“文学少女”と飢え渇く幽霊 // Bungaku Shoujo to Uekawaku Ghost

I’ve tried to keep this review, as always, spoiler free; most of what I quote can be found in the opening pages or opening color inserts of the book. I would have had this out yesterday, but my internet died, and my computer auto-reset; I am lucky to have saved this draft (on whim) to my hdd. I don’t think it was my latest, so I might come back and patch up one or two things a bit later.

 彼女を殺そう。
 嵐のような狂気に身を震わせながら、彼は決意した。
 そうだ、殺せ、殺すのだ。
 巻き戻した時間を元に戻さぬために。彼女を永遠に、彼の世界に繋ぎ止めるために。
 彼女の屍を抱き、血をすすり、肉を食らい、骨を枕にし、同じ棺で眠るのだ。彼女の目も、鼻も、唇も、皮膚も、肉も、血も、骨も、すべて――すべて彼のものだ。
 雪のように白く氷柱のように冷たい彼女の首に、十本の指を、ぎりぎりと食い込ませながら、彼は掠れた声で呟いた。

「――さようなら、裏切り者の夏夜乃」

 I’ll kill her.
 Shaking with an insanity fierce as a storm, he fixed his determination.
 Yes, I’ll kill her, I’ll take her life.
 So that time will never be turned back, or rewound. So that she will be eternally bound his world.
 He would embrace her corpse, drink her blood, eat her flesh, make her bones his pillow and sleep with her in the same coffin. Her eyes, her nose, her lips, her skin, her flesh, her blood, her bones, everything – everything was his.
 Around her neck, white as snow and cold as ice, he sank his ten fingers, and in a raspy voice said:
 ”– Farewell, Kayano… you traitor.”

— translated by me, from the first page of “文学少女”と飢え渇く幽霊.

“文学少女”と飢え渇く幽霊
 ”Bungaku Shoujo” to Uekawaku Ghost
 Literature Girl and the Starving Ghost (Off-Hand TL)
 Book Girl and the Famished Spirit (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: 4-7577-2915-4
ISBN-13: 978-4757729155
発売日: 2006/9/11

English Translation by Yen Press: [link]
I’d be nice if I worked up the time to read part three and review it before the English version comes out in July.. ^_^;

Introduction:
After I read “文学少女”と死にたがりの道化 (“Bungaku Shoujo” to Shinitagari no Piero) I was so impressed I ordered the next three on Amazon.co.jp right away. Unfortunately I didn’t get to reading the next one for a while; I took a break to read the first Haruhi book (the first light novel I ever purchased), which was entertaining enough but not worth a review (Kyon’s inner dialogue is the best point of the novel, and well the anime captures it pretty well, and the first volume is just basically introductions, so if you’re already familiar with the series it isn’t very much worth reading really…). After that I started classes and had the sudden urge to start reading Shangri-la (which is great by the way), but I was taking a little long to get through the first section, so I put it on “pause” and finally went back to the second book in the Literature Girl (“Book Girl”) series. However, to my great dismay (and I guess of some portent), I fell awfully sick on Valentine’s Day, and experienced physically the starving emotions I was reading. With my brain in a fever I put most of my activities on hold (but for a few feverish song translations (・ω・)) and wasn’t really in the right mood to read in another language. Three days ago I put myself up to the 3/4s of the work I had remaining and finished what I’ll go ahead and say was a great work.

First of all, forgive me for belittling the subject of suicide, but I find this volume much darker than the first. It’s like a beautiful, parched, withering flower, alone, straining within its dark cage, and clinging to its bars for support – if I might try to be poetic. The emotions I felt from this starving ghost were gripping and many times made me feel as if I too were starving; it almost makes the first feel light hearted (´・ω・`).

Prominent Characters:

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
雨宮蛍   Amemiya Hotaru
・Mysterious Anemic, Sakurai Ryuuto’s Love Interest
九條夏夜乃 Kujou Kayano
・Wandering Ghost, Writes to the Literature Club in Code
国枝蒼   Kunieda Aoi
・Kayano’s Childhood Friend, Foreign “Brother”
櫻井流人  Sakurai Ryuuto
・Tooko’s “Little Brother”, Womanizer, In Love with Hotaru
姫倉麻貴  Himekura Maki
・Artist, Head of the Orchestra Club, Superintendent’s Granddaughter
琴吹ななせ Kotobuki Nanase
・Pure Tsundere
黒崎保   Kurosaki Tamotsu
・Hotaru’s Guardian, Wears Sunglasses

Story Overview:

