I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
Kizumonogatari stars Koyomi Araragi, a 17-year-old loser. He avoids having friends because he believes they would “lower his intensity as a human” (although one wonders if this isn't just his way of making himself feel better because no one wants to be friends with him). His life seems to be going nowhere, until one day he comes across Tsubasa Hanekawa, class president and all-around model student, and accidentally gets an excellent view of her panties when the wind blows her skirt straight up. Instead of getting upset or fleeing in embarrassment, Hanekawa decides to be Araragi's first friend.
Later, Araragi tries to wipe away the memory of Hanekawa's panties by buying some porn. On his way home, he comes across Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade (name found online, because otherwise I'd never have figured out how to spell it all), “the iron-blooded, hot-blooded, yet cold-blooded vampire.” Someone has removed all four of her limbs, and she is dying. She asks Araragi to save her by letting her drink him dry, and he, in a fit of pity and realization that he's a loser whose life, he decides, is probably worth less than hers, agrees. He expects to die but instead wakes up as Kiss-Shot's new servant, the one who now has to get her limbs back from the vampire hunters who took them.
This book was garbage on multiple levels. I was a little surprised at how much I hated it. Both the author and the series are very popular, so I figured that, even if there was as much fanservice as I'd heard, the book would still have other redeeming qualities. Unfortunately, it did not.
However, I do have some good things to say, so I'll start there. The narration was fabulous. Cristina Vee, Keith Silverstein, and Eric Kimerer are to be commended. They did as well as they possibly could, considering the material they had to work with, and they managed to make the clunky dialogue somewhat listenable. I especially enjoyed Cristina Vee's work – if I hadn't known better, I'd have thought there were two female narrators, one for Hanekawa and Kiss-Shot's cutesy voices and one for the older version of Kiss-Shot. The desperation she put into dying Kiss-Shot's voice was great.
The voice acting combined with the background music, which went so far as to feature specific character themes, made listening to Kizumonogatari a little like listening to an anime. I really enjoyed that and hope that Vertical continues their foray into audiobooks. Hopefully with better books than this one.
All right, now for the bad. I suppose I'll start with the gross fanservice. NisiOisiN stopped short of having Hanekawa or Kiss-Shot suggestively suck on or eat something, but what did happen was still pretty awful. I swear, at least an hour or two of this 9.5-hour book was Araragi obsessing over breasts and panties. None of it was what you'd call sexy or erotic, just clunky and awkward. The description of Hanekawa's panties felt like it took ages (the text mentioned that Araragi had gone on for almost two pages), Hanekawa's reactions were closer to how women in porn movies might behave than to anything resembling reality, and unfortunately there was worse to come.
In one scene, Kiss-Shot spoke to Araragi and then laid down to sleep in the same room while he was still there. Araragi was amazed at how casually she did this and found himself thinking that it would be rude for him not to...do something (the “something” wasn't stated, but I figure “grope her” was high on the list – so yeah, Araragi thought it was impolite not to sexually assault a girl who was trusting enough to fall asleep in the same room as him). There were multiple jokes about Kiss-Shot's flat-chestedness when she was in her 10-year-old form, and then even more jokes about the hugeness of her chest when she was back to her 27-year-old form.
In one especially cringe-worthy scene, Araragi asked Hanekawa to allow him to touch her breasts, ostensibly to help him better ignore Kiss-Shot's enormous breasts during his upcoming battle with her. Hanekawa agreed and went so far as to remove her bra and tell him he had to fondle her breasts for a full minute. Araragi, shocked at his good fortune but nervous about the possibility that she might later claim that he'd forced himself on her, asked her to clearly voice her consent. Soon Araragi was using that as an opportunity to embarrass Hanekawa by making her talk dirty to him. The exact things he asked her to say: “Araragi, I beg you, please fondle my bra-less boobies! It's a great honor to have my breasts fondled by you! I've worked hard to grow these lewd breasts, all so that you could squish them one day, Araragi!” Oh, Cristina Vee. I hope they paid you well.
The story wasn't anywhere near good enough to balance out the grossness. Araragi won most of his battles through blind luck. The big revelations near the end weren't terribly shocking, either because I'd begun to guess what was going on or because Araragi's narration was just that bad. Seriously, the guy could suck the fun and excitement out of anything. In Araragi's first battle, his enemy turned his own arms into swords and hacked Araragi's hands off. It should have been a fast-paced, action-packed scene, and yet Araragi persisted in narrating everything to death.
The ending was worse than I expected. Hanekawa had to figure out pretty much everything on her own and then tell Araragi. Araragi, meanwhile, was horrified by one particular bit of info (which he had to practically be beaten over the head with) but then forgot about that horror when the story needed him to pity Kiss-Shot again. The weird relationship that Araragi and Kiss-Shot ended up with didn't sit well with me, but I suppose it was necessary to make room for all the series' other related stories.
I've been intrigued by the series' various anime adaptations for years - the clips I've seen have looked absolutely gorgeous. However, I think this book has finally killed my desire to see them. I'm thankful for that, considering how much Aniplex of America charges.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)