For a long time now, the psychology genre has been dominated by the likes of Elfen Lied, Higurashi, Monster and Requiem for a Phantom. All these anime looked at psychology as the mindset of a murderer or the troubled past of the protagonist, and there were also shows like Death Note, which focused on the psychological warfare of two geniuses. This has been the way anime have defined the psychology genre for years.
But, as always, along comes a player that changes the way the game is played.
Aoi Bungaku Series thrusts you into the shoes of the protagonists and synchronizes their brain to yours.
It gives you a spectacularly detailed insight into their thoughts and feelings, all while following an intense storyline.
The show is the anime adaptation of several literary masterpieces in Japan (much like Ayakashi Classic Japanese Horror), some of them dating back to the late 1920s. ABS portrays six such immortal classics, each of them highlighting the complex and fickle nature of the human mind. Except for the first arc, each arc lasts only two episodes. Writing an in-depth analysis of each of the stories would be giving away too much and might ruin the experience. If you want absolutely no spoilers, then I recommend you do not read the MAL synopsis either, as it contains nearly half the story. Here’s a quick breakdown of the basic elements of each of the stories, while keeping the spoilers to a bare minimum:
(NOTE: Each arc is a completely different story, are in no way interrelated and can even be viewed as a standalone anime. That’s the primary reason why I’m reviewing each arc separately.)
1. No Longer Human – This classic, written by Dazai Osamu, focuses on a psychotic and troubled mind – that of a congressman’s son. Set in 1929, this dark and gloomy arc was the longest, lasting four episodes, which proves to be more than enough time to let the viewer unravel the protagonist’s twisted perceptions of society and how he bears the pressure of being crushed under the weight of his own ego. Drenched with sadness and yet pregnant with hope, each of those four episodes is memorable to say the least. After watching this arc, you understand why No Longer Human was the defining work of the author and the most read literary piece in Japan.
2. Under Cherries in Full Bloom – Probably the most bizarre two episodes of an anime I’ve ever seen in my life. Ango Sakaguchi, the author, tries to tell a tale of how people need to speak their minds in order to live a peaceful life. However, his idealistic approach on decadence falls short in this anime adaptation, because of unnecessary humor, inappropriate chibi animations and dreadfully boring jazzy songs. The sudden light-heartedness and lackadaisical pacing feels like a fish out of water after watching the melancholy and sorrowful No Longer Human.
3. Kokoro – Natsume Soseki is considered the Charles Dickens of Japan for good reason. I felt like I was drifting along in a sea filled with the characters’ emotions. When I talked about this anime being the game changer, I was mainly referring to this arc. It weaves a bittersweet story of love, lust, trust, jealousy and friendship.
4. Run, Melos! – “Is it more painful to wait, or to make someone wait?” The most straightforward story of the lot. The storyline is very basic and is about a playwright’s life, as he spends his life waiting for his childhood friend to come and meet him. Once again, this was written by Dazai Osamu and is the retelling of a Greek legend (Damon and Pythias), the overall theme of the arc being unwavering friendship. As I said, it’s a very simple story and it can get a tad predictable, but since it lasts for only forty minutes, it’s an enjoyable ride.
5. The Spider’s Thread – What starts off as a brutal Assassin’s Creed anime, ends up as a crude moral story that is far too short to convey any real message. While the basic idea of Ryunosuke Akutagawa was to entertain children with this novel, the anime adaptation is aimed at a much more mature audience because of its gore and profanity. A good story, but 20 minutes proves to be too short to convey the author’s ideals.
6. Hell Screen –Penned by the same author as Spider’s Thread, Hell Screen succeeds exactly where The Spider’s Thread fails – it gets its point through in a single episode. This arc is about an artist and his struggle to paint his masterpiece, much like O.Henry’s “The Last Leaf”.
The animation in this show is one of the best I’ve ever seen, if not the best. The show features some of the highest production values to date. It’s also one of the very few anime that managed to use CGI well. The generous use of the morose red in the first arc, No Longer Human, was what contributed to the eerie atmosphere of the anime.
The soundtrack is great. While the instrumental pieces were fitting, the series doesn’t have an OP and the ED was not very good.
As far as content warning goes, this show is rated R17 for a reason. Not only does it feature a large amount of blood, gore, sex and profanity, but it also contains strong messages about the society, which younger audiences will neither understand nor appreciate.
But when it’s all said and done, Aoi Bungaku Series is not a show that will ever have universal appeal. Due to its complex nature and dark atmosphere, this show will most probably never see the light of the day.
[ THE WRAP-UP ]
Aoi Bungaku Series is one of the darkest and most complex anime out there. Not only does it show ‘psychology’ in an entirely new light, but it also provides an artful insight into Imperial Japan. Excellent animation and a strong soundtrack make sure that this anime is technically sound. Being an adaptation of six different novels, each arc is bound to have a different impact on the viewer, but maintain an overall consistency in the intensity of the storyline. Aoi Bungaku Series is definitely not for everyone and is made for a limited audience. If you don’t like the first couple of episodes, then I don’t think you’re going to like the rest of the series either. Those looking for happy endings or lighthearted storylines are not going to be impressed with this one. However, if you’re in the mood for a dark, depressing anime about the world’s cruelty and a gripping psychological anime, then Aoi Bungaku Series might fit the bill. Individual story ratings given below:
No Longer Human – 9/10
Under the Cherry Blossoms – 7/10
Kokoro – 10/10
Run, Melos! – 8/10
The Spider’s Thread – 8/10
Hell Screen – 9/10
One thing I have learned after finishing this series, that the world and its society is a one cruel place full with violence, madness, and betrayal, or in the other hand, overpowered by those with the authority.
The Anime itself is divided into 6 different famous Japanese literatures made by famous authors from the past and all of the arcs has no connection with the others, but don't let this make you down because those 6 literatures sure were masterpieces indeed. You may prefer some arcs over the others, but overall it was a roller coaster full of emotions. One has to think deeper to
get the full and real meaning of each arc, or as an english teacher would say, you need to think outside the box. You wouldn't really expect what to happen next since it's like a train of irony. You will be left with awe once you finish a certain arc. You will most likely doubt your own instincts since at first you'll be like "ah he's a bad guy", but then later on you'll be like, "wtf I was wrong."
