Archive for the ‘ Light Novels ’ Category

“文学少女”と神に臨む作家<上/下> // Bungaku Shoujo to Kami ni Nozomu Romancier Part 1&2

Beware of spoilers: I will try to keep them to a minimum, but if you’re concerned, proceed with caution.

“文学少女”と神に臨む作家<上/下>
 Bungaku Shoujo to Kami ni Nozomu Romancier [Part 1+2]
 Literature Girl and the Novelist Who Faces the Heavens(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: 978-4757741737 | 978-4757743717
発売日: 2008/05/09 | 2008/09/11

 ぼくはこれから、道化のように、悲しみを隠して笑おう。
 ときに幽霊のように渇望し、ときに愚者として決断し、堕ちた天使のように穢れにまみれても、
月と花を胸に抱いて、聖地へ向かう巡礼者のように歩き続けよう。
 そうして、神に臨む作家になろう。

From now on I will, like the pierrot hide my sadness and smile.

Sometimes I will, like the ghost long in desperation, like the fool be decisive, like the fallen angel, be smeared with disgrace, but even so I will hold the moon and flowers in my heart, and like the pilgrim heading to the holy land, keep walking.

And so, I will become an novelist who faces the heavens.

Introduction:

So, this is the second series I’ve ever completed. (First if you consider the fact that the Suomus series isn’t officially “ended” but on infinite hiatus.) The first book in the series was the first book I read that while struggling through it in Japanese I was glued to the pages half the time and literally couldn’t put it down. (Except every 10 seconds to look for another word in the dictionary of course D:). Now I’ve grown used to Mizuki Nomura’s style, and I read these two books in less than half the time it took me to read the first (which is also the shortest). It’s been quite a long run.

My favorites of the series personally veer toward the beginning, but that’s probably because my favorite characters of the entire series are Hotaru and Chia, and the first two books deal most intimately with them. Still, the finale is more polished, it doesn’t forget any character in the series, is much more complicated, and we can tell finally that Konoha has finally put his foot forward and moved a few centimeters in the right direction.

At any rate, this series of books I know I will read again, and quite possibly again and again, and there aren’t many books I can say that about.

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
琴吹ななせ Kotobuki Nanase
・Konoha’s Girlfriend, Library Assistant and Tsundere
櫻井流人  Sakurai Ryuuto
・Tooko’s “Little Brother”, Womanizer, Likes Dangerous Women
櫻井叶子  Sakurai Kanako
・Ryuuto’s Mother, Acclaimed Author of “Immoral is the Gate”
天野文陽  Amano Fumiharu
・Tooko’s Father, Kanako’s Editor, Yui’s Husband and Reader, Has Tooko’s Eating Habits
天野結衣  Amano Yui
・Tooko’s Mother, Fumiharu’s Author, Friends with Kanako Since Middle School
須和拓海  Suwa Takumi
・Ryuuto’s Father, Womanizer, Introduces Yui to Ore-rugeiyu
竹田千愛  Takeda Chia
・Bright and Cheerful, Masked “Shinitagari no Pierrot”, Ryuuto’s Girlfriend
朝倉美羽  Asakura Miu
・Konoha’s Childhood Friend and Former Writer, “Doukoku no Palmier”
芥川一誌  Akutagawa Kazushi
・Konoha’s Sincere, Upstanding Friend, “Tsunagareta Fool”, Miu’s Caretaker
姫倉麻貴  Himekura Maki
・Artist, Furious Princess, “Gekka wo Daku Undine”, Power over Ryuuto

Story:

The finale. Interwoven with André Gide’s “Narrow is the Gate”

At first it seems that all of the problems around Konoha have finally dispersed and he’s able to experience a calm, normal life, and a budding relationship with his girlfriend… but he has a bad feeling about something. Ever since the holiday break Tooko has been acting strange, and Konoha can’t shake the feeling that she’s going away. Well, of course, she is about to graduate, so she will be leaving, but…

Tooko tells Konoha that she wishes that Konoha writes another novel one day, so she can read it.

