Bungaku Shoujo

After what seems like forever waiting for Bungaku Shoujo Memoire to come out, I finally got a chance to watch the Bungaku Shoujo (a.k.a. Book/Literature Girl) movie a few weeks ago. The movie brings back all of the characters from Memoire, including Konoha, Touko, and Nanase. One of the things I liked about the movie was that they redid the scene where Konoha meets Touko for the first time and put it at the very beginning.

This was great for anyone who had read the novels but hadn’t seen the Memoire series. Touko was depicted as a beautiful girl sitting under a tree with sparkly things floating around her and everything, then she chomps down on a piece of the book she’s reading, totally ruining Konoha’s initial impression of her. Touko’s real personality shows through soon after when she conscripts Konoha into the literature club.

The camera then pans up to the sky, which seamlessly turns from a bright sunny day to a star-filled expanse and the words “Why am I writing once again?” followed by a description of a girl under a magnolia tree appear on screen before fading out and showing the title.

As the title fades out, we see a train crossing a river which is reflecting the night sky above. In fact, it almost appears as if the train is flying across the galaxy, a clear reference to Night on the Galactic Railroad, which was mentioned heavily in the second episode of Bungaku Shoujo Memoire.

I thought these first few minutes were brilliantly done, and we haven’t even gotten to the story yet. The stunning visuals and Touko’s peculiar behaviour immediately grab the attention of viewers, and the appearance of those words in the sky serve to pique your curiosity. Anyone that has seen Memoire or read some of the light novels will know that it is Konoha writing, but the question is what was so important that he decided to pick up the pen again? After all, the trauma he experienced after Miu’s death had caused him to quit being an author. The answer lies immediately after the title screen, with the train crossing the river. The illusion of a train travelling across the galaxy is foreshadowing that the journey (and things concerning Miu) isn’t over yet.

The hint that things between Konoha and Miu might not be over is soon forgotten as the movie switches to a light-hearted introduction phase. All of the characters are shown doing their daily activities. Maki (the headmaster’s granddaughter) arrives at school in a limo, Nanase is still crushing on Konoha but can’t make her feelings clear, Kazushi (Konoha’s best friend) is at archery practice, Touko is checking her “love letter assistance” box, and Chia (a friend of Konoha and Touko) is still tripping over herself.

The calm and relaxing atmosphere does not last for very long as we are reminded that Touko will be graduating soon and leaving the literature club in Konoha’s hands (Touko is a year older, in case you didn’t know).

There is one more humourous scene before the movie really starts to get into the drama. As Mori tries to push Nanase to ask Konoha to go with her to the annual shrine visit on New Years Day, Kazushi comes out and asks Konoha instead; definitely an awkward moment.

I found the gradual transition from a warm atmosphere to a more serious tone to be very well done in this movie. Things start to pick up when Touko finds a piece of paper in her love letter box and opens it to find nothing but a strange drawing.

Of course, being the girl that loves book so much that she eats them, she knows exactly where that drawing came from: The Song of The Fallen Boy, written by Miyazawa Kenji. If you recall from the Memoire series, Miyazawa was the author of Night on the Galactic Railroad. This has Konoha unsettled as the mention of Miyazawa immediately reminds him of Miu.

Konoha’s thoughts are soon filled with nothing but Miu’s death. That drawing served as a catalyst, flooding Konoha’s mind with nothing but the thoughts of the girl he drove to suicide. Miu penetrates into Konoha’s every being until the antagonist of the movie finally shows her face.

Every good story needs a good antagonist, and no one fits the role better than Miu. Apparently her “suicide” had failed and she had been hospitalized ever since. The buildup to Miu’s first appearance was extremely well-executed. From the train at the very beginning to the drawing which led to the author Miyazawa Kenji and Konoha’s obsession with Miu’s death; these precursors were excellent in building up to Miu’s appearance. Almost immediately after Konoha and Miu are reunited, she begins working her charm, isolating Konoha from his closest friends.

Continued use of imagery helps to set the mood of the movie. While before the world was always clear and bright, after Miu’s entrance, the viewer is greeted by this rather stark scene of a world with fading light and lifeless trees.

Miu’s room also continues with the theme of light (or lack thereof). As I mentioned in my review of the second Memoire episode, the number of lights in Miu’s room seems to fade the more she loses hope and the more she becomes “evil”. In the movie, not a single light is ever on in Miu’s room, they even added a lamp over her bed to draw attention to the point. The only source of illumination comes from sunlight shining through the windows, and even then there are some very dark areas.