If I can give a number higher than 10, then I would gladly choose that number as Aoi Bungaku's art was a hell of a masterpiece. The art was one of the parts why this show was awesome. The art gave the Anime a mysterious atmosphere and in some part, creepy. Heck, I would be glad if all Anime were drawn like this.
You get different sounds in each arc. The background music that they play when a certain creepy event is happening was so good that it'll make either your eyes closed or wide open, if you're a masochist. Also, when emotional parts strike, the background music really helped to make a viewer sad or cry.
6 different arcs, which mean a lot of new characters. In each arc, you get awesome characters, and by awesome I mean characters surrounded with mystery and such. You wouldn't expect that character would do that to other character such. Also, 2 of the mains in 2 arcs looked like Light from Death Note. :D Plus, you get a 3d guy in every beginning of an episode. Where can you see an Anime with 3d people on!?
Pretty much enjoyed the entire series. There are 6 arcs so normally, one would prefer one over the other. Overall, it was really good. Superb, I must say.
I would frankly say that this is the first Anime I've seen with a different type of storytelling so I'm going to give this a 10. It was very unique. You can't help it but fall in love with the arcs although in some cases, you will most likely hate some of the arcs before you prefer the previous one and wanted that arc to be longer.
Though the series hasn't finish airing I'll write separate reviews for each of the stories told as told in the anime shows that have aired in Japan:
No Longer Human: Great. In just 4 episodes so much was told. One reason why people should watch the first 4 eps of Aoi Bungaku is because as odd as it may seem MANY OF US ask these questions at one point in our lives or another. I don't want to spoil anything or what happens or transpires so I won't give any references. There are several references to this title so it's difficult
to say WHY it's called "No Longer Human" exactly. If you don't want to watch a superpowered cartoon involving Super-Sayajin and BAN KAI or some wacky fairytale then relate to this masterpiece.
Under Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom: Great as well. In episode 6 there's even a Japanese version of Sweeney Todd's "No Place Like London" that was done beautifully. The main reference between Sweeney Todd and Shigemaru is that Sweeney Todd was a barber who would cut the throats of his enemies he'd be shaving and Shigemaru actually decapitated heads as demanded or warranted by his new bride. One thing that strikes to me as odd is the description of the "demon" in this 2 ep-long piece. If you watch these two eps, please pay attention to the supposed protagonist Shigemaru as he describes his only way out of a psychological prison created by his wife.
Kokoro: Jealousy sucks. That's all I gotta say about this story. The story is given two points of view (most other productions try to give a bird's eye view of what character progression is). I absolutely enjoyed both points of view as to what happened and it truly explains the shades and complexities of human emotions (regarding jealousy).
Run, Melos!: This is a simpler story told about friendship. Trust is the main theme trialed in this story as it's wagered between two friends. There are side stories explained in the episode (the main character rewrites Greek/Shakesperian plays in to Japanese and these plays are acted out in the episode). One main thing about this story (unlike the previous stories mentioned) is that there's no bloodshed. Don't get me wrong, the story is just as effective without it.
The Spider's Thread: Odd tale. Simple storyline of a homeless bandit stealing & killing innocent people just to live another day (note kandata, the pro(antagonist) of this story isn't a greedy man). This story got VERY interesting when his own path led him to a simple spider who in some weird way showed him that his future was only... well... hanging by a thread. NOTE the following ep in the double-aired series is NOT a sequel to Spider's Thread.
Hell Screen: Instead of a homeless bandit in the spotlight, an artist tasked with the mural in the King's future mausoleum highlighting only the good parts of his rule. Many details revealed throughout the episode show otherwise. If you think the king's beauty was appealing, feast your eyes on the shoddy prerequisites needed to bring his beloved land to prosperity.
With all this said (I know I've prematurely praised the entire series as a whole) I don't regret my ratings as they STAY THE SAME. Great show! Well done in almost every single aspect besides the fact they ARE short stories being animated so there's alot of thinking left for the watcher to do to truly understand the author's motives behind his/her characters' development throughout their respective stories. Just watch this one any sensible anime goer will not be disappointed!
There is one story I'm missing on which I believe is episode 9 or 10 of the series. I apologize in advance to all who've relied on this review before watching the series or any other episodes. please note though you should FEEL FREE to watch any episode throughout this series as it doesn't progress from ep 1 to ep 12.
As a huge fan of the psychological (mostly thriller) genre, this anime was a diamond in the rough. I have not seen a series that did so well in presenting and going through human psychology. Not only that but, Aoi Bungaku also takes a look at issues involving human morality. The whole series consists of 6 works of fiction from Japanese authors. On the surface the idea sounds dull as it relates with classic Japanese literature, which as we’ve seen in multiple school SoL anime, are apparently a bore to read. Though I don’t know what the original pieces of
work were like, I can say without a doubt that this adaptation turns these suggested ‘boring’ pieces of literature into something very interesting that will open your mind to a different perspective on human psychology and morality.
I’m not a huge expert on art, or animation for that matter (only expertise I have is grade 9 art). But, even an amateur can tell that this series does a very nice job in changing its colour tones for each story. Some of the darker stories such as No Longer Human and Hell Screen had a much darker tone and much darker colours as compared to In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom which had a more colourful palette in its creation. These tones were the most prominent thing to me visually. The character design was also very solid and matched the character personalities to a tee. General art work and backgrounds were also very solid.
There are no openings for this anime as almost each episode is instead started off with a narration, explaining the story, its background, and a little bit about the author. I find this refreshing and unique as it gives you very useful information before heading into the story. There is not much music playing in the background in the anime, especially when there is dialogue. But, in the few instances where there is a musical score in the background, it matches the tone of the series very well. The first series, No Longer Human, had much more dramatic and eerie music playing, in contrast to Kokoro which had more poppy SoL type music playing. The OST for each series represented what type of setting/genre the story was placed in.
This section is hard because there are a lot of characters and in some stories they’re main focus while in others they are not that important. In fact, most of the stories focus more on the themes and the message of the story than the characters. Because of the nature of this series, I will not do a character review section.
Aoi Bungaku has a variety of 6 different stories, each conveying their own message and having their own meaning. All of them are unique and interesting and I didn’t find any of them to be below average. I will do a rundown of my thoughts on each one.