Konoha refuses; after all the people he has hurt by writing, including himself, how could he?

Meanwhile, Ryuuto turns nasty. He starts doing everything he can to tear Konoha and Nanase apart, and urges Konoha to write again, manipulating him and throwing him into whatever situation he thinks might force him to reconsider.

Konoha’s former editor Sasaki comes as well to try to convince Konoha, but after he refuses Tooko finds out and breaks down in front of Konoha. “Why won’t you write?!”

Tooko keeps fading away, and as Konoha chases after her he begins to stumble upon Tooko’s family circumstances. In an effort to find why she and Ryuuto are so insistent on him writing, and to find a way to
keep Tooko from disappearing, he looks deep into story of Ryuuto and Tooko’s parents’ lives. He reads Sakurai Kanako’s semi-autobiographical “Immoral is the Gate” and is horrified, but what is real and what are lies? Is this really what it means to be an author!?

“You’ll never become an author.”
“And you were the one that showed me my dreams!”
“Are you going to run away again?”
“Tooko’s going to disappear!”
“If that’s what it means to be an author I…”
“Now It’s my turn to show you that people can change.”
“Why won’t anyone kill me!?”
“Is it really the right thing? To head through the narrow gate?”
“If I’m going to die, I would like my death to become material for an author.”

“Farewell.”

Evaluation / Rating:

A finale should tie everything together and explain most lingering questions. I like Nomura explains Tooko’s inhuman-ness, which is in fact very similar to how she treats Maki… There were a good number of twists and turns and I fell for a number of the traps, but really the best part of the novel is the vague and still yet unclear nature of the relationship between Kanako, Yui and Fumiharu, and the meta-element of the nature of writing fiction. Sure that meta-element is all over the series, but it’s particularly strong here, as instead of trying to piece together emotions based on authors in the past and “literature-transference”, Konoha has to delve into the emotions of an author/character still living – and we still don’t get a perfect picture.

If you’re thinking of trying your hand at writing, or already are – it’s got quite a perspective lined up for you.

I said that I wanted a couple of things to happen in this book, and none of them did. None of them did, and yet I was still convinced that it ended the way it should, even though it was almost completely opposite of what I wanted. Simply put, that makes good fiction.

I feel like I should write more and delve deeper into how all of this is pulled off, but there’s so much pulling from previous volumes (I even had to look back and remember some details), that I don’t really think I can do it.

If you’ve made it this far in reading through this series, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a good ending.

If you’re interested in more, there are short story collections, and two spin-off sort of series – one that takes place during Konoha’s senior year, starting with: 文学少女見習いの、初恋 and one that features Tooko as an editor after she has graduated from college, starting with: 半熟作家と文学少女な編集者.

Overall: 9.8 | 9.81
Subjective Ranking: 1st,2nd,8th=7th=3rd,5th,6th,4th
Objective Ranking: 8th=7th=2nd,3rd=5th,1st,4th=6th

Really, the only volumes in this series I could say I didn’t absolutely love were the 4th and 6th volumes, but even those were very well done and are still some of the best light novels I’ve read so far.

Concept: 9.9 | 10
Someone once told me that the harder a story is to summarize the more it deserves to exist. The “story” section was very hard for me to write because well, I can’t even set up the story that well at all in short. It’s something you have to read.
Pacing: 9.9 | 9.6
Both have excellent pacing, better than the books before, but the 8th has a little bit of a slow down.
Plot: 9.8 | 9.8
Very intricate. Not quite as heart wrenching as some of the others in the series, but very good nonetheless.
Characters: 9.7 | 10
Every character gets some development. Kanako is a very interesting character, Chia shows her stuff and I can finally be proud of Konoha (somewhat), Ryuuto’s behavior got erratic enough to spin my head and Tooko has a lot of (somewhat subtle) development.
Writing Style/Flavor: 9.8 | 9.8
It kind of annoys me that I didn’t write some quotes down as I was reading for the end of the “story” section. D: The higher than usual score may just be because I’ve gotten ever more used to Nomura’s style, but I dunno. To know I may have to re-read from the beginning.
Illustrations: 9.8 | 9.9
The “higher-than-usual” reason is probably the same as above, but I think Takeda Miho’s improved anyway. You can tell by looking at the covers and seeing how they move closer to the characters. Anyway, excellent.

