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Kizumonogatari: Wound Tale

Monogatari: Book 1

NisiOisiN

Around midnight, under a lonely street lamp in a provincial town in Japan, lies a white woman, a blonde, alone, robbed of all four limbs, yet undead. Indeed, a rumor's been circulating among the local girls that a vampire has come to their backwater, of all places. This legendary vampire, Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, has met her match in a very unexpected place.

Koyomi Araragi, who prefers to avoid having friends because they'd lower his "intensity as a human," is naturally skeptical. Yet it is to him that the bloodsucking demon, a concept "dated twice over," beckons on the first day of spring break as he makes his way home with a fresh loot of morally compromising periodicals.

Always disarmingly candid, often hilariously playful, and sometimes devastatingly moving, KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale is the perfect gateway into the Monogatari series of author NISIOISIN.

Bakemonogatari, Part 1: Monster Tale

Monogatari: Book 2

NisiOisiN

There's a girl at their school who is always ill. She routinely arrives late, leaves early, or doesn't show up at all, and skips gym as a matter of course. She's pretty, and the boys take to whispering that she's a cloistered princess. As the self-described worst loser in her class soon finds out, they just don't know what a monster she is.

So begins a tale of mysterious maladies that are supernatural in origin yet deeply revealing of the human psyche, a set of case files as given to unexpected feeling as it is to irreverent humor. So begins the legendary novel that kicked off the MONOGATARI series, whose anime adaptations have enjoyed international popularity and critical acclaim.

This first of three parts introduces Senjogahara and Hachikuji, and fans of the blockbuster prequel KIZUMONOGATARI will be delighted to meet their favorite crazies again: the weirdly reliable narrator Araragi, class president among class presidents Hanekawa, shady problem-solver Oshino, and a certain pale, blonde former vampire.

Bakemonogatari, Part 2: Monster Tale

Monogatari: Book 3

NisiOisiN

Bakemono, literally "altered thing," which translates as "monster." Monogatari, literally "thing narrated," which translates as "tale." Combined into a neologism by he of the reversible nom de plume, they yield BAKEMONOGATARI, the monster tale that kicked off a series whose anime adaptations have enjoyed international popularity and critical acclaim.

A self-described loser, Koyomi Araragi is struggling at a prep school that he should never have gotten into. He has all but quit caring, but as a senior, he faces the chilling scenario of not being able to graduate. It's time to cram, but the supernatural aberrations that keep on popping up in his provincial town won't let him be.

Previously, our hero turned into a vampire and back, gained an acid-tongued girlfriend, and couldn't find his way home thanks to a lost child. In this second of three parts, which introduces Suruga Kanbaru and Nadeko Sengoku, he becomes embroiled in a case that riffs on a classic English story from 1902.

Bakemonogatari, Part 3: Monster Tale

Monogatari: Book 4

NisiOisiN

A class president among class presidents, a bespectacled model student who soars to the top of honors lists without fail, Tsubasa Hanekawa also happens to be a decent human being. True, she does have a habit of making single-minded assumptions, but they come from a good place and turn out to be fortuitous as often as not.

Loser extraordinaire Koyomi Araragi owes her his post of class vice president and a more significant debt of gratitude for her unstinting support during the darkest spring break of his life. All of it has blinded him to the possibility that his saintly classmate's family situation might be no less adverse than that of his other lady friends.

Thus, at last, we face Hanekawa's unlikely aberration in "Tsubasa Cat"--the concluding part of the legendary novel that captured the sensibilities of a new generation in the aught years and spawned an animated series that has won international popularity and acclaim--before the story continues with a Fake Tale...

Nisemonogatari, Part 1: Fake Tale

Monogatari: Book 5

NisiOisiN

Unlike ne'er-do-well former vampire Araragi, his two younger sisters Karen and Tsukihi, who attend a private junior high, are little balls of energy and charisma that their peers look up to. That the "ka" in Karen and "hi" in Tsukihi are both written with the character for "fire" isn't the only reason they've come to be known as the Fire Sisters.

