I've said before I don't buy into paranoid, reactionary concepts like the male gaze. Saying that media portrayals reflect an inequitable position in society for women, motivated by men content to objectify women and taking pleasure in demeaning them is not the same thing as saying camera point of view mannerisms influenced by the libidos of heterosexual men are inherently destructive or oppressive, which is what the concept of male gaze is meant to imply. I can recognise the reality of the former while dismissing the latter as bullshit.
So I like the fanservice in Nekomonogatari. It makes sense internally since the show mainly comes from the POV of a heterosexual teenage male and part of the point of the story is that he's trying to separate his sexual attraction to Hanekawa from his affection for her. But I have to say, I do kind of miss the outright anti-moé quality of the original Bakemonogatari series.
The sort of wallowing in moé exhibited by Nisemonogatari and, to a lesser extent, Nekomonogatari has a brain dead quality, probably meant to make the shows appeal to otaku who made Bakemonogatari such an enormous financial success, supposedly largely due to character design, while they were put off by the intellectualism and cultural commentary of the show.
As Wikipedia explains, moé is an aesthetic concept that has posed some difficulty in defining. It's not objectification because aspects of personality are an integral part of it. It's not even necessarily an entirely superficial personality--at least, it doesn't seem to exclude complex characterisations, but it can exist without them which, since it's easier, it often does. The word I like to use when describing it is "fetishisation". It's not merely fetishising a woman's body or a woman's body in a particular dress, but also character types. As, in Nekomonogatari, we have the nekomimi type, the younger sister type, and the lolicon type in the young, to appearances, vampire girl.
It's exactly the same moé exploited in Shaft's previous series, Dance in the Vampire Bund, and provides insight into the whole lolicon phenomenon. It's not necessarily about lusting after children, but a child aesthetic, idealised by the ancient child vampire character type, which requires a sort of post-modern, self-aware adult in the role.
Shinobu, the child vampire in this case, never spoke throughout Bakemonogatari and there weren't really any moé shots of her. She was a thematically intriguing character, literally presented in the end as Araragi's shadow, not only as a relation to his own vampiric nature, but as a manifestation of the shame and confusion of his earliest sexual experience, translated by the show into a supernatural encounter.
In Nisemonogatari and Nekomonogatari, she's a full blown lolicon character, which in a way makes sense since she'd already played out thematically in Bakemonogatari and there otherwise wasn't much of interest to do with her. To continue focusing on her as a character required some grist for the mill, but I found this a dull route, particularly in comparison to what came before, or rather between.
Nekomonogatari is a prequel to Bakemonogatari, actually based on a book written before the material upon which Bakemonogatari was based on, which means Studio Shaft decided that this middle portion, the material for Bakemonogatari, was the best way to begin, not knowing if more would be made. It's difficult to surmise the exact nature of the source material based on the anime when, as I suspect, so much fanservice has been injected, but I can see why the decision to begin with Bakemonogatari was made. It seems to me author Nisio Isin was just hitting his stride at the end of Nekomonogatari and struck gold in Bakemonogatari.
I liked the supernatural possession story of Nekomonogatari and how it reflects the kind of psychological troubles Hanekawa has. I like that the cat demon takes possession after the victim has taken pity on the demon in the form of a dead, tailless cat, which the victim then buries. It nicely reflects the idea of the sufferer inflicting their pain on others. I liked, too, Araragi's angry rebuke to Oshino's expression of disgust for Hanekawa, and the uncertainty of how much Araragi's defensiveness is based on his sexual attraction to Hanekawa. That's some real touchy subject matter for an anime to deal with.
Though I can see how it leads to the somewhat less interesting supernatural story of Bakemonogatari's first storyline, the somewhat cliche idea of a girl's defence mechanisms borne of a history of physical abuse. But the bulk of that "Hitagi Crab" storyline is superior to Nekomonogatari because Senjogahara's established so well as a character apart from her back story, particularly in her exciting challenging of and confrontation of Araragi's sexual impulses.
Twitter Sonnet #464
Single petal flowers bloom in a blank.
Multiple cells still condemn the mammal.
Doubled moons in space sauce soon quickly sank.
Three blades would only trip Dorothy Hamill.
Quadrupeds have trouble taking pictures.
Five dollars truly toppled Lincoln's hat.
A sixth of a biscuit muddles censers.
Seven thresholds unsealed stump Flaky Cat.
Eight elements eliminate the ninth.
Ten tonsils together make the throat squid.
Eleven toilet tubes make a bad fife.
The twelfth blushed toe fell past the open lid.
Thirteen ducks descend upon goosey doom.
Fourteen threads entangle the Doozer loom.