Monogatari is a light novel series penned by author Nisio Isin with illustrations by Taiwanese artist VOFAN. The series debuted in Kodansha’s amateur literary magazine Mephisto in 2005, beginning as a collection of short stories on a specific set of characters and situations. It’s known for its unique narrative prose, allusions to other anime and manga, and Nisio Isin’s signature wordplay.
In its early publication, the stories had no illustrations and VOFAN was brought in much later to contribute to the series. Kodansha then collected three of Nisio Isin’s short stories and compiled them into what would be the series’ first volume: Bakemonogatari. Since its inception, the series franchise has enjoyed a considerable amount of success and cross collaboration with different brands.
The rest is history. With a rise in popularity, the series was given a critically acclaimed anime adaptation by SHAFT, with veteran Akiyuki Shinbo serving as chief director. The anime adaptations consist of multiple seasons, arc, characters, and plotlines and have provided us over ten years of entertaining stories. The anime featured distinct animation sequences, fast cuts, and use of mixed styles within frames.
At OTAQUEST, we’ll break down the best ways of watching the Monogatari anime series into an easy-to-read guide for your reference.
What This Guide Covers
- What’s the Story
- Who Are the Characters of Monogatari?
- Kizumonogatari: The Prequel Film Trilogy
- First Season Story Arcs (2009-2012)
- Second Season Story Arcs (2013-2014)
- Final Season Arcs (2014-2019)
- Zoku Owarimonogatari
- Chronological Watch Guide
What’s the Story?
Describing the Monogatari series is both easy and challenging, especially if you’re trying to explain it to a person for the first time. The suffix Monogatari that is usually stuck at the end of each new arc title translates to ‘story’ or ‘tale’ in English. For example, Bakemonogatari would be translated into English as ‘Monster Story’ or ‘Monster Tale.’
The basic story follows high schooler Koyomi Araragi who encounters various girls dealing with supernatural phenomena, usually involving curses called ‘oddities’. A recurring theme of the first season relies on animal imagery such as crabs, snakes, monkeys, and cats. Helping him along the way is his vampire servant Shinobu, who hides in his shadow after a past incident between them. Having experienced some of these phenomena himself, he works to resolve the problems of the girls, meeting some new friends and enemies along the way.
Who Koyomi helps depends on the arc, because there’s usually a focus on one girl, with some loosely connected follow-up arcs afterwards. Also, the release of the novel doesn’t exactly correlate with the release of the anime adaptation.
My advice to new Monogatari viewers: take it arc by arc and find a good starting point. Getting into this series is like trying to piece together a puzzle.
Who Are the Characters of Monogatari?
To really digest and enjoy the Monogatari experience, you’re going to at least have a surface-level understanding of the main characters. Much of the series is spent with Koyomi often having discussions with one of the heroines and learning more about them as the series progresses. So without further ado:
Koyomi Araragi – The series’ main protagonist and third-year high school student. Also, an ex-vampire for a brief period who has appeared in most arcs of the series involving supernatural oddities.
Hitagi Senjougahara – Nicknamed Gahara by Araragi, she’s a troubled classmate who is dealing with an ‘incurable disease.’ She possesses a sharp tongue she uses to ruthlessly grill Araragi every chance she gets, but is sincere and devoted to him when they start dating. Her animal symbol is the crab.
Tsubasa Hanekawa – The kind, bespectacled classmate of Araragi who he met a year prior. The model class representative in Araragi’s class, she harbors an alter ego called ‘Black Hanekawa’ who stalks and attacks her prey at night. Her animal symbol is the cat.
Mayoi Hachikuji – The spirit of a deceased fifth grader who died in a traffic accident. She carries around a huge backpack and usually haunts those who hesitate to return home. She’s constantly annoyed by the antics of Araragi, but enjoys his company sometimes. Her animal symbol is the snail.
Suruga Kanbaru – She’s the ace of the school’s basketball team and harbors an attraction to Senjougahara. Her arms are always wrapped in bandages as a result of a deal she made with an oddity to make her faster. Her animal symbol is the monkey.
Nadeko Sengoku – A shy underclassman of Araragi’s and a childhood friend of one of his sisters. She later develops a crush on him. She was the unfortunate victim of a curse after rejecting the confession of a classmate that coiled around her skin and left scale like scars. Her animal symbol is the snake.
Karen Araragi – The athletic, hot-blooded half of the self proclaimed ‘Fire Sisters’ duo along with her younger sister, Tsukihi. She’s loud and energetic and loves fighting with Aragi at every chance she gets. Her animal symbol is the bee.
