The protagonist of the story, Konoha Inoue, is a seemingly normal senior high 2nd year student. His high school life, other than a hinted incident 2 years ago, can be summed up as normal- if one can dismiss the secret fact that he used to be a female bestselling romance author. Due to that incident, however, he has now vowed never to write again.
This continued on until he was forced to join the literary club by the literary club president, the 3rd year female student Amano Tooko, a beautiful girl who has a taste for eating literary works. Now he has been tasked with writing her snack every day after school.
When the teaser preview special for Bungaku Shoujo was released earlier this year I was a bit tepid in my enthusiasm for this project. It looked quite lovely and it featured several of my favorite seiyuu talents, so I made a point to give this a try when it finally became available. As someone without any knowledge of the original light novels, I found this film to be mostly directionless and confusing and in the end only a very average experience.
Bungaku Shoujo or Literature Girl is about a young girl, Touka Amano who eats books. Yes she literally eats books. She
can’t eat normal food apparently. Of course it would have been really nice of the story to actually tell us WHY she eats books but unfortunately we have to divine that answer for ourselves. Perhaps I could have slit open a goat’s stomach or read the source materials in order to get the answer to that but honestly why should I have to? That’s the movie's job to provide me with those necessary answers. The only answer we are given is she’s a literature girl, as if that explains everything. And thus that is the main problem with the entire movie in general, it’s called Literature Girl but it’s really not even about her. Touka is basically a side character in her own movie.
Well the real story eventually reveals itself to be about a young writer, Konoha Inoue who after winning an important literary contest a couple years before and subsequently his novel became a national sensation. But do to a personal tragedy that followed this, he has vowed to never write again. Konoha lives as an ordinary high school student since his book was published under a pseudonym and he has remained anonymous. Rather far-fetched idea really as he has seemingly managed to keep this a secret from his family as well. Of course this completely ignores the fact that it is also incredibly unlikely that a middle school student is going to have the ability to write such a novel to begin with. But I digress.
The drama that unfolds does manage to be pretty compelling however. I did find myself engaged and interested in the story. While the major story arc is adequately resolved to many additional questions linger at the end. As mentioned before we learn really next to nothing about Touka herself. The only reason I think I understood it as much as I did was by additionally watching the preview OVA and the Memorie OVA. I would suggest anyone interested in this title to do the same to get the maximum amount of enjoyment from it. I am unclear as to whether this movie will get a follow up movie or perhaps even a TV/OVA series to further explain all of this but taking this film by itself as it currently stands, I would have to say as an adaptation it fails.
As mentioned the titular character, Touka is really left to be mostly a mystery. Personality wise I found her to be a likable character which a lot of potential if they had explored it. She felt like an odd mix-mash of Haruhi Suzumiya and Yuki Nagato. But other than being likable she really doesn’t make that much of an impression. The male lead Inoue is typical for the genre. A soft spoken, effeminate nice guy. Though I did feel he was presented very well and made for an interesting character. The struggles he has in dealing with his own personal demons I think were mostly realistic and understandable. With one exception, the rest of the supporting cast is mostly just background. The only ones who really even stood out to me at all were the ones voiced by actors I happen to like.
Above all the characters would be Miu Asakura, who is at the center of all of the stories drama. She is both the films chief antagonist and protagonist, particularly over the last half of the movie. Miu by far has the biggest impact on the film and really steals the show for herself. When you consider she’s voiced by Aya Hirano, I suppose it’s not surprising she would have the most impactful role. While Miu makes for an extremely convincing psychopath, some of the reasons behind her mental break didn’t exactly add up to what she eventually became. This being said, she is the brightest spot in the show character wise.
The acting is clearly the best part of Bungaku Shoujo. I thought Aya Hirano was exceptional as the psychotic Miu and I think it might be the best pure acting performance of her career. Many other well known seiyuu stars such as Nana Mizuki and Aki Toyasaki appear but unfortunately their characters are mostly unimportant to the film. Musically this film is just average. Neither the films background music nor ED song was really that moving, despite the latter being performed by eufonius.
Artistically the film is good. The backgrounds are quite stunning and color palette is soft and pleasant. The one thing that did strike me was just how similar so many of the characters looked however. It’s almost like most of them had exactly the same face, just with different hair and eye colors. While it’s not hard to distinguish them from each other at all I just found it a bit unsettling to look at.
Overall this movie only rates as average with me. Sure I did actually enjoy the movie quite a bit despite all its warts. However the large number of important questions about the overall story and title character really detracts from it as a whole. Until such time more of this information is presented to us in future works, then I suspect only fans of the original works would really get much out of this film.
In this review I want to use Bungaku Shōjo’s style of associating stories with various tastes. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in my country there are vitamin C pills sold at the chemist’s. Those pills consist of sweet coat to prepare you for bad thing, bitter middle layer, where the actual medicine is located, and honeyed core to wash away the after-taste. Bungaku Shōjo has that kind of a story.
The first OVA has Japanese girl talking about some story written by the Russian classic author. I was impressed, not by the story, but by the whole concept. That cute and
unusual scenario was standing out against a background of the latest anime shows, so I enthusiastically waited for the film. And here it came.
The plot revolves around Inoue Konoha, a high school student who once wrote a best-selling novel but doesn’t want to continue author career. He has a bookworm friend, Amano Tōko. She is a literature girl whose food is books, literally. Since I like books myself, I usually go berserk every time I see somebody ripping a page or something, but okay. Amano is very sympathetic character, so I easily forgave her.
The film begins like aforementioned coat of a pill: sweetly and light-heartedly like your typical romantic story. But then it throws the viewer into whirlpool of despair and psychological problems. It wasn’t the stuff I expected after watching that OVA, but I have to admit that Bungaku Shōjo works perfectly as drama. The plot is a bit rushed in the beginning and has some sharp angles but it is good at one certain thing: transmitting necessary feelings to the viewer. Bungaku Shōjo is a very atmospheric creation, and the music really helps here. Those piano-centred arrangements are definitely a good choice for a film of such kind.
Two major themes of Bungaku Shōjo are romance (of course) and books. Yeah, the books help us to express ourselves; thanks to them we can share our experience, dreams and emotions. I am somewhat an amateur writer myself and I enjoy writing short stories, so I appreciate Bungaku Shōjo for exploring the role of literature in our life.
However, there are some minor minuses in this film, like the fact that Amano is a book-eater has no real significance for the plot development. Looks like she is given that trait just to become more… mysterious and strange, I think. And I have already mentioned that the story of the film has some difficulties in it. Another thing is the art which is certainly not a masterpiece: trains look damn plastic, for example.
So, was Bungaku Shōjo good or not? In the beginning of my review I compared it with a vitamin C pill, and vitamins are nice for health, right? In fact, Bungaku Shōjo is the best romantic drama I’ve seen recently, and that is equal to 9 points in my eyes.
P.S. Night on the Galactic Railroad, a book by Miyazawa Kenji-shi, has a prominent role in the story of the film. I don’t know whether that intentional or not, but I like how Inoue Konoha, the protagonist, shares the same family name with Inoue Masaru-shi, a man known as “the father of Japanese railways”.
P.P.S. I really want Amano to try out my quantum mechanics textbook. Wonder what taste does that hell of a book have.
Bungaku Shoujo (Book Girl) is a rather meandering tale about no particular character in general. Reading the synopsis on MAL here gives one the impression that this anime is about mystery, drama and intense emotions. Sadly, the story is anything but.
The Book Girl franchise consists of (for now) a movie, and a quartet of OVAs. The first OVA, Bungaku Shoujo: Kyou no Oyatsu - Hatsukoi was released in 2009 and was followed by the trio named Bungaku Shoujo: Memoire a year later. These OVAs pretty much serve as a run-up to the movie which came out right after the OVAs in 2010. The OVAs explore
and set up the story for the main movie.