- No Longer Human:
The first piece of literature to be shown in the anime is in my eyes, the best one. No Longer Human shows the life of a man, named Yozo Oba, who has lost all hope in his humanity and, for the most part, life. It shows the inner thought process of a man on the verge of suicide, as he is disowned by his father for following his dreams. You see how he hits rock bottom due to the traumas of his past actions and childhood horrors. The author does a great job of delving into human psychology as it is shown how and why Yozo has completely lost faith in himself as a human. The piece not only shows how sensitive and powerless we really are as humans, but also how society can make us this way with its generalized standards.
- In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom:
This story is much more basic in comparison to the first. It tells the story of a bandit who falls in love with a mysterious yet beautiful woman and how he does anything for her. I feel this is one of the weaker stories as it doesn’t really convey a message of deeper meaning. Instead, it just shows how easily humans can be manipulated and used; the comedy also doesn’t really help or fit in.
Kokoro is another great adaptation, but goes towards a more slice of life feel as opposed to the rest of the stories. The plot in this one is basically, without spoiling too much, about a love triangle. Yes, on the surface it sounds very dull and out of place, but if you take a deeper look you can see that the story shows the struggles of suppressing human emotions and how understanding each other’s (very powerful) emotions can play a key role in life in general. On top of this, the story adds a twist by adding a second, non-canon, episode in the adaptation. This episode shows the importance of perspective and really makes you think about the situation differently. The episode shows the story in the perspective of what was deemed as the ‘antagonist/rival’ of the first episode. I found it a very unique and necessary part, and without it I feel the story would probably be much worse.
- Run, Melos!:
Run, Melos! was another not so great adaptation out of the bunch. Though it tells an interesting story about the importance of friendship, the message wasn’t very inspiring or new. The moral of the story was generic and mundane, thus I did not care much for this title.
- Spider’s Thread:
Spider’s Thread was an adaptation of a children’s book with a very basic and generic moral; it wasn’t very interesting as I have heard stories like it many times before except with a much lighter tone.
- Hell Screen:
This story is has a great message that could last forever and told in a very short and precise manner using the same type of fairy tale style setting as used in Spider’s Thread. The main point of the story was to show how art can fight oppression and help express many things. Hell Screen shows how influential art can be and how loud it can speak to someone. It also shows how a ruler having absolute power is corrupt and can ruin a nation.
Aoi Bungaku is a great series of 6 short pieces of classic Japanese literature with some great themes explored in them. The art was very solid and added a certain tone that matched each story very well. The sound, though lacking, was nice and the background music, just like the art, gave life to the story and matched it very nicely. The stories were also a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of other shows out. Though not all of them were great in my eyes, they were still well done and each had a unique atmosphere to them; none of them were below average. The only major gripe that I had with the series that brings it down from getting a higher score is of course, the inconsistency. By that I mean the difference in the stories and how some were much better than others. Other than that, I feel Aoi Bungaku is one of the better anime I’ve seen even though it can be a bit hit and miss with so many different stories.
If you have never heard of Aoi Bungaku, don't be ashamed. It is NOT a well known series at all. This is unfortunate, because in both popularity and rating it is one of the most criminally underrated anime on all of MAL. What makes this anime good? I will try to do it some justice and explain.
Aoi Bungaku is an anthology of stories taken from classic Japanese literature. The most famous of the stories featured is the short novel "No Longer Human" which is covered in episodes 1-4. The story is about a tortured young artist who as a child was sexually abused
by his maid and emotionally abused by his politician father. As a result, the narrator feels alienated from society and never reveals his true emotions to others. He wears a mask until he becomes hollow and dead inside and no longer considers himself human. He meets a girl who is also suffering from great sadness and they decide to commit suicide together in scenic Kamakura. This is one of the most famous of all Japanese stories, so perhaps it helps explain why so many damn anime take place in Kamakura. She dies during the suicide, but the narrator survives and is haunted by guilt over her death. He attempts to live as a normal human, but the guilt always follows him. When he finally meets another woman that basically makes him feel normal, he discovers that she has been sleeping with his boss in order to keep him employed. The narrator has a complete psychological breakdown and wanders off into the snow, already showing signs of advanced tuberculosis. The stories are masterfully adapted and help capture the psychology, emotion, and philosophy of the originals, even if some of the stories stray a little in terms of plot. At the beginning of each episode, a narrator also helps by explaining certain aspects along with interesting facts about the author of each story.
The art is absolutely beautiful in this series and the animation changes to fit the tone of each story. The colors and shades are dark in the first tale due to the depressing nature, while they are bright and vibrant during the fairy tail adaptations in episodes 11 and 12. Studio Madhouse is a very excellent animation studio and they are really at their best with this one.
Each story is well adapted and has a different style and flavor of its own. This keeps things interesting and fresh. If you are a fan of classic literature, than you will probably have fun with this one.
People praise series like Tatami Galaxy and Mushishi for being artistic, deep, true masterpieces of anime that abandon obnoxious anime cliches and have all the dignity of true art. This series fits that description at least as well, but has a measly 8/10 while those 2 series both have a 9/10. This is sad since I personally felt that the first 4 episodes of Aoi Bungaku beat the shit out of any of the Mushishi episodes and can match in quality anything from Tatami Galaxy. I'm not just giving this series a 10/10 because it is an adaptation of a classic. Gankutsuou tried to adapt a classic and fell right on its face. I'm giving it a 10/10 because it is a GOOD adaptation of a classic that has real depth and artistic value without coming across as annoyingly pretentious. That is really hard to accomplish, yet Aoi Bungaku pulls it off with grace and style!
This is my first review ever. I was planning to refrain from writing a review, but now I just have to in order to see how many of you will find what I'm about to say helpful plus I don't have many anime friends so sharing it here will be the best alternative :P.
Firstly, as far as the story goes its divided in 5 entirely different stories, so each of them have a totally different feel to them. In my opinion, they tried too hard to be more artsy and create complexity but art already is complex and in Japan's nature they make profound
stories but they choose the wrong subject to illustrate that. Conclusively, some stories I was dumbfounded while the others were along the line of good.