Tsukihi Araragi – Karen and Koyomi Araragi’s younger sister. The other half of the ‘Fire Sisters’, she’s more introverted and thoughtful than her older sister, but can be hot-headed at times. On that note, while she doesn’t believe in the existence of the supernatural, she herself isn’t entirely human and has traits of the legendary Phoenix. Her animal is naturally the bird.
Shinobu Oshino – Shinobu is an immortal vampire whose appearance mirrors that of a young, blonde girl who serves Araragi as his companion. Her real name is Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade and she was once a blood hungry vampire who fought to the death with Araragi. After losing to him and forced to accept a deal, her body regresses and she is made into Araragi’s companion who hides in his shadows.
Ougi Oshino – A mysterious first year with pale white skin and dark hair. They’re gender fluid and take a strong interest in Koyomi Araragi’s interactions with the supernatural oddities.
Sodachi Oikura – Araragi’s childhood friend who used to have a warm personality and look up to him. Now a third-year high schooler, she has a fiery demeanor and blames him for most of her misgivings and failures.
Kizumonogatari: The Prequel Film Trilogy (2016-2017)
There’s always debate on what watch order you should do for franchises, especially if they’re prequels. Kizumonogatari is a three-part film series that features more detailed animation and a slightly different art style than the TV arcs, focusing on the relationship between Araragi and the vampire Shinobu. Chronologically, the trilogy is where everything starts for Koyomi Araragi. While newcomers could theoretically watch the film trilogy first, it’s really made for dedicated fans as well.
The film series goes over how Araragi first met his mentor Meme Oshino, briefly became a vampire, and fought off three hunters looking for Shinobu. It also goes over his first meeting with Tsubasa Hanekawa and how Shinobu became Araragi’s companion.
Kizumonogatari ultimately sets the stage for the events that occur in Bakemonogatari. Those who watched the first episode from this series remember Shinobu’s story briefly flashing by, but the film trilogy goes into more depth of that history.
TV Anime Story Arc Overview
There are three overall seasons of the Monogatari series that you can start watching. The titles are split into parts that always end in –monogatari at the end and usually feature one to three overall story arcs. For ease of reading, I’ll be breaking them down in accordance to the broadcasting order, but will leave a chronological timeline at the end if you want a more linear narrative.
First Season Story Arcs (2009-2012)
Arcs: Hitagi Crab, Mayoi Snail, Suruga Monkey, Nadeko Snake, Tsubasa Cat
The first season of the Monogatari series introduces us to Araragi and his interactions with various heroines at his school. Bakemonogatari primarily focuses on the stories of Senjougahara, Mayoi, Kanbaru, Nadeko, and Tsubasa, with subsequent follow up arcs in later seasons.
This story arc also introduces Araragi’s mentor, Meme Oshino, who guides him on how to resolve the oddities plaguing the heroines. Overall, Bakemonogatari is a good starting point for those wanting to get into the series because it introduces most of the key players who will be important later on.
Arcs: Karen Bee, Tsukihi Phoenix
The second arc, Nisemonogatari, sheds light on Araragi’s family life with his two younger sisters: Karen and Tsukihi. Taking place during Araragi’s summer break, the story arc gives us more insight into his relationship with the sisters, his personal life, and how the supernatural oddities start affecting them as well.
A major antagonist named Kaiki debuts as the conman that causes these oddities to occur. He also has a history with Hitagi Senjougahara. Moreover, revelations about Tsukihi are also revealed when Araragi learns that she herself is a supernatural oddity.
Arc: Tsubasa Family
Nekomonogatari (Black) takes place before Hitagi’s story in the beginning of Bakemonogatari and sometime after the Kizumonogatari film series. The primary focus is on Tsubasa Hanekawa and her burgeoning romantic attraction with Araragi.
The latter is still trying to figure things out for himself, but his efforts are complicated because Hanekawa is possessed by a cat spirit. This causes her to develop a split personality that attacks people at night, and Araragi must find a way to stop her. During this time, he takes some careful consideration of his feelings for Hanekawa.
Second Season Story Arcs (2013-2014)
Arc: Tsubasa Tiger
Nekomonogatari (White) is based on the second volume of the story arc titled Tsubasa Tiger. The story brings us to the present day, during the second semester. It focuses once again on Tsubasa Hanekawa, and Araragi is notably absent in this arc. In his place is Senjougahara, who tries to ‘bond’ and be friends with Hanekawa by talking about their relationship with Araragi.
The story arc continues Tsubasa’s character arc involving her inner cat spirit after encountering a large white tiger on the streets one night. All the while, she deals with a tense situation at home that’s causing friction with her foster family.
