The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Bungaku Shoujo

Title: Bungaku Shoujo
Genre: Romance/Drama
Company: Production I.G.
Format: Movie; 100 minutes.
Dates: 1 May 2010

Synopsis: As he is returning home from school, Inoue Konoha stumbles upon a girl who, much to his utter surprise, tears a corner from her book and swallows it. Caught in the act, the girl introduces herself as Amano Touko, a Literature Girl who eats stories for sustenance, and promptly forces Konoha to join the Literature Club to keep her secret. To keep him occupied, Touko has him write a short “snack” for her to eat every day after school. However, when a mysterious drawing appears in their drop box, Konoha recollects a past that he wishes to lock away.

The Highlights
Art: Colorful palette and stellar backgrounds Production I.G. is known for.
Plot: Often dramatic, but eclipsed by the subtle scenes.
Character interactions: Some are typical of drama; others go far beyond that.
Ending: Cathartic but convenient; other loose ends are tied up in a heartwarming manner.

Whenever Production I.G. sinks effort into one of its movies, it shows. Their latest endeavor, Bungaku Shoujo, is adorned with the colorful backgrounds and top tier animation quality the studio is know for. Though the movie initially establishes itself with the typical high school setting so common in anime, it quickly shifts its focus to more serious matters as the plot unfolds, creating an interesting mix between the dramatic events and the more quiet moments.

It would be easy to assume that the heavy handed drama is the main thrust of the plot. As a story driven by character problems, Bungaku Shoujo focuses mainly on the insecurities of two of its characters and the resulting interactions. The situations presented are sometimes melodramatic, largely caused by the unstable nature of one of the characters, but Bungaku Shoujo pushes forward firmly and deliberately, slowly unraveling motives to justify its characters’ actions. This consistent pacing allows the audience to accept the emotional rollercoaster of events as a whole, even if individual scenes stretch credibility and transitions from one scene to another are sometimes awkward.

However, one who merely assumes that drama is all the movie has to offer would overlook the subtle undercurrents of Bungaku Shoujo. This marked contrast manifests itself in the titular character Amano Touko, who manages to step away from most dramatic moments and yet establishes more overall development in the characters than anyone else. At times whimsical and at others serious and wise, her presence on the screen seems to dictate the atmosphere and pace of the movie with relative ease. Her interactions with Konoha form the crux of these slower and more subtle scenes and are perhaps the most crucial, as they tie multiple themes together while also causing small changes that influence the movie as a whole. This is further topped by Hanazawa Kana’s stellar performance, whose trademark cutesy voice gives away to serious contemplation easily and without a trace of the sappiness that often infects her other serious roles.

The differing tones of these two aspects of the movie are most obvious in the resolution of both. The dramatic line of plot ends with an equally dramatic climax, which clearly and thoroughly resolves the tension in a firm manner. While the scene plays out with Bungaku Shoujo’s honesty, the first conflict is resolved in a bit too convenient manner that is all too typical in fiction. The other thread, in contrast, ties up its side of the story with a logical culmination of events while maintaining the soft and subtle atmosphere that built up to it.

To judge Bungaku Shoujo on merely its surface would be a fallacy. The dramatic plot itself is a good attempt at storytelling, even if it has some obvious flaws. Despite this, the subtle interactions that seep into and take hold of the narrative not only serve to fix some of the problems but also supersede these issues to become the defining parts of the story. Bungaku Shoujo is a paradox in storytelling, but it is one that vastly prefers the quiet and imperceptible over the audacious and melodramatic.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Elineas

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