Bakemonogatari (Light Novels)

Bakemonogatari (Light Novels)

Light Novels vs. Anime

As many fans will already know, the Bakemonogatari (化物語) light novels and anime series are very similar on account of how the anime is structured. The anime barely leaves out any dialogue from the novels, which is one of the things I like about the anime so much.

While the anime is certainly dialogue-heavy, that alone isn’t enough to fit in all the text from the novels. So the anime gets around this by including the less essential internal monologue in the form of flashing text panels. This solution works great because although the monologue sometimes goes by fast, the main point is still conveyed.

However, light novels and anime are inherently different mediums. And something I’ve always said is that the best anime adaptation will always be better than the best light novel or manga adaptation. I know light novel and manga fans will argue against that, but my point is that there’s more for the anime to work with and perfect.

With light novels, in particular, it’s all text. So while what’s going on in any given scene can be perfectly described, at the end of the day, it’s just text. With anime, you still have that text, just in different forms. Some of it is now visual, some of it is audio, and some of it is still text. But there are also many other layers that come together to enhance the experience (ideally).

And with all this in mind, I do think the Bakemonogatari anime is better than the light novels are.

Visuals and soundtrack aside, though they do play an important role in the anime, I think the biggest benefit the anime has are the voice actors. The dialogue flows much better when it’s read aloud and there were a few parts within these books that I had to reread because the dialogue chains went on for so long that I lost track of who was speaking.

The anime solves both those issues, and that’s the main reason I think it’s the better medium for this series — which I get is probably a heretical view.

Part 1

Bakemonogatari Part 1 light novel cover art
Bakemonogatari Part 1

While the Japanese Bakemonogatari light novels are two volumes, there are three volumes for the English version. The first volume, or part, covers the first two arcs of the story: Hitagi Crab and Mayoi Snail. Of the three volumes of Bakemonogatari, this one was my favorite. Mayoi Snail is just such a good arc that it alone made part 1 the best.

Oh, and speaking of the Japanese vs. English light novels, the English release order begins with Kizumonogatari. But, I’m reading through the series in the original Japanese order, so I began with Bakemonogatari and will be reading Kizumonogatari next. For more information on the different orders for this series, check out my post on the Monogatari Series watch order.

Hitagi Crab

The Hitagi Crab arc has never been one of my favorites of the series, but it’s still a good introduction as far as Koyomi’s character and the formula of the series go. And in this arc specifically, I don’t think the anime necessarily does a better job at anything than the light novel does.

It’s also been a while since I actually watched the Bakemonogatari anime. I think the last time I watched it was about two years ago. So naturally, there were things I forgot until I read the novel. One item in particular that stood out was how open the endings of the Bakemonogatari arcs are.

I had completely forgotten that the Hitagi Crab arc ends with Koyomi’s weight increasing due to the Weight Crab. And to be honest, I can’t remember if that’s ever brought up again throughout the series.

Mayoi Snail

As I mentioned, the Mayoi Snail arc is my favorite arc of Bakemonogatari, and not just because Mayoi is my favorite character (though that is part of it). I think what I like so much about this arc is how different it is from the other four. And the fact that it’s only the second arc is pretty cool too because it shows that the series isn’t all going to be exactly the same.

Generally speaking, Koyomi “saves” other people in the other four Bakemonogatari arcs. But in Mayoi Snail, it turns out the one he’s saving, in the end, is himself, despite not knowing that for the majority of the arc. I just love how right after Hitagi Crab, the series already subverts your expectations in the next arc.

And, I do think this is one arc that the light novel did a better job at than the anime. In the end, when Mayoi finally reaches her mother’s house, was definitely more emotional for me in the novel than the anime.

Also, I noticed that in the novel, the description of the park specifically mentions attractions that it doesn’t have. But in the anime, those attractions are shown. I assume this was just to make the visuals more interesting.

Part 2

Bakemonogatari Part 2 light novel cover art
Bakemonogatari Part 2

The second Bakemonogatari volume contains the Suruga Monkey and Nadeko snake arcs. And while I like aspects of these arcs in the anime, I don’t think the light novel versions were quite as good. The arcs themselves are good, but what makes them great in the anime are the visuals and soundtrack.

Both Suruga and Nadeko are great characters, but even I can admit that their introductory arcs aren’t the best. It’s their characters that carry their arcs, which isn’t the case for an arc like Mayoi Snail, in which the arc and the character are both pulling their weight.