Days go by for the two person literature club with just Tooko and Konoha, when one day they receive another submission to their Literature Club Love Consultation Postbox, but this time it appears to be a prank: there are a series of numbers, and broken phrases, “help”, “I’m afraid”, “a ghost…”, “go away!!”. So Tooko prepares a stakeout to catch the culprit (and prove there are no such things as ghosts), dragging along Konoha, when late at night a ghastly girl by the name of Kujou Kayano shows up. The next day, Tooko finds a girl at their school that is her splitting image, Amemiya Hotaru who says, “Yes, that is probably my ghost…”

While Tooko goes on a sort of ghost hunt, investigating Kayano, Konoha is pulled aside by Sakurai Ryuuto who says he wants help investigating Hotaru, whom he loves, and believes to be in trouble. Reluctant at first, Konoha soon finds himself drawn in by the mystery surrounding both Hotaru and Kayano, which casts about him chains from his own past.

“Konoha, do you know how to take back the things you’ve lost?”
“All you have to do is turn back time.”

Evaluation/Rating:

Just as Bungaku Shoujo to Shinitagari no Piero’s plot is based in Dazai Osamu’s “Ningen Shikkaku”, this second volume, Bungaku Shoujo to Uekawaku Ghost’s takes from Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”. As you read, you are fed excerpts to a mostly hidden branch of the story, while the acting characters are still grasping at straws. However, the excerpts aren’t clarified in terms of time or order; in fact it is not really clear what they are, so you end up becoming anxious for the other characters to find out at least as much as you know, and to stumble upon, even if they don’t notice it, other clues for your own sake.

I was tricked. My attention was diverted. The hidden plot departs from “Wuthering Heights” into something deeper even as your eyes scan over the alarming text on the first page. When I had gotten about a quarter of the way through the book, I started to regret re-reading the plot summary to “Wuthering Heights” because I thought I was missing out on a large piece of the mystery. Konoha nor even Tooko recognize any connection to “Wuthering Heights” but the excerpts proclaim it clear as day. I became frustrated with the fact that Konoha and Tooko seemed to be flat out ignoring important facts, what with Tooko hunting ghosts and Konoha leaving Tooko for half of the book, but I can’t tell you how incredibly foolish that was. Just as Konoha was ignoring Kayano and Tooko, I was ignoring Konoha; I was ignoring Maki; I was ignoring Hotaru. As much as this book is a story about a vicious storm, it is as much a story about its onlookers – and like a hurricane, the center of the storm is deceptively calm. Why was Konoha being so dull to things staring right in front of him? At some level he is subconsciously aware, but chooses to keep himself from getting too involved, to keep himself from trying to understand. The climax of Konoha as a character this time around is when after a long winded explanation from Tooko, Konoha immediately realizes that Tooko is wrong, that her way of thinking is flawed and naive; in the end if anyone comes close to understanding Hotaru and Tamotsu, it is Konoha.

Though Tooko remains like some sort of mythical being, Konoha’s slow growth is refreshing and most of the other characters are interesting, but Hotaru is, in the end, the most heartbreaking, tragic, and impressive character I’ve laid eyes on in quite a while. I was caught off my guard. I assumed her role was set as a certain character in “Wuthering Heights” and instead preceded to set my sights on Heathcliff. However, Hotaru is as her name might suggest, a flickering, shining light that may yearn for the light but herself clings to the darkness where she might be seen. Pay attention to her, and pay attention to Maki as well; I’ll say no more.

Overall: 9.7
Primarily because of the inner complexities added to Hotaru, enhancing her character far beyond her paralleled role in Wuthering Heights, I would rate this over Piero. You can tell the author Nomura Mizuki put her heart into this one. In the afterword she notes that Wuthering Heights is one of her favorite books, ever since she was young, and that she loves not only the book, but also the situation surrounding it and its author. Probably in part because of that she apparently had a lot of trouble putting it together. “‘Should I change the story?’ I cried to my editor.” I think you can tell she hadn’t had a really firm structure/plan from the beginning by how the pacing and structure suffer a bit, but as I said, that doesn’t deter me from saying that this is a better book.

Concept: 9.8
Not quite a 10, but extremely almost there.

Pacing: 8.8
It takes a little while for everything to get rolling; it’s not nearly as on edge as Piero, and there are a few slightly awkward breaks

Plot: 9.8
Fairly deeper than Piero

Characters: 9.99
Stereotypical characters evolve, and Hotaru is amazingly characterized.

Writing Style/Flavor: 9.3
Deep as a complex and very bitter tea, especially where it counts, (it made feel physically ill at points) but attention is distracted too often at crucial moments to what expression Tooko has at that moment, and it got repetitive so I had to mark it down

Illustrations: 9.6
Both Hotaru and Tamotsu were drawn beyond perfectly, unfortunately they appear sparsely; the picture in the illustrator’s afterword contains the essence of the novel

^She really didn’t smile much this time around.

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