With a running time of one hour and forty minutes, team Bungaku Shoujo had ample opportunity to try and craft a story that is not only visually appealing but also meaningful. The problem with Bungaku Shoujo is that it is a story that has absolutely no particular reason as to why it should be told. The plot attempts to follow several strands parallely and tie them up together in the end. Each storyline involves Konoha Inoue (who is not the main character; serving to confuse things even further) and, ten points to Gryffindor, a girl. Skipping over the -dere nature of the girls, this just comes across as more of a pathetic attempt to make the story look complex and mysterious than an attempt at creating a deep and rich storytelling atmosphere.
The presence of most other characters makes no strategic sense. For example, there is this one character who's only purpose in life seems to be to blush and act awkward in the presence of Inoue. She does don the mantle of purpose for a brief moment some time later in the movie (she slaps another character in a hospital) but this could have easily been accomplished by a far more relevant and important character. Then there is Miu Asakura, who is seemingly in love with Inoue but also wants to hurt him. Why? It's all (apparently) because she had a bad childhood and because of a small misunderstanding. Asakura wanted to become an author and she sends in a story to a contest. To her chagrin, some other person wins the contest and this winner turns out to be none other than Inoue. Unable to bear this travesty (because Inoue never told her he was entering the contest), she commits suicide by jumping off a roof (but turns up alive later anyway). It is learned at the end of the movie that Inoue did this only to "impress" her. It is all rather headdesk worthy considering the fact that all the ensuing drama could have been avoided had Inoue not acted like an idiot and explained things to his friend. This was definitely the most grating and annoying part of the anime.
This brings up the titular character of the movie - the Book Girl. Tooko Amano is a girl who eats books. That's pretty much it. She consumes pages with prose on them (and also poems) instead of normal food. The nutritional implications of such an escapade are many but those shall not be discussed here. Thankful to say, there are no scenes exploring the nature of her bowel movements. If there is one thing this movie had going for it, it doesn't have any crass scenes. Plenty of useless scenes yes, but nothing crass. On the other hand, one must wonder where and how the Book Girl actually fits in into the plot. She doesn't. Her presence (like most other characters) is very weak and she ends up as a mere plot device in the end. A plot device that the writers then try and prop up as a central character in the last few moments of the movie. Her main connection to Inoue is that he is her main source of stories for consumption. Inoue and Amano are the only members of their school's book club. The two spend the evenings (respectively) writing and, in Amano's case, eating stories. Apparently, she is supposed to be this wise, oddball character but she comes off quite silly and pretentious with her totally unconvincing descriptions about the 'taste' of the stories she eats and her general demeanour.
All the different plotlines (there are only three really) are brought together in the middle of the movie when suddenly all the characters run into one another because of a mysterious note left in a 'Submit your love' box (or something like that) belonging to the book club. This quickly unravels into everybody meeting everybody else and Asakura staking claim on Inoue. By this point, if one isn't really enchanted by something in this debacle of an anime, most will be wondering why this story was ever written in the first place.
The ending is spectacularly unconvincing, and much like the anime itself, unnecessary. This is the ending in one single sentence - book girl invites all characters to a planetarium and causes psychological scenes and a resolution. In the end everybody simply walks away, with Inoue chasing after his Senpai (Amano). It is terribly underwhelming and unsatisfying. The lovers never get united, Amano just leaves for university and Inoue is left standing. If this were a harem anime (by all rights it should be one), it would be rated among the worst harem ever.
In the end, it all boils down to a general feeling of unease and boredom while watching Book Girl. It is also a sad fact that the prequel OVAs are much more fun to watch than the main movie itself. A terrible shame that such a well-produced piece of animation (indeed the artwork and the sound production are quite good) is let down by the absence of a meaningful and strong storyline.