^Omake

“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.

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.

“文学少女”と慟哭の巡礼者 // Bungaku Shoujo to Doukoku no Palmier

^A scene inspired more from the film than the book I think, but that doesn’t make it any less fitting… I’ve been able to find a couple of gems, but I really wish there was more fan art for this series on Pixiv.

Note on the Title: “Palmier” is used in the title on top of the word for Pilgrim, apparently Italian for “one who does something with palm branches”. This makes since if you link it to the Christian tale of palm branches being laid upon the road to “welcome the king” – Palm Sunday in other words. I don’t know any more than that, so I’ll just let it be. Also, I translated Doukoku as “wailing” but I understand the word to take on more of a “howling” meaning. In the end I thought wailing conveyed the idea better, and it’s what my dictionary was saying so I stuck with it.

“文学少女”と慟哭の巡礼者
 Bungaku Shoujo to Doukoku no Palmier
 Literature Girl and the Wailing Pilgrim (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: 978-4757736856
発売日: 2007/9/11

English Translation by Yen Press: [link] (Not Yet Released at Time of Posting)
[Release Date: August, 2012]

Introduction:

I encourage all of you to find and watch the anime adaptation of 銀河鉄道の夜 (Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru) “Night on the Galactic Railroad” (1985) You should be able to find it on YouTube actually, like most old hard to find films. The character roles are played by cats.

There’s a translation of the short story into English, though I’ve heard it’s terrible. I have the original, and it’s copyright free… if I’m starving and out of work I might publish a translation in a year or so, eh?

I found that 胎児の夢 (Taiji no Yume) goes well with the reading, I also listened to ERP (Emotional Romantic Pianoforte), and a few other tracks. I regret that I wasn’t able to actually sit down and read it in a sitting or two – but as you can see from my general lack of posting, I’ve been busy and reading became more of an intermittent break from stress than anything else. That may be part of the reason I’m going to give Konoha a lot more flak than I usually do…

Anyway, whenever you get the chance to read this, August 2012 is Yen Press’s planned release date, I’d encourage you to read it around dusk. When you run across passages from Miyazawa Kenji’s original works, you’ll want to look up at the sky; at the disappearing sun, the stars popping up here and there. Maybe I’m just weak for such things, but it’s such an emotional outlet.

Most of you, and I mean most people that are interested in reading a review like this about a yet-to-be-as-popular-as-it-should-be-in-the-English-speaking-world series like Bungaku Shoujo/Book Girl, have seen the film, and/or the shorts accompanying it. The film is, for the most part, an adaptation of this book, so I’ll be making a lot of comparisons. As always I try to restrict myself from making too many spoilers, so I’ll try to be ambiguous when it comes down to it. Also, just so you know – I won’t be making much comment about the all too conclusive end of the movie, because “Palmier” is the fifth of an eight book series. I don’t know if that’s what really happens in the novels or not, I’ve got three more volumes ahead of me before I find out for sure.

^Takeda Chia

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
朝倉美羽  Asakura Miu
・Konoha’s Childhood Friend and Former Writer, “Doukoku no Palmier”
琴吹ななせ Kotobuki Nanase
・Konoha’s Girlfriend, Library Assistant and Tsundere
芥川一誌  Akutagawa Kazushi
・Konoha’s Sincere, Upstanding Friend, “Tsunagareta Fool”
竹田千愛  Takeda Chia
・Bright and Cheerful, Masked “Shinitagari no Pierrot”
櫻井流人  Sakurai Ryuuto
・Tooko’s “Little Brother”, Womanizer, Likes Dangerous Women
姫倉麻貴  Himekura Maki
・Artist, Princess, Head of the Orchestra Club, Superintendent’s Granddaughter