Secondly, the art, my God was it beautiful. If your the type whom will disregard the story and watch a series just for the art then you really should get your hands on this one. Since, Takeshi Obata, Kubo Tite, and Takeshi Konomi did a brilliant job, you can watch it just for that ^_~
Thirdly, when it comes to sound then a little to be said, it was fine but sometimes didn't fit the situation in my opinion. Moving on, the seiyuus were good, Sakai Masato did a well job seeing that he is a real-life actor. On a different note, it was a bit funny cause I've seen his movie before watching this show and I have to say his voice was the most distinct.
Fourthly, lets face it, it was too short to properly develop any character especially judging by how complex some stories were. So, the characters were left stranded due to the over-focus on the execution of the whole series, does it make sense?
Fifthly, enjoyment? To be honest, its quite a depressing anime. Thats why I watched 2-3 episodes per day whereas I would usually watch 4-5. That being said you be the judge cause it really was a bit heavy and hard hitting concept wise.
Lastly, overall it can average around 7 for, it has actually but I might change it in the future. It all depends on the effects it leaves on me after some time.
I wanted to keep it short but guess there was just too much to tell.
Hope you found this review helpful! ^_^
Aoi Bungaku Series is six works of Japanese literature packed into twelve episodes. Perhaps that sounds dull—I mean, old literature always seems kinda boring, but this series presents themes of human morality and emotions in a very different way. Think of this as six different psychological, very short anime if you will, each one with a different topic to make you think about.
Firstly: The narrator at the beginning. He's great, and there's this eerie background music playing in the beginning as he asks us to please watch. The way he introduces the authors' lives (...All of them seem to be very sad. I'm not sure
why.) and the topics is much better than any OP that could have been used. Unfortunately, the ED is really, really bad. It has a gloomy tone to it which does fit the series, but I dislike it a lot. The voice acting was stellar for each arc.
Now I'll review each arc separately.
1. No Longer Human — This, along with Hashire Melos, were my favorite arcs. The artwork is by Takeshi Obata, clearly seen by the way the protagonist (or antagonist?) resembles Light Yagami. No wonder that the art was great! Yozo's struggles with fitting into human society and the ghost that haunts him are all portrayed spectacularly. The music was gloomy to fit with the tone. I really enjoyed this one even though it gave me this weird feeling of helplessness after I finished it. 10/10
2. In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom — The major problem here is the art. Don't get me wrong, it's great, but it didn't sit well with me after sitting through No Longer Human's realistic arc. The chibis come in at totally wrong time. But perhaps that makes the shock value even better; everything's so cute you never see the horror coming. Regardless, I give this 7/10.
3. Kokoro — Different point of views, that's what this is about. On one hand you have Sensei who has had a cheerful life and looks at things in a different way, then you have K, a pessimistic man who has a different story to tell. First episode's from Sensei's POV, the second one's from K's. Really shocking to hear both sides of the story. Artwork is again by Takeshi Obata and very good. 8/10.
4. Run, Melos! — How far would you go for a friend? Is it worse to wait, or to be the one that makes others wait? Run, Melos asks us these questions. This arc has the best artwork in the entire series, everyone's hair is gorgeous, and this arc was my favorite along with No Longer Human. Really sad.
5. The Spider's Thread — Not as serious as the others but ultimately gives us a great ending. It only needed one episode to get the point across. Art was great and fit the tone of the story, as well as the music. 9/10.
6. Hell Screen — ...Messed up, that's all I can say. It seems that the city is the same as the one from The Spider's Thread. And hell is indeed horrifying. 9/10.
Though In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom is not as well done as the others, Aoi Bungaku provides us with a different approach to seinen. It could even get you interested in Japanese literature. If you like stories that make you think, here are 6 of them in one series. Definitely worth watching.
"Masterpieces are Blue."
'Aoi Bungaku Series' (literally 'Blue Literature Series') is an anime adaptation of 6 Japanese masterpiece novels of 20th century, in commemoration of 100th anniversary of Dazai Osamu's birth (the author of 'No Longer Human' and 'Run, Melos!').
The color blue symbolizes youth in Japan. These works of literature are forever young, in context, the title of this anime series is 'Timeless Japanese Classics'.
Ep1~4: 'No Longer Human' (Dazai Osamu)
Ep5~6: 'Under the Full Bloom of Cherry Blossom Forest' (Sakaguchi Ango)
Ep7~8: 'Kokoro' (Natsume Souseki)
Ep9~10: 'Run, Melos!' (Dazai Osamu)
Ep11: 'The Spider's Thread' (Akutagawa Ryuunosuke)
Ep12: 'Hell Screen' (Akutagawa Ryuunosuke)
Being true Japanese classics, every piece of original literature, other
than 'Run, Melos!' are emotionally draining with tragic endings.
Personally, I have only read 'No Longer Human', 'Run, Melos!' and 'Kokoro', but the setting and the way stories are being told are not exactly a straight adaptation, but rather more like interpretations of the original novels by the producers.
With up to only 4 episodes per story, the character development is somewhat limited, but with most characters reflecting the authors themselves (or so modern critics analyze), most of the main characters are quite realistic and have depth.
Because authors in early 20th century weren't paid very well, the writers of these masterpieces endured hardship in their daily lives. As such, the characters in their stories are often in despair and in various stages of mental breakdown, much like the authors who committed suicide and developed drug problems.
Every arc focuses on the main character very well, and tells the story of how their lives led to their doom.
Animation by Madhouse is wonderful as expected. No CG, tried and true Japanese cel animation worked very well on screen for these works of classic literature. The coloring is extremely vivid and breathtakingly beautiful. There were many surreal scenes that expressed main characters' despair, and artwork in general sets creepy, ominous, and dark atmosphere throughout the series.
Some scenes lacked details or were too still, but all the important scenes were done very well.
The cast is comprised of insane amount of veteran seiyuu, and voice acting is generally well-done. However, the use of actor Sakai Masato for all main characters inevitably resulted in ill-matched voices, especially for 'Under the Full Bloom of Cherry Blossom Forest' and 'Hell Screen'.
Music was very well done, each sets the mood for every scene, and noticeably different styles for every story.
ED was somewhat bland though.
I can't really recommend this series to the general Western audiences as it may come across as depressing, twisted, and meaningless violence. However, it's a must-watch if you are interested in Japanese literature or want to learn more about the culture.
