GOSICK – Light Novels vs. Anime // GOSICK V -ベルゼブブの頭蓋- // Beelzebub’s Skull

^Unfortunately the Kadokawa version does not have any of Takeda Hinata’s illustrations.

I assume that readers of this post have seen up to episodes 16-17 of GOSICK. If not, beware of spoilers. Because I assume you know all the characters and the plot of the anime already, I’ve abandoned my usual review format.

GOSICK V -ベルゼブブの頭蓋-
 GOSICK V -Beelzebub no Zugai-
 GOSICK V -Beelzebub’s Skull- (Off-Hand TL)

著:桜庭一樹 (Author: Sakuraba Kazuki)
角川文庫 (Kadokawa Bunko) [Version Referenced]
ISBN-13: 978-4044281113
発売日: 2010/7/25
富士見ミステリー文庫 (Fujimi Mystery Bunko) [Out of Print]
ISBN-13: 978-4829163283
発売日:2005/12/10

Translations:
No English translation for volume 5 is planned at this time.

TOKYOPOP previously held the rights to publish translations of GOSICK in both English and German, but has declared it will relinquish these rights (at least the English rights). [1] English language GOSICK volumes 1-2 and German language volumes 1-5 are currently out of print and found for a very high price via sellers on Amazon.

If you want these in English, go bug Yen Press about it getting the licenses, and tell them to hire me. ヽ(╹ε╹)ノ Wahaha.

So I decided I wanted to read some GOSICK. I ordered the fifth volume (highest rated on Amazon) through Kinokunia’s store in Los Angeles, planning to read it before the anime arc covering the volume aired. Well that totally didn’t happen. I read about a third of it in one sitting, then got totally swamped with work and events and celebrations and life. When the final episode of the arc was aired I decided I wanted to go back and finally finish it, finally watch the arc, and then do a comparison review. So it’s time to see whether (unlike the Melancholy of Haruhi) the light novels were different enough to bother with reading if you’ve already seen the anime.

щ(゚Д゚щ)
is the best way to describe how I felt watching the anime arc (episodes 16-17) right after having read the light novel. So many things are just outright wrong I can barely wrap my head around it. I was shouting “whaaat~!?” the entire time. Never before have I seen so much plot sacrificed for an expedient story. Not only are events out of order, but several of them are well – wrong, and it doesn’t stop there. Plot events that are important to developing character – like all of Brian Roscoe’s backstory, is just completely messed up! It’s like it’s trying to pull a vague reference rather than be faithful. The bullet is not made out of tin and water, it’s made out of TIN AND MERCURY!! The floating lady device isn’t a swing, that’s just how it hooks up when the woman lies down for the trance. I’m okay with skimming down on or warping the characterization of the little pawns that appear in the story for the purpose of dying (like the Vatican guy that doesn’t show up), but I mean come on! The whole structure of Beelzebub’s Skull is portrayed completely differently, the whole fog thing was a completely different plot element… Also wait, this is great: the great Brian Roscoe, who is sneaking around and guiding Kazuya’s steps, just struts right up to the Phantasmagoria manager in the anime? He would have been stabbed on the spot!! How could have Cordelia sprinted like that all up and over the place when Kazuya’s looking for Victorique? Also, how could you leave out such an impressionable scene such as when Brian flat out panicked back in 1914?. Plus, the tricks and “mysteries”, especially in this arc are so unbelievably obvious. Like, they weren’t even trying. The sister’s cabinet is portrayed differently – Simon Hunt’s death isn’t the least bit dramatic, and we learn nothing about the standoff between the Science Academy and The Ministry of the Occult, and Roscoe’s prediction that science will inevitably used for greater gains in entertainment than war. Maybe I just picked the wrong arc to look at, but really – what happened guys?

Now let’s calm down and actually review this thing.

*deep breath*

Now, I really like the anime. It’s not superb… but I enjoy it quite a bit and I usually don’t have too much to complain about Bones Animation studio. Ironically, via anime, my favorite arc so far has been the Leviathan arc. It was a very cool concept, it threw in the right amount of mystery concerning Brian Roscoe and Cordelia Gallo and I really liked the “unravel my story” from the alchemist. I say ironically, because when I was looking at which light novel volume to give a try (I wanted to read one I hadn’t seen) the Leviathan arc was, well – rated the lowest out of all the ones I looked at. Beelzebub’s Skull was rated one of the highest, and so far it’s by far my least favorite arc in the anime (but by the light novels one of my favorites overall). The anime arc was enough to make me rant aloud (which rarely happens). Obviously, the script writing team was compressing. The light novel could easily have been three episodes, but it came out as two. Even if it messed with characterization the compression at the beginning wasn’t that bad, it got the point across (though we unfortunately didn’t get to see the Grevil’s double horn); and after all the first chapter was a bit boring… but if they were going for two episodes they could have kept Simon Hunt’s characterization in the first episode (in the same place it was originally) rather than make up a scene in which Victorique and Simon explain in tandem the tricks to give more room for content in the second half. (There was a plot point in the novel that Victorique refused to explain things in order to ensure Kazuya’s safety, which the made up scene messed with.) All in all I think that they just tried too hard to change things. Sure, if the anime adaptation was word for word the arc would be way too long, but only small alterations to the plot could easily put it to three episodes, and two with a little effort.