Unfortunately Chia only appears in the movie to fix up some plot inconveniences. Her role is much more important in the book. At one of the critical points in the movie, Konoha is saved by Tooko. But in the book, Konoha is made to hesitate because of Nanase, is really saved by Chia, and then is helped later by Tooko. For those who have read the first book, you should know how much more significant it is for Chia to save Konoha than it is for Tooko. To be fair, Chia’s involvement in the book is probably too complicated (and dark) for the movie adaptation, so I understand why she was cut, but… I almost cried when Konoha acted like he didn’t know who she was in the movie.

Story:

The movie made a lot of cuts, but the overall plot is pretty much the same as it is in the book. Bungaku Shoujo to Doukoku no Palmier is a story where Konoha must finally confront Miu, an existence that has haunted him ever since their parting. The earlier novels had hinted at her death, but the fourth and even the third novels confirm that she is alive. We hear it from Konoha himself, so it is inevitable that for Konoha to truly heal, he must meet her again.

Before his Shrine visit/date with Nanase, Konoha receives a strange New Years card in the mail, of a weird drawing: a round bird-like creature with horns, a face like a cat and a long dangling tongue. After a number of bad luck omens and before Konoha and Nanase’s second date, Nanase calls it off with no explanation. He learns later from Chia that Nanase has been hospitalized.

Nanase tries to keep Konoha from coming, and the first time he visits he can’t get in to see her, but trying again he hears Nanase shouting in the hospital halls.

“You’re terrible! Stay away from Inoue! You have no right-!”

Turning the corner Konoha finds Nanase and another girl, her back turned. Nanase freezes and the girl turns around.

“Konoha…”

“Miu!!”

Evaluation / Rating:

Konoha frustrates me to no end in “Palmier”. It’s kind of part of the plot, but Konoha emotionally reverts to square one, making almost all of his growth absolutely worthless. He is absolutely terrible to Nanase, and he knows it, and does nothing about it! I was really rooting for Konoha and Nanase’s relationship last volume, but now I’m not sure I can see how Nanase should be able to put up with him. I personally would still rather see Konoha and Nanase get together than Konoha and Tooko, (even if I have a feeling it’ll never happen ._.) but he’s really stretching it. *Sigh*

I actually connected more with Chia than any other character this time around, she gets a lot of good development, and while I wouldn’t claim I’m like her, I’ve felt similar things and had periods of rejection-shock, so I connect with her most. Miu also is a great character, and very believable.

The plot progression is good, but I really think it could have been better if Konoha wasn’t such a sap. I’m okay with him being useless, and I understand how the past can be paralyzing, and I keep on telling myself he’s only a high schooler and perhaps I shouldn’t expect that much out of him, but for the first time I think the author just took it a degree too far. Really, that’s the only problem I think with this volume. Konoha was just a little too useless. He has some cool scenes and points, but they would have been a lot more believable if he had shown a more strength of character throughout. I’m not asking for much, just a little.

The integration with Miyazawa Kenji’s stories was excellent. Absolutely wonderful. There was a section on changes through multiple revisions of a story which really stood out in the “Super-Girl-Tooko Literary Explanation” part. I love learning about the authors too… and there’s something strangely romantic I think about a children’s story actually being absurdly depressing when you really look at it again.

I fell apart when you find the true meaning of Miu’s question: “What is Campanella’s wish?”

It’s those things that should be so obvious but takes you by surprise, that makes this series so wonderful. (Unfortunately, that’s not completely conveyed in the movie). The barrier between two people in a relationship is stressed more as well.

I’ll admit I was crying when Konoha read out the true ending of his book (which they also didn’t put in the movie щ(゚Д゚щ)).

Everything in the movie about Konoha quitting the literature club and running after Tooko and everything like that does not happen in the book; Konoha is still with Nanase. I think it’s a lot better that way. We’ll see if the movie ending reflects something in later volumes (three left to go) or it was just a way to tie things together.

