“文学少女”と月花を孕く水妖 // Bungaku Shoujo to Gekka wo Daku Undine

^Insert in the volume by the illustrator, Takeoka Miho

そう、この短い生も終わりに近づき
私がいま請い願うのはただそれだけ
生も死も
雄々しく耐える縛られない魂。
         ―エミリー=ブロンテ

Yes, as my swift days near their goal,
’tis all that I implore:
In life and death
a chainless soul, with courage to endure.
         -Emily Bronte

―僕、そのものが一条の物語になった訳だ。
         ―泉鏡花の「夜叉ケ池」から

That is, “I”, became a passage of a story.
         ―From Izumi Kyouka’s “Yasha ga Ike” (Demon Pond)

“文学少女”と月花を孕く水妖
 Bungaku Shoujo to Gekka wo Daku Undine
 Literature Girl and the Undine that Embraced the Moon and Flowers (Off-Hand TL)
 … (No Official English Title Released)
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-13: 978-4757739185
発売日: 2008/1/4

English Translation by Yen Press: [link] (Not Yet Released at Time of Posting)
[Release Date: January, 2013]

Note on the Title: Read as “and the undine that embraced the moon and flowers” (which refers to an idiom later explained in the book), but it uses the symbol 孕 which refers to being “pregnant with”; 水妖 is used for Undine, which is “water fairy” or “water spirit” etc.

Introduction:

So it took me a little longer to get around to this one. You would think I’d have more time to read what I want after graduation, no restrictive schedule to bind me – but that’s just a dream. Having no restrictive schedule means that I can dragged off at whim because I’m “free”. So I read “Undine” in two sittings, the first one got me a third of the way through the book and the second finished it all up. One of these days I’ll be able to read a volume in a sitting and I think give a fuller review, but I’m not sure how long that will take. I had the misfortune of pausing at a low point in the book so it may have negatively affected my opinion.

Not (yet) an author myself I’m not sure how much of a right I have to say this, but I think that Nomura Mizuki’s mechanics have been steadily improving. Pacing, style, and controlling repetition have made “Undine” an easier read, especially in the beginning, but it also happens to fall in a series gap, which makes it a bit harder to enjoy the story, but I’ll get to this more in my evaluation.

I read most of “Undine” in silence (which is rare for me) because I was able to grab a room in the library during my first session and most of my second session was an all-nighter, which meant I only had to deal with residual electrical noises, but I always seem to find a perfect track or album to go with a reading, and this time it was “鳥を捕る人”/”Tori wo Toru Hito” from Joe Hisashi’s Night on the Galactic Railroad image album: “Nokto de la Galaksia Fervojo”. It has a very, very mysterious air to it, as well as a “watery” nature. It brings up the image of the Bird Catcher who stands on a lake like surface catching the cranes diving in. I’m not sure of the key changes, but the song transitions between a ghastly/spooky unknown feeling, back to a warm love that you could say is hidden inside the Undine screaming for freedom and love.

In fact that really is what I liked best in this book, not really the plot, not really the characters, but the symbol of the Undine, and the author Izumi Kyouka’s search for his mother through a series of demonic but mystically loving multi-faceted women he filled his stories with.

Now that I’ve got to that, rather than working from a single work, “Undine” takes from several. The most prominent are Izumi Kyouka (泉鏡花)’s, 外科室 (Gekashitsu, Operation Room), 夜叉ケ池 (Yasha ga Ike, Demon Pond), 草迷宮 (Kusameikyuu, Grass Labyrinth), and also Friedrich de la Motte Fouque’s “Undine”. One of my particularly favorite tie-ins was Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” for Konoha’s journey to the mountain villa.

For those of you readers who loved Hotaru as much as I do, she plays a role in this story.

Prominent Characters:

天野遠子  Amano Tooko
・The Literature Girl, Head of the Literature Club
井上心葉  Inoue Konoha [Narrator]
・Former (Female) Author “Inoue Miu” and Tooko’s Writer
姫倉麻貴  Himekura Maki
・Artist, Princess, Head of the Orchestra Club, Superintendent’s Granddaughter
魚谷紗代  Uotani Sayo
・Young Maid who works at Himekura’s mountain villa
櫻井流人  Sakurai Ryuuto
・Tooko’s “Little Brother”, Womanizer, Likes Dangerous Women
姫倉ゆり  Himekura Yuri
・Miko/Shrine Maiden that loved books and lived 80 years ago at the Himekura villa
敷島秋良  Shikishima Akira
・The German Literature Student who came to Yuri in search of his mother’s book
雨宮蛍   Amemiya Hotaru
・The firefly whose love calmed the dragon-king’s granddaughter, “Ghost”

Story:

For the first time we’re given an introduction! Himekura Maki is at her birthday party, forced to smile and act the part, greeting people who have come, of course, only to see her grandfather. Her irritation grows as she talks to the one arranged for her to marry and she slips away, angry at her fate to be like her father has become, a simple doll controlled by her grandfather. About to burst she calms down in the presence of false firefly lights that remind her of Amemiya Hotaru. When her keeper Takamizawa comes to take her back to the party, Maki strikes on a plan. “I have something to talk to you about.”

