“文学少女”と死にたがりの道化 // Bungaku Shoujo to Shinitagari no Pierrot


^The text there actually sort of an excerpt from this book ^^

Maybe Nanase’s hair just grew like crazy between volume 4 and 5, but she looks completely different in the movie than in the books.

Note: in my offhand translation, I normally would write “fool”, because “clown” makes me think of the circus, and “fool” makes me think more of a jester that only acts as a comic or fool, but is really much more knowing – but that is the name of the next volume. “Pierrot” is a French word for an actor in the comedic arts, one of which is pantomiming, so “Mime” works well in the official title. However, Mime makes me think of the blank neutral expression of the “mime artist”, rather than the colorful pantomime, so it feels off to me. Think of it as somewhere between Mime and Clown and Fool. I will use Piero and/or Pierrot to refer to the work (and specific character) in later postings, because that works best.

“文学少女”と死にたがりの道化
 ”Bungaku Shoujo” to Shinitagari no Pierrot
 Literature Girl and the Clown that Wished to Die (Off-Hand TL)
 Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime (Official Title)

著:野村美月 (Author: Nomura Mizuki)
画:竹岡美穂 (Illustrator: Takeoka Miho)
ファミ通文庫 (Famitsu Bunko)
ISBN-10: 4757728069
ISBN-13: 978-4757728066
発売日: 2006/4/28

English Translation by Yen Press: [link]

Introduction:

I don’t actually remember when I bought this, but it was a while back. Either amazon.co.jp recommended it to me, or I had heard reviews from other things, or I had heard the announcement of the movie, or something. Or I might have seen the picture at the top from Simadoriru and investigated. In any case, I finally got around to reading it while I was off back home for Christmas. It felt a bit like I was reading it out of season because the first volume takes place in the summer, and unfortunately I spoiled a bit of the hidden plot (though not immensely important) by watching the OVA Memoir 2, though you get a lot more spoiled by watching the movie about Konoha and Miu. But it really don’t matter that much – after all, “Bungaku Shoujo” to Shinitagari no Pierrot is all about Takeda Chia and Kataoka Shuuji.

Main Characters (in order of Prominence):

天野遠子  Amano Tooko
・The Literature Girl, Head of the Literature Club
井上心葉  Inoue Konoha
・Former (Female) Author “Inoue Miu” and Tooko’s Writer
竹田千愛  Takeda Chia
・Little Girl that looks like a Puppy, acts like a Duck
片岡愁二  Kataoka Shuuji
・Member of the Archery Club, Guy Chia is Interested in
琴吹ななせ Kotobuki Nanase
・Pure Tsundere
芥川一詩  Akutagawa Kazushi
・Member of the Archery Club, Acquaintance of Konoha
姫倉麻貴  Himekura Maki
・Artist, Head of the Orchestra Club, Superintendent’s Granddaughter

Story:

Bungaku Shoujo to Shinitagari no Pierrot is a story wrapped around Dazai Osamu’s 人間失格 Ningen Shikkaku or “Failure as a Human Being”. It slowly feeds you parts of the story (you don’t have to have read it, the book almost assumes that you’ve read it long ago but forgotten all about it) but doesn’t clarify its connection to the characters. Suddenly you have a situation where you have a story that can parallel with almost any pair of characters and part of the mystery is “who represents who”, and it isn’t only the story that is important, but the author and his life as well.

Shinitagari no Pierrot starts with narrator Inoue Konoha introducing himself and this strange girl he becomes familiar with, Amano Tooko, who literally eats paper and ink literature instead of food and drink; she actually cannot digest food. He briefly describes how he has been pulled into the literature club after learning her secret and forced to write “snacks” everyday, but that is only the prologue.

