Sparing the preamble, Kizumonogatari (or Wound Tale, to which it has been officially localised) opens with an elaborate, multi-page description of a gust of wind lifting the skirt of a high school girl and revealing her panties. Such are we thrust into the mindset of Koyomi Araragi, the girl’s classmate, and the narrator of the eponymous tale of wounds that we are about to explore.
It is perhaps fitting that we are given this window into Araragi’s mind, one which is simultaneously prone to needless brooding, verbose introspection and dysfunction when it comes to interacting with others. This is the frame of mind which, we are told, is the only one that is able to tell this story, for it is the only one that would have been able to enable it in the first place.
Kizumonogatari is the story of Koyomi Araragi, a soon-to-be senior year student, willingly devoid of friends and unwillingly devoid of good grades. Over the course of his final Spring Break, he is made into a vampire, fights to save a few important lives, and makes his first friend. It is at times comedic, at others intense; it is often steeped in horror, frequently borne of the supernatural, but always grounded.
Author Nishio Ishin (stylised as the palindrome NISIOISIN) has a clear and distinct voice for Araragi that lends a rather personal touch to the narrative. It eschews what we might call “proper” punctuation and grammar to better reflect the way a 17-year old boy might think and speak. Famous for his wordplay, much of his skill is preserved in the translation from Japanese to English, though a few instances fell flat. I am loath to ascribe blame, however, given that the translator is stuck between the rock of retaining the original script and the hard place of retaining the original meaning.
It was curious to note the use of a scant few Japanese words in the translation. Proper nouns aside, only “yokai”—meaning monster—and “sanpaku”—a term to describe eyes whose whites are visible both above and below the iris, for which I know of no English equivalent—drew my attention. I should note here that a handful of similar instances appeared in Bakemonogatari (Monster Tale) Volume 1, but I’ll save my review of that for when all of its respective volumes have been locally published. In any case, it is perhaps a credit to the translation and a highlight of both the limitations of our language and the differing culture of Japan that these few forced loan words are used at all.
The cast of Kizumonogatari is very small, limited to three principal characters and four supporting characters (offhand mentions of Araragi’s family notwithstanding). As a result, the author is able to explore these characters through some excellently written dialogue that hits the required story beats while meandering through their often less-than-direct thought processes.
Some characters are decidedly self-aware, or even genre-aware, which may take away from the immersion for a portion of readers. It was a nice change from the unbelievably dense or wilfully ignorant teenage characters that plague Japanese media. However, despite several passages that felt appropriately filtered through Araragi’s sexual teenage brain, one passage in particular stretched the rubber band of absurdity a little too far for my tastes and could have been reduced to only its beginning and end with no significant loss.
While action has never been a core component in the Monogatari series, it is at its most prominent in this entry. It was pleasing to see the author can carry a fight as well as he can carry a conversation, and at no point did it feel that the evolution of Araragi’s vampire powers was misplaced. The true draw of this title, however, is the horror-style tone it takes, which is similarly at its most prominent in this entry. As we are told in the beginning pages, Kizumonogatari is not a story with a happy ending and one which contains only misery for its characters. There are wounds aplenty, physical and emotional; hence the title.
It is here I should note that Kizumonogatari is but one entry in a series. Chronologically the first—the catalyst for the following stories of the supernatural Araragi and his friends encounter—it is actually the second entry written by Nishio Ishin (third, if you count Bakemonogatari’s two Japanese volumes separately). Despite that, the author himself offers that either title is a suitable entry point for the series, a sentiment which I would like to echo.
Currently, Vertical Press, Inc. has licensed what is known as the “first season” of books for Western release, which includes Kizumonogatari, Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari (Fake Tale) and Nekomonogatari: Kuro (Cat Tale: Black). Given how much I have enjoyed this title, I have every intention of reading the others as they are released and hope that the following seasons will be similarly licensed in due time; for them not to be would constitute a wound tale of my own.
Kizumonogatari is a novel originally published by NISIOISIN in 2008.
It was published in the west by Vertical Press, Inc. in 2015, with a translation by Ko Ransom and an accompanying audio book.
It is also part of an ongoing anime adaptation by Shaft.