safe and no misdemeanor acts here. Sorry, you bald, middle-aged perverts. But thanks for the hit anyway.

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