We can't change the fact that we have moments when our feelings do get over our heads and we start to get paranoid about our failures, pasts, and regrets. It's part of growing up and there are even times when our life seemed to be at the edge and we seemed to be waiting for the right time to heal. Bungaku Shoujo takes up a light atmosphere to somewhere deep inside ourselves that we never want to -- our jealousy, depression and our horrible memories.
It's a very deceiving move to watch an anime/movie of a person eating a piece of paper from a book. That
was actually what made me want to watch this anime.
"Why was she eating the pages of the book? It's somewhat trivial, isn't it?"
But then again, I just thought of this eating a piece of a page is just a symbol of her way getting to know, understand and feel the information and story of each page. But then, the eating of the page isn't really the story.
I don't seem to understand the point of recommending Hyouka to Bungaku Shoujo. It may seem to be a club that helps solving problems but there's more to that. The movie gives more of a drama-traumatic effect that is very inconsistent to the easy going anime, Hyouka. I would recommend Bungaku Shoujo being similar to any dramatic anime such as Myself;Yourself or other dramatic animes but with Hyouka -- not so much for me.
Bungaku Shoujo is not a light romance. It's an anime that depicts the realism of humans' fears -- haunted childhood memory, lack of ability, and the lack of faith.
It may seem to be a girl from the Literature Club eating a piece of paper and with a guy as a side-kick but that's not even a minor part of the "real" story. Bungaku Shoujo goes beyond the past of Inoue Konoha. The guy who seemed to be so ordinary -- actually had a childhood past that haunts him until he grows up. The story flows on the escapism of one's childhood comes haunting him again -- feeling the relinquish of his life. But this story shows that even in the verge of our depression, there is still hope and people who are willing to support us. What makes the story much more amusing is that the romantic scene felt just right for this dramatic movie. In summary, the story is about our "hidden emotional" feelings.
I love the pastel colors. It's a really great color combination. Since the beginning, the colors of the animation until the end the dark colored backdrop with shimmering stars were spectacular. That art was eye-popping beautiful.
The voice actors & actresses did a great job on dubbing the anime. You could feel the dramatic emotion behind the 2D animation. The OSTs, if you haven't heard -- go to Youtube, sounds like a lullaby or some charming instrumental songs. My favorite OST is Hontou no Saiwai. It's just pure heaven. If you are up on a mountain, listen to this and probably you'll even feel like you're flying.
Each character of Bungaku Shoujo exhibits a different personality. Touko Amano has the knowledge of a library being able to guide people in desperate need. It makes me even wonder if ever she's suffering and she just hides it behind her happy face. Inoue Konoha is a guy who looks like a person who feels burdened by the past. Miu Asakura, in the other hand, is a character that is suppressed by her own skills. The other characters in Bungaku Shoujo reflected on each of the characters and thus complimenting on the anime so well. The missing component of the movie would be the little information about the life of Touko Amano. I wanted to know more about her feelings and personality. I just hoped that the staff combined the 3 OVAs of "Bungaku Shoujo: Memoire" to the movie for the viewers to understand the characters' personality while watching the movie.
The movie, entitled as "Book Girl", shows us the story of the bright wonderful girl who creates such great imaginations and inspires people to know and understand their true feelings. The story goes beyond the "teaser" of the movie and that in itself is very surprising on how the story suddenly becomes an inspiration.
The movie holds a great lesson in life that people always seemed to mistaken. I learned that -- There's always someone who loves you and there'll always be someone who'll need you more than you need them.
The movie may look like too dramatic but then looking at ourselves and how we live day by day. Isn't that how we 'sometimes' feel? Feeling weak of how much a person can do so much more than you or a memory that just frightens you every time. This movie summarizes everything we've felt and to fit that within 1 hour and 40 minutes is amazing.
"I may be getting too cheesy in my review but then that's how I thought this anime was trying to picture and I just had so much feels with the movie." (but then again I think I may be going too far. hehehe)