Karen is the brawn and Tsukihi the brains of a vigilantism that the pair sees not merely as defending justice but as justice itself. They can't encounter a harmful fad without trying to hunt down a specific source that had a motive for spreading it. In their big brother's humble opinion, there is something fake and precarious about it all.

In this first of two parts, the immediate sequel to the legendary BAKEMONOGATARI plunges us into the middle of summer vacation in the mostly peaceful rural town where the series is set. As our hero and narrator can say from experience, however, teenagers with too much free time on their hands can get stung pretty badly.

Nisemonogatari, Part 2: Fake Tale

Monogatari: Book 6

NisiOisiN

Originally planned to be the series' conclusion, "final" chapter "Tsukihi Phoenix" invites us back to the seemingly eventless country burg where supernatural afflictions abound and characters change their trademark hairstyles at the drop of a hat. Rest assured, dear reader, that the story continued in Japanese and will do so in translation.

In the first half of Fake Tale, lost soul Araragi helped resolve his bigger little sister Karen's feverish run-in with a fraud. In this second half, he must attend to his littler little sister Tsukihi's issues, but not before staging the Toothbrush Episode that the acclaimed anime adaptation's viewers find quite memorable--whether they like to or not.

As fraught with ominousness as a dark empty street, as unexpectedly full of feeling as an acid-tongued girlfriend, as sidesplittingly funny as a horny retired jock, and (maybe even) as educational as college in the best MONOGATARI tradition, this volume also introduces us to "ghostbusters" Yozuru Kagenui and Yotsugi Ononoki.

Nekomonogatari (Black): Cat Tale

Monogatari: Book 7

NisiOisiN

Following up on the high note of family ties on which the previous installment concluded, but preceding it chronologically, we find Araragi and his little sister Tsukihi, the heroine of the last volume, in full sibling rivalry mode as they bicker about love. The conversation that cannot end unfolds in its unabashed original glory herein.

Like KIZUMONOGATARI, which delved into our narrator's disastrous spring break, Cat Tale (Black) is a prequel about another catastrophe, mentioned often yet never recounted even in a foregoing chapter dedicated to Miss H.: namely, the model student's rampage over Golden Week, a string of holidays starting at the end of April.

Closing out what has come to be known as the "First Season" of the series, this episode of 'GATARI, as rich as ever in silly banter and poignant profundities, richer than usual in snide meta comments about the anime, will make you laugh and cry, or just put a grownup smile on your face, maybe, but is guaranteed to stay with you forever.

Nekomonogatari (White): Cat Tale

Monogatari: Book 8

NisiOisiN

Launching into new territory that the author hadn't mapped out when he embarked on the series, NEKOMONOGATARI (White) tells the tale of heroine Tsubasa Hanekawa from her own perspective, in her own voice--if that can hold true for a damaged soul who, depending on who you're asking, suffers from a split personality or a supernatural aberration.

The bone-chilling brokenness of her household, where father and mother and daughter keep three separate sets of cookware in the same kitchen and only ever prepare their own meals, and the profound darkness nurtured in the genius schoolgirl's heart, come to life, if that is the word, through her self-vivisection.

As for our customary unreliable narrator, Araragi, we seem to learn revealing tidbits about him now that we have an outside view of him at last, while his lady friends Senjogahara, Hachikuji, et al, freed from his predilection for proudly inane banter, show subtly new faces to us via their female interlocutor. Welcome to the Second Season.

Kabukimonogatari: Dandy Tale

Monogatari: Book 9

NisiOisiN

How far does one go to help a lost child? In the case of returning narrator Araragi, the answer is too far, across the veil of time. Dutifully (if unknowingly) following up on Hachikuji's cheeky foreshadowing, he concerns himself with his young lady friend and her fate in this installment of the cult-hit series, heroically unable, once again, to find his own way home.

Thus the tale is also, or more so, about the journey itself, the dark honeymoon of a trip he takes into the past with the dweller in his shadow, Shinobu. Even among a cast that routinely disrespects chronology with their meta-commentary, she takes the cake, or the donut, by rewinding the clock for a perverse road movie, one that by and large goes nowhere, spatially.

It's Kabuki not as in the theater, but with the character for "tilt"--as in a slanted attitude toward the world, the posture of a bohemian. Or, perhaps, of a legendary vampire who once sought death, and of a high school senior who once tuned out life doing their dandy best to attend to an embarrassing wealth of aberrations in a provincial town.

Hanamonogatari: Flower Tale

Monogatari: Book 10

NisiOisiN

Our sorry hero, his reformed girlfriend, and the amnesiac class president have all graduated from their high school out in the boondocks, and self-described Sapphist and ex-basketball ace Kanbaru, retired by reason of an "injury," is starting her senior year and the narrator of this volume--her voice far more introspective than the smutty jock's we thought we knew.

Bereft of the company of her beloved mentors, the only other person around her with any working knowledge of aberrations the junior Ogi Oshino, apparently a relative of the Hawaiian-shirted folklorist, she feels a bit alone and blue, and sick with dread that the devil residing in her left arm courtesy of the Monkey's Paw might act up again while she sleeps.

Investigating a rumor that she fears might lead back to her, the former star ends up peering into an abyss of negativity called Roka--a "wax flower" to take the characters' meaning. Trapped in a pit the like of which could only be escaped by the one girl who was able to pull off slam-dunks in her basketball nationals, can the penitent Kanbaru, however, still be aggressive?

Otorimonogatari: Decoy Tale

Monogatari: Book 11

NisiOisiN

A certain middle school girl has a fondness for hats, which serve as a line of defense against eye contact along with the overlong bangs she's worn ever since she was little. Speaking in fits and starts when she doesn't fall completely silent, her go-to line is "I'm sorry," and she's given to referring to herself in third person. Nadeko Sengoku is pretty, and not just cute.

When a jealous classmate tried to hex her with a fraudulent charm, Miss Bangs went and got cursed in earnest all by herself, having done her homework wrong and performed a gruesome ritual at a forgotten shrine. Thank goodness Big Brother Koyomi noticed and rescued her that time, but chopping up snakes at a place of worship that was dedicated to a serpent...

It might come back to bite her again, hmmmm? Hoping to be saved by someone, but unable to ask for help, the shyest member of the cast explores a running theme of these tales in her own halting voice this round: While self-reliance is well and good, beware of its debased counterfeit minted from a mere reluctance to connect with others. You know what I mean?

Onimonogatari: Demon Tale

Monogatari: Book 12

NisiOisiN

It, like the dark that makes up most of the cosmos, is not an aberration. Nonbeing can swallow you whole, yet if anything, it's the anti-aberration. Darkness, in fact, is the Law, an executioner from whom a mark can try to run and hide, but only for so long. When it comes calling, the fortunate just might have the time to say goodbye. And the Darkness is--here now.

Before ever visiting Japan to find a place to die, four centuries, indeed, before her failed suicide attempt, the legendary vampire Kissshot literally stepped foot on the land of the rising sun with an epic jump that ended a lonely sojourn in Antarctica. It was back in those days that the proud noble created her first thrall. It was then, too, that she first met the Darkness.

Having messed with a more recent past with her help, and returning to the present to reunite with two more characters that look like little girls but are actually his elders, Thrall No. 2 Araragi reclaims the mic only to cede it in large part to the bloodsucking demon who goes by "Shinobu" these days. Her story, though, may not even be the most poignant one told herein.

Koimonogatari: Love Tale

Monogatari: Book 13

NisiOisiN

Circling back to a middle school girl's apotheosis, if we can call it that, in Otorimonogatari, and the mortal threat it poses to the hero and his girl, this "Season Two" finale is narrated, for the first time in the series, by a grown-up--but if the word conjures a sense of reliability, of stability and certainty to you, dear reader, then the lesson to take home from this is to trust no one.

Because the teller of the tale, who has been summoned by the heroine to defuse the situation, despite having been her nemesis since the very outset of the series, is--in the absence of the equally shady adult, Oshino, who at least was an expert--none other than his college frenemy, the fake ghostbuster who doesn't believe in ghosts, the shameless swindler Deishu Kaiki.

And it is indeed a con that he agrees to perpetrate, uncharacteristically pro bono, on a wrathful god--a mythic undertaking if true, which it may be, when a liar among liars holds that his story, like any other, is all a lie. But maybe not, when a man who claims to be wise in the ways of the world sounds just as self-conscious as his adolescent counterparts or a Russian anti-hero.

Tsukimonogatari: Possession Tale

Monogatari: Book 14

NisiOisiN

Launching the third or "Final Season" of the international cult-hit series, Possession Tale returns the narrator's headset back to high school senior and amateur savior Koyomi Araragi, who used to eschew friendship once upon a time because it'd lower his "intensity as a human"--a loner's misgiving that was perhaps on the mark in a different way than he intended.

At issue now is not the precarious fate of one of his cherished confrères, or rather consœurs, whom he'd aid, sight unseen, with a monster's resilience, but his own aberrant state and its prolonged abuse. If everything comes with a bill, and if no man is an island, then is the price of self-sacrificing amity--and the bloodshed it ironically occasions--becoming inhuman for good?

That being said! Our hero, whose first name means "calendar" but who has none in his room, sees no need to rush, so, on our way to the profound mysteries of the superhuman aspect, expect a super-shallow deconstruction of the alarm clock. On hand this volume to (hardly ever) humor his humor: his little sisters, a living doll of a corpse, and its violent mistress.

Koyomimonogatari, Part 1: Calendar Tale

Monogatari: Book 15

NisiOisiN

Presented in two parts with covers that will form a diptych, Calendar Tale, narrated by our titular hero, sends us to various earlier points in the story where certain events had yet to occur--when, for instance, the shady "expert" Oshino was still in town, and the ex-legendary vampire Shinobu hadn't tired of sulking in a corner.

Weaving in a motif of ways, paths, roads, and streets--walks of life--the nostalgic vignettes hark back to the "case files" feel of the series-launching Monster Tale, but with a twist. Not all oddities are supernatural: stones and flowers; sand and water; the wind and the tree can just be plain weird without being aberrations.

In this installment, say hello from the future to class president among class presidents Hanekawa, acid-tongued girlfriend Senjogahara, cheeky lost child Hachikuji, smutty athlete Kanbaru, pathologically shy Sengoku, and justice-loving martial artist Karen, young ladies who love to make our young man sweat.

Koyomimonogatari, Part 2: Calendar Tale

Monogatari: Book 16

NisiOisiN

In this latter half of Calendar Tale, a set of journeys into the past that have been revisiting the "case files" feel of the series' origins starts to catch up to the present moment until we are violently spliced back into the overarching plot, just in time for the final quartet that is the End Tale (in three volumes) and End Tale (Cont.).

Continuing with the motif of ways, paths, roads, and streets, and wrapping up sundry other topics and quasi-philosophical concerns, the vignettes for the months of October to March deal with six ladies who are either not quite human or older than titular narrator Koyomi Araragi, bless his bantering soul.

In this installment, see how he handles--or is handled by--aberration of a little sister Tsukihi, enigma of a freshman or -woman Ogi, shadow of a legendary vampire Shinobu, corpse of a tween girl Ononoki, psychopath of a monster expert Kagenui, and know-it-all of a Machiavellian fixer Izuko Gaen.

Owarimonogatari, Part 1: End Tale

Monogatari: Book 17

NisiOisiN

Before we witness the series' climactic showdown in the third volume of the End Tale--each part of which forms its own cohesive whole--narrator Araragi wrestles with a crucial bit of history that had turned him into the loner we met at the very beginning, who opined that friendships only lowered his intensity as a human.