For most of the movie, Miu is represented as a sort of femme fatale, luring Konoha into her twisted world. By posing questions such as asking what Campanella’s wish was (from Night on the Galactic Railroad) to the all too familiar “do you like me,” Miu seduces Konoha with the idea that death is the only way for the two of them to be together forever. I loved how Miu’s words and actions were almost intertwined with the literary works that had been covered throughout the series. You get the sense that every sentence that comes out of Miu’s mouth has a deeper meaning behind it. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of those references require the viewer to have read the light novels. I actually did not see them until I read the first volume and rewatched the movie.

Miu definitely takes the spotlight for a good portion of the movie, weaving her delicate web of lies in order to keep Konoha all to herself, but the other characters are not forgotten in the process. Touko seems so nonchalant and overly cheerful at first, but she is in fact very wise and mature. Not only is she able to see past the mask that Konoha has put on, she takes on a goddess-like role in the end, revealing the deepest emotions and darkest secrets of the other characters.

Nanase appears to be an unimportant side character whose sole purpose is for comic relief, but she actually plays a pivotal role in the movie. She acts as the catalyst that sparks the confrontation with and revelation about Miu, something that needed to happen in order to have the movie end the way it did. Her second-last appearance in the movie brought a tear to my eye, as she really is the forgotten heroine.

Of course, we can’t forget about Konoha. While Touko is the title character of this series, Konoha is actually the main character and the only person’s mind that the viewer gets a glimpse into. Most of the movie is set in the third person, but we do get to see Konoha’s flashbacks and some scenes involving Miu in first person. You really get a sense of the kind of mental anguish that Konoha is going through and sympathize with the ways in which he copes with that.

I hope that this wasn’t too much of a spoiler; I had to go into some of the story in order to highlight some points, but I kept it mostly within the first half. Bungaku Shoujo is extremely well-written with a deep plot and carefully crafted scenes. Every action and every line is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle which makes up this wonderful story. The characters all have complex personalities and the drama that unfolds literally had me on the edge of my seat. By the end of the movie, it’s hard to pick a favourite character because all of them leave a major impact, and even Miu draws a lot of sympathy. The use of visual elements to aid in plot development was also exceptional, kudos to the production staff for doing justice to Mizuki Nomura’s work. The sheer intricacy of this movie impressed me so much that I gave it a 10/10 on My Anime List and added it to my list of all-time favourite anime (which now has 4 titles).

I’d say the only downside to Bungaku Shoujo is that even after watching the Memoire series, you still probably won’t catch everything that’s happening in the movie. This movie was created for fans of Mizuki Nomura’s light novel series of the same name, so it’s expected that anyone watching it would have already read the novels. I’ve already purchased the first two volumes, which have been translated into English, and I’m waiting for the rest to come out. That doesn’t mean that you have to read the novels in order to enjoy the movie, they just help you appreciate it more. Other than that, I thought the Bungaku Shoujo movie was perfect and I loved how they ended with one final reference to Night on the Galactic Railroad.

I highly recommend Bungaku Shoujo to anyone who enjoys a good story and is tired of anime that relies on fanservice, action scenes, and/or random comedy; you won’t be disappointed.

Side note: make sure to watch the scene after the credits to see the answer to the question at the beginning of the movie ^.^

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  2. Finally watched this yesterday!

    But anyways, I have mixed feelings about it but I did enjoy the movie. There was a lot of ups and downs in it when it came to pacing, development, and dialog though. There was a few times where things got too unnatural for me. And my god, the part at the planetarium near the end…so much cheese xD but thank god everything afterward was quite enjoyable.

    I know I`m just griping here, but that`s is what i came to do. The movie was not quite what I hoped for. Never the less I still liked it just because of Touko <3

  3. In my opinion, Bungaku Shoujo is a beautifully made movie. It has beautiful story, beautiful art, and beautiful music. I like both the plot and character development of the story. It has so much depth and easy to relate.

    Despite that, I have one complain – I absolutely dislike the ending. Such teasing is unbearable for me.
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  4. @Fabrice:
    I was too impressed with all of the stuff beforehand to see the cheesiness, but now that I think about it, it was a bit cheesy ^.^

    @hoshinko:
    Everything was very beautiful. I think the ending was done that way in order to let the fans come to their own conclusions.

