I usually decorate my posts with fan-art, but fan-art of the somewhat obscure characters (like Chia) are already rare, when you start moving to characters that aren’t in the main series and haven’t gotten referenced in the anime/movie adaptation then well – finding fan-art for them is nearly impossible. (I think I found like 8 pictures of her on pixiv). So instead I did a little scanning. I don’t like hurting my books, so you’ll see those blurry shadows at the paper lifts up the scanning surface, but whatever right?
I wasn’t sure I was going to keep writing reviews after I finished the main Bungaku Shoujo series because well, I don’t know how interested anyone is in these posts, especially when I start reaching out to the “probably won’t be translated or at least won’t be translated in the next five to ten years” range – but – I sort of like writing these, so here goes!
”Bungaku Shoujo” Minarai no, Hatsukoi.
The Literature Girl Apprentice’s, First Love (Off-Hand TL)
著：野村美月 (Author: Nomura Mizuki)
画：竹岡美穂 (Illustrator: Takeoka Miho)
ファミ通文庫 (Famitsu Bunko)
Unless the main series is(/continues to be) very popular in English, I doubt these will ever be translated… just saying. ^_^;
I wasn’t ready to let go of Konoha and all the other characters I had seen developed and fleshed out, and I liked the premise so much that as I was finishing up the finale for the main series, I decided to pick up all of the “Minarai”/”Apprentice” series at once. I really have to give the credit to Amazon.co.jp for this one (even though I bought via Kinokunia) for all of those book recommendations or I might not have known about the Minarai series or the newer side-series that has Tooko all grown up as an editor.
This is actually the first light novel I’ve managed to read in one sitting/one day. The only reading session that has come close was probably volume 2 of Strike Witches Suomus, which is half as long – and I finished that in two days and two or three sittings. So, congratulations to me. I feel like I’ve just hit a new high score in a special Touhou Tokiko game made just for me. \o/
^I laughed so hard when I turned the page and saw this, I think I rolled around a bit on the floor. c⌒っﾟωﾟ)っ
I’ve truncated the character list this time because listing all the characters accurately would produce some major spoilers.
Main Characters (in order of Prominence):
日坂菜乃 Hinosaka Nano [Narrator]
・Literature Girl in Training, First Year Literature Club Member
井上心葉 Inoue Konoha
・”Novelist Who Faces the Heavens” and Head of the Literature Club, (Detective)
・A Chikamatsu Fan Who Likes to Talk About Lovers’ Suicide, Friends with Nano
冬柴瞳 Fuyushiba Hitomi
・Nano’s Childhood Friend
姫倉麻貴 Himekura Maki
・”Undine” that Haunts the Orchestra Club’s Atelier, Incredibly Connected
琴吹ななせ Kotobuki Nanase
・Konoha’s Ex-Girlfriend and Tsundere
This sort of mini-series is actually split up into episodes – two and a half per volume, (the half being a sort of omake type thing,) and the shorter one being the title of the book. Anyway, I’ll break up the synopses by episode.
”Bungaku Shoujo” Minarai no, Hatsukoi: Deai no Mijikai Monogatari
The Literature Girl Apprentice’s, First Love: A Short Story About How We Met
(Based on Hermann Hesse’s “Demian”)
Hinodaka Nano is cute, unlike Konoha. So getting narration from her end brings along a weird paradigm shift. We get a little anecdote about how she’d like to be more girly, about this feminine boy crying at the high school gates she was entranced by… (sound familiar?) and … wait… isn’t that him!?!?
Eventually Nano pushes her way into the literature club with a loud declaration of “I love y-… Literature!!!” and struggles to measure up as she’s hardly read any books before and doesn’t really understand the characters feelings at all. Konoha assigns her Demian to read (which she mistakes for “Damian”/666 of The Omen, and expects something bloody… along the lines of her favorite genre), stares in disbelief at what she writes for a three-topic free write, and eventually half-ignores her in an effort to keep busy working on his novel.
