Nisemonogatari Karen Bee Author’s Comments

Some words from NisOisiN.

As I’ve mentioned in my episodic posts I’ve been reading the Nisemonogatari novels, keeping a couple steps ahead of the anime so that I can provide some extra insights for all you people. Nisemonogatari is actually 2 novels, and volume 1, Karen Bee, had an accompanying author’s comments. Now that the Karen Bee arc of Nisemonogatari is over, I thought I’d take the opportunity to translate and share with it with all of you. Please note that translating is something I’ve only dipped my toes into, and this is a Japanese to Korean to English translation, so please excuse any bad wording or errors. I believe I got the main message correct.

Author’s Comments

It only occurred to me recently, but humans are creatures with many dimensions, so they inevitably end up entwined in many different interests. It’s a concept I find difficult to grasp: the person you see in yourself and the person others see in you can be completely different people. I can try to deny it, but it’s the truth.

And there isn’t just one version of you that other people have; indeed, you are a different person to different people.

So I can see why someone might go on a journey to find himself, asking, “Just who am I!?”

It would be simple just to call it being confused, but the fact that different sets of eyes process the same things differently is something that can’t be denied. What someone perceives as fake could be real to someone else, and what someone perceives as real could be fake to someone else. Though maybe it’s misguided to talk about such an objective measure in a subjective way like that.

How should I put it… it’s obvious that humans are creatures who change their behavior depending on the audience, so maybe the person who has the most correct view of yourself is yourself.

But does to know oneself mean to know just a part of yourself?

So I present to you the first volume of Nisemonogatari, the sequel to Bakemonogatari. The Araragi Sisters, who have been getting criticized for their absence since Bakemonogatari’s prequel Kizumonogatari have finally made their appearance as mains. Keep this a secret, but to tell you the truth, I had originally written this novel without any plans to publish it. I wrote the entire thing without showing it to anyone. I wanted to hide it away without even making a single printout. In other words, this novel was originally something I was going to keep to myself. So this novel was written 200% to fit my tastes. I very much enjoyed getting to write everything that came from my mind without any arbitrary restrictions.

Yes, there were times when I asked myself, “What the hell are you doing? You’re a professional!” But I think there’s a certain charm to approaching writing as if I were an amateur.

It was with that feeling that I wrote the “The 6th Story, Karen Bee,” Nisemonogatari Volume 1.

Oh, VOFAN provided the artwork. His drawing of Araragi Karen was so fantastic, as the author I have to thank him deeply.

I also thank you the readers for bearing with this novel filled with my dumb stories written without much care.

Well, cheerio! Let’s meet again soon in Nisemonogatari Volume 2, another sequel, featuring Araragi Tsukihi this time – that is, if I decide to publish it.

-Nisio Isin

As Nisio himself admits, Karen Bee was written in an amateur manner. I’m sure it went through a round of editing before publication, but it seems as if it was largely just a dump of his brain. And it shows. The pacing, to put it kindly, is not good, starting off very slowly and ending in an absolute flurry. Early on, there are a few seemingly pointless scenes, such as the ones involving Nadeko and Kanbaru, and many necessary scenes drag on for more than they should.

But there’s the positive flipside as well: we get lots of what Nisio is good at and is comfortable with. Some people say that’s “witty conversations,” but frankly I find his conversations to be wordy more than witty. No, what he’s really good at is using his rambling conversations to come back to the same themes again and again in a variety of ways before tying them all together at the end.

Secrets was a major theme in this one that he kept coming back to. The 1st episode sees discussions with Mayoi about whether or not it could be good to keep them from your family. Mayoi herself is a creature with many secrets from Koyomi due to her ghostly nature, of course. Nadeko has something in her closet that she absolutely must keep a secret from Koyomi, despite her obviously wanting to get closer to him. Koyomi makes comparisons with how Kanbaru keeps hers secret from her family. And from the start Koyomi mentions how these secrets caused a divide between him and his sisters.

Sometimes, you have no choice but to be close to someone.

Speaking of which, closeness was explored a lot too, especially of the physical variety as is obvious, with changes in the relationships between Koyomi and Kanbaru, Koyomi and Mayoi, sort of Koyomi and Shinobu in that respect. There was a distance between the siblings during the sponge bath scene, while the Fire Sisters were shown sleeping together naked for no apparent reason. And of course Koyomi resolves his differences with Karen is in a tight embrace, closer to each other than even during the sponge bath. And I’m getting so broad here that even I would call bullshit on it, but there’s the concept of moving on repeated a couple times. Seeing Kanbaru find her old jersey, still clinging to those days as a basketball star (in the novel, she mentions that it was actually on display at the high school, and she stole it back during the summer break as a keepsake). Tsubasa’s haircut following her Tsubasa Cat arc in Bakemonogatari. Hitagi’s history with Kaiki and her request to Koyomi to help her leave that behind.