  5. I watched the movie before the OVAs and I quite enjoyed it. I never once lost interest throughout it and it made me go out and buy the first volume of the novels, watch the OVAs (that have been released thus far) and reinforced my want for the Nendo (which I need to review yet). Bungaku Shoujo is nothing short of a masterpiece in my opinion.

  6. @Persocom:
    I couldn’t agree more. I also went and bout the novels plus 2 Touko nendoroids just so I could have one sitting down and the other standing up.

    @Tuan:
    I think it’s definitely better than the other movies of 2010. The reason I found out about it was because it was literally everywhere when I went to Japan.

  7. I liked the whole animated Bungaku Shoujo franchise very much.
    what I didn’t enjoy in the Movie was the amount of Miu screentime.
    I mean the Movie is called Bungaku Shoujo not Yandere Shoujo.
    I hated her so much during the whole Movie, in general I try to give
    characters a chance, maybe two, but there wasn’t a single thing I liked about her.

    Nanase was great in this “revenge” scene I made an animated gif of it XD
    When putting the despicable Miu aside this Movie was quite good.
    I also loved the scenes between Konoha and Tooko a lot.
    As mentioned in your last Bungaku Shoujo post I will watch everything again when I find the time for that.

    sorry for all the miu hating sentences, but I couldn’t stand her one bit ;D
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  8. @Yi:
    I’m glad I was able to convince you to watch it :)

    @Fabienne:
    Miu really does steal the spotlight, but without her, I don’t think the plot would have been as intense.

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  10. OH! This is a movie!You know I saw the nendoroid of the main character and ALMOST bought it because it was soooo adorable. But held beck because I wasn’t sure who the character was a didn’t look into it. But just the other day I went to the Yen Press web site wand was debating buying Literature Girl but was unsure if I’d actually get around to reading the book. Now that I know it’s a Movie/OVA too I have to see it!
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  11. @lovelyduckie:
    Yeah, I didn’t know what it was either until I saw all the movie posters when I went to Japan. That’s what really got me interested in it.

    I have the first volume of the book and it’s a good mystery novel.

  12. @lovelyduckie:
    Considering it’ll take forever for all of the books to be released in English, I’d recommend reading the first volume, then watching the OVAs and finishing off with the movie. The OVAs cover the background material for the movie quite well, but the first volume of the novel introduces the side characters better.

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  14. *Spoilers perhaps, read at your own discretion*

    I have literally just finished watching this movie. It was really well done, took a while for me to get into it, but once I was in I was pleasantly surprised. What took me so long to finally accept the movie was the fact Mui was still alive and how she suddenly “appeared” yet no one spread the word.

    It’s been so long since I watched the OVAs I kept getting this sense of deja vu as all the different characters came back and scenes replayed. Although to be honest there’s some of those side characters that I don’t remember at all.

    Best character without a doubt was Mui. She was totally nuts, scary nuts. Some of her expressions and actions really make the hair on your neck stand up. But by the end I was glad she could finally voice her inner feelings, however dark they were. Also Konoha being able to confess to Mui and explain why he wrote the book in the first place was a great scene. It was a bit crummy it ended there with Mui suddenly accepting herself, but by that point I’d suspended my belief and was willing to accept it.

    It’s good to know the novels are slowly being translated, but also it’s not necessary to read them to enjoy the movie. I imagine it’s more interesting if you have done though. I might give them a go, but I’m really not much of a reader. I think the last time I read for “entertainment” was over 10 years ago :\ and it most certainly wasn’t entertaining.

    Poor Nanase at the end there, but then Konoha got rejected, kind of, in the end as well. The final scene after the credits was rather mysterious though.

  15. @BioToxic:
    I was a little taken back that she appeared too, especially when Konoha was so convinced that she died. The novels are pretty interesting, and they detail the backgrounds of the side characters more, so they’re a must in order to know everything about all the characters.

    My guess is that the person at the door was Touko, she did say that she’d read Konoha’s novel once he wrote it.

  16. @lovelyduckie:
    I think you really only need to read the first volume before watching the OVA. The Memoire series provides enough background information for the movie after that.

  17. Ok, so I don’t have access to the movie but could someone please just spill the beans and give the break down of this anime and how this movie ends. I’m dieing to know. Please and Thank you!!