Koyomimonogatari: Calendar Tale, Part 01

By NISIOISIN and VOFAN. Released in Japan by Kodansha. Released in North America by Vertical, Inc. Translated by Daniel Joseph.

This originally came out in Japan as one giant volume, but I totally understand why Vertical has decided to break it in half. The Monogatari books feel long and wordy enough as it is with their 280-300 pages per volume, but this one would be around 500, and that’s just too exhausting. That said, it does present a bit of a dilemma in that I feel the book is meant to be appreciated as a whole. Without spoiling the second volume, there is a very definite cliffhanger to this book, and it puts everything we read before into stark relief. But we don’t have that, so it has to be said: this feels meandering even for a Monogatari volume. Being a short story volume, even less is “happening” per se, so you’re entirely dependent on the conversations. Which is fine, as honestly dialogue is why we’re reading NISIOISIN in the first place. If you like snark, these stories will give it to you in spades. There’s also some nice foreshadowing here, as most of them take place at or near the start of the series.

“Koyomi” is not only Araragi’s first name, but also the word for “calendar”. The conceit of this volume is that we get twelve short stories, one for each month of the year. They start in April, immediately after the events in Kizumonogatari but before Nekomonogatari Black, and move forward in the timeline from there. Each story has Araragi conversing with one of the female leads, in the order he met them (not counting Shinobu/Kissshot). They serve as an examination of each heroine’s story (particularly in Sengoku’s case), but are also about the fact that, despite what you may think, not everything that Araragi happens across happens to be related to the supernatural. There are several puzzling things in this book that turn out to have ordinary, prosaic meanings – as is normally the case. Usually it’s NOT the immortal vampire.

Naturally, each story ends up sounding like its heroine, to a degree. Senjogahara’s is filled with caustic banter between two kids who agreed to date the other day but have no idea how to actually be a couple. Kanbaru’s has another cleanup of her messy room, is filled with innuendo, and has probably the best ending of the book, if only as it sounds perfectly in character. Sengoku’s has an ominous tone to some of it, taking place after her first arc but before her second, and hinting at events to come. The weakest stories in the book are probably the first and the last ones – Hanekawa before all her character development just comes across as Ms. Exposition, and Karen is simply not nearly as interesting as her brother and younger sister. Oh yes, one minor translation quibble – why is everyone cursing in this book? Normally I gloss over that sort of thing, but there sure are a lot of shits and fucks in here. When it’s Araragi it doesn’t jar as much, but Hanekawa saying “bullshit” does jar quite a bit, especially pre-Nekomonogatari Hanekawa.

This is a decent slice of Monogatari life, and will make the reader happy, but honestly if you can I would advise putting it off and reading it with its second part.

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