I’m leaving out the most obvious ones, justice and strength, but I discussed those in the episode 7 post. All these themes keep connecting with the central one of cynicism, the main one Nisio seems to love. Bakemonogatari explored it with the monsters people hide in themselves (quite literally in the case of Koyomi). Nisemonogatari comes at it from the many angles mentioned above. Ultimately, it is right that people keep dark secrets from their families, because doing otherwise would hurt them. And in the end no one has to pay for their secrets; the Fire Sisters make it to the finish with no knowledge of the supernatural. Justice only has meaning when you have the power to implement it. Koyomi believes that to be a “genuine” person is to act in selfishness; following ideals and fighting for the sake of others is mere fakery or being an “impostor.” Hitagi doesn’t care a bit about other victims of Kaiki – in fact she blames them, just as she does herself, for being conned – she cares only about doing what’s right for herself, to move forward. Yes, Nisio likes cynicism. He celebrates it, as something to be embraced. He finds hope in that honesty. Justice and joy, not only for oneself, but for all, comes from selfishness. Even Kaiki, the most despicable and self motivated of all characters, aids in the progress of our protagonists.

Hawt? Sure. Necessary? Maybe; we’ve still got 4 episodes. Slowed down the pace too much? Undoubtedly.

The job of the adapting director is to make the necessary and sometimes difficult changes to fit the new format, and while Shinbo excelled at times, he adapted a little too close to the source. That is, though Shaft thankfully cut out a lot of dialogue from within scenes, pretty much every scene in the novel made it into the anime. Just because the novel was poorly paced doesn’t mean the show needs to be, and a bold – and I believe right – move would have been to completely write around certain scenes. I’m thinking mainly of the bits with Nadeko and Kanbaru, which acted merely as tertiary support to the main themes of the story. Yes, it would have broken up the tightly connected construction of the book, but Nisemonogatari is not such a fragile piece of work that it would all collapse should some parts be removed. Shinbo would have had to rebuild the anime in a new and different way, giving it its own identity. Perhaps the show would have been better off for it.

Still, I give props to Shaft for pulling out much of the fat from Nisemonogatari and making what was left over absolutely delectable, even if they didn’t do a complete job. The bath scene with Shinobu particularly blew me away, showing the scene in a way I couldn’t have imagined and showing off the (not quite) vampire in her best light. Karen’s failed showdown with Kaiki was also beautiful to look at – in fact, all 3 scenes with Kaiki were incredible displays in building mood for a character. It was truly a fine example of using the strengths of the medium to make the character more than just what he was in text. The bus stop fight scene was disappointingly short but pleasantly over the top. And throughout, the production values remained top notch.

I’m not ashamed to admit, some scenes just blew me away.

Right now, I’m about 1/3 way through Tsukihi Phoenix. Given that its page count is almost 90% that of Karen Bee, I was initially skeptical about the 7/4 episode split, but, let me tell you, if events continue at the pace they have so far, Shaft will have no trouble fitting it into 4 episodes. Nisemonogatari represents Nisio unfiltered, as admitted by the author himself, and we’re about to find out just how low into the gutter his mind can go, immediately in part 1. I hope that Tsukihi Phoenix continues to carry on the themes from Karen Bee, particularly the ones that didn’t get explored so much, and give greater meaning to those scenes with Nadeko and Kanbaru… and some with Mayoi. But either way, I’m looking forward to this continuing combination of Nisio’s cynicism and perversion and Shaft’s visual flair and perversion. Remember, good boys and girls keep their teeth clean!

More of the Fire Sisters incoming, in volume 2 of Nisemonogatari!

About

A math/science geek and a self-dubbed cynical optimist. I don't care if it's deep, if it can make me feel something or laugh, it's fine in my book. @lvlln
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19 Responses to “Nisemonogatari Karen Bee Author’s Comments”

  1. skylion says:

    Thank you lvlln, good work.

    Honesty and optimism as dangerous ideas? Or am I treading to far? Honesty is a difficult tool to master, it cuts both ways, in the hands of the naive it can bring untold disaster, and is always, seemingly, in short supply. I can state it another way, we almost enjoy the creative liberty that a good lie, or a good secret, can deliver.

    You know, in a rather selfish way, Koymoi forced Karen to stand down. He wants to keep his vampire self secret.

