This is, the story of me and the “literature girl”.
Why am I writing once again?
That’s because on that day, under the magnolia tree…
I chanced upon her...
It’s the new year for everyone and it has also been more than a month since the start of Shiro no Monogatari. And so, in order to welcome the year 2011, we are going to start off with the very first review of this blog: the movie Bungaku Shoujo!
Bungaku Shoujo, otherwise known as Book Girl or Literature Girl, is originally a light novel written by Mizuki Nomura. The work itself has spanned 15 volumes and has won numerous awards and even maintaining the top 10 positions in the annual light novel ranking of Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! from 2007 onwards, despite its debut being only a year before in 2006. Its anime film adaptation, which I am doing a review today, was released last year in May 2010.
Amano Tooko is the star of this show, voiced by Hanazawa Kana who is also well known for voicing other works, such as Sengoku Nadeko from Bakemonogatari, Tachibana Kanade from Angel Beats! and Kuroneko from Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai. While her signature ‘sad’ voice can’t actually be heard considering the personality of Tooko, it is still nice to see one of my favourite seiyuus lending her voice to this main character here.
Light-hearted and carefree, Amano Tooko was the only member of the literature club until she forced Inoue Konoha to join as well during his freshmen year. While not explaining it fully in the film itself, Tooko is supposedly a youkai, having little sense of taste towards the food that we humans usually eat but instead consumes pieces of paper from stories. Heard of those expressions where people mention that a story that describes so well seems delicious? This story takes this whole expression quite literally, with Tooko being able to taste the stories according to how good the stories are: the better they are written, the tastier they seem. Tooko herself prefers those with romance and sometimes those with comedy, and even mentions that handwritten works are similar to drinking from a stream water.
Throughout the film, Tooko appears to be the only source of optimism, something that audiences would enjoy with regards to the rather dark theme of this entire anime. Although she drags Konoha along as his senpai, she is nevertheless kind towards him, listens to him and works to help Konoha solve the mystery. A respectable senpai that is a role model to everyone.
Inoue Konoha, the main character in which most of the narration and viewpoint of the film comes from him, is voiced by Irino Miyu. While probably less well known than others, this young seiyuu has voiced several of my favourite anime male characters, consisting of Morino Ryoushi from Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi, and Syaoran from Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle and its following OVAs and films. For those who are more updated with your knowledge of seiyuu or Japanese media, you might also recognise him voicing Saji Crossroad in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Niwa Daisuke from D.N. Angel and Haku from the another movie Spirited Away.
Konoha is perhaps what you could say Tooko’s own personal writer, writing stories during each club activity for Tooko to eat as snacks. He uses the pen name ‘Inoue Miu’, and has written only one book so far “Similar to the Sky” which had won a literature magazine’s newcomer award, before being overwhelmed by a certain guilt which forces him to stop writing and becomes the core of the story. Portrayed as a frail boy, he shines with his own abilities at the end with the help of Tooko.
With not much redeeming qualities from him other than his ability to write, people might find him a slight pale in comparison to all the other colourful personalities of the characters from him. Yet I notice as I watch this film, you could feel the maturity and determination of the character as his faces his past once again. To watch a character grow from zero at the start to become something more is one of the joys of anyone admiring a story or a film.
Konoha’s classmate, who develops a secret crush on him that is never reciprocated. Even so, she still supports him as a friend, and hopes that Konoha will one day answer her one-sided love.
Another classmate of Konoha’s who regards him as a true friend. While appearing cool and expressionless, he is kind and cares for his long-time friend.
The main antagonist of this film. While being Konoha’s childhood friend, she appears to be the cause behind Konoha’s guilt with her attempted suicide. She hides her true devious nature in a facade of kindness, and seeks to hurt Konoha the same way she felt back then.
Two years after joining the literature club, our two receives a strange drawing placed in their letter box. Instead of a request for a love letter like what the box was meant for, this drawing came from one of Miyazawa Kenji’s works, the poem “The Song of the Fallen Boy”. A sense of deja vu and uneasiness overwhelms Konoha, and he eventually traces the repeated sending of drawings to the sender herself: Asakura Miu, a childhood friend who had attempted suicide before in front of him. While Miu seeks to repair the relationship they had before, Konoha tries to change the topic to ask the reason why Miu tried to kill herself, to which Miu instead leaves a cryptic question: What do you think is Campanella’s wish? Campanella is a character in another of Miyazawa Kenji’s works “Night on the Galactic Railroad” who deserted the main character Giovanni in the middle of their journey, but this question only bewilders Konoha.