Now back to our usual narrator: Konoha. Politely abducted by Takamizawa from his home and driven out into the mountainous wilderness, made to walk the final distance over an overgrown path, he makes his way to an own western style building, with an eastern style shrine, that reminds him of the mansion in “The Fall of the House of Usher”. Come unwillingly to the “rescue” of similarly abducted Tooko, Konoha finds himself player to part of Maki’s scheme to re-create the past and lure out a demon.

Evaluation / Rating:

Like the cover might suggest, with Tooko is a white dress rather than in her school uniform, this book is a bit of a departure from the rest of the series. Almost, but not quite a side-story. I had gotten used to slow starts with the Bungaku Shoujo series, but “Undine” throws you immediately into an almost Gothic mystery right from the the get-go. I think one of the problems was that I was too interested in Yuri, and not really interested in what Maki was doing.

There is a shift, around a third of the way through (when I ended my first reading phase) from the past mystery to the current mystery – and well. That cut from my interest considerably. I guess most of chapter four. ^^; The fifth chapter returns to what I wanted to read about. Well I can’t get too nitpicky about plot elements without spoiling them, so I’ll go ahead and leave it.

The mystery second narrator this time around (the text in bold) is both more puzzling and more interesting. Why, do you ask? Because he/she is not all that concerned with the plot of the story. In some passages it appears he/she is, but then the flow diverges again. It is with these passages that the story becomes more than its own story, hinting at other important points that I think will come up again in the finale (last two volumes are part 1 and 2). I think this is representation of Nomura’s improvement as on author on the technical level.

Maki gets some good characterization throughout the book, but I’d go as far to say it is Maki’s grandfather that has the most interesting (if indirect) characterization in this book. Even if you get all the revelations and solve all the mysteries before the end, knowing them completely overturns your image of Maki’s grandfather, and the recent Himekura family. “I’ll never discuss matters with anyone wearing a skirt.”

If you’re a Maki fan, I’m sure you’ll love this book, it has a lot of Maki moments in it, and in the end it’s really about her. If you’re not as much a fan (like me), I’m sure you’ll love the “Undine” symbol even if a few cliches are borrowed here and there in the story. If you’re a fan of pairings, you might just have a few moments to squeal.

鏡花水月 “Kyouka Suigetsu”
Flowers’ reflection in mirrors, the moon on the surface of the water, that which you can glimpse but never touch, but held in the heart has its greatest value.

Overall: 9.5
Subjective Ranking: 1st,3rd=2nd,5th,6th,4th
Objective Ranking: 2nd,3rd=5th,1st,4th=6th

Concept: 9.8
This rating probably will stay the same for each volume in the series unless something absolutely amazing happens to bump it up a little further.
Pacing: 9.6
Much better than usual.
Plot: 8.8
Even if the pacing was much better, I think the plot in and of itself was lacking a bit. The number is low in part because I don’t consider crafted images like “Undine” to be part of plot, but rather part of concept.
Characters: 9.1
Not many characters are directly developed, though Maki is, but there are several characters indirectly developed. With Konoha, rather than his being developed any, we get to see what has become of him “post-Palmier”. Though this is interesting, it’s not enough for me to pay as much attention to him as I maybe should. The second narrator sort of alludes to this “hidden characterization” that doesn’t actually come to light in this story (because Konoha is narrating, ironically). Mechanics involving characterization are more developed in other words, but it’s not quite polished. I guess rather than “inadept characterization” this book suffers from being a build up to that characterization that we should expect in the next book.
Writing Style/Flavor: 9.6
Nomura’s beautiful writing style is something I’ve come to expect, and this volume does not disappoint, even if no one passage blew me away.
Illustrations: 9.6
Great as usual. For whatever reason I particularly like the p.235 picture of Uotani Sayo. The tiniest details of it, even though it’s quite a simple image, are set perfectly.

    • thatfpsguy
    • June 14th, 2011

    お疲れさまでした。

    I don’t suppose there’s an english version of this book? It does sound interesting.

    • There is an English version projected to be released January 2013. The first two books in the series are translated, and the third is to be released in August. I haven’t read the translations but I heard they are good – and I really recommend the series so maybe you should check it out :D

      Here are links to the books on Amazon: [1][2][3]

        • thatfpsguy
        • June 14th, 2011

        Oh wow, thanks a bunch! I wasn’t aware that it had previous releases. Will defninitely try these out.

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