Overall: 9.6
Subjective Ranking: 1st,3rd=2nd,5th,4th
Objective Ranking: 2nd,3rd=5th,4th=1st

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: 9.0
Paced well, but I feel that some parts of the plot are slowed down by Konoha’s lack of initiative and wavering; there’s just a little too much focus on him, but nothing to knock it lower than 9.
Plot: 9.5
The plot is well pieced together even if there’s a few problems with the flow, and Chia’s involvement really made a difference. If the plot was the same as the movie, I would have put it at around 8.8.
Characters: 9.8
Miu and Chia make up for Konoha’s awful moments. Ryuuji and Konoha (despite his faults) have a lot of good development and Nanase’s perseverance is strong enough for me to count it as development as well. So, 9.8. I don’t think anyone’s going to beat Hotaru from vol.2 though.
Writing Style/Flavor: 9.4
This volume suffers a little bit from great, great parts written fantastically, and parts that leave me wanting, so I’ve let it drop down to 9.4 (still high as ever though…)
Illustrations: 9.9
The Surstrommings picture… the figure below portrays it. I’m not sure I’d laughed that hard in a long, long time. But seriously, the illustrations as a whole were if anything lovelier than usual.

“文学少女”と穢名の天使 // Bungaku Shoujo to Kegarena no Angel

^I would have put a picture of Nanase up at the top, but there aren’t that many pictures of non-anime-hair-Nanase out there (there are few, period…), so I put one maid-service one at the bottom, and a more relevant picture at the top.

The number of my reviews has reached 10, maybe I’ll make a page to organize them when I hit 15… My site’s more popular for mahjong than it is for reviews… but I guess more for reviews than for learning Japanese… which was one of the first purposes I tacked on after I started translating lyrics… XD

文学少女と穢名の天使
 Bungaku Shoujo to Kegarena no Angel
 Literature Girl and the Disgraced Angel (Off-Hand TL)
 Book Girl and the Corrupted Angel (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-13: 978-4757735064
発売日: 2007/5/10

English Translation by Yen Press: [link] (Not Yet Released at Time of Posting)
[Release Date: January, 2012]

Introduction:

I’m starting to ache writing these non-spoiler reviews, especially this series, because there are enough twists for me to have to watch my every word.. Maybe I’ll remedy by setting up a discussion board. What I really need to do is start a reading group so I can discuss what I’ve felt reading and to hear others’ opinions. I miss arguing back and forth with people… I can’t really start a reading group when I’m just about to finish college and go off to who knows where though.

Maybe that has something to do with why I like this series so much; the narrator/main character suffers from the “no one would be that dense or stupid” syndrome but he kind of doesn’t at the same time. Konoha is a character that you can’t judge on surface level; you really can’t take any of the characters that way. I think I’ve learned a bit of something myself along with him.

When you get to the point along a character’s development to where his confession his revelation is actually false, no matter how true it feels – no matter how true it feels to him… What I’m trying to say here is that you reach a strange paradox, where everything is so much more complex and yet so much simpler than it seems.

Now I read this book faster than I’d ever read anything in Japanese before. I’m not quite ready to say whether it’s a jump in my skill level in general, with this particular author, or this volume really grabbed me more than any other. Maybe it’s a little bit of everything; this series has yet to disappoint me.

This time around the story’s involved with “The Phantom of the Opera” which I have not read, admittedly, but I have seen the silent film, which was excellent. (Perhaps it is blaspheme to experience an opera only through silent film, but I have also heard some of the vocal music, which is of course also excellent.) So far that means every other volume has been on Japanese literature, and the others on foreign literature. Why is it that when we read through “world literature” in high school we only get “European literature”, most of it British? I guess there are language barriers, but I’ve not ever seen a single assigned reading of anything Japanese on any curriculum. That needs to change.. at least lets have some “Kokoro”! I’ve encountered few that are very long (let’s exclude things of epic chronicle length like the Tale of Genji…) – I would have loved to read something like Musha no Kouji Saneatsu’s “Friendship” in high school! Akutagawa would have made my head spin!

