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 ^.^