The anime itself is in no way a substitute for reading the original novels, but it did stir up my curiosity for the novels that I haven't read yet, and it also gave me an opportunity to learn more about each author.
Each story may not be entirely accurate compared to the novels, but they all convey the intended message and make us think. 'Aoi Bungaku Series' shows that the masterpieces are indeed timeless.
"Brilliant" is what I first thought when watching this series, "how artfully, and thoughtfully they have captured these stories on screen". Even though I had not read any of the stories these adaptations were based on , there was no doubt to me that they were masterful interpretations, whether they were honest to the original or not. I was overjoyed by this sterling example of what, let us say "higher" animation ought to be. Well, at least one type of "high" animation. Everything about these adaptations is wonderful. Animation, dialogue, scenery, pacing, comedy, general awkwardness; it all culminates in a truly remarkable atmosphere.
since read three of the stories that were adapted: No Longer Human, In the Woods (or whatever you wanna call it), and Spider's Thread. They are all great works, especially No Longer Human in my opinion. I would even argue that Spider's Thread is much more breathtaking in the animated adaptation. Oh good lord, if you would like to watch animation at its best, please spend the time to watch this series.
Anime being based on manga adaptions are very much common place, in fact, I'm not sure if I know an anime not based off an adaption. However, anime's based on old novels are very rare, and Aoi Bungaku is one of those rare types.
Aoi Bungaku (Or Blue/Evergreen literature) follows the adaptions of some of the most popular Japanese literature in the mid 20th century, and how their messages still resonate today.
As for the story, Aoi Bungaku is split into 5 arcs, one 4 episode arc with three 2 episode arcs. The last 2 episode can be left as either separate stories or together as they
contain the same characters, setting ext. Furthermore, the show contains a male narrator (or guide) who not only tells us about how the books came about, but the psychology and personality of the writers themselves, as well as their life stories. This gives vital information into why the stories can be so dark and why the characters are they way they are. In terms of themes, as mentioned above, the psyche of the characters play a key in making this a good series. From inner bouts of depression, money, suicide, murder and betrayal, some of these themes play apart in every arc. It's realism into the topic of suicide was very stark and informative. But with each arc, the story changes from friendship based, to the mythical and so on, so there is a good choice of different stories to choose from, as well as many different types of atmospheres too, some sinister, some emotional.
Unfortunately, the main flaw of the anime is it's inconsistency in its arcs, some of which (especially the 1st and 4th) were done superbly, whilst the rest left much to be desire due to the lack of story development in the 2 episodes the arcs had. Nevertheless, the added introduction of the male narrator filled in a lot of the gaps left by the arcs.
As for animation, Madhouse did a brilliant job of making the arcs feel authentic to the genre it portrayed. From the dark and dulled down colours in the first arc to the bright and dazzling scenes in the last, they definitely spent no time making sure the animations were fluid. The character models all differed for the right reasons, which was nice.
In terms of the characters, it's a tale of two sides really. The character development in 2 of the 5 arcs are done brilliantly, from demonstrating how their backstory made their character, whether it be sexual abuse leading someone into dabbling with prostitutes, to a best friend betraying their trust, it did make for a spectacle to watch. Unfortunately, the direction of the other characters went off at a tangent, in the end, some characters were done well, others more shabby.
As for the music, for the most part, it was mixed in well with the different arcs, sad music for sad scenes, emotional music for emotional scenes, simple yet well executed. They're wasn't an opening song, as it was substituted for the narrator which was fine. The ending was a personal favorite of mine. Overall, the music was done to a good standard.
To sum up, Aoi Bungaku sets a slightly high bar for anime's based on real novels, but dropped at the final hurdle by keeping the a high standard in all the different arcs. I do recommend it for those looking for a new change to the psychological genre of anime.
*THIS ANIME CONTAINS TRIGGERS/GRAPHIC SCENES! PLEASE WATCH CAREFULLY!*
~~~READ "IN SHORTS" FOR THE GIST
This anime is an adaptation of 6 modern japanese pieces of literature:
~No Longer Human (NLH): (episodes 1-4) a rich student who wants to be an artist gets lost in his dreams and falls prey to drugs and alcohol in the mist of his depression
~In the Forest, Under the Cherry Blossom in Full Bloom:(5-6) a mountain man falls in love with a woman who forces him to kill to fulfill her wants
~Kokoro: (7-8) a scholar invites a monk (his childhood friend) to stay with him where the landlords are a mother
and her daughter. the monk falls in love with the daughter. the anime shows both the scholar and the monk's side of the story
~Run, Melos!: (9-10) a young man and his best friend make a promise to meet but doesn't show up, influencing the young man to write a tragic screenplay about it
~The Spider's Web: (11) a killer on the loose gets caught and executed. he is sent to hell to pay for what hes done
~Hell Screen: (12) the greatest painter in the world gives up everything, including his and his only daughter's life for art
STORY 5/10: even though the pieces of literature were all made by the same author, the stories arent consecutive. No Longer Human felt drawn out to me and it felt aimless. Not sure if thats the emotion the series want to invoke but it did. Under the Cherry Blossom was my favorite because the pace was quick and the script commanded attention unlike the others. it was also very cheeky and had plenty of funny moments to break up the darker moments! Kokoro was a confusing little love story. It was bland with very little depth coming from the scholar (the main character). Run Melos! was a little above average in story. it reminded me of a love story that was touching but i wasnt crazy about it. The Spiders Web and Hell Screen were pretty good. it was dramatic, deep, intense, the color scheme wasnt the average dull colors. it was captivating to watch
IN SHORT: No Longer Human and Kokoro were very dull, basically the same scenes over and over. No Longer Human seemed drawn out and Kokoro wasnt edgy enough for me (its a love story). Run Melos! was like a love story. Wasnt TOO crazy about it but it wasnt bad. Under the Cherry Blossom, The Spiders Web and Hell Scene were my favorites. It was dynamic, not too drawn out, right to the point, right about of edgy and gore!!
ART 7/10: the art was beautiful in every story. everything was drawn beautifully. the characters were very diverse. the animation was also pretty clean as well! there were no trouble spots either. if someone was carrying something heavy, it was accurately portrayed. the color scheme was the problem. No Longer Human was basically all one color. it kinda hurt my eyes and it made me sleepy actually. it didnt add the eerie touch it wanted to. Under the Cherry Blossoms, Spiders Web and Hell Scene were my favorite. vibrant colors, dynamic contrast, different background settings that kept my interest. they were just really pretty. Kokoro and Run Melos were average. Run Melos was a little better because of the attention to details but they were both decent.