The dramatizations suffered a lot in the anime this time around. Now, I didn’t think I’d have to say that – so far the previous arcs have used suspense and drama pretty well, even if the mystery isn’t much of a problem to unravel with what’s given to us… but… Victorique’s father should be intimidating… like how he is in the OP. I just thought he looked silly. I imagined Hunt’s screams as those of one descending into hellfire (he screams a LONG TIME in the book), but in the anime it’s just a “Ah..!” The whole creepy circular maze and hive-mind of the nuns was completely lost as well… For the light novel and anime to be this different I feel like I must have hit an outlier of an arc or something, and feel that it can’t possibly be that different in every arc, but, well – I heard people who read the first arc complaining a lot too. So, well – I don’t know.

So that’s the anime from the perspective of the light novel, but what about the light novel itself?

First I’m going to address some problems:

One of the things that really annoyed me was that some of the mystery was created by the author/narrator being extremely misleading in his descriptions. For instance in Brian Roscoe meets Carmilla and Morella in 1914, each playing the role of a single nurse named Mischelle. He describes her as energetic, skipping off as she were flying. Mischelle describes the hospital, she says something to the effect of “everyone here is young.” Another time, Brian sees and old nurse outside of his window; he immediately describes her age because, well since everyone is young – the nurse being old is a defining factor. When Brian first suspects Mischelle of espionage, he says “you aren’t the proper age for for a spy” – which one would immediately interpret as “aren’t you a little too young to be a spy?”. Later when things are revealed, he rewords his statement (each symbol bolded/emblazoned) “aren’t you too both a little too old to be spies?” Later saying something along the lines of, “Young men are all fools for thinking the young have any effect on history.” Now, okay nice concept at the end, but you just totally lied to us. You didn’t mislead us, which is what you should be doing, you lied by an awkward unnatural omission. That really bothered me.

The other things were more minor. I’ve heard some people complain about the description “her hair was like an untangled turban” and counted it five times (and we didn’t even get to Victorique until half way through the book), but it personally didn’t bother me that much. I thought it was kind of funny? There were a few other problems with the flow of things, especially in the beginning when Kazuya’s trying to figure out where Victorique has gone and it takes him a month to go after her, but his reaction to her absence I think is important, so I didn’t mind it that much.

Here’s what I liked:

The skipping around between present, past, and radio feeds. It wasn’t clear whether the radio feeds were in 1914 or 1924, where in both time periods people were hunting for a spy. In the flashbacks, we finally got to see a different side of Brian Roscoe and more about him and his ideologies. I like characterization and interrelations between both separate plots and characters, and though it doesn’t even approach how well things go in Bungaku Shoujo, it’s not bad.

Kazuya is only slightly more interesting in the book, Brian Roscoe and Cordelia Gallo are much more interesting in the book (their animal like descriptions are just wonderful). Victorique is a bit less cute, varies between being more annoying and less annoying in the books, but some things are more interesting about her – like how she perceives her behavior as sort of waving back and forth between animal and human, and how she acts both very much like she’s five and a bit like she’s a hundred. One of the things I think is funny is that Victorique doesn’t smoke in the anime, she just carries a pipe around – but she totally smokes in the book, though not much attention is brought to it. I only barely got a glimpse of Grevil in this volume really, but he seems like quite a bit more of a complex character than I had given him credit for before.

As a side note:

In the book, Cordelia retrieved the memento box. In the anime, she didn’t. (´・3・)、yeah, I’ll just have to continue watching to see how that all turns out. I might get another GOSICK volume, but not for a while. There are many other things I want to read first.

Overall: 7.2
I feel this sort of kind of low rating has in part to do with the fact that I started by jumping in on the middle of things, using the anime to fill in the gaps – I was expected to be familiar with the characters in book form already and I wasn’t.

Concept: 7.8
It’s not so much the whole Sherlock Holmes / Watson thing going on that I like, it’s the legend versus the unlocking the clockwork. Sort of like Scooby Doo? But it’s got a Hound of Baskervilles feel to it. The grey wolves are an amazing bloodline and certain things like the fortune telling in the first arc coming true push towards: Yes everything we take apart is no longer an occult mystery, but not everything is solved, and perhaps will never be solved.

Pacing: 6.3
I can’t really put my fingers on a solution or exactly why, but maybe I’ll just take Victorique’s point of view. Kazuya!!! You’re late!! – Be just a little more assertive, a little less mumbly and pick up the pace! Unfortunately the full effect and suspense of Kazuya running from the tidal wave with Victorique in his arms was dampened a bit from pacing… むっ…

Plot: 7.5
At least in this case, so much better than the anime. The whole Science Academy versus Ministry of the Occult stand off in the shadows was pretty cool. Especially when you threw in that class differences bit. – Well flat out it worked. I’m still itching to know what’s in that memento box, even if what’s in it hardly has anything to do with Brian or Cordelia.

Characters: 8.2
Brian Roscoe and Cordelia Gallo. I’ll throw you Grevil as well.

Writing Style/Flavor: 7.0
It took me a while to get used to, and well it has some good points and not so good points. I was never blown away and I like to get blown away at least once or twice in a volume.

Illustrations: N/A
щ(゚Д゚щ) The ones in the other version were so pretty!!! I guess cover silhouettes are more cost effective.

  1. Interesting review, I think I won’t have time to get around to reading this but at least I have some impression as to what it’s about…

    • Hahaha…. it’s mostly just a rant. It would have been more of a review if I had started from the beginning. But I didn’t actually like the first arc of the series much, so….

    • RAGEN
    • June 19th, 2015

    how many light novels were adapted into anime?

    • I believe all nine from the main series (I,II,III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII-1,VIII-2). Since then GOSICK RED and GOSICK BLUE have been published (which take place in New York), and I don’t think all of the short stories made it into the anime either. (Though some of them did.)

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