In short, if you’re a superfan it’s worth buying, otherwise you should probably avoid this.
I’ll elaborate on my reasoning for this, but first I’d like to speak for a bit about the localization. I’d like to clearly state here that I do not fluently speak or read Japanese , thus I’m more speaking about how it reads in English and less how it compares to the Japanese version. I believe that it’s an important perspective to be shown as it could be a significant factor for anyone unfamiliar with Japanese looking to get into the series. All that being said I still encourage everyone to take what I say with a grain of salt, and if possible try reading some pages in a bookstore yourself.
Overall I think it’s certainly a decent job, though I might just be wrongfully attributing some of these issues to Nisio Isin’s peculiar writing style or perhaps even the opposite. There are definitely a few things that stood out to me in these two volumes, though the significance of these remains to be seen.
One thing that isn’t particularly an issue with these two volumes, but may become one in later volumes and so should be looked out for, is Hachikuji’s flub gag. In these two volumes they’ve elected to go with misspellings of Arararagi’s name as it appears in romaji. This does present some issues as there are only so many ways you can reasonably misspell his name in romaji, but more important than the number of possible flubs is the cleverness of the flubs. Writing it “Ah-ah-agi” or “Rararagi” is certainly acceptable for some of the simpler flubs from early on in the series, and indeed I do believe that these two examples were actually used at some point in the anime, but I do wonder how they’ll handle some of the more advanced wordplay that is displayed later on in the series. The flub gag is a pretty important part of showing just how smart Hachikuji is, and how well she and Ararargi mesh together.
A far more noticeable issue comes with how Kanbaru and Araragi interact with each other. You might find it cruel to criticize the use of “My Senior” and “My Junior” as substitutes for “Senpai” and “Kouhai”, especially since Araragi and Kanbaru are literally a senior and junior in high school, but it’s just too jarring seeing it used so often in such close proximity. It’s especially disappointing since I felt that they handled the use of other honorifics fairly well.
The various readings of some kanji works fairly well, since most of the time they pop up it’s because a character is explaining or talking about them with Araragi. The reader then also gets to read the same explanation as Araragi, and so the situation isn’t usually as confusing as it could possibly be. Something else to note is that there are a few Japanese words that are left untranslated, I believe youkai is one of them, and while I think the context of the situation usually explains pretty well what they mean it’s still worth noting for anyone it might bother.
To buy, or not to buy?
Being completely frank it really isn’t worth buying these volumes unless Monogatari is a favorite series of yours, or you much prefer reading books to watching anime. Saying it’s not worth buying seems pretty harsh, so it might be more accurate to say that there aren’t enough compelling reasons to justify purchasing these books over watching the anime. This is largely due to just how great an adaption the anime seems to be.
As I read through these two volumes I was able to clearly picture every scene as it happened in the anime. There are of course some differences still, some of dialogue and Araragi’s internal monolgue was cut or altered some to better fit the anime, but overall the experience you get from reading isn’t so dissimilar as to justify the novel over the anime. Rather, I think a compelling argument can be made that the anime adds enough to justify watching even if you read and enjoyed the novels first.
It might seem peculiar that what seemingly should have been the hearty meat of this write-up is so short but I truly believe that the decision really is that simple. If you enjoyed this evaluation feel free to stick around! I plan on doing a more comprehensive analysis and overview of Monogatari once I’ve read the novels and seen Owari season 2. Additionally I plan on doing some shorter writings on Monogatari and other series, so you don’t have to worry about them all being pseudo-reviews like this.