When Konoha recalls bad memories after Tooko accidentally recites of Miyazawa Kenji’s stories in front of him, he decides to reveal his identity to Tooko: he is also Inoue Miu, an author whose first story “Similar to the Sky” had won an award before. Having written that story before Asakura Miu’s attempted suicide, and winning the award despite it being Miu’s wish to become an author, Konoha believes that he is the cause that led to Miu’s suicide for stealing what she had deserved.
After an accidental encounter with Miu’s mother, Konoha discovers the truth behind what happened after the last time they met, and Miu reveals her actual hatred towards Konoha for taking everything that belonged to her. When Miu disappears from the hospital the very next day, Konoha eventually finds her at the rooftop of their middle school, the very same place where Miu had jumped down from before, and is coaxed to joined her in a double suicide. This is stopped by Tooko who rushes over, and after coming to his senses, Konoha himself as well, but still bearing spite against Konoha, Miu decides to run in front of a truck when the trio leaves the school together.
The whole group believes that Miu had reverted to her third grade self, as it seems that the accident had only caused minor injuries and an amnesia, but Nanase soon exposes the whole case as a complete lie. In the midst of a heated argument, Tooko arrives and introduces herself again to Miu, and decides to bring her on a trip to rediscover what Campanella’s wish truly was: to bring happiness to others.
As soon as the entire incident is resolved, Tooko disappears from the group. Separating himself from the others and turning down Nanase’s feelings, Konoha finds Tooko about to board the train to head for the university that accepted her in another area. Despite Konoha’s wishes as well as his promise to take back his club resignation form from before when he thought he was to take care of Miu for the rest of his life, Tooko remains headstrong in her decision to leave, mentioning that Konoha should be a writer for everyone, and not simply be her own personal writer. Just when the train is about to depart, Konoha steals a kiss from Tooko, and the two become unwillingly separated by the moving train and fate.
In the end, Konoha continues with his pen name ‘Inoue Miu’ to release his second book: “文学少女”.
For Bungaku Shoujo, one would definitely find it commendable for at least two things: its myriad references to books as well its ability in developing a simple tragedy with so many twists and turns. True to its title, Bungaku Shoujo weaves in many works of Japanese literature into its story, where you can see their titles flowing out of Tooko’s mouth continuously and flawlessly. Most titles were actually used by Tooko to describe their tastes early in the movie, but the main meat comes with Miyazawa Kenji’s works. Children stories, which though may seem immature, could represent dreams, fantasy and finally childhood innocence. As such, I wouldn’t really be able to go against the choice of using children books in a plot like this. However, it may be possible that children books in this context are perhaps overused, with Campanella’s wish bearing no relevance to its own story “Night on the Galactic Railroad”. While using that very phrase could tie it with stories, the plot would experience not much change either should it not be used as well.
The driving of the plot is probably most successful due to the colourful nature of Asakura Mio, the main antagonist behind the entire incident. Though the other two supporting characters Nanase and Kazushi have less development in that film, its Asakura Mio’s character that helps to pull the entire movie back up. Audiences certainly won’t know when the girl will actually give up in her revenge, considering the effort she puts in to lie to Konoha with false personality, to pull him together for a double suicide, to allow herself to get knocked by her truck, pretending to experience amnesia AND to get in a fight with Nanase. Furthermore, anyone would wince at what the girl has been through to rely on Konoha that much, even after considering the hurtful things that she does. For a broken girl, we will all ponder behind the logic and desperation of her actions, and afterwards give that girl a big hug simply to say that everything is alright.
And speaking of characters, how could we leave Tooko and Konoha alone? Without a doubt, the climax and separation at the end makes it all the more clear that the both of them are certainly the best pair in the series. Both of them are such innocent, fragile people, yet together they appear to be so strong and determined to achieves their dreams. Praying on a single pen for good luck symbolises their statuses as fellow literature club members which brought their relationship together, with a scarf and mittens for sharing warmth. Finally, the separation only emphasises their closeness, reminiscence of all the farewells and separations from our friends that we face on the day of graduation. We won’t be able to hold onto these relationships in the coming days, but we cherish those days that were spent together. And even if we take different paths, we’ll have faith, and find ourselves tied to the string of fate to meet each other again one day.
Content (30%): 15/20
Visual (20%): 14/20
Character (20%): 12/20
Sound (15%): 13/20
Scene/Atmosphere (10%): 7/10
Originality (5%): 3/5
Overall Score: 68.25/100
Check out several Bungaku Shoujo OVAs and anime shorts, which show different viewpoints of some characters prior to the events of the movie.