The point is that there isn't any myths about 'lost snails' but there are about 'lost cows' and the fact that Mayoi's idiom was a snail is related to the 'lost cow' apparition through the fact that 'snail' contains the kanji for 'cow'.
Bakemonogatari is awesome because it's significantly different to every other anime out there and it's whole thing is to riff off anime tropes, either subverting them, reconstructing them, or deconstructing them.
...so I started watching the series, but I don't really 'get' it: a teenage guy who is thrown into episodic adventures with damsels in distress, yet is completely disconnected from reality (like he's been a shut-in for the past decade)
I don't know where you get this from. The first episode opens up with him at a school talking to Hanekawa. Maybe you mean 'shut-in' differently.
and acts like a little boy when it comes to women (good thing they don't do 'the nosebleed' in this series, for that would cause worldwide floods every other minute).
At this point I think he is about 15. He is in the middle of the 'raging hormones' period of adolecense. Instead of glossing over this fact and pretending people (especially guys) don't have raging impulses would be a disservice to a series which is primarily about playing with common narrative tropes and presenting a different kind of reality from that you see in other shows.
Not saying that other anime don't have fanservice or males that nosebleed or whatever but few anime have the maincharacter seeing his classmates panties and getting a boner and needing to go buy a porn mag as the main point for a major arc (Kizumonogatari, the prequel which you get a summary of at the start of the first episode of Bakemonogatari. Might come out next year in movie form).
I'll probably keep watching at least the whole bakemonogatari, half-heartedly hoping for a less fanservice-y approach (yes, I am judging if it's an adult-only show that is too prudish to show proper nudity
) and a more coherent story.
The show gets significantly more fanservicey in Nisemonogatari but in later seasons it depends on the arc, could be anywhere from almost none or back to Bakemonogatari levels of fanservice. The difference with Monogatari is that fanservice is characterization, parody, commentary, or plot in the guise of fanservice.
The story is coherent to me. So... *shrug*. Do you just mean on how the plot is largely based in wordplay? Or how instead of being all "Spirits are super combat dudes and you have to train to fight them with special abilities shounen" it's more like an urban version of Mushishi ambivilent emotional spirits that needs to be placated through abstract means that are related to classic mythologies?
Eastern media is already very character centric and plot-averse but Bakemonogatari is the pinnacle of the character-centric story craft. Literally everything in Monogatari is *of* the characters. Not just *about* the characters, but *of* the characters. There is a reason that, say, classmates aren't drawn when Araragi is in the classroom and the desks move around to simulate the classmate's reaction. There is a reason why you get blackscene when Araragi closes his eyes or blinks. It's because we're specifically seeing the scene from Araragi's point of view. Literally everything that is shown on screen, every plot point, every object, scene transition, piece of narration, *everything* -- is a visual or aural expression of some ineffable part of either the PoV character or the Arc's Character. That's why the art style is so abstracted and foreign, because you're not seeing the world how it is, you're seeing the world emotionally, through the character's perceptions and through their filters of what seems important and what doesn't (and that is taken to the extreme to really emphasize the characters).
The music (OPs/EDs especially) is amazing. The wordplay is intriguing. It satires anime as a whole and the harem genre in particular. It's artstyle is the culmination and pinnacle of everything SHAFT has learned throughout Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Madoka. The characters are all interesting. The plot is completely unique--Mushishi is the closest to how the actual plot works (apparitions happen that are related to character arcs and needs to be resolved mystically or emotionalyl) but it's so so completely different to Monogatari that you can't compare the two. It also has one of the most genuine and realistic, if not greatest, romance of any anime (and it isn't a romance anime). So what makes it good? What makes it popular? Literally every quality monogatari possesses and every quality it doesn't possess makes Monogatari popular and good.
With the exception of a couple scenes I personally think the show is basically perfection for multiple seasons. It is definitely not everyone's cup of tea. If you've not seen much anime, or you can't stomach even a drop of fanservice, or you can't suffer an anime that isn't fightan 24/7 then yeah, you're absolutely not going to like the show.