Kizumonogatari: Wound Tale

By NISIOISIN. Released in Japan by Kodansha. Released in North America by Vertical.

I have somewhat optimistically tagged this as ‘Monogatari Series’, but at the moment this is the only volume licensed, with potential other titles depending on how this one sells. It’s also not the first book in the series in Japanese publishing order – it’s actually third, after the 2-part Bakemonogatari books. That said, the author and agent both recommended that North America release this book first, as it’s the first in the series chronologically, introducing us to our hero, Koyomi, his vampire ‘master’ Kissshot Acerolaorion Heartunderblade, his practical yet somewhat strange classmate Tsubasa, and the standard unreliable mentor figure Oshino. Also, it has vampires. Come on, vampires sell, and this series needs readers who haven’t seen or heard about the anime in order to do well.

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Though I am spoiled a little bit, I freely admit I am one of those readers – this is my introduction to Monogatari proper, as I never got around to watching the anime. This despite it being by Nisioisin, an author I’m very fond of. I read the two Zaregoto books released years ago by Del Rey, which feature a narrator who is far more opaque than Koyomi ever gets to be. And I have spoken before about my obsession with unlicensed Shonen Jump manga Medaka Box, featuring a cast of superpowered yet broken teenagers and their quest to find empathy. Monogatari is more like the latter than the former, as Koyomi has a certain obsession with describing his sexual impulses that reminds you that he’s a standard high school teenager. That is the most otaku-ish element of the book, actually – Koyomi is a bit of a perv, and his narration tells you this up front with a long, detailed panty shot description that, ironically, kickstarts the entire plot.

Once things actually settle down and we get to the vampire battles, the prose kicks up, though there’s always a large amount of the quirks that have made Nisio famous – long scenes of people philosophizing about the nature of humanity, fourth-wall breaking discussion of how this will never become an anime with all this violence (for the longest time, it wasn’t – the book is only getting adapted starting next year), and the occasional tortured wordplay – Nisio loves his puns and odd jokes based around kanji readings, and you can tell, even translated, that they’re all here. Actually, the translation by Vertical is excellent – I can tell there are substitutions at times, but they’re well done, and you get the sense of what the character is trying to say or point out.

As I said before, there are several fight scenes here, and they’re exciting while they last, but have a tendency to be over very soon or get undercut, as usually the exciting fight is not the point of the scene. The main reason to read the book, though, is Koyomi’s interaction with the two lead women – Kissshot Acerolaorion Heartunderblade (and if you think that make is bizarre, you don’t know Nisio), a vampire in all senses of the word, but one who has lived a little too long and finds what may be a soulmate in Koyomi, and Tsubasa Hanekawa, a ‘prim and proper class president type’ who nevertheless has a disturbing compulsion to interact with and help Koyomi, to the point of not only being willing to sacrifice her own life for him, but also let him grope her sizeable chest in order to fire him up. (To be fair, she finds the second one far more difficult to actually go through with, and he backs off at the last minute.) You want to know more about the both of them, as they both seem to have horrible things as yet unstated driving their actions.

As for Koyomi, aside from his occasional perverse narration, he seems to be a fairly standard, somewhat emo teen, going on about not wanting to make friends or get close to anyone, then throwing that all away. By the end of the book he’s not quite a vampire, but I suspect that his inability to not meddle will be what drives any future books. In any case, Kizumonogatari is excellent, and if you like stories with vampires, stories with lots of clever dialogue, or even stories with extended monologues on the nature of panties, it will serve you nicely. Let’s hope we can see more of the series someday.

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