IN SHORT: art and animation for all were top notch. characters in all stories were diverse. No Longer human was all one color basically. boring, unappealing. Run Melos and Kokoro were decent in attention to detail. Under Cherry Blossom, Spiders Web and Hell Scene were my favorite. colors were contrasting, vibrant patterns, dynamic contrast, detail on scenery were gorgeous! very pleasing to watch
SOUND 8/10: it was very pretty. the music seemed to fit the series. the motif of the ringing bell was a nice touch. Again Under the Cherry Blossom wins best in show once again because they created their own show tunes for that specific story and they were catchy!! it was eerie and oddly fit! No Longer Human had excellent jazz music that also very much fit the story and it was great. one thing that bugged me was the voice acting. for some reason the narrator voice acted the main character or one of the main characters in every story and he was terrible. very monotonous!! his voice only fit the scholar in Kokoro. there really wasnt any inflection in his voice that i could remember. also hearing his voice got tiring after a while.
IN SHORT: the anime's strongest category. the music was pretty and it fit well. my favorite part of the series! narrator did one of the main characters in every story and hes honestly terrible.
CHARACTERS 5/10: i cant remember a single character from any of the stories except for Under the Cherry Blossom. they were all boring. Cherry Blossom had the most diverse and memorable characters. They had the crazy wife, the tough mountain man afraid of cherry blossoms, and all of his ex wives and their personalities! (they even had one wife who only spoke english which i thought was comical). but that story made good use of the varying personalities to make some moments light and cheeky, which was a nice break from 4 consecutive episodes of monotony, self destruction and sadness.
IN SHORT: almost all of the characters were boring and made no impact. Under the Cherry Blossoms had the best, and diverse characters.
ENJOYMENT AND OVERALL 5/10: every other episode i was contemplating dropping the series all together. I just really couldnt get into it. i watched and liked Death Note, and Japanese Horror Classics which are on the same lines as this anime but Aoi Bungaku just didnt click with me. I did appreciate the modern literature, but things can get sticky when you take modern literature, interpret it in a certain way and then produce it as an anime. you have to really have a specific taste in anime to get into this series.
IN SHORT: the series wasnt bad, it just wasnt for my taste. i recommend this anime to:
~~people who have a strong constitution/like gore
~~like psychological animes
~~like historical animes
~~like/dont mind constantly changing plots
~~like shorter animes
"Masterpieces are blue", says the man at the start of every episode. Blue, because the color represents tragedy and sadness, and that's certainly what this is about, as every character in their arc experiences hard moments in his or her life, which they overcome or not.
A terrific anime with beautiful art and well-adapted stories of classic Japanese authors and every single one of them interesting.
I believe some may not like it due to the negative vibe the anime shows, during literally every arc. Yes, the anime is not one of those you watch sitting and laughing in front of your TV or monitor, which is
one of the factors that makes it enjoyable for some, for me as well.
It doesn't have many flaws and easily it's one of the best of the fall '09 season. The only thing I don't like about it is using the same seiyuu for almost every main character in every arc, but on the other hand - it's an amazing voice.
You know, there's always this one anime that just makes your mind blow. You have a lot of things to say about it, either in a good or a bad way, that you can't say anything. Well, Aoi Bungaku Series is one of those animes. And you either like it or hate it, there's no in between. In my case, I pretty much liked it.
The whole concept of an anime that adapts six modern classics of Japanese literature is already original; I don't think I've ever seen something like that before.
Since the anime is divided into 6 arcs that are totally unrelated, I'll be
reviewing every arc's story individually.
- No Longer Human (episode 1-4) : The fascinating story of a young man who is caught between the breakup of the traditions of a northern Japanese aristocratic family and the impact of Western ideas; an artist who lost hope in humanity and himself, trying to find a purpose of his life.
The story is outstanding. You can feel more emotions during four episodes than you do in an anime of 12-24 episodes. The whole psychology contest in "No Longer Human" causes you to focus and connect to Oba (the protagonist) rather than the environment or even the whole purpose of the author by writing that novel that got turned into an anime.
- Under the Full Bloom of Cherry Blossom Forest (episode 5-6) : A bandit finds a beautiful maiden in the forest and how he does anything for her and takes her to be his wife, while he already got other wives, but this woman isn't an ordinary woman.
That was probably the longest two episodes of the series. They were so weird. Although I knew there was supposed to be some kind of message behind it, the story plot made it hard to understand and I think it was the only story I disliked in Aoi Bungaku. It felt like it was all about how easily the human being can be blinded by love and be manipulated.
- Kokoro (episode 7-8) : The story of young man who lives with a widow and her daughter, invites his childhood friend known as "K" (I guess) to live with him. This last falls in love with the widow's daughter and the young man gets jealous of "K".
The best part of this story is its message. The story is in two different points of view, and we can understand that it is important to know every part of whatever story we hear about before we judge it whatsoever. Also, jealousy is the main purpose of Kokoro.
- Run, Melos! (episode 9-10) : This story deals with friendship, love, insecurities, betrayal and trust. It's about a playwright who is asked to write the scenario of a theater play based on "Run, Melos!". The play is related to the playwright's life and feelings in some way.
It is written by Dazai Osamu, the same man that wrote No Longer Human. I think this is my favorite story in Aoi Bungaku. It is unique, kinda predictable but I enjoyed it anyways. The ending was more or less satisfying; I personally was in tears at the end of the 10th episode. Friendship can be beautiful and it's never too late to do anything. It may sound cliché but I don't think it really is.
- The Spider's Thread (episode 10) : An evil person meets death and lands in hell. The one good thing he had done in his whole life was to not kill a spider he met in the city. He just didn't kill her although he killed whoever was in his way numbly.
This story made me uncomfortable but no matter how you look at it, whether you believe that Kandata deserved to rot in Hell for all eternity or not, this is a story that is not easy to forget. A mind blowing story that leaves you with many, many unanswered questions about yourself, about life, hell and human stupidity. Unfortunately, it is too short to be considered a masterpiece
- Hell Screen (episode 11): The story of A feudal lord who ordered an artist to make paintings that describe scenes of Buddhist hell. The painter couldn't, since he's never seen the hell of his eyes. But the Lord, unhappy, made him discover it.
A simple story with a successful atmosphere. As brilliant as he was, the painter was also bizarre and inhumanly cold; nothing could stand between him and the perfection of his craft. What are we willing to sacrifice to complete our masterpieces? Everything. A story on how truth will conquer all, culminating in the fate of the Lord himself.
I don't think we can say anything about the art. It is well done. Neither the style nor the quality changed during the six arcs, which is awesome in my point of view. The shades of color differed from arc to arc which was enjoyable.
The special effects were S U G O I. Just amazing. Every episode starts with a narrator that talks about the classic novel is original, amusing and you start getting in the arc easily. The fact that there was no opening doesn't even need to be considered. The ending was really good and fitted all six stories.
Every character was so different from another, yet some had a few similarities. And I think that Oba from No Longer Human was the best out of them, his improvements, his attitude... it has to leave a mark on you. I don't even know what to say more about it. Plus, most of the stories focus more on the themes and the messages. And since there is so many casts, I don't think it is necessary to talk about the supporting ones.
As I said from the start, you'd either like it or hate it, there is no in between. It is a very, very remarkable work of art that I'm not ready to forget about it soon. I don't think I'll ever will. It even made me want to read the novels although I'm not really into classics. I'd definitely re-watch it someday.
Advice for all drama and psychological lovers:
Only watch from the first to the fourth episodes, the first story ends there and from my point of view the others are in other genres. I watched the fifth episode and didn't understand what was happening, but then I noticed it wasn't a fill episode or something inside the Ningen Shikkaku story. And no, it didn't look like the other stories were dramatical or similar in theme.
And the of course ->disappointment
The book is always better than the movie, and that holds true for this anime. I haven't read all of the stories that are adapted in this anime (I've read Kokoro, the stories by Akutagawa, and parts of Ningen Shikaku), but the ones I have read are portrayed very differently from what is actually written. For example, the adaption of "Kokoro" cuts out over half of the book and highly skews the way the audience perceives the characters. This series can be sort of dangerous to a western audience, that has no idea of what the original stories are about. However, the anime is definitely
focused towards, of course, a Japanese audience (which are highly familiar with the stories and what happens) so the staff in charge of the anime has more flexibility to interpret the story in a way that is different from what is actually written. So main point: just because you have seen the anime don't expect that you can have an intelligible conversation about Japanese literature because what is presented may not be what the story is actually like...
Back when Madhouse was at its peak, one of their more ambitious projects was to adapt six classic short stories from Japanese literature with a different director attached to each story, minus the last two which were done by the same director because he chose to adapt the two shortest stories of the bunch and only needed one episode for each one. The only connecting thread between these stories is the opening narration done by some Japanese guy trying to evoke Rod Sterling and failing massively at it, and the fact that each adapted story is a depressing look at humanity's dark side and not
for anyone who gets their kicks out of watching The Brady Bunch.
And when I say they're different from each other beyond those qualities I just mentioned, I do mean different. Different authors (barring No Longer Human and Run Melos which were written by the same guy), different characters, different styles, and differing levels of quality as well, and that's kind of a negative mark against this anime, unfortunately. I have to side with the popular fan opinion that No Longer Human is the worst of the bunch, and that stance isn't helped by the fact that it's the first story and it takes up 1/3 of the show's runtime, which is probably part of the reason why it looks so bad compared to the other stories to begin with. That said, No Longer Human isn't bad or that boring. It's just not very engaging for the simple fact that it's portrayal of suicidal tendencies across time is just that: a portrayal. They don't use it for anything ground-breaking or epic at all, especially when you compare it to the other stories. It's like Millennium Actress with a less interesting gimmick.
Familiarity with the original stories isn't a requirement obviously, but like with most adaptations, it's fun to see what gets changed for the better or for the worse depending on how attached you are to what you were first exposed to. This particularly comes to a head in regards to Run Melos, which only follows the original story about 25% of the time and the remaining 75% is devoted to the writer and how his personal life is reflected in his own fiction. It's a great use of narrative juxtaposition that complements both stories and their ultimately hopeful message regarding trust and the struggles humanity will go through to fulfill that trust. Although the fact that the director re-used the same artstyle and soundtrack from Mouryou no Hako was a little distracting.
Not that some of the adaptations couldn't have used more loyalty to their source material. The second story, Sakura no Mori no Whatever, tries to pass off "anime humor" as a contrast to the characters' darker nature and it's simply awful. And I guess that's Aoi Bungaku's main fault. Aside from the differing quality in arcs, it saved all its best stories that actually examine its subject material in a mature manner for the end. The stories that are more phoned-in take up the entire first half unfortunately, so it can take a while to really "click" with some people. I honestly think the Hell Screen story should have been moved to the beginning of the anime since not only would it have left a much better first impression (holy hell does the final painting get me pumped up), it would have been nice for both the introductory and the concluding episodes to be directed by the same guy as some sort of show-capping nod. Not to mention, it's not even as great a story as The Spider's Thread - although I should admit that enjoyment of that one comes from how much bloody on-screen violence you're able to stomach in general. Fortunately, I'm a sick human being that can relish in that sort of carnage, but the awareness that I'm in a minority on that stance is larger than Godzilla wearing high heels.
I hate to use the term "it gets better, I swear" to describe an anime, but regardless of my personal opinions regarding whether one story lives up to another, every single one of Aoi Bungaku's arcs deserves to be seen at least once, so the "it gets better" argument is more a side-bonus than something the show depends on. And it definitely doesn't need to, because the overall product is smart, risk-taking, accessible enough, and well worth a watch if you're looking for something beyond mecha, moe, and everything else that makes anime "anime", or if you're just a horrible human being in general. Wouldn't go so far as to call the show a personal favorite of mine, but the last three stories are definitely up there and they're stand-alone enough to the point that I can ignore the lesser aspects if I so desire.
Well, everything except for Japanese Rod Sterling that is. I'm sure he's a nice man in reality, but his "they're called evergreen because they're masterpieces" catchphrase makes me want to reach into my screen and staple his mouth shut.
The anime manages to portray the human nature and human society themes and executes them together with the help of the characters and story . It’s divided in different story arcs written by different authors from the Japanese literature .Each story arc symbolizes an aspect from our society and each brings a different message for the viewer and criticizes the human society through the characters actions and experiences.The main message that this anime delivers is about the struggle of each author to improve his works, portrayed with the help of the characters and story from their respective literature pieces of art.
story is a autobiography of a famous author Dazai Osamu and his struggles to find his own identity as a human. He is a empty shell or a "ghost" as he describes himself and the anime portrays his sufferings and guilt.In the process of finding his own identity he relies on booze, women and drugs.The message is one disturbing and depressive too that the anime brings to the viewer. Its about betrayal, trust and the fact that you can't escape your past no matter how much you run from it.
The second story symbolizes another aspect from our society and human nature through the use of the symbolic meaning of sakura blossoms beauty. It’s beauty is portrayed with the help of a beautiful woman that can bring happiness or disaster in the life of a man. The author shows to the viewer what lies beside the beauty of a woman, her hearth and desire, the two faces of a coin. He portrays the woman’s desire with the help of a bird who flies to the sky into the darkness and light scenery meaning it’s endless. Also it portrays the human instinct called fear of loneliness and the fact that each human depends on a person , that person gives a meaning and purpose for our life.But it also criticize that dependence and trust comparing it with a demon that steadily and at a slow pace ruins your life.
The other stories portray other human nature theme aspects like the bond of friendship and tells the point of view from the perspective of each character. It shows their struggles and daily problems that they face through a beautiful allegory to the ancient greek legend Run Melos .
The anime also takes a look into the human hearth and the dark side of it , with the help of a famous author literature work called Kokoro. It shows the lust and desire for unrequited love and the sacrifices that our characters are faced . Again the story its told from the both perspective of our characters to make it more appealing and realistic for the viewer.
The last story is a more of a critic point of view on the hierarchy from our society . It shows what happens when an incompetent leader rules a country. It portrays also the struggles of a painting artist who needs to find his identity through his works and the sacrifices he is faced to achieve that. It’s a cruel and disturbing lesson about our human history that had many casualties because of many incompetent leaders who were blind about the truth that happens in the country they rule. All of this is conveyed to the viewer through the suffering, sacrifices and hell scenery(corpse burning, people buried alive) our painting artist is faced to create his ultimate piece of art. They say after you witness hell you become part of it and our painting artist becomes one with his ultimate painting creating a masterpiece . It’s a allegory to the fact you can’t make something of good quality be it art, literature or other domain without sacrifices.
In conclusion the Japanese literature is indeed a masterpiece and this anime portrayed the struggles , sacrifices , loneliness , human drama, human nature , human society , hierarchy , value of life and death through each piece of literature that different authors wrote to convey their thoughts and point of view about them . Each piece of literature it’s a mirror that shows what’s inside of their mind and heart of each author.
Captivating, amazing, fascinating , an anime that only Madhouse could made for the viewers with a dark atmosphere , a piece of art that symbolizes and delivers the message about the Japanese literature and human society.
Aoi Bungaku Series is about 6 modern classic stories from Japanese literature that depict the varying emotions of the heart.
Aoi Bungaku Series shows how fragile the human heart really is through it’s wonderful array of stories and how emotions can drive, influence or torment us through our experiences in life.
The Aoi Bungaku Series is presented with some fantastic animation that contains exceptionally detailed backgrounds throughout the series, different character artwork for each story and some incredible scenes in each story that remind you why anime is so awesome.
The Aoi Bungaku series was always able to stay interesting and engaging from start to finish thanks to
the length of each of it's story.
Episodes 1-4 - No Longer Human
Episodes 5-6 - In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom
Episodes 7-8 - Kokoro
Episodes 9-10 - Run, Melos!
Episode 11 - The Spider's Thread
Episode 12 - Hell Screen
I thoroughly enjoyed watching this and would highly recommend it.
Let's be clear about one thing: Aoi Bungaku IS a masterpiece. Although it consists of six different stories, it is, nonetheless, a unified piece of art. The stories are connected via there deep metaphorisation, and through a sense of lingering despair intertwined with specks of hope and light.
The animation is exquisite; the artwork is truly magnificent and the enjoyment of watching an anime with this level of animation cannot fail to make you happy and satisfied.
Of course, the animation in Aoi Bungaku reflects the depth of the stories, and the complexity of its characters. Although I like to watch an occasional storyless series
filled with fanservice, series like Aoi Bungaku are the reason why I am so devoted to watching anime.
I don't think that there is a need for a close inspection of each of the adapted stories. There are enough reviews that do just that, and I guess everyone will have their own favourite.
If you love literature (modern/postmodern) and if you enjoy a story which does not lay out everything for you, but makes you think, makes you wonder, you must see Aoi Bungaku. Sure, people say it's depressing and dark, but it's also fun and beautiful, and it does not make you turn off your higher brain functions.
I believe that the amazing contrast between beautiful and breathtaking animation and dark, desperate atmosphere of the stories is one of the best achievements I have ever seen in an anime; it makes you marvel at the beauty of the world and shiver because of the darkness of the human nature.
This anime is inconsistent from story to story, a problem with many anthologies. One moment you're reveling in darkness, the next you're watching a zany chase sequence in the next story. Truly the only thing that strings these together is that they are Japanese classics. They are not great stories though, the two I saw were fairly predictable if not painful to watch. At times in the very first story, it jumped so much in time that you were lost as to certain events, or why they might have transpired that way. Also, the draw in the more horror based ones seems to be "This
could have really happened".
So if you like horror, thriller, psychological, were intrigued this was so clearly linked to Death Note in the promotional art and cover and thought maybe it might cover some similar stuff then you will be disappointed.
This series is primarily for those who enjoy Realistic Fiction, occasionally with Zany anime wackiness, as well as getting an insight into some Japanese fiction. It was not for me at all. The cover should not be a Light wannabe chilling in a gothic chair with an apple, since it isn't even reminiscent of anything displayed.
However it is really well drawn, the music highlights the stories. That enough will be all some people care about, I know. Personally I'd rather watch a cheaply drawn 80s anime that had a great story than a well drawn 20xx anime with only beauty going for it.