Right up front I'll say this: I absolutely was hooked by Bakemonogatari. It took me a while to get into it, literally because each episode takes a while to watch, and I'll get to why that is in a bit, but really it is a great show. However, it's not without it's flaws, it's stunningly unique, and beautiful, even if the overriding themes it attempts to tackle are simple ones that have been done to death.
The main character of the show is Koyomi Araragi, a guy who can be too kind for his own good, a less than average student, oh and a failed vampire. Now before any of you get up and run out of the room right now, Araragi doesn't drink blood, wear a cape or do any of that corny stuff we're used to in vampire stories as of late. He's been "cured" and his only trait remaining from his time as a vampire is his unusually quick healing wounds. He can get frustratingly annoying at times, but he's portrayed pretty well, as an average teenager might be.
The other lead of the show is Senjougahara Hitagi, a mysterious girl who we meet in the first episode and stays through out the course of the show.
*light spoilers ahead*
She and Araragi-san are dating through the show. It's a breath of fresh air to see a show that doesn't just focus on the tension leading up to the two main leads getting together, but rather focusing on the stresses of a relationship as it happens. Although because this is somewhat of a "harem" anime it doesn't get as much time as I would like. I use quotations because while the other characters may flirt with Araragi he is in a relationship, so it's a bit of a weird dynamic.
There are some things I didn't enjoy about the show, for one, the fanservice. It's pretty terrible and mainly focused on some of the younger characters in the show. It's pretty reprehensible actually. Thank god it's such a small part of the overall story and for the most part it's woven into the story. There are some superfluous instances of it, but for the most part it's used in a way that directly impacts the story. So while some of it made me cringe, and I even fast forwarded through a ten second segment of it, most of it wasn't that annoying. The show spends a good chunk of time lampooning other romance anime and tropes, but then falls into them itself from time to time it's pretty frustrating. I really think it can get the "Deadpool Syndrome" occasionally. Meaning like the game Deadpool which attempts to parody and skewer action games, only to play exactly like the games it's making fun of, Bakemonogatari falls into some of those same traps with it's "harem" jokes. Another thing that I didn't enjoy well, maybe not dislike, but wanted more of was Senjougahara! Seriously whenever she's on the screen she steals the show.
Bakemonogatari is a violent show too. It happens in spurts, and when it happens it almost always takes you by surprise. I think it's because the violence is really spread out so you don't have time to get used to the intensity of it. I really like that, the show knows when to use violence as a plot device and it uses it sparingly for effect.
Like I said, it's violent O.o
It's also a breathtakingly beautiful show, it uses backgrounds, cinematography, extreme close ups and a number of other wonderful directorial techniques to create an absolutely wonderful atmosphere for the show. There are times where I would be watching the show and my mouth would literally fall open. It's just astounding. Granted though the show does take a long time to watch because of the sheer amount of information crammed into each episode, there are an number of colored screens that show up within the course of an episode with text in them that convey Araragi's thoughts' and it's a cool device, but they go by so quickly I had to pause at them to read them all!
Bakemonogatari at it's heart is about two things, adolescence and romance. The monsters that dwell in this story are just there as a way to dramatize these things. Mainly the theme of the show boils down to be honest to yourself and others and life will move on. Lie to yourself and everyone else and you begin to have to deal with (metaphorical) monsters, although the monsters in Bakemonogatari are anything but metaphorical.
This was a wonderful way to spend time on the train to and from class, I've finished the season and will be moving on to Nisemonogatari shortly. It's also the first full season of anime I've watched on the train so far.