Volume 2 is also the longest of the three. At 330 pages, it’s 90 pages longer than volume 1.

Suruga Monkey

Of all the Bakemonogatari arcs, Suruga Monkey is my favorite in the anime from a visual standpoint. Unfortunately, visuals mean nothing in a light novel, though. And so, the Suruga Monkey arc was probably my least favorite of the five to read.

However, that’s not to say it was bad. I still like the arc and Suruga herself is one of my favorite characters of the entire series. The reason I like her so much is that she’s effectively a female version of Koyomi, and as we really get to see in Hanamonogatari, in the future she perfectly fills the role that he currently does.

With the novel, I noticed the hints of this much more than in the anime. In the anime version of Bakemonogatari, I felt like Suruga was just another girl who Koyomi was helping. But in the novel, there were hints of what was to come later. There are a lot of little pieces of dialogue I missed in the anime that point to Suruga eventually taking over Koyomi’s role.

Nadeko Snake

The Nadeko Snake arc is the one I must have misremembered the most of all the arcs. Without rewatching the anime adaptation I can’t say for certain whether I misremembered it or whether the anime made some changes. But based on my memory’s track record, I think it’s fair to say I misremembered it.

For starters, I forgot that there were actually two Jagirinawa. But that’s something I did remember after reading that part of the arc. However, I was pretty sure that Koyomi was afflicted by one of the Jagirinawa in the anime. He wrestles with one of them in the novel, but I really thought that he took on the aberration for Nadeko for a period of time in the anime.

Anyway, I also forgot how dark the open end of this arc was. In Hitagi Crab, the open ending regarding Koyomi’s increase in weight isn’t really a problem. But at the end of Nadeko Snake, the remaining Jagirinawa returned to afflict the one who cast the curse on Nadeko in the first place.

That means one of Nadeko’s classmates was killed by the aberration.

Part 3

Bakemonogatari Part 3 light novel cover art
Bakemonogatari Part 3

Volume 3 is the shortest of all, sitting at only 226 pages — though that’s almost as long as the 240 pages of volume 1. But unlike the previous two volumes, this one only contains a single story arc: Tsubasa Cat. And while Tsubasa Cat was my least favorite arc in the anime, the light novel version was better than Suruga Monkey.

As I’ll get to in just a moment, the Tsubasa Cat arc is probably the most unstructured and incomplete of the five Bakemonogatari arcs. It’s long, and within that length, there are stories about characters other than Tsubasa — specifically Hitagi and Shinobu. And, it’s not as much of a standalone arc as the other four.

This volume does have the best cover art, though. So that’s something to praise it for.

Tsubasa Cat

Despite being about Tsubasa Hanekawa, the Tsubasa Cat arc does more to build upon the characters of Hitagi and Shinobu than Tsubasa herself. This is probably one of the reasons I wasn’t much of a fan of Tsubasa in the anime until Kizumonogatari. She was always around but wasn’t quite as developed as the other characters.

For example, the first part of the arc focuses on Koyomi and Hitagi’s relationship. While this is important for why Tsubasa is afflicted by the Sawarineko, it builds up Hitagi’s character even more. And the same goes for the latter part of the series when Shinobu is found to be hiding in Koyomi’s shadow — it’s more important for Shinobu’s character than Tsubasa’s.

There’s also the fact that Tsubasa Cat isn’t a standalone arc. It’s the continuation of Nekomonogatari Black’s Tsubasa Family arc. This is a problem, especially in the light novel I think, because a large portion of the arc has to be dedicated to summarizing the Tsubasa Family arc.

It’s not like the other arcs that call back to the events of Kizumonogatari briefly — the entire plot builds on the events of Tsubasa Family. And that means that while the other arcs are building up the characters and present story, Tsubasa Cat is spending time recapping events that have already happened so the reader can understand what’s going on.


Overall, and this might not come as a surprise to those of you who know me, the Bakemonogatari novels are collectively a 10/10 from me. Some of the arcs I would probably rate slightly lower, but as a whole, it’s a 10.

And despite what I mentioned about sometimes getting lost in the dialogue, I was surprised by how easy it was to follow when the series shifted back and forth between the past and present. I know the anime does this, but I didn’t realize that the novels did it in the same way. I’ve never read a novel that’s done this in such an easy-to-understand and natural way before.

Oh, and I think the chronological order of events is easier to follow in the novels than in the anime, at least so far. I think having the date stated at the beginning of each arc by Koyomi is better for my memory than the date being flashed at the start of an episode.

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