Arc: Mayoi Jiangshi
Meanwhile, Araragi has to deal with the ramifications of time travel and changing the past in Kabukimonogatari. Taking place on the last day of summer break, Araragi searches for Mayoi’s large backpack to give back to her. He soon realizes he and Shinbou have time-traveled eleven years into the past.
Wanting to use this opportunity to save the young Mayoi from drying in an accident, they succeed and return to their present time. Unfortunately, they find the world destroyed as a consequence of their actions.
Arc: Nadeko Medusa
Otorimonogatari continues the story of Nadeko Sengoku after her ordeal with the snake curse. She meets Ougi Oshino, who confronts her for using her innocence to escape responsibility in her life. Afterwards, she starts hallucinating images of white snakes around her and begins killing them. Eventually, Nadeko becomes an oddity herself and starts a confrontation with Araragi, Shinobu, and Hitagi Senjougahara.
Arc: Shinobu Time
Taking place after Kabukimonogatari and before Otorimonogatari, Onimonogatari turns the story to Shinobu after she and Araragi return to the correct time period. A mysterious void has followed them to destroy the new world, and both Araragi and Shinobu in the process. The answer to stop this destruction lies in Shobu’s memories from 400 years ago and the dilemma of letting Mayoi’s spirit finally pass on.
Arc: Hitagi End
Koimonogatari takes place after Otorimonogatari and follows the curse conman Kaiki Deishuu. He is hired by Hitagi Senjougahra to deceive the new snake god oddity Nadeko from killing her, Araragi, and Shinobu on the date after graduation.
Arc: Suruga Devil
Hanamonogatari follows Suruga Kanbaru in her senior year after the graduation of Hitagi Senjougahra and Koyomi Araragi. It’s the adaptation that is set in the furthest timeline so far and gives us glimpses into some of the main characters’ future. Suruga is still dealing with the aftereffects of her cursed arm, but hears of a devil who solves peoples’ problems for a price.
Final Season Arcs (2014-2019)
Arc: Yotsugi Doll
As Araragi prepares for college exams, he notices he doesn’t have a reflection in the mirror. Worried that his vampire powers may have returned, he turns to oddity specialist Yozuru Kagenui and her Shikigami doll Ononoki Yotsugi for help. Tsukimonogatari particularly focuses on Yotsugi and her relationship with Araragi, taking place after the events in Koimonogatari.
Arc: Ougi Formula, Sodachi Riddle, Sodachi Lost, Shinobu Mail
The ‘final’ season titled Owarimonogatari is primarily split into two cours that aired at different times, but adapts the same novel. The first half takes place during different events in various second season story arcs like Nadeko Medusa, Shinobu Time, and Tsubasa Tiger.
It shows us how Araragi met Ougi Oshino during their request to investigate a mysterious happening in a classroom, leading him to remember an important memory from his past. Another story explored is how Araragi and Suruga Kanbaru have to deal with a samurai spirit in armor demanding his demon sword back.
Koyomimonogatari is an original net animation that fills in the story gaps of the overall Monogatari narrative. The series is a side story anthology that gives us more insight into characters such as Tsubasa Hanekawa and Ougi Oshino and how they affected aspects of Araragi’s life not seen in the main adaptations. Each episode’s title begins with the name Koyomi and a random object like stone, water, flower, etc.
Arc: Mayoi Hell, Hitagi Rendezvous, Ougi Dark
The final episode of Koyomimonogatari leads directly into the beginning of Owarimonogatari II. The second half of the Owarimonogatari storyline is a culmination of everything that’s happened so far. Araragi is stuck in Hell as a ghost as a result of his death on Earth. He reunites with Mayoi in Hell, who may have a way for him to be resurrected, pending a special deal. Afterwards, he takes Hitagi on a date as he prepares to confront the mastermind behind all these supernatural oddities occurring over the past few months.
Arc: Koyomi Reverse
Released in six parts, Zoku Owarimonogatari is arguably the definitive chapter in the final season of Monogatari and closes the story of Araragi’s high school life. With any good final story, it’s important to go all out and revisit the past. In Araragi’s case, he’s found himself in a parallel world where all the personalities and suppressed desires of the heroines he’s helped have manifested themselves on the surface. Zoku Owarimonogatari chronicles how Araragi comes to terms with life after graduation and how he can return to his world.
Chronological Watch Guide
- Nekomonogatari (Black)
- Owarimonogatari I
- Nekomonogatari (White)
- Owarimonogatari II
- Zoku Owarimonogatari