    As you said, the Episode Four bath scene was intense. As I said after it’s airing, in Metanorn’s section for that episode, “It was a metavisual experience” I was keenly aware that I was watching it, absorbed in the act of watching it, moreso that merely letting a set of visuals a dialog spill into my brain. There is no doubt that it was controversial; no debate there, in fact it’s important that it was controversial. I mean, how else would they turn that on it’s ear to show the intimacy and distance between two characters? I’m still wanting to read that section of the novel to compare and contrast.

    And, as you say, keep those teeth clean.

    • tatsuya says:

      FINALLY !! ~~ Nisemonogatari Karen Bee Author’s Comments
      I’ve been watching all episode when Metanorn review it ..and gotta say the bath scene does’t effect me a bit but the scene when koyomi sleeping with his sister is INSANE !!
      BEST OF ALL !! I WANNA SEE SENJOUGAHARA SAY ” GOMENASAI ” again and again ~~~

    • lvlln says:

      Well, Nisio likes to play with these cynical ideas, but I think his cynicism extends all the way to himself. That is, he has no pretension that his ideas are particularly insightful, novel, or even correct. Which is why his stories are so filled with contradictory characters like Shinobu or Koyomi. Or Kaiki.

      Neat ideas to explore, but not a real philosophy, just tools for the narrative in the story.

      • skylion says:

        He does this style of writing well, if the adaptation is of any gauge.

  2. omnomnom says:

    Good stuff lvlln. It’s always handy to have insights from someone who’s actually read the original source.

    Quick question though, and this pretty much a selfish request to satiate my fetish lol. Did Koyomi really kiss Karen? And if so how detailed did Nisio write it out?

    • lvlln says:

      Thanks! It’s been fun watching an adaptation for which I know the source for once. Last time was probably Gunslinger Girl.

      When I say that the adaptation was very close to the source, I mean it. Just like in the anime, one chapter ended with Koyomi grabbing Karen and telling her he’ll kiss her, and the next chapter started after the deed had been done. Only thing missing in the anime was Karen being angry at Koyomi for taking her first kiss when she had wanted to give it to her alleged boyfriend.

      • omnomnom says:

        Ha, guess Nisio learned how to hold himself back on this one! I can only imagine what his first draft might have looked like. Ahhh, that should have been animated as well!

        I would so do the same if I had the ability to read Japanese or Korean. Keep it up for the rest of us who can’t :D

  3. Kyokai says:

    A very interesting read. Nisio’s author’s note reminds me of Nasu’s as he’s self depreciating as well to a degree.

    I think Shaft has been a perfect studio to animate the Monogatari series because they add their own level of perversion to it and the audience just gulps it all up.

    With the direction that it took with Karen, I’m no curious to know how much Tsukihi is fixated on her brother and what the hell was that with the yuri sisters scene.

    • skylion says:

      I don’t know exactly what the yuri bed scene is about. But, generally speaking, it probably has to do with JUSTICE. I mean, have those girls fixated on anything else? Well, besides bro-con?

      • Kyokai says:

        What kind of justice is this?! I’m pretty close to my sister to the degree that we have similar opinion, behaviour and even body type. There are times that we wear each others’ clothes but sleeping like that?! I mean, whyyyy. >.>

    • lvlln says:

      Koyomi’s best guess in the novel is that, since the Fire Sisters thought Karen had a disease that made her feverish, Tsukihi was following an urban legend about healing her with skin-on-skin contact. Clearly these sisters are closer to each other than you’d expect any normal pair of siblings to be. Of course, Koyomi and Karen will also cross some lines in the next episode…

  4. skylion says:

    The denoumout of episode nine. of Modoka. All of episode 22 of Gurren Lagen. We now see all of Nise 8. When the collective of anime fandom goes, “…………..” and then some. Words fail me. This. Just. This.

    • Kyokai says:

      This will become one of the highlights of 2012, which would be referred back by many anibloggers in the future. :3

  5. [...] You can almost feel NisiOisin laughing perversely in the background (more so after reading lvlln’s translation of his note for Karen Bee), and Shinbo doing his shafty thing with the usual crew quite gleefully. [...]

  6. [...] I can think of in pacing would be Nisemonogatari which covered less than 2 days in 7 episodes of Karen Bee. However, the pacing of this 1st episode indicates that those 48 hours will likely pass within the [...]

  7. […] as I did writing them? What did you think of our 2 non-episodic posts, on the ending sequence and a translation of Nisio’s author’s comments on Karen Bee? I sincerely thank everyone who took the time to read them and doubly to those with whom I’ve […]

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