Enough of my rant, let’s get on with the 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
琴吹ななせ Kotobuki Nanase
・Library Assistant and Tsundere
水戸夕歌  Mito Yuuka
・Nanase’s Close Friend / Whereabouts Unknown
毬谷敬一  Mariya Keiichi
・Music Teacher / Retired Opera Singer
臣志朗   Omi Shirou
・Mysterious Student who Hates Konoha
鏡粧子   Kagami Shouko
・Vocal Teacher at Yuuka’s School

Story:

Like most of the volumes up until now, the story has been rolling for a long time before Konoha has the chance to find it. School life continues: Konoha is better friends with Akutagawa and maybe even with Nanase, as he spends more time with her while Tooko “works hard” at studying for college entrance exams. Konoha is half-coerced by situation to help Nanase do filing work for the school music teacher, Mariya Keiichi. Nanase’s school friends have started to see past Nanase’s tsundere facade and are dropping large hints on Konoha, but he lightly shrugs them off as usual. Now Konoha’s days are pleasantly accompanied by a cup of chai, watching over Nanase’s cuteness as Mariya teases her.

But then one day Konoha finds Nanase very upset; her close friend has suddenly stopped returning her calls and they find out she has actually been missing, even while they had been keeping correspondence.

Konoha offers to help and with Nanase starts investigating, but there is another factor; a mysterious student makes contact with Konoha, shows his disdain, appears to be concerned for Nanase, and warns him to stay away from Mariya.

“It’s not that you don’t notice, you just don’t want to acknowledge the fact.”
“You’re chasing her to her death, a murderer with a pretty face.”

Evaluation / Rating:

I know that Konoha will probably end up with Tooko in the end, but all the same, after this book I think that he’s a better fit for Nanase; they both have areas where they can depend on each other. Tooko is someone Konoha is almost fully dependent on… (ok Konoha “feeds” her, but I don’t think that really counts). I think they would work well in a very close friends sort of relationship. Maybe I have a different idea of what makes a good relationship, but don’t trust me, I’m not in one.

One reason this volume falls last on my subjective ranking (we’re really talking about differences in degrees of zero though) is that is uses the “emotional catapult”/”hot topic issue” of school girl prostitution. To the volume’s credit, it handles it very well, it doesn’t overstate the situation to sort of suck that weird sort of emotional mess of either sadness, hate, a strange warped jealousy which serves as the basis of such hate, et cetera out of the reader, and it does not form the core of the meaning in the title “Disgraced Angel” or “Angel of a corrupted, dirtied name”. In the end it is only a catalyst. So I can’t say it shouldn’t be there, I can only say how great and excellent a work it would have been if it pulled it off without it, or if it had explored the emotion more in depth, enough to surprise me.

Overall: 9.4
Subjective Ranking: 1st,3rd=2nd,4th
Objective Ranking: 2nd,3rd,4th,1st

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: 9.7
Paced very well, it’s still just a little slower in the beginning.
Plot: 9.0
The majority of the plot was a lot more predictable than usual but, though this might sound ironic, there were many more twists and quite a few elements I just could not see at all, maybe that’s why the pacing is higher than usual.
Characters: 9.71
Konoha, Mariya, and Omi were all developed very well; none of them come close to Hotaru from volume two, and I thought Shouko was rather bland… but even Nanase had some development I thought I’d never see. The combined Konoha/Mariya/Omi depth of character slightly beats out the development of Konoha/Akutagawa in volume three, hence the extra .01 I’ve tacked on.
Writing Style/Flavor: 9.7
Very good, it was a very enjoyable read, the environments were produced clearly and with flavor; I was very easily drawn into emotional reactions at critical moments and there was nothing really jerky.
Illustrations: 9.5
Refined and beautiful as I’ve come to expect.