But Nano won’t give up! Even if it’s mostly just by annoying him, Nano starts to see more of Konoha’s hidden side, and eventually gets further than Nanase or Miu ever got, before making a more proper declaration of what(/who) she really loves.
”Bungaku Shoujo” Minarai no, Shinjuu
The Literature Girl Apprentice’s, Lovers’ Suicide
(Based on Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s “Love Suicides at Sonezaki” (Puppet-Play))
In an effort to be more sophisticated (more like Tooko), Nano has been grabbing a lot of different difficult looking books (that she thinks could be exciting slashers or the like) and spouting out about how she thinks they would taste like, rocking back and forth in her chair (like a certain someone). This time it’s “Love Suicides at Sonezaki” (which she says tastes like ruptured pot-stickers). Konoha argues back at her for a while before reciting Tooko’s interpretation (duck stew). Konoha is convinced that Nano isn’t looking deep enough into the story and says that she should try to understand just why Ohatsu and Tokubei had to commit suicide. Determined to show Konoha her literary skills, Nano goes to the library for some research.
Just as her luck would have it, all of the books on Chikamatsu are missing from the shelves!! But as she heads over to the reading corner with a few other books, she sees all the books she was just looking for lined up beside this beautiful girl. Nano learns her name is Nagomu, and they start up a conversation about Chikamatsu and “Love Suicides at Sonezaki”.
Nano and Nagomu decide to hang out and go on a “date” together at a shrine at the end of the week. (Nano stresses the word “date” to Konoha to try to get him jealous, but this plan spectacularly fails.) Waiting for Nagomu at the shrine gates, Nano sees a strange boy with glasses looking at her but doesn’t think much of it. After a day of food and talking about food (and chest sizes), and a little bit about death (which gives Nano a bit of a chill), Nagomu hints at another date. Then at their parting:
“You know Nano, you really are cute… Nano? Will you die with me?”
Aru Hi no Miu
A Day in the Life of Miu
(Narrated by Miu)
In short, (as this itself is only a few pages long) Miu goes with Akutagawa to the school gates to scout out this “new girl” Nano.
Evaluation / Rating:
“I’m normally a gentle sheep!” -Konoha. o.O Baa.
It’s kind of refreshing to look at Konoha from a different point of view. Sure, we know loads about Konoha at this point, but Nano doesn’t, so especially at the beginning we get a sort of glimpse at how everyone else sees him.
That said, when the whole literature detective magic that we loved Tooko for is done by Konoha this time, that “Nano Perspective” sort of disappears. I actually forgot that it wasn’t Konoha narrating during one of those moments and got a bit mixed up before I remembered and got my bearings back. Now I’m not saying it was too bad of a jolt or anything, but I’m not sure at least at this stage that Nomura Mizuki (author) had really fully developed Nano yet as a separate character in her mind. So basically there are a few discontinuous points in the narration I think could have been smoothed out – but maybe I’m just being picky.
As for Nano herself though, so far I like her. She’s got a lot of aspects about her that are the exact opposite of Tooko, like how she likes horror, is more athletic, and is much less “romantic”. She doesn’t think things through but jumps right in, and her literary aptitude is a lot lower than Konoha (or anyone else) at the beginning of the main series. Now I feel a lot of meta from a character like Nano (this could be you!), as this – I predict – shows the path of Nano eventually becoming an author or editor. Most people don’t understand half the books they read, or at least not until they reread them a few times or when they’re older (myself included) so I can connect with Nano a bit, especially because she really tries. If you’ve ever been in a literature class and the professor asks, “Now what did X character really want?” and the room goes dead silent… it’s hard to say anything even if it’s obvious and even if you’re sure – Nano on the other hand just closes her eyes and runs forward, and I can appreciate that.
Nano gets to level up before the end, but she still has a long way to go before she can become a superhero like Tooko. (“Is that the sound of children not reading I hear? I must be off!” *dash*). Still at this rate, she’s progressing much faster than Konoha ever did, so I’ve got high hopes for her.
As for the plot – maybe because it was shorter – it felt considerably weaker than some of the other ones, but we still have a good number of twists and turns and the ending really was touching (even though I think this book knocked our body count into the double digits). More than the plot in Shinjuu/Lovers’ Suicide a lot of the discussion about the origination of the term and the history behind the work was interesting (even though I knew a good amount of it already from my Suicide in Japanese Literature class I took at uni). The whole copycat suicide concept, the argument that “if Chikamatsu approved of lovers’ suicide, then why did he make the deaths at the very end so brutal and painful, despite all of the other romantic themes?” is brought up.
Another thing I liked about this book is how the schoolgirl prostitute character is handled. I don’t know if you read my review of [“文学少女”と穢名の天使 // Bungaku Shoujo to Kegarena no Angel] but I complained about how the schoolgirl prostitute was developed. In “Angel” that character type was used as an emotional vault. Nomura Mizuki handled everything better than most people would, but it felt like a cheap move, a slight of hand – a stereotypical tactic. That doesn’t happen in “Shinjuu”. The character is mentioned, but not much light is thrown on her – she’s hardly given any words at all, but just that – how others talk about her, act around her – how hardly anything she does is really explained, makes her a much more complex character. I read somewhere in a book on writing that you should know what motivates your character, or at least think you know, but you shouldn’t always tell your reader – and that works perfectly here.
Anyway, maybe there was a little too much fluff in this first volume, but maybe there needed to be. We can’t get immediately serious with a new character like Nano. She’s allowed to be a little clueless and a little useless, but with her luck, just closing her eyes and running right on will get her where she needs to go – at least for now.
I’ve read and loved most of the remaining sources for this mini-series: “Frankenstein” (v2) and “Kokoro” (v3), and all that I’ve read of Anton Chekov I’ve loved so I’m looking forward to the “The Cherry Orchard” (v3). I’m curious about Hans Theodor Woldsen Storm’s “Immensee (Storm)”, because Wikipedia doesn’t have an English page for it. XD
Let’s start a little lower and shoot for the stars!
All of the Bungaku Series get an automatic 9.8, the finale got 9.9/10. I marked this mini-series down .1 point because of the absense of Tooko which added a lot to the feel of the books.
There’s really nothing wrong with the pacing. There are a few dull parts but they are kept short. I know the writer is female and really does know that girls don’t just talk about food and their breast sizes when they’re on their own, but I guess that’s what they want the guys to think? o.o? It was like when Tooko got a panty-flash scene and I was like o.o? – right, remember the target audience…. Though with the relative balance of male and female characters, and other aspects I couldn’t imagine the author not shooting for both audiences. Well I guess some people are saying that guys in Japan are reading the romances and girls are reading the action stuff nowadays… (oops.. tangent)
Weaker I think mainly because it is short and less tangled – but we’ve got a new cast so I’m not complaining, I’m just rating. 9.0 is still very high, and that’s probably because of all the mess that surrounds *** (guy with glasses) and his character, and though I thought ***’s character (another guy with glasses) was kind of dull (I get the feeling he was supposed to be), what he did with the shells was an excellent plot twist(?).
I liked Nano from the prologue, and I liked ***’s character (school girl prostitute) and ***’s character (guy with glasses) a lot.
Writing Style/Flavor: 9.3
I have to take off a few points for that “jolt” I felt when I wasn’t sure who was narrating, but otherwise it’s classic Nomura Mizuki, I’d say she might be the best I’ve read of her tier. For instance, Nisiosin and Kyougoku Natsuhiko kind of blow her out of the water, but they’re trying for something different – or something. I don’t know.
No, but seriously, Takeoka Miho has beautiful artwork, and that picture/scene with Nano with that piece of paper in her mouth was priceless. Nano’s artwork really complements her character. Now I might rate it higher, but the color picture versus the non-color picture of Nagomu… they’re too different, I sort of had to pick one to form my visual impression of her (I picked the color one).
^Yeah, they went there :3