What initiates his pilgrim's progress of a reckoning is his first encounter, at school, with the mysterious freshman Ogi Oshino, self-described niece of the equally enigmatic aberration expert Mèmè, and the book's opening chapter is a harrowing standalone novella of a who-dunit involving a locked room of sorts.

Our increasingly well-adjusted hero kept on being decent at one thing even when he was just hanging on, but this forte, an unlikely aptitude for math, of all things, becomes the focus of a cheating scandal and a web of recollections that forces him to come to terms with, what do you know, his capacity to connect to people.

Owarimonogatari, Part 2: End Tale

Monogatari: Book 18

NisiOisiN

When an old flame who gave up on life and chose to go up in flames--because he wanted to leave you but couldn't--comes crawling back after four hundred years, you might not appreciate it, especially if you're in a new relationship. But nothing's ever simple between people, and that's even truer between monsters.

For the first time in months, our heroic loser Araragi is human, parted by previous events from the ex-legendary vampire bound to his shadow. Before he, the second-ever thrall of the former Kissshot, can resume his partnership with the donut-loving waif that she's turned into, she must make a choice--about that first-ever.

Before the End Tale can end, some loose ends must be tied, and in this volume, the fixer Gaen calls in her favor, requesting an introduction to her niece; the errand of the amulet that Araragi ran with Kanbaru comes into crisp focus; and the time-traveling and -spanning Dandy and Demon Tales see their devastating resolution.

Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge

Yamada Monogatari

Richard Parks

This novelette originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy, April 2006. It can also be found in the anthology Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2007 Edition, edited by Rich Horton. The story is included in the collections On the Banks of the River of Heaven (2010) and Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter (2013).

Listen to the full story for free at PodCastle.

Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter

Yamada Monogatari: Book 1

Richard Parks

In an ancient Japan where the incursions of gods, ghosts, and demons into the living world is an everyday event, an impoverished nobleman named Yamada no Goji makes his living as a demon hunter for hire. With the occasional assistance of the reprobate exorcist Kenji, whatever the difficulty--ogres, demons, fox-spirits--for a price Yamada will do what needs to be done, even and especially if the solution to the problem isn't as simple as the edge of a sword. Yet, no matter how many monsters he has to face, or how powerful and terrible they may be, the demons Yamada fears the most are his own.

Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate

Yamada Monogatari: Book 2

Richard Parks

Yamada no Goji is a minor nobleman of ancient Japan who has lost everything - except a single purpose: keep a promise to the woman he loved. In order to fulfill his vow, all he has to do is fight a horde of demons and monsters, bargain with a few ghosts, outwit the sinister schemers of the emperor's court, find a way to defeat an assassin who cannot be seen, heard, or touched - and change the course of history. Fortunately, Yamada specializes in achieving the seemingly impossible, so he is sure in some way to succeed... if he doesn't drink himself into oblivion first.

Yamada Monogatari: The War God's Son

Yamada Monogatari: Book 3

Richard Parks

The Abe clan and its allies are in full rebellion. When the Emperor's greatest military leader, Yoshii, is targeted for assassination by magic, it is up to the newly sober Lord Yamada and his exorcist associate Kenji to keep the young man alive long enough to put down the uprising before the entire country is consumed by war. Yamada knows how to deal with demons, monsters, and angry ghosts, but the greatest threat of all is one final assassin, hidden in a place where no one - especially Lord Yamada - would ever think to look.

Yamada Monogatari: The Emperor in Shadow

Yamada Monogatari: Book 4

Richard Parks

Lord Yamada is called away "one last time" from his newly restored estates in Kamakura to help Prince Kanemore ensure that Princess Teiko's son, Takahito, inherits the Chrysanthemum Throne. Unfortunately, assuming the throne proves to be the easy part. Yamada must then help Takahito renounce that throne in such a way as to hobble the power of the Fujiwara clan forever!