It has been a year since then and Tooko is sort of on a quest to find the most delicious story in the world, and on the same note to improve Konoha’s writing. She develops an (elaborate?) scheme, calling for all those who need help in love to request help from to the literature club – and so Takeda Chia comes to call. In exchange for Tooko making Konoha write love letters to someone named “Kataoka Shuuji” for Chia, Chia agrees to keep a diary of her love experience as a source of writing material so Konoha can write a delicious love story for Tooko. (What an action web!) Things seem to be going well (other than excerpts of Ningen Shikkaku scrolling every now and then from page to page), but something’s wrong. Konoha finds Chia crying and running one rainy day and calling him “Shuuji”, but Konoha can’t seem to find the real Shuuji anywhere: he asks around, he visits the archery club, but to no avail. Chia gives Konoha letters that she says are from Shuuji but they read just like Dazai Osamu’s Ningen Shikkaku! The mystery thickens. Who is Kataoka Shuuji? Who is S? Who murdered who? and who committed suicide? Just who or what is Konoha so afraid of?

Evaluation / Rating:

“Is that the sound of children not reading I hear? I must be off!” *dash*
^This has become my final impression of Tooko :P

The fact that the pure unadulterated power of literature seems to save the day more than once is ridiculous and I love it. I actually think the mystery in the book is handled pretty well. The narrator isn’t exactly brilliant, but the story probably wouldn’t hold together as well if he were. There was a lot I was genuinely puzzled with, but there’s a balance of “mysteries” that really are pretty clear, with others that aren’t at all. Most of the characters are well developed (or hint that there is much more to find, but not in this volume), and Dazai Osamu almost feels like a sort of character in the mix as you learn more and more about his life.

On another note, this novel deals with the concept of “infecting literature”, a topic I had a seminar on a few semesters ago. Reading about the life of someone else in a story, you compare it to your own and eventually mimic – very dangerous if this involves death and suicide. An author writing about his own death can encourage it. It doesn’t go into societal consequences as much, but it’s an interesting discussion to consider.

The writing style or flavor (takes a new meaning when you’re talking about Tooko) is a lot more pretty and flowing and dramatic than other books I’ve read so far. (Ok, Mouryou no Hako wins far and wide on “dramatic”). I’m tempted to think that it has something to do with the fact that this the first full book I’ve read in Japanese written by a female author, but it may just be Nomura Mizuki’s style. The art by Takeoka Miho is a perfect match for the text flavor, very light, flowing and beautiful.

I highly recommend this. Just be prepared to be hit with a wave of “Literature is awesome!” in blue and light green with serif and non-serif fonts washing over you and knocking you down a grassy slope with a bright blue sky, sparkling with the light and dark of the stars above bursting in through the atmosphere.

At least that’s how I felt.

(I feel the need to put a cute picture of Chia face-planting, but I could find no such picture)

Overall: 9.6

Concept: 9.8
(Not quite a 10, but extremely almost there)
Pacing: 9.3
(Most of the time it was hard to put down)
Plot: 9.5
(It wasn’t just the concept that was spectacular)
Characters: 9.3
(A little stereotypical-ness here and there made up for with originality and other angles)
Writing Style/Flavor: 9.6
(Sweet but tart, light and flowing, like meringue)
Illustrations: 9.5
(A perfect match for the author’s flavor)

    • XZX
    • December 29th, 2010

    Nice review. I’ve only ever seen the movie of this series (at an anime club event), so I guess I was one of the ones spoiled? Haha… Well, now I really want to read the novels.

    One thing, though – I’m fairly sure the official translation of Ningen Shikkaku is “No Longer Human”.

    • Yeah, “No Longer Human” sounds about right – but the main character never considers himself to have ever been human, so there’s a little slip in the translation of the title compared to the rest of the work… o.o; I guess the “ring” is what matters.

      But yeah, these are good :D – and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ve only spoiled what happens in the fifth book and well, most of Konoha and Miu’s backstory.

    • Patchuu
    • December 30th, 2010

    In my opinion, reading it was more like eating a piece of candy without knowing that it’s actually one of those with the sour powder inside. To start with the story is cute and poppy, but you soon notice that something is off. You wonder what it’s about and unknowingly start to chew a on it a little only to get hit by the kind of sourness that you know you’re really bad at dealing with (o_x). However, the sour stuff is gone before long, and after you’re done, it’ll leave a sweet aftertaste.
    I thought that I had bought a cute love story, but ended up with something a little different.

    I can’t wait for the next volume that’s going to be released in January. I hope that it will be sweet and ticklish and taste a little like happiness.
    – and yes, it seems like something happened to Kotobuki’s hair..

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: