‘Zaregoto’ Is the Shaft Anime You Never Knew You Needed


If you took a look at this articles’s thumbnail and assumed that you were in for some more Monogatari series goodness, I can’t blame you, and I apologize. Kinda. In return however, I’d like to shed a little bit of light on a surprisingly little-known Studio Shaft anime series that certainly does contain character designs by Monogatari anime character designer Akio Watanabe, and certainly is based off of a novel series by Monogatari author Nisio Isin. Welcome to the little-known animated world of Zaregoto!


The Zaregoto series of mystery light novels is author Nisio Isin’s earliest work. With a title that literally translates to “practical joke,” the premier volume, a gripping tale about a grisly decapitation murder entitled Kubikiri Cycle, debuted in February of 2002. For this breakout novel, Nisio Isin went on to team up with artist Take, the very same individual he would continue to work with in later novels Katanagatari, Maniwagatari, and Saikyou. 

Nisio Isin was quick to rake in the praise during that very same year. Kubikiri Cycle was a winner of Japan’s coveted Mephisto Award, an honor that seeks to highlight the very best in mystery writing. Just four years later in 2006, Kubikiri Cycle landed in first place on Takarajimasha’s “Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi!” list, curated through a poll of avid light novel readers.

The author’s most instantly-recognizable work worldwide is undoubtedly the Monogatari series however, due in no small part to Studio Shaft‘s brilliant and incredibly stylistic adaptation of the expansive 22 book saga into anime form. The project brought together the creative talents of director Akiyuki Simbo, and character designer Akio Watanabe. The duo arguably played a large part in establishing many hallmarks of the now infamous “Shaft Cycle,” characterized by dramatic head-tilting, minimalist backgrounds populated with silhouettes, and vibrant character coloration.

It surely made sense, then, to keep this cohesive style intact when choosing to animate an integral piece of Nisio Isin’s legacy. If you’re not quite sure what we mean by that, check out the trailer below:

If you are anything like me, then you’re likely jetting over to your favorite streaming site to give the show a watch right now. Undoubtedly though, you’ve realized a slight problem – it’s absolutely nowhere to be found. Kubikiri Cycle: Aoiro Savant to Zaregototsukai‘s release format presents a challenge to overseas licensors. As an OVA (Original Video Animation), a format designed to make money solely from home video sales, streaming services run into a whole new set of license negotiating challenges to get this content on platforms designed with weekly TV shows in mind. It is by no means a dealbreaker however, as streaming sites like Crunchyroll have plenty in their catalog.

Perhaps where hope shines the brightest is in an official western video release. Aniplex of America is hardly shy when it comes to bringing over their hottest properties in lavishly-designed, Japan-release inspired packages. Please join me in prayer for such a benevolent act, my dear faithful.

So here we are. The OVA series has a cloudy licensing future for sure, but considering both the pedigree behind the project and the popularity of Nisio Isin’s stories worldwide, there is much reason to be hopeful. In the meantime, I suggest getting your fill by starting with the Decapitation: Kubikiri Cycle light novel, a synopsis of which can be found below.

It’s the vacation of a lifetime, a trip to a remote island filled with geniuses–and murder.

On Wet Crow’s Feather Island, a tiny speck in the Sea of Japan, lives Akagami Iria, the exiled daughter of a powerful family. Born into great wealth, she was a princess of the highest pedigree–until she was cut off by the leader of the Akagami Foundation. For the last five years, she’s lived on Feather Island with her maids. But she hasn’t been alone. She has invited the best minds Japan has to offer to come and stay with her.

And so nineteen-year-old college student Ii-chan and his best friend, computer genius Kunagisa Tomo, find themselves as Iria’s guests at her elaborate mansion. Surrounded by fascinating women–a chef, a fortune-teller, a scholar, and an artist, not to mention his own friend Tomo–Ii-chan is feeling a little overmatched intellectually. But the sudden discovery of a grisly murder sends the island into shock. And Ii-chan discovers that he does possess a bit of genius: the ability to discover what is real and what is fake . . . who is who they claim to be–and who is a killer.

The Zaregoto light novel series is being published in English courtesy of Vertical Inc.

Shaft, Aniplex
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