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The Music of Monogatari Season One

Recently I finally finished reviewing all twenty blu-ray volumes of Shaft’s Monogatari anime. You’d think I’d want to move on, but no! There’s one more thing I want to write about, and that’s the incredible music of Monogatari’s opening and ending sequences. There will be heavy reliance on YouTube links, so hopefully the songs don’t get pulled down like they sometimes do… I’ll try to link to videos of the actual opening sequence animation, because they’re a lot of fun. Full versions of the tracks are also usually available elsewhere on Youtube, though a few remain mired in licensing hell.

All songs are composed by Satoru Kosaki and lyrics written by Meg Rock (unless otherwise specified), with vocals by the actress portraying that arc’s main female protagonist. Kosaki is a well known composer responsible for many anime openers and closers. Recently he’s worked on Aharen-san wa Hakarenai, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song and Beastars, though his work on 2006’s The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is especially beloved in anime fandom.

Bakemonogatai episodes 1–2: Hitagi Crab: Opening Song 1: Staple Stable, sung by Chiwa Saito (Hitagi Senjogahara).

The very first Monogatari opener, and definitely one of the best. It’s atmospheric, intriguing, and the visuals are just the right side of obtuse. Only at the very end does an anime character appear, otherwise it’s all train stations and floating staplers! When I first watched this, I had no idea what to expect from the show, but I figured that the music was so good I might as well give it a try.

Bakemonogatari episodes 3–5: Mayoi Snail: Opening song 2: Kaerimichi (On the Way Home), sung by Emiri Kato (Mayoi Hachikuji).

There are few Monogatari songs I hate, but this is one of them. I can’t stand the Europop-style EDM, nor the ultra-squeaky vocals. It does fit the character of Mayoi Hachikuji very well, as do the visuals, but it’s like an epileptic fit and a sugar rush all rolled into one, and it’s just too much.

Bakemonogatari episodes 6–8: Suruga Monkey: Opening song 3: Ambivalent World, sung by Miyuki Kawashiro (Suruga Kanbaru).

If you’d told me that Avril Lavigne had learned Japanese with the sole purpose of singing this song, I’d believe you. A rocky, skater punk-type song more than a little reminiscent of Sk8ter Boi. It’s fun but not that memorable.

Bakemonogatari episodes 9–10: Nadeko Snake: Opening song 4: Renai Circulation, sung by Kana Hanazawa (Nadeko Sengoku).

This may be blasphemy as I know how popular this opener is, but I really don’t like this song. Yes, it’s catchy, but it also features one of my least favourite characters. Nadeko Sengoku is really annoying and this song (and associated visuals) reflects her horrible personality really well, to its detriment.

Bakemonogatari episodes 11–15: Tsubasa Cat: Opening song 5: Sugar Sweet Nightmare, sung by Yui Horie (Tsubasa Hanekawa).

So this is more like it. Dramatic, emotional, and with soaring vocals. Such a good song to round off Bakemonogatari’s quintet of openers. It could also be that I just like cat girls a little too much.

Bakemonogatari episodes 1–15: Ending song: Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari (The Story You Don’t Know) by Supercell, sung by Nagi Yanagi.

The first appearance of Hajime Ueda’s delightfully stylised and simplified character designs that will continue to feature in the ending animations until the very end of the show (and sometimes even in the episodes themselves, plus the movies). Something about this track seems so evocative and nostalgic for that time in your late teens when your friends were close and the future was an open, unknown quantity.

Nisemonogatari episodes 1, 3: Karen Bee: Opening song 1: Futakotome (Second World) sung by Chiwa Saito (Hitagi Senjogahara).

With overt callbacks to Bakemonogatari’s Staple Stable in the form of repeated musical motifs, this second track sung by Hitagi Senjogahara’s voice actress is another great song. The fact that I love her character probably helps too.

Nisemonogatari episodes 2, 5–7: Karen Bee: Opening song 2: Marshmallow Justice, sung by Eri Kitamura (Karen Araragi).

The only track sung by Karen’s voice actress, this is reminiscent of Kanbaru’s Ambivalent World with its high energy, upbeat pop/rock, this time with added brass instruments! Both Kanbaru and Karen are very active, sporty characters so this definitely fits.

Nisemonogatari episodes 8–11: Tsukihi Phoenix: Opening song 3: Platinum Disco, sung by Yuka Iguchi (Tsuhiki Araragi).

I can’t find a proper video with the full opening animation for this, which is a shame as it’s really cute and fun. This is one of my very favourite Monogatari openers. It’s perfect bubblegum pop with a very recognisably Japanese twist. Also it’s the only track with vocals from Tsukihi’s voice actress. She sounds cute and childlike, but not as aggressively irritating as Mayoi Hachikuji.

Nisemonogatari episodes 1–11: Ending song: Naisho no Hanashi, written by Ryo of Supercell, sung by ClariS.

A somewhat deranged-sounding, but fun song. Upbeat and punchy, it fits with the generally slightly anarchic and transgressive tone evoked by Nisemonogatari as a whole.

Nekomonogatari (Black) Episodes 1–4: Tsubasa Family: Opening song: Perfect Slumbers, sung by Yui Horie (Tsubasa Hanekawa).

A super-chilled, melancholy song that fits Tsubasa Hanekawa’s mood so well. It really is like a lullaby you could use to let you drift off to sleep, to dream of frolicking cat girls…

Nekomonogatari (Black) Episodes 1–4: Tsubasa Family: Ending song: Kieru Daydream, written by Saori Kodama, composed by Satoru Kosaki and sung by Marina Kawano.

Significantly more upbeat than the opener but still with an undercurrent of melancholy and longing. I love the bass line in this one.

Bonus: Kizumonogatari III: Reiketsu: Wound Tale: Ending song: etoile et toi (edition le blanc), sung by Clementine.

The three Kizumonogatari movies don’t have openers, and the endings are variants of this one song. I prefer this, the second version, that closes the third film. It sounds very classical and French, likely in reference to the vampire Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade’s European origins. It’s kind of depressing though, so not something I’d really listen to on repeat!

That rounds out all of the opening and closing tracks from the first season. I hope you find some that you like. I’ll be back next time with a rundown of the second season’s songs.

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Physician. Obsessed with anime, manga, comic-books. Husband and father. Christian. Fascinated by tensions between modern